It rained on the day we went up to the mountains. It rained and we stayed in our car for the most part, eating takeout from a nearby restaurant. We planned to eat it by the waterfall, but our sandwiches would’ve been soggy. We sat parked on a cliff-side, overlooking the mountains, the greens and reds and oranges and yellows of the treetops swaying gently with the breeze. We sat silent for a while as we took in the overwhelming feeling, the largeness of it all. We ate our takeout, but we didn’t feel worthy to be there in all the beauty. This moment was bigger than us. And I remember you said quietly and defiantly, “Someday, this will be home.”
They sat across from each other in a vacant diner at midnight, high out of their minds, and pancakes in front of them. The pancakes, had the couple been sober, were bad. They sucked. No one comes here and orders the pancakes, especially not in the middle of the night. But to them, two stoned 21-year-olds, they were the best pancakes they’d ever had.
The man, tall, about six foot, unshaven, stomach just about reaching the table in front of him from where he sat back on the booth, made a joke about the pancakes and the woman, despite her best efforts, laughed. She didn’t think the joke was funny, in fact it might’ve even been the worst joke she’d ever heard, but she had the social obligation to act like she cared about him.
And he thought she cared. He was so certain that she cared because he lied so flawlessly whenever she came close to catching him. He was so convinced no one would ever catch his lies; he’s been doing it his whole life, at this point change his name to Lyin’ Brian. And she didn’t want to believe he would deceive her like he did. He was so nice, and so caring, how could someone be so heartless?
So, she had her suspicions and he had his bad jokes, and together they had bad decisions. They both thought they were made for each other, how silly that seems to them now. Because when it came down to it, she could only manage a laugh with him when she smoked, and he could only exist in the world when he did. And what kind of life is that?
I left the house in a rush. In one burst of manic energy, I packed for a couple days. I was at the point where I couldn’t think about anything but getting away. Anywhere was better than here. In a perfect world, I would’ve thought for months about this trip, but the fact that I didn’t have a plan made it more exciting.
It felt like everything that happened these last few months, all the pain and exhaustion, it was all leading up to my break anyway. This was bound to happen. I wouldn’t consider it a break, but my best friend called it that when I showed up at her door with a text, “Hey. You’re coming with me. We’re going to the mountains.”
“You’re crazy,” was her answer. I wouldn’t have expected any less. She packed her bags and was down in fifteen. From the driveway, she looked insane. More insane than I was. Her black hair was put into a messy ponytail with flyaways illuminated by the midday sun. She wore a gray sweatshirt and black leggings. Her backpack, stuffed full of clothes and camping equipment, was a forest green and held her sleeping bag atop it.
“I need this more than you do.”
She told me that as she threw her backpack in the backseat of my SUV.
“Hold on, do you have a tent?”
I hadn’t thought of that.
“Uh, no. Don’t you?” I replied.
“My brother is using it this weekend.” She groaned. I rolled my eyes.
I wasn’t sure when it was that it set in that I was an insane, spontaneous person, but by the fourth hour of our road trip, it had crossed my mind a few times. Emma loved me for it. She could always count on me for a last-minute mania induced trip in which we find ourselves, only to lose ourselves when we come back to work the following Monday.
We laughed. We laughed a lot. The entire drive was filled up with conversation, never a dull moment. Never a moment to think about just getting stood up or not getting that promotion I really could’ve used to fuel these trips. I didn’t think about the date I was supposed to go on until Emma had fallen asleep and as I laid on the hard ground, the only way to distract myself from the pain my back felt was by thinking about the pain my now-ex caused.
I realized a while ago that I shouldn’t let myself get wrapped up in someone like him, someone still obviously going through his partying college days even though he dropped out two years ago. I knew he was bad news, Emma tried to tell me, but I didn’t care. I liked the way he looked at me when I told a story, and I liked the way he laughed too long when I told a bad joke. I liked how his hair looked in the morning before he showered, and I liked how he’d cook breakfast for me.
I knew the mountains wouldn’t have an answer, and I didn’t care. It was a distraction at least and at most it would be another story to tell: two way-too-stressed 20-something’s go on another spontaneous trip in attempt to find themselves, only to find themselves with smaller bank accounts and bags under their eyes.
The rain out my window holding me captive in my bed until it lets up. I toss and turn, but can’t bring myself to pull down the covers, afraid to introduce myself to the cold that is Not My Blankets. So, I pull them up to my shoulders, curl up into a ball, and fall back asleep once again. Time passes and suddenly it’s afternoon. Did I really spend all morning in bed? The rain has let up, but now I’m just groggy. A wave of uselessness takes over me and I force myself up.
I brew a cup of coffee and figure out ways to salvage this day. The grogginess never seems to disappear as I scroll through social medias and notifications from my lengthy sleep. I spend the rest of the day yawning, cursing myself for sleeping in, and not doing much of anything. But it’s good to have days like today, I reassure myself as I drift off to sleep again that night.
The wind was harsh, cutting into our faces like daggers, leaving us red in the face and nearly frostbitten. The dead of winter never felt so dead as we trudged down the road to the gas station to pick up hot chocolate mix. It was ironic, the heat wasn’t kicking on at our apartment, so we nearly got frostbite trying to buy something that’ll warm us up. If we make it, it’ll be a story to tell, but for now I just want to get out of the snow. The snowshoes we dug out of the closet were sinking into the snow more than usual.
“I think it’s time to get new snowshoes.” I yelled through the tunnel of wind.
“What?” Eva yelled back, squinting to see me through the snow still falling.
“Need new snowshoes!” I said simply.
“Yap!” Eva said, or that’s what it sounded like. She said something else, but it was muffled behind the snow.
I paused, turned around, and squinting said, “Huh?”
“Never mind, go.” She put her hands on my shoulders and turned me around, patting my shoulders before letting me go.
Though the cold tried to break through my spirit and render me useless, having Eva with me to make this two-mile trek kept me warm.
She drove until she reached the forest, camped there for the night, and drove on to the next. It had been a week-long journey with no defined end. Teary-eyed and broken-hearted, she made the spontaneous decision to travel by car until she couldn’t remember his name. Or at least until it didn’t hurt to think about his bright blue eyes and his contagious smile.
She inhaled sharply as she merged into the right lane on the vast and ever lonely stretch of highway. She had just passed the only car she’d seen in the last five hours and the weight of her reality had been pulling her deeper and deeper into a pit of sadness, like a ton of bricks on her barely beating heart.
When she decided on this trip, she didn’t realize how depressing it would be. Traveling alone is clearly lonely, but she realized this just too late. It should have been obvious beforehand. Any sane person would’ve known traveling alone is as lonely as it gets. But she wasn’t sane. She was a grand mess- hair askew, nail polish chipping, the same shirt she’d been wearing since he told her he found someone new. She couldn’t bring herself to buy new clothes.
Work called her yesterday when she didn’t show up for her shift. She had a long talk with her boss about love and life and to make sure to keep them up to date on when she’s coming back. She was fortunate enough to have a job she could leave and come back to as she pleased. She was also fortunate enough to have the money saved up to go on an indefinite endeavor across the country.
None of that mattered, though, because the whole time she was miserable. She wanted to go home, but couldn’t bring herself to head that way. A part of her wanted to live out here. She was in the forests of Washington, thousands of miles from home. All she had were the clothes on her back and her water bottle, but the thought of stopping at home to collect her things- where her now-ex-boyfriend also lives- made her nauseous. She thought a lot about just how hard it would be to transfer to the Seattle brand, get an apartment, new clothes, furniture.
She found herself surveying houses in the suburbs. This one’s too small, that one’s got no driveway, this one would be nice. Oh, and an open house. It won’t hurt to go in. I can say I’m thinking of moving out here from Massachusetts. It’s true and doesn’t invite too many questions I can’t answer. Oh, and it’s cheap, too. I could afford this if I transferred to the Seattle branch. I should call my boss….
A cool wind blew through Vin’s frizzy, auburn hair, sending chills down his back. Vin didn’t flinch though, the breeze instead filled him with a confidence he thought he had lost when they began their trek.
“I’d still have one,” Robin retorted bitterly, “if that monster didn’t swallow my fucking longsword whole like thanksgiving dinner.”
He chuckled sourly.
“You don’t have to tell me twice. That thing broke my shield.”
“Vin, we need to find new equipment.” Robin sighed, “All I’ve got are these throwing spears and I was hoping to save them for emergencies. Should we go back? Find new weapons?”
Vin turned to Robin, a look on his face she’d never seen before. It was as though he asked her to sacrifice himself for her- backtrack? Like he’d ever be caught dead backtracking.
Vin spat at the floor, wiped his face, and grunted. He began heading down the path they had been going, leaving Robin to watch him, flummoxed. She understood. All he was missing was a shield; anything could be used as a shield and with enough precision and skill, a shield is not necessary. And they made it clear at the beginning of the trip that neither would wait for the other. They are on this path together yet separate. When it ends, it will not be the two of them rejoicing in their victory, it will be them nodding to each other and departing their respective ways.
Yet it still remained true that Robin needed a weapon. Guards, monsters, enemies all roam these caves freely and with a purpose: to destroy anything which threatens their caves. So, naturally Robin searched her immediate surroundings while keeping an eye on Vin.
It was true that Robin and Vin were captured while attempting to defeat the emperor that ruled their land, but that doesn’t mean Robin and Vin are bad people. They live in a world where reason does not rule, satan-like criminals do and they’re ruthless, especially towards women or men who treat women like equals. The duo met in the prison they were captured in five months ago. They had been planning this escape ever since Vin saw Robin defeat another inmate in their illegal sword fights held under the bridge at midnight.
The swordfights were not allowed at the prison for obvious reasons, which was why they were held overnight and only few watched. It was a way for the prisoners to make a name for themselves. They occurred outside Vin’s cell, he studied adamantly through the barred windows. He watched Robin dominate everyone who attempted to fight her with an elegance he’d never seen before. He knew she would be the one to help him break out.