Chapter One: The midnight-blue Nissan was cruising South on Highway 101, ninety minutes out of San Francisco, carrying a quartet of old friends and a trunk stuffed with backpacks and roll-away luggage. They were headed to the southern California coast for a week-long vacation when Zeke piped up and the first notes of Last Night faded from the Sentra’s speakers.
“How did you pull this off?”
Mark cocked his head, signaled a lane-change, and responded to his co-pilot.
“What part did I miss? My sister has a friend in the neighborhood she cat-sits for who owns this place, but can’t use it now. Brooke can’t get away either, so it fell to me…and since there are three rooms and nobody objected I brought all of you.”
“I got that, but these time shares have a bad rep. Supposedly, they make newbs sit through presentations and pressure ’em to sign contracts.”
“But we’re not fresh meat. The place is bought-and-paid-for,” Mark grinned, “if they do try something like that I’ll refer them to Claire.”
For a moment the redhead in the back seat looked upset, then those green eyes flashed and she shot back, “Okay, but it’s going to cost you.”
Mark stole a glance into the rear-view mirror, raised an eyebrow, then said “We’ll discuss your reward later.”
“Does that mean you’re buying something more expensive than dinner?” Her jab was met with a laugh, a fist-bump, and a wry smile.
So they went on as the sedan coasted towards its destination and a group that hadn’t been together for months jousted and joked while gliding past shopping centers and gas stations. In a way these were the unlikeliest of friends: Mark and Gwen didn’t know it at the time, but they went to the same Fresno high school then took differing paths to the same city. Mark went to Arizona and left as a Wildcat with a Bachelors in communications then moved to Oakland after signing on with a small weekly. Gwen was living on the other side of the bay after four years at UNLV and just getting started as a home-health nurse.
After an hour or two of singing and cruising Claire groaned, and fanned herself for emphasis. She was hungry.
“Can’t you see how famished I am?”
A detour to the nearest Subway contained the faux crisis. Now everyone is chomping on sandwiches as El Sol continued waltzing with La Luna — after another hour Zeke started getting cranky.
“Are you sure we haven’t taken a wrong turn somewhere?”
“Okay, let’s see. We’re on the right street, I’ve got the address, the name of the development, the donut shop at the nearest intersection,” Mark flipped the visor down, “and a picture of the front gate.”
“Yeah,” Claire said, “but it’s late. Maybe we should find a hotel for tonight.”
After a minute or two of relative silence the playlist moved on and Mark spoke.
“I understand that you guys are tired and want to sleep, I do too, but we’re in the city and on Yanonali. I’d rather get where we’re going and wake up there tomorrow, but if the three of you don’t agree…I’ll respect that.”
to be continued…
photo courtesy of marcio.net