I listen to him play for the next fifteen minutes and then it goes silent. I had turned the TV off when I first heard him and now all that I can hear is a constant drip coming from the bathroom sink and the occasional car driving through the motel parking lot.
I drift off to sleep and the dream comes back:
That morning, I didn’t get my usual string of text messages from Ian before I got out of bed. I tried calling his phone, but it rang and rang and the voicemail never picked up. And Ian wasn’t at school when I got there.
Everybody was staring at me as I walked through the halls. Some couldn’t look me in the eye. Jennifer Parsons burst into tears when I walked past her at her locker, while another group of girls, cheerleaders, turned their noses up at me and eyed me as though I was something contagious. I didn’t know what was going on, but I felt like I had walked into some freaky alternate reality. No one would say a word to me, but it was so damn obvious that everybody in that school knew something that I didn’t. And it was bad. I never really had any enemies, except sometimes a few of the cheerleaders showed jealousy towards me because Ian loved me and wouldn’t give them the time of day. What can I say? Ian Walsh was hotter than the star quarterback and it didn’t matter to anyone, not even Emily Derting, the richest girl in Millbrook High School, that Ian didn’t have much and that his parents still drove him to school.
She still wanted him.
I went on to my locker, hoping to see Natalie soon so maybe she could tell me what was going on. I lingered around my locker longer than usual waiting for any sign of her. It was Damon who found me and told me what happened. He pulled me off to the side, in-between the alcove that housed the water fountains. My heart was hammering inside my chest. I knew something was wrong when I got up that morning, even before I realized there were no text messages from Ian. I felt…off. It was like I knew….
“Camryn,” Damon said and I knew right then the seriousness of what he was about to tell me because he and Natalie always call me ‘Cam’. “Ian was in a car accident last night….”
I felt my breath catch and both of my hands flew to my mouth. Tears were burning my throat and streaming from my eyes.
“He died early this morning at the hospital.” Damon was trying so hard to tell me this, but the pain in his face was unmistakable.
I just stared at Damon for what felt like an eternity before I couldn’t stand up on my own anymore and I collapsed into his arms. I cried and cried until I made myself sick and finally Natalie found us and they both helped me into the nurse’s office.
I wake up from the nightmare sweating, my heart racing like mad. I throw the sheet off of me and sit in the center of the bed with my knees drawn up, running my hands across my head and I let out a long sigh. The dream had stopped a long time ago. In fact, it was the last dream I remember having. Why is it back?
A loud banging on my room door jolts me up.
“RISE AND SHINE BUTTERCUP!” Andrew says harmoniously from the other side.
I don’t even remember when I fell back asleep after the dream. The sun is shining through a sliver parted between the curtains, pooling on the tan carpet just below the window. I rise up from the bed and push back the sloppy hair away from my face and go to open the door before he wakes up the whole motel.
He’s gawking at me when I open the door.
“Damn girl,” he says, looking me over, “what the hell are you trying to do to me?”
I look down at myself, still trying to wake up the rest of the way and realize I’m in those tiny cotton white shorts and varsity tee with no bra on underneath. Oh my God, my n**ples are like beacons shining through my shirt! I cross my arms over my chest and try not to look him in the eyes when he helps himself the rest of the way inside.
“I was going to tell you to get dressed,” he goes on, grinning as he walks into the room carrying his bags and the guitar, “but really, you can go just like that if you want.”
I shake my head, hiding the smile creeping up on my face.
He plops down on the chair by the window and sets his stuff on the floor. He’s wearing a pair of tan cargo shorts that drop just past his knees, a plain dark gray t-shirt and those low black running shoes with no-show socks, or no socks at all. I glimpse the tattoo on his ankle; looks like some kind of circular-shaped Celtic design positioned right over his ankle bone. And he definitely has runner’s legs; his calves are bulging with tight muscles.
“Wait there and I’ll get ready,” I say, going toward my bag sitting on the elongated dresser where the TV sits on the opposite end.
“How long will this take?” he asks and I detect a hint of interrogation in his voice.
Remembering what he said back at his dad’s house, I think about my answer first and weigh my options: my usual thirty-minute prep time, or cave to a throw-it-on-and-go?
He helps me out with the dilemma:
“You have two minutes.”
“Two minutes?” I argue.
He nods, grinning. “You heard me. Two minutes.” He holds up two wriggling fingers. “You agreed to do whatever I said, remember?”
“Yeah, but I thought it was going to be crazy stuff like mooning someone from a moving car or eating bugs.”
One of his brows rises and he draws back his chin as if I just slapped two ideas into his lap. “In time you will moon someone from a moving car and eat a bug—we’ll get to that.”
What the hell just I just do?
My head rolls backward in dispute and mortification and my hands fly to my hips. “Uh, there is no way—.” I notice his grin has changed into something more ‘crafty school boy’ and I look down, realizing my arms are no longer covering my n**ples poking so proudly through the thin fabric of my shirt. I let out a spat of air and my mouth falls open. “Andrew!”
He lowers his head with false shame, but it just makes him appear more devious the way he looks back up under hooded eyes at me.
He is so f**king hot….
“Hey, you’re the one who’d rather complain about the ground rules than protect your girls from my eyes—I should warn you they have a mind of their own.”
“Yeah, I bet they aren’t the only things on you with a mind of their own.” I smirk and grab my bag, shuffling my way barefooted into the bathroom and shutting the door.
I’m smiling like one of those 1980’s cheesy portrait studio photos when I look at myself in the mirror.
OK, two minutes. I literally dive into my bra and tight jeans, jumping up and down to get them to slide over my butt. Zip. Button. Brush teeth thoroughly. A quick shot of Listerine. Swish. Gargle. Spit. Comb out raggedy hair and twist it into a sloppy braid over my right shoulder. A little bit of foundation and a light layer of powder. Black mascara, because mascara is the most important piece of makeup in the arsenal. Lipsti—
BAM! BAM! BAM!
“You’re two minutes are up!”
I smooth the lipstick on anyway and blot with a square of toilet paper.
I can tell he’s smiling on the other side of the bathroom door and when I open it a second later, I see that I was right. He stands with both arms raised above his head, propped on the doorjamb. His hard, six-pack is partially visible with his shirt raised up high with his arms. A little happy trail moves from just below his bellybutton and down beneath the waist of his shorts.
“See? Look at you?” He whistles while blocking the door, but I’m definitely not the one of us I’m looking at. “Simple is sexy.”
I push my way past him, finding the perfect opportunity to press my palms against his chest and he lets me pass.
“Didn’t know I was trying to be sexy for you,” I say with my back turned, throwing the clothes I slept in inside my bag.
“Wow, look at that,” he goes on, “simple, sexy and disorganized—I’m proud!”
I didn’t even realize it. I just shoved my clothes into the bag without even thinking of trying to be neat about it. I’m not ‘clinically’ OCD; I’m just one of those people who claim the acronym because of a few methodical habits. Still, folding my clothes and trying to be neat is something I’ve always done since I was like eleven.
TALK ABOUT EARLY MORNING sexual frustration. Alright, I’m going to have to take it down a notch with her or she’ll start to think that’s really what I’m hanging around for. Any other time, with some other random girl, I would’ve already gotten out of bed to toss the condom in the toilet, but with Camryn, it’s different. It’s hard (pun intended), but I’m going to have to try laying off the flirting. This is an important trip, for both of us. I only have one shot to get this right and I’ll be damned if I f**k it up.
“So what’s next on our spontaneous trip?” she asks.
“Breakfast first,” I say, grabbing my bags from the floor, “but I guess it wouldn’t be spontaneous if I had a plan in place.”
She grabs her cell phone from the table beside the bed, checks it for new text messages and phone calls and then tosses it in her purse.
We head out.
Enter stubborn, whiney Camryn:
“Please, Andrew; I can’t eat at those places,” she says from the passenger’s seat.
The town is small and most of the food joints are fast food or not open this early.
“I’m serious,” she says with a cute pouty face I just want to cup in my hands and lick so she shrieks and pretends it’s the grossest thing ever. “Unless you want an annoying road trip companion, holding her nauseous stomach and moaning for the next hour, you won’t make me eat that stuff, especially this early in the morning.”
I draw my head back and press my lips together looking over at her. “Come on, you’re exaggerating.”
I’m starting to think she’s not.
She shakes her head and props her elbow on the car door and then rests her thumb between her front teeth.
“No, I’m serious; every time I eat fast food I get sick. I’m not trying to be difficult, believe me, it creates a problem whenever I go anywhere with my mom or Natalie. They have to go out of their way to find a place to eat that won’t make me miserable.”
OK, so she’s telling the truth.
“Alright, well I definitely don’t want to make you sick,” I laugh lightly, “so we’ll drive a little farther and find something else along the way. More places will be open in a couple of hours.”
“Thank you.” She smiles sweetly.
You’re very welcome….
Two and a half hours later, we’re in Owasso, Oklahoma.
Camryn looks up at the big yellow and black restaurant logo and I think she’s debating whether she wants to eat here, or not.
“There’s really only one place to eat breakfast,” I say, pulling into a parking space, “especially across the South—kind of like Starbucks, there’s a Waffle House on every corner.”
She nods. “I think I can handle this—do they have salad?”
“Now look, I agreed not to make you eat the fast grease,” I tilt my head to one side and turn at the waist on the seat, “but I draw the line with salads.”