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By Hannah Hassler All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Romance

Take a Long Road Trip with Leigh and Jacqueline and Not Die in the Process


Chapter 1          

                Take a Long Road Trip with Leigh and Jacqueline

                                   and Not Die in the Process


It’s a stifling hot June morning, and the fact that I’m the only one who cares enough to move our stuff into the car is a bit annoying. My minivan, the one I worked two summers for, sits in the driveway, the trunk open, and half of the stuff spills out of it. Just what I need.

I hurry to stuff my duffel bag into the trunk, and once it’s squashed in, I move away, closing the trunk door. It shuts, and I wipe at my forehead. Shoulder-length chestnut-colored hair sticks to my sweaty face.

I hurry, my flip flops stomping as I head to the front porch. I can already hear my dad yell from the living room, “Shut the door. You’re heating the house!”

I peek into the living room where he’s sitting on a sofa chair, hiding behind a newspaper. But blue eyes look over the paper, and I say, “It’s closed, Dad.”

“Are you almost ready?” he asks.

“Yeah, all packed up,” I say. I turn my head to the kitchen and mutter, “Just need Jac and Leigh.”

“Okay,” he says, and I nod and walk to the large, light and spacious kitchen, where my mother is doing dishes. She’s bubbly, petite in height, the sort of weight that makes her warm and comforting and nice to hug, and has soft brown hair that hugs her head. She’s almost my opposite in the way that I’m tall and slightly round around the edges. I also have green eyes instead of her clear blue.

She talks excitedly with my two bestest friends, who are sitting on barstools around the floating island, pairs of legs crossed and sodas in front of them. She notices me as I walk over to her and close my eyes and lean against her shoulder.

“Oh, Melissa. Are you done packing the van already?” Mom asks excitedly.

“Yes,” I say quietly. “Though it would’ve been nice if someone had helped me.”

“Too early for that sort of thing,” Jacqueline says.

“We’re ready, then?” asks Leigh. She’s got black hair in a messy ponytail, a sharp bite and scarves in her hair and around her neck, even though it’s stifling out (though they’re more decorative than for warmth). She and Jacqueline are both from England, and that’s why they delight my mother so easily. I’ve gotten rather used to their accents ever since they became my roommates in college last year.

“Yes,” I repeat.

“Sounds great. We should get moving out,” Jacqueline says. She’s got milk-chocolate skin, with long black cornrows and a leather vest. She stands up, and my mom turns to her, making me follow her.

“Absolutely fabulous seeing you again, Mrs. Phillips,” Jacqueline says warmly, shaking my mom’s hand, making me look up and see Mom’s bright smile.

“Hate to have a soda and run, but you know,” Leigh shrugs, smiling a brilliant white-toothed smile.

“Oh, don’t worry. It was just lovely to have you both over. You should both come over more,” Mom says. That’s the thing about Mom. She loves entertaining. She loves people. So she naturally likes entertaining people. She has a natural warmth for people that I lack.

“Well, we’ll see. We’re heading back home for Christmas,” Jacqueline says, “but that’s a while away.”

We make our way to the front door, and Mom calls, “Justin, your daughter is leaving.” She turns to the stairs and yells, “Kids, your sister is leaving.”

I have a name, you know. I shrug it off as I cross over to Jacqueline and Leigh and wrap arms around the two of them, and Mom says as she turns and hurries up the stairs, “Oh, goodness, I need a picture of you three. Kids!” and she rushes up to wake them up and find the camera in the office.

“Well,” Leigh says.

“She does that a lot,” I say.

“We’ve noticed, Melissa,” Jacqueline laughs.

Dad joins us as Mom comes down the stairs. Jacqueline, Leigh and I watch expectantly as down comes six stomping, tired, wrinkled siblings. There are three little sisters: Erica, Violet, and Jade, one holding a blanket to her face, another nearly tripping over her blanket sleeper, all under the tender age of six. Then there’s the three teenage brothers, terrible nuisances. Brandon, second oldest of this clan, hangs in the back, and then Andrew and Toby, fifteen and thirteen, respectively, are in the middle, all three with floppy hair, annoyed and sleepy.

After having loaded my mini van by myself, I feel very little sympathy for any of them.

Mom smiles, holding up the camera.

“What should we say?” asks Leigh.

“Cheese?” I say.

“Yeah, but everyone ALWAYS says that,” Jacqueline points out.

“Maybe because it works,” I say, and Mom snaps the picture with Leigh grinning as Jacqueline and I point fingers at each other, both of us looking argumentative.

Children are ordered down the stairs to say goodbye to their perfectly awesome sister and her friends. The little girls burst into tears and hang onto our legs. Brandon and I barely hug, both of us knowing we don’t like touching other people. Leigh and Jacqueline manage to get hugs out of Andrew and Toby.

We hug, we all kiss the crying girl, we pat the dog, blow kisses, wave, and promise phone calls at every important stop we make on our way to the beach. Somehow, Jacqueline and Leigh and I gradually make our way to the car, and Leigh takes the passenger seat and Jacqueline slips into the backseat. My six siblings have disappeared back into the upper story of the house.

I open the car door, but I turn and see Mom and Dad on the front porch, and they wave. I raise my hand to wave, and it’s like I’ve done this before. A time ago, and it was back when I first went to college. Slightly poorer, less like an adult and still the teen that wanted to stay home and play and listen to music, I waved to my parents one late August day and headed out into the dangerous and cruel world.

Looks like I’m doing it again. Only now, I’m heading to New England (and Leigh and Jacqueline won’t stop making jokes over the name). But I won’t be seeing either of them for a long time. My hand falters, but then waves fervently until I wince and turn back to see Leigh honking the horn.

“Time to move on, Lissa,” she says, crawling backward to her seat.

I look back and give my parents one last smile before I duck into the car and close the door behind me.

“All right, now, before anything happens, we need to move out, right?” I say, turning a bit so I can see both irresponsible Brits at once, “so no talking or laughing or eating anything until I get on the road.”

“Fine. Just hurry up, though,” Jacqueline says, leaning against a cardboard box and a bag full of books, chargers and batteries.

“I know, I know,” I say as I start up the car. My long feet set against the pedals and I breathe. Both of them are impatient and have a tendency to play music loudly in the car. So do I, but when I’m still in a mindset of keeping us from dying.

A few minutes later, we pass an intersection and get on the highway. It’s seven o’clock and we have a thirteen hour drive ahead of us. We’re heading up to Massachusetts, where my grandmother has a little house on the beach that has her cooking school a few minutes away from it. She had extended an invitation to me in April to visit her for the summer. I had mentioned it in our small dorms, and Jacqueline and Leigh gushed over it and asked if my dear grandma could accommodate two more poor college gals. That’s the great thing about Grandma Joelle. She’s a generous sort of person who likes teens and wholeheartedly told me to tote my two friends out to the shore with me.

I don’t mind at all. I love hanging out with my friends, my two roommates. The three of us have been chums ever since we all looked at each other, waiting for our fourth roommate who never showed her face. Since then we’ve been out and about together, and they think of America as a charming tourist destination and I’m their tour guide.

I am, to a certain extent. I’ve traveled the US a lot, being as there are relatives who tie the coasts together. Normally, people don’t like riding along on car trips. I get out all right by them.

There’s the destinations I love as well, and having never stayed at Grandma Joelle’s house without my parents and while she has had her cooking school up and running, I’m excited to see what this summer might bring. Honestly, I can’t think of more than some memories and a tan. More would be nice, though, but nothing really seems to happen to me.

I stomp on the brakes and glare at Leigh, whose red lips are parted as she sneaks in some potato chips, or ‘crisps,’ as she and Jacqueline call them.

“What?” she asks, shrugging as she eats another.

I reach over and turn off the loud song that includes the screaming at the beginning that startles the driver and say, “Can you not?”

“Oh, come on!” Jacqueline says, leaning into our row. “That’s the best part.”

“Believe me, I know,” I say, “but can you NOT play that while I’m on the highway?”

“Well, it’s either that or Southern music,” Leigh says, popping another crisp into her mouth. “You know if there’s anything we can do that’s entertaining for thirteen hours, love? ’Cause I’d love to hear the options.”

I turn back and press on the gas, my fingers tightening around the wheel. “I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

A moment of silence passes, and I let out a breath as I merge, and we’re all quiet for a moment before Jacqueline says excitedly, “Yeah, how about some music?” and she reaches over and starts up the radio, and Leigh whoops and they high five.

“What am I going to do with you two?” I say, shaking my head.

“Put up with us as you always do, Lissa,” Leigh says in good humor, and she eats another crisp.

I smile somewhat sarcastically. “I’ll try,” and I switch the music to the classical station, which makes Jacqueline groan and fall back into the backseat.

We travel along the coast for the next few hours. Leigh and I nearly lose Jacqueline at a gas station, which she found particularly annoying.

“Can’t a girl go and buy a bag of crisps without being left behind?” Jacqueline wants to know, glaring at us as we laugh. My hands on the wheel are shaking, but I restrain myself, though I’m inwardly dying with laughter. Leigh, however, is sprawled about the front seat. Her right hand hangs out the open window, and her eyes close as she laughs and laughs and laughs.

“Shut it, you two,” Jacqueline says, and our trip continues up through Maryland and Pennsylvania, and we finally make our way into New England.

Traveling along the beach, I open my window and get a whiff of salty seawater. It fills me with energy, excitement, the opposite of Leigh and Jacqueline, who played with cards for two hours and are now both lethargic. That’s the difference between us. They need to be amused every second, or else they grow bored, grumble, and fall asleep. I quietly do the work and enjoy the silence that fills the car. It’s calming, the slight wind, the quiet and occasional grunts from my roommates.

I smile as I pass a little motel and the sun just starts setting over the ocean as I pull up into a little white-and-blue pebbled driveway. It’s a small driveway, sixteen or so yards from the street to the yard. The wheels of the car crunch against the pebbles, and I set the car into park with a satisfactory push. Grandma Joelle definitely knows we’re here now.

Turning, I gently push at Leigh’s arm, trying to wake her up. Her lips have crumbs all over them from her crisps, and she’s muttering something.

“Leigh, we’re here,” I say, a hint of excitement in my voice.

“Hmm? What, love?” she asks, and she sits up, yawning. She instantly turns to the mirror and hmms again, wiping at her lips and wiping her fingers on her denim vest.

I turn to Jacqueline, who smacks her lips and sits up, saying, “What ’appened now? Oh, no we’ve stopped. Don’t tell me the tank’s gone again.”

“We’re here,” I say, and the front doors open, the creak loud enough to make me notice, and I can see Grandma Joelle coming out, her dog Jumper walking out before her. She’s got dark gray hair, cut short and tousled. She’s not with a walker, but she ain’t a runner. She’s faster than most grandmas, though.

Grinning, I leave my friends in their disgruntled state and pull myself out of the car. Jumper jumps up at me. He’s a pitbull and the friendliest dog you will ever meet. He bounces, and I raise my hand, and he bonks it with his nose.

“Hey, bud. Remember me, Lissa?” I say in a cheerful voice, and that’s when I hear: “Melissa, you’re finally here, THANK GOD. I was beginning to get worried, and you know that I don’t like getting worried. Honestly.” I look up to see my grandma coming around the car. She’s got a bit of a mix of a New England and a New York accent, and it’s sharp and a bit accusing no matter what she says.

“Grandma Joelle!” I say, and I walk to her and she hugs me, a cheerful smile on her face.

“Oh, darling Melissa. Your parents told you to call me when you were getting nearer, didn’t they? You forgot again, didn’t ya?” Grandma Joelle says as she backs out, a raised eyebrow on her face.

“Sorry, Grandma,” I say. You can’t just explain to Grandma Joelle that you forgot because you just like sitting in silence while your two friends sleep.

“Oh, I’ll let it pass this ONCE, ONCE, mind you. Now, where are your two friends, the ones from the other side of the pond?” asks Grandma, trying to peek into the mini van.

The left backseat side door opens and Jacqueline and Leigh come tumbling out, almost ashamedly. Jacqueline smiles (kind of) and Leigh adjusts her high heel as she bends, saying, “Hullo, Melissa’s grandmum.”

“‘Grandmum?’ That’s Grandma Joelle to you, ’kay, darling?” Grandma Joelle says.

“O’ course. Will do,” Leigh says breathlessly. She sticks out her hand and says brightly, “Leigh Collins.”

“Leigh Collins, huh? Sounds like a boy’s name,” Grandma Joelle says, raising her other eyebrow.

“It’s spelled differently,” Leigh says, not missing a beat, though she gives me a raised eyebrow. I give her a look that says just go with it, and Jacqueline introduces herself.

“Well, it’s nice to meet the both of you,” Grandma Joelle says, and she beckons the two to come to her. They exchange a look and do so, and Grandma Joelle puts an arm around each one of them. I back into Jumper, a hand covering my smile, as Grandma Joelle pats their shoulders and after she asks about and scolds my six siblings, says, “Now, we’s going to have a nice summer. Right? I have a bit of a proposition for the three of you.”

“What is it?” asks Jacqueline, the entice making her voice interested.

“I’m sure that Melissa has told you both of my little job. The cooking school,” Grandma Joelle says. She looks from Jacqueline to Leigh, and says in her husky voice, “Now, at the end of the summer, I’ll pay you each three hundred dollars, yes, three hundred dollars, if you help me when I need help at the school.”

“Grandma, you don’t have to do that. You’re already letting us stay with you and fe-” I start, but Grandma Joelle will have none of it.

“Nonsense. I insist on paying those who work, and you’re all going to work, a’ight?” Grandma Joelle chuckles and shakes Leigh and Jacqueline a bit.

“Sounds about right, sure,” Jacqueline says, shrugging.

Leigh’s lips are pulled into a little frown, but after a moment she says in a small voice, “Yeah, all right. I’m game.”

“Right, sounds good,” Grandma Joelle says. She looks to the house and says, “Now, this your first time being in New England? I can see your accents. You’re not from here.”

“From across the pond. Remember, Grandma?” I say. Jumper jumps in front of me, his tongue all sloppy and everywhere, and I pat his head to calm him down.

“I think you mentioned that. Whatever, anyway, I’ve made you both your first real, proper, New England dinner. There are clams in the steamer and I’ve got corn and potatoes. Come on now,” Grandma Joelle says. She lets go of them and looking at us three in a line, points to each in turn, “I want youse two to get your stuff out. Melissa, call your parents, tell them that your old grandma’s got things taken care of.” There’s a twinkle in her eyes as she turns and Jumper bounds after her to the front porch.

Leigh and Jacqueline turn to me, and I shrug, my hands in my pockets. “What do you think of her?”

“A bit loud,” Leigh says.

“Eccentric,” Jacqueline says. She smirks. “Should be a fun summer.”

“Good,” I say. One of my hands fumbles out of my pocket, retrieving my little cellphone that I use only to call people. Waving it and turning, I say, “Good luck unloading the van.”

Jacqueline curses behind me and I walk across the driveway, past the breezy weeds and grass and rocks that make up Grandma Joelle’s front yard, and go toward the little gazebo. It’s a white little thing, like a cupola, and has a black roof with white painted sides. The paint chips off and there’s sand all over the floor as I walk into the gazebo. I sit on one of the fenced sides as I dial the number.

Waiting for someone to pick up, I look over the beach. Grandma Joelle has a small property, and since it’s private, there’s boundaries. I can see the people a couple hundred feet away on the public beach over on the right. They’re playing in the sand and with a volleyball and are digging holes, even though it’s eight at night.

Mom picks up. “Hello?”

“Mom,” I say. “Hey, we’re here, safe and sound.”

“Great! How was your driving?”

“I managed to do surprisingly well considering how many highway idiots there are out there.”

“That’s my girl. How’s Grandma Joelle? Is she doing well?”

“She’s fine. Already has a plan for us to work and has supper practically ready.”

“Oh, good, good. She’s an awfully good cook. Tell her and your friends your dad and I send our love. Love you, dear!”

My heart faintly slows as I say, “Love you, Mom.”

“Yep, yep, yep. Goodbye, dear!”

Her side of the phone goes dead once I say quietly, “Goodbye.”

My phone is put back in my pocket, and I should be heading inside where I can already hear the noise of five pots and pans clanging from the open window in the kitchen, but I just stay a moment longer in the gazebo, gazing over the frothy waves, swerving back and forth across the sand.

This summer is going to be my first summer away from home. Last summer, I was still living in my parents’ house before I went to college that semester. With spring break and fall break and Christmas break and Thanksgiving break, I saw more of them than Dad probably wanted me to, considering the amount we’re paying for tuition. So they both agreed to the plan of me staying with Grandma Joelle and Jumper for the summer.

And this summer . . . I hope it to be brilliant. I’m not an adventurous sort of person, who goes out and does crazy things and stunts. That’s more Leigh, with Jacqueline behind her the whole way, whooping and hollering the entire time.

I need to try to come out of my shell. I need to make more friends, see more people, be social, laugh, cry, stay up late, talk, party, and make sandcastles. Leigh and Jacqueline are louder than I am. That’s why I like them as my friends. I’m constantly believing myself to be so quiet and I just keep only doing things that need to be done that I never let go and just live. And they do. And they like me because I’m that way, but I want to be out there living life, too.

College is in late August. It’s currently the second week of June. I have an entire summer to live. To do things. To check things off my list.

That’s what I’m hoping for this summer.

I slip off the short wall of the gazebo and head through the entanglement of grass and sand to the front door.

My flip flops are kicked haphazardly onto the porch and I enter, passing the glass and screen and regular doors. Entering the foyer, on my left is the living room. In front of me is the entrance to the kitchen. Between them is the staircase. To my right is the office/other living room and a turn from that is a large closet.

Heading forward, my hands gently slid against the walls as I walk, moving like cars on a road. They steer and turn around the bathroom door under the stairs to my left, large picture frames that Grandma Joelle has up on my right. Pictures of long ago, of weddings and anniversaries and birthdays and quiet but joyful days at the beach. There’s one of me at seven making a sandcastle, then of me wearing sunglasses on the shoulders of a tan and shining Aunt Hazel. She’s off in France now, raising six children with Uncle Jean, all with French accents.

The kitchen is large by the standards of the house, taking up the main part of the first floor. There’s a brown table that looks like it belongs on a patio on the left with beach chairs and Leigh and Jacqueline bend over it. Tall glasses with lemon and plates are being set out, and I turn to see Grandma Joelle standing over the stove. She’s smiling, talking, stirring, and feeding Jumper a clam or two.

She notices me and before I can say a word, she commands we sit down, seeing as it’s as late as it is and we’re all starving girls from college who have been living on cheese balls and packaged noodles from the time of entering school.

“Well, that’s mostly true,” Leigh shrugs as we all take our spots around the table. I let out a breathy snort and then quiet down as Grandma raises an eyebrow and motions for us all to put our hands together.

She prays, slowly and quietly, and by the time I open my eyes, my plate, which is slightly curved, already has a pile of clams in it, steaming, with broth.

“Keep the platters and bowls moving, girls. I want no leftovers,” Grandma Joelle says firmly, eyeing us all with raised eyebrows. Leigh and Jacqueline exchange looks and the two of them plow through half a loaf of Grandma Joelle’s crusty white bread before the corn-on-the-cob is all eaten.

Jumper sits at Grandma’s chair, by her side at all times. He stays a respectful distance away from the seafood, though the sound of us smacking must tempt him something awful. Grandma Joelle doesn’t reprimand or even point us out when we reach our arms out and toss him clams, which he catches skillfully before, when he has his fill, he trots over to his little warm bed by the fridge where his dog food is and eats that.

We clear the table and Grandma Joelle does the dishes while we let Jumper out. Leigh opens the door, and she stands in the doorway, looking out over the small wooden back porch. She lets out a breath, saying, “Oh, that’s a nice ocean.”

“That’s not even half of it,” Grandma Joelle says as she places her last dripping dish into the dishwasher. “You all can see it tomorrow, and NOT before then.”

“So much for midnight dips in the blue,” Leigh says, closing the door behind her.

We all sit around and talk and laugh and get out a bunch of cards, Jumper half on my lap, until the miniature grandfather clock on the wall calls us out for hanging out in the kitchen until ten.

“Well, I guess we should try and get to bed. I’ve got a class tomorrow, and I expect you all to be there. Or else,” Grandma Joelle says, standing up.

I yawn and Leigh has to tug on Jacqueline’s wrist just to make her groan. I end up grabbing her other arm and we haul her up. I laugh and shove her into the hall as we follow Grandma Joelle up the white but speckled carpeted stairs. A light switch is flicked, and we end up on the landing.

To our left is Grandma’s bedroom and bathroom. On the wall in front of us, a couple of steps to our right, is a bathroom. On our right is a string coming down from the ceiling where the attic door is, and behind it is a door. Another door 90 degrees from it is slightly ajar.

Grandma Joelle briskly turns and goes through the door right behind the attic’s pull string. I follow, remembering this room as being my parents’ old room when we came visiting. It’s the second largest bedroom, with Grandma’s being the largest.

Upon entering, stepping over the two steps it takes to get into the room, I see that Jacqueline and Leigh had left the ceiling fan’s light on, spraying light on our hauled luggage, which looks sad and limp gathered in a large pile in the center of the room, right in front of the footboard of the bed.

Grandma Joelle nods and turning, says, “Well, good night. Try to get to sleep by two. Everyone ready to head to the cooking school by nine-thirty.” She kisses me on the cheek and the obliging Leigh and Jacqueline allow her to do the same. She leaves, closing the door as she calls for Jumper to move his butt away from the doorframe.

The obvious option, obviously, is the big master bed that’s right in the middle of the room, taking it over like a giant. It has a giant quilt and three fluffy white pillows, pure and lovely, lined up at the head. Jacqueline and Leigh immediately race to it, but I know better. While Mom and Dad always had that bed, there’s a better spot. I race down to the lower right hand corner of the room nd head down two steps through a little doorway that lets out into a smaller room. There’s another big room off the other big bedroom on the left side of the house, but this one is way more fun. It’s a room for three people, with beds that are twinsies, all made up with quilts and fluffy pillows as well. There’s a little walk-in closet across from the door, and a sofa chair with a little ottoman right across from the cutest bed. It’s right next to the window; literally, it’s the window’s sill. It’s wide, as wide as a dining room table is wide. The window right next to it is so much larger than any of the other windows in the house, making the bed small by comparison.

Racing across the room, arousing the suspicion of my roommates, I jump onto the bed, landing on my side, careful not to break through the window. There’s already a large pillow there, and I snuggle against it, one arm under it and the other gently pawing at the window. When you wake up, the first thing you see is either the bright sun or the little grey neighborhood across from Grandma’s house. The real sea view is from the bathroom. Lovely, I know. Still, a nice thing to see to keep you entertained while you brush your teeth.

“Whoa, now what’s this place?” I hear, and I sit up. My pillow still in my hand, I turn, startled, to see Leigh and Jacqueline in the doorway. Leigh’s got her hands on her hips, a raised eyebrow on her face. She’s not looking at me, though, but looking about the room, nodding to herself, and before she can say anything else, Jacqueline whoops and jumps onto one of the twin beds, the one not next to the door and nearer to the open closet.

She sits up, and, patting the bed, jumping a bit, nods and says, “Well, I’d say this is more brilliant than sharing a bed with you lot.”

“Yeah, Leigh tosses about all the time,” I say, a smirk on my face.

“Yeah? Well, you snore,” Leigh says, entering the room fully.

“Do not!” I say. I form myself into a cross-legged position.

“You do. We thought a name for you back in college. What was it? Thunderin-” and I throw my pillow at Jacqueline as hard as I can. Of course, you can’t force much harm on someone by throwing a pillow at them, and Jacqueline just catches it and laughs, trying to repeat, “Thunderin-Thunderin-”

“I’m going to go get my luggage,” I say, and Leigh’s light laughter drowns out what Jacqueline’s saying.

Well, I think smugly as I drape my duffel bag’s strap on my shoulder, I get the better bed. I pick up my knapsack and purse, and with a groan, walk as quickly as I can to the bedroom.

Stiffly down the steps I go, and I end up nearly tripping over air onto my bed. My stuff nearly gets squished by my slightly chubby body, but thankfully, none of my delicate stuff is crushed, destroyed or wronged.

My stuff is shed from my arms and I pull out my purse. My MP3 player, my electronic device and my headphones. My air.

“Sweet merciful Internet,” Leigh says, hugging her electronic device to her chest as she comes back with arms full of stuff.

“Getting sentimental, are we, Leigh?” Jacqueline asks dryly, looking up from where she’s set up her charging phone.

“I haven’t checked my email in fourteen hours. I have priorities,” Leigh says flippantly.

I turn my music on high, leaving the headphones on the pillow so that the room is filled with quiet background music.

“Oh, is this that new song, All Night Long? Gosh, that song! So catchy, yet so deep,” Leigh says, and I can’t even tell if she’s being sarcastic or not. Anyway, I like the song. Like most of my others, it’s a love song. Well, more like a relationship song. It’s about a girl who’s found an album in a music shop made by a boy she used to know. She bought it and cried listening to it in her bedroom.

My purse on my lap, I start taking things out of it. There’s a little table with a lamp by the foot of Leigh’s bed that already has a sort of tissues, lipstick and a Bible with a bookmark sticking out of it on it, courtesy of Miss Collins. Reaching over, I add my own Bible along with several assorted pieces of gum, lip balm, and tea bags. I turn my purse over to get out all the crumbs and assorted pieces of trash.

A piece of paper, slightly folded and wrinkled, falls to the floor. I frown slightly, and reach down and pick it up. I don’t remember writing on this.

I look around a little suspiciously as I lean back in my bed. Leigh doesn’t seem to notice as she laughs at a text. Jacqueline collects her pajamas from her wrinkled duffel bag.

I sit up straight. My forehead wrinkles as I press my lips into a line. All Night Long reaches the bridge and then starts the chorus once again with force. My hands flip the paper, unfold it, and I stifle a smile with one hand. I remember now. Was it the day I got home I wrote this? Jacqueline and Leigh had been sleeping and sprawled out all over my bedroom, and it had been two AM, and I had felt strangely creative and daring. Taking out a piece of yellow paper, I had written by the light of my lamp a list. A list of fanciful doings and unthought through ideas to do this summer. My ambitions are limited, apparently. Looking over the list, most of the things are kind of stupid, imaginative things that probably won’t happen. The most I’ll do this summer is probably try surfing or get a good tan.

Still. Turning back to my purse, I search and find my pink pen. The paper is balanced on my fat on-its-side knee. I cross out the one at the top of the list:

1. Take a Long Road Trip with Leigh and Jacqueline and Not Die in the Process

I start and look up when Leigh asks, smacking her lips against a piece of gum, in a curious voice, “What’s that?”

I smile and pass it over to her. Jacqueline comes and looks at it over her shoulder, wearing a T-shirt over a long sleeve shirt and short pajama shorts.

“Well, good luck,” Leigh says, her eyes growing a little big at the ending one.

“Thanks,” I say. A feeling of laughter fills me. “I’m definitely going to need it.”

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Jean Tryon: As a beta, I found this story outstanding!! Plot, grammar, phraseology, etc Rachel gives us it all. She takes the story into the future from where due South ends. She is an exacting and thoughtful author.

LouiseJ2: I enjoyed the detail you went into with regards to the case. It made the UNSUB appear believable. The crisis in the middle of the story was my favorite part, very dramatic but not over the top. I feel like sometimes pairings can be overdone but I liked that some of the relationships were a little...

rajastreet: I enjoyed this piece! I loved the treatment of time and the premise! Some of the wording seemed a little out of place, but easily overlooked for a good a plot.

Julia Summers PA: Reading this now. It's fun, hilariously fabulous yet taste of what you desire in a unusual read. I will post an actual review when I am finished. But so far loving the flow and the story seems to keep me drawn

Fashakin Michael: I have looked for the right word to describe this piece of Art but I concluded with "Wow!" Every chapter held me glue till the last and the book is just the reflection of our environment with its reaction. Though the writeup is not far from what happens in home but the writer was able to hold me ...

Ben Gauger: Kudos go to wordworrywill, author of Kings and Things, an otherwise imaginative tale set against the trappings of the royal set, but then again I don't imagine there'd be many authors who invoked the names of Oprah Winfrey, Vladimir Putin, Jeff Bezos, Beyonce and Steven Spielberg, As for the plot...

Ro-Ange Olson: Loved it and couldn't put it down. I really hope there is a sequel. Well written and the plot really moves forward.

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Ro-Ange Olson: "Loved it and couldn't put it down. I really hope there is a sequel. Well written and the plot really moves forward."