“I really like these people,” she whispered to him while the others joked around. They were standing in a small circle of people they had recently met on their way through Michigan.
“Yeah, they’re not bad,” he replied taking his last drag of the cigar he had been smoking for the past forty-five minutes. They were all having fun, talking about random things, joking around, sometimes flirting, but all in the respectable name of good fun.
She stood there, leaning back against the car, occasionally playing with her phone but not really expecting any calls or text messages. Though she enjoyed the group, she was getting tired of standing and getting bit by the mosquitos. She tried to keep her mood up, but she had just received a text message from her dad saying her aunt was being rushed into the emergency room. She didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. Something minor hopefully. But she still couldn’t settle her mind. She kept all this silent though, even from him. Her dad had asked her to pray for her aunt and she replied a short but sincere “I will!” Suddenly her phone rang.
It was her dad.
“Hey,” she said walking slowly away from the group.
“Hi, honny,” her dad replied on the other end.
“So tell me what’s going on.” She found a metal link fence to rest on as she tried to mentally prepare herself for what could be said.
“It’s not good. She’s being life-flighted to another hospital for immediate surgery. She’s just been in a lot of pain these past two weeks, but she’s waited until now to do something about it. You know how she is.”
“Yeah,” she said quietly. It was all she could muster at the moment. She just listened, hoping her dad would know she really was listening and not zoning out like he thought many other times. She kicked her sandal into the ground multiple times, like a cigarette’s final existence being stamped out on pavement or a cold glass dish.
“Just get as many of your friends to start praying for her, ok?”
“Ok.” She looked back to her group of newly found friends.
“Hey!” One of them shouted toward her. “Come on, don’t be rude,” the girl said turning back to the group and laughing.
“Hey, is everything alright?” he asked her looking slightly worried.
She looked at him then back toward the neighbor’s yard. She wouldn’t be bringing this up in front of these people. They weren’t the right ones. Who could she ask?
“I’ll keep you updated,” said the voice on the other end of the line.
“Thanks, dad. Love you,” her voice was at a low decibel now.
“Love you too. I’ll talk to you soon.”
When she hung up she had three people in mind to immediately text for help. She tried to make it quick before the pestering from the rest of the group got out of hand, then joined them once again putting on a smile, unable to break the mood.
Later that night, she walked into the bedroom they were sleeping in for the night. She looked at him and decided to tell him. She could trust him right?
“You know that phone call I got tonight?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“It was my dad. My aunt’s in surgery right now. She’s really not doing well.”
“Hey, I’m really sorry,” he said pulling her in to him. Her gave her a long hug and a quick squeeze before letting her go on.
“Can you pray for her please?”
“Absolutely! Yes, I’ll definitely do that.” He looked her straight in the eye and gave a sympathetic smile.
“Thanks. I think, I think I’m just going to go to bed now. I mean we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
“Yeah. Yeah, ok. Sleep well, alright?”
“Ok,” she said, head already attached to her pillow. Her eyes closed and almost immediately he could hear the steady heavy breathing he had become used to the past week or so. He watched her for a few minutes then laid down in his bed. He fell asleep quickly.
The next morning he woke up to see her bed vacant and made up already. Her bag was packed on sitting on the end of the bed. She walked in quietly before looking over.
“Oh, hi,” she said smiling. “You’re up. Good. Listen, there’s breakfast out in the kitchen already made. And coffee. Really good coffee. I’ve already gassed up the van and stocked it with a few snacks and water bottles to get us by.”
He looked at his watch. It read 8:13. “What time did you get up?”
“Oh like 7:00 or something around there. Hey, I don’t mean to rush you but we should really get on the road soon.”
“Ok, yeah,” he said slowly getting up. “Let me just take a quick shower. Could you maybe fill my travel mug with some of that coffee? Then I’ll just grab some food and we can go.”
“Your mug’s already filled. Tiny little bit of cream and one sugar lump. It’s staying warm by the stove though. And don’t worry about driving today. I’ll go ahead and start the trip.”
“Are you sure? You didn’t sleep that much.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’ve had like, I don’t know, two or three cups already.”
“Well, yeah, what did you think?”
“I was hoping water.”
“I’m fine. Let’s just go! We’ve got the open road calling our names!”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m moving.”
Several minutes later they sat in the van, driving away while waving to their hosts.
“Call us when you’re in the area again! We’d love to get together with you guys after your trip!” said one of the women.
“Absolutely!” she replied giving a last wave.
They drove off and quickly found the highway and merged with the morning traffic. The sun was rising quickly, the sky was a clear bright blue that reminded the two of Madonna’s eye shadow from 1983. Corn and wheat fields meshed together as they breezed by at a comfortable speed limit. Occasional construction workers dotted the black pavement with their neon orange vests and white and yellow hard hats assumed colorful language. The two were silent, listening to Tom Waits as they made their way out of “Pure Michigan.” Finally she started singing. It started out soft, almost inaudible when in competition with the stereo volume. But it quickly got louder as the song reached the chorus. He joined in.
“Oh, oh, oh, anywhere, anywhere I lay my head!!” they yelled together. She rolled the windows down and he followed suit. It was a cliche thing to do, something seen in movies all the time, to extend their arms beyond the confines of their iconic road trip van and sing at the top of their lungs along with a man seemingly unknown to the majority of their generation. But they did it anyway. And they basked. He turned to her and watched her body relax with the comfort of a good song and summer air breezing through her fingers.