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Chapter 4 Josephine

Four years earlier

We’re all taking a trip to Oregon tomorrow.” Mom tells me out of the blue. I didn’t expect this to be the news when she told me to be home right after school. I thought I was in trouble but I had no idea what for.

“Like a vacation?” I ask. She’s fiddling around in the fridge, trying to scrape something up for dinner I assume. She won’t find much. Nate is a better cook and even he couldn’t whip up something edible from what’s in there.

“Yes, a family vacation. Well, Jeff has to go there for business, but his boss is paying to rent a place down there for all of us to go and stay for the week.” She explains as she slams the door shut and huffs out a long and exhausted breath. She walks over to the sink and smooths her hand over the loose strands of hair on top of her head as she turns the faucet on and starts taking big gulps of water for the next few seconds.

“Is everything okay mom?” I ask in a quiet, concerned voice; barely loud enough for her to hear me, but she does. She stands up and wipes the drops of water off of her chin with her sleeve before swiping at her hair again.

“Yes, everything is fine bean, now why don’t you start packing your things for the trip? We’ll be leaving first thing in the morning.” She says in a distracted voice as she walks out of the kitchen, abruptly ending the conversation.

I have never even been on a real vacation before. We could never afford it when it was just the two of us. Mom worked all the time but we never had any extra money to go and do anything expensive like that.

Any of the jobs she had never allowed for time off either since she never stayed anywhere long enough to earn vacation time, so we just lived day to day, paycheck to paycheck, and did what we had to do. I can’t complain, at least then we had fun when we spent time together as opposed to now.

Jeff’s job is awesome though. He gets all of these free trips completely paid for even though he can afford to pay for them himself. Mom even quit her job because he said he didn’t need her to work because he made well enough above what they need to be comfortable. So, when we moved in with him and his son, that’s what she did. She quit her job and promised to spend more time with me. Only that didn’t happen either. I think we spend even less time together now since they got married.

AFTER WE GOT off the plane, we all grab our bags and walk out into the fresh mountain air and parked in front of us sits a large white SUV that I take it is ours for the week because everyone is walking over to it. The driver gets out and puts all of our bags in the back while Nate jumps to the seats in the back. He puts his earbuds in, sprawls his long legs out across the entire seat and proceeds to cover his face with his hat before crossing his arms over his chest. He looks surprisingly comfortable for being crammed back there though. I take the middle seat by the window and set my backpack down beside me. The driver hands Jeff the keys and opens the door for mom to get in the passenger side while Jeff goes around to the driver’s side. Jeff should have held the door for her himself.

It felt like it took forever to get to the cabin we’re staying in, but was realistically only about twenty-five minutes before we pull up in front of this massive gate at the end of a stone driveway. Jeff punches in a code on the keypad and the gate opens to let us through. He stops the car in front of this gorgeous building that looks like it belongs in one of those luxury magazines of celebrity homes or something and the first thing that takes my breath away is the amount of glass that makes up most of the outside walls. I was expecting something a lot smaller and maybe run down looking, since they described it as a ‘cabin in the woods’ so my jaw nearly hits the ground when I open the door. The railing that wraps around the front porch is made out of branches and connects to the tree trunks, acting as pillars to hold up the roof on the covered porch. I can’t help but stand there in awe. I’ve never seen a house this huge and luxurious looking much less allowed to stay here for an entire week.

Nate clears his throat from behind me, knocking me out of the trance like state from trying to take it all in. I didn’t notice I was blocking him from getting out of the car, so I move out of his way and he jumps out. He slings his bag over his shoulder and casually walks up to the porch and into the house like he owns the place, leaving the door open as he disappears into the hallway.

“So here we are, home sweet home for an entire week.” My mom says, without a hint of enthusiasm.

“What do you think kid? Is it big enough or what?” Jeff asks when he comes up beside my mom and wraps his arm around her waist. I look up at them and notice the tension in my moms’ jaw as she just looks straight ahead, it speaks volumes. Rightly so I guess for Jeff being a prick to her only two days ago; how convenient for him to make it up to her with a vacation again. At least this time Nate and I got to come too.

“Yeah sure.” I answer, but I barely get the words out before they start to walk towards the steps, leaving me standing in the driveway with just my suitcase. They both walk in the house but I stay outside to take it all in. I can’t assume I’ll ever get to stay in a place like this again so I’m going to take full advantage of it while I’m here. I walk around the grounds to see what this place has to offer and when I get to the backyard, the house looks even bigger. Some stairs lead up to a large deck on the back of the house and under a small roof structure is a covered Jacuzzi. There’s even a TV attached to the wall outside above the grilling area. Wow, this place is awesome!

It took me a good part of the morning to make my way through the house. There are four bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a huge eat-in kitchen with a walk-in pantry that is bigger than my bedroom and fully stocked with everything you could ever think of. There are things in there I have never even heard of before, like chocolate-covered quail eggs. That sounds disgusting but what do I know, I’ve never tried them. I don’t plan to either.

There’s an in-ground swimming pool, but since it’s winter we obviously can’t use it right now and mom and Jeff have already claimed the Jacuzzi on the deck. That’s fine with me because all I want to do right now is get away from the house since a bunch of Nate’s friends showed up right after we got here. I haven’t even unpacked yet and there is a house full of a bunch of dudes eating all of the new food I was planning on trying myself.

I start lugging my suitcase up the stairs to my room when mom and Jeff walk into the kitchen from the deck laughing hysterically about something. I guess I missed the joke again.

“Hey bean, Nate. Can you both come down here please?” I hear my mom yell. She obviously didn’t see me struggling to drag this damn thing upstairs, so I just let it sit on the stair while I go over to see what they could possibly want. Probably going to get read the rules of the house, or told I still have to be in by curfew even though they don’t ever really care to enforce that rule at home. It would be my luck though that they do that here and ruin my entire vacation.

Nate comes barreling down the stairs, phone in hand, and quickly slips it into his back pocket before coming to a dead halt in the doorway.

“Yeah?” He questions, clearly annoyed.

“Here.” Jeff holds out his hand towards us, offering up two credit cards.

“Each of you gets one; it’s spending money for while we’re here. And Nate…try to make it last, alright?” He tells him and Nate grabs one of the cards out of his hand.

“Yup, sure thing pops.” He says and hops back up the stairs taking them two at a time.

“Thank you.” I say to them. Kind of shocked since Jeff has never been nice to me and it’s like asking for the tooth fairy to be real to get money for things I need, much less just getting spending money to buy whatever I want. I’m not sure they heard me since they don’t say anything and they quickly go back to talking without further acknowledging that I’m still standing in the kitchen. They grab some drinks from the fridge and go back out in the Jacuzzi. So, with that, I turn around and go back to try and haul my suitcase up to my room but it’s not sitting where I left it not even two minutes ago.

“What the hell?” I say to no one since everyone left. I run up the stairs and go to one of the empty rooms to freshen up, and when I open the door, I see that my suitcase is already sitting on the bed. Thanks Nate.

I don’t understand how Nate thinks at all. He hardly talks to me but then he’ll do something nice once in a while. I didn’t even see him grab my suitcase, but it wouldn’t have been anyone else. I rifle through my bag to find some warmer clothes and I layer up on socks and put a hoodie on over my sweater. I’m always way colder than I think I should be, but up here in the mountains it’s particularly frigid.

WALKING AROUND TOWN is like walking through a giant snow globe. All the shops are lined up along the main street, perfectly decorated for the upcoming holidays. Even the street lights and the trees across the park are littered with white Christmas lights and there are kids making snowmen and chasing each other during a snowball fight.

After some time of window shopping and wandering around capturing pictures of everything new I’ve seen, I stop in front of a ski shop and see a bunch of TV screens along the wall, playing clips of people snowboarding, skiing, and tubing. It looks like so much fun.

The owner of the ski shop set me up with some lessons for the next two days and gave me a rental card saying what gear I have to pick up when I come in tomorrow. The gear was included in the lesson fee so that’s awesome! I saved like eighty bucks. After taking a few last pictures of the mountain all lit up, I decided to call it a night. When I get back to the house and see that the SUV is gone out of the driveway, I figured everyone went out somewhere. I punch in the code to the keypad and let myself in the front door. To my surprise, Nate is sitting in the living room on the couch, eating pizza and watching a movie. I expected him to have gone out with his friends that were here earlier.

“Hey.” Nate says with a mouth full of pizza dough.

“Hey.” I say back and walk into the kitchen to grab a bottle of water from the fridge.

“Pizzas on the counter.” He yells over his shoulder before guzzling his soda.

“Thanks.” I say back quietly. I look down and see there are exactly two slices of pizza left in the box for me. So, I take a slice and warm it in the microwave before heading up to my room to eat and relax for the night. I have so many things I want to do, so I decide to crash after taking a shower. I want to fit in as much as I possibly can while we’re here.

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