**This week’s prompt: a road trip and a discovery. Enjoy!**
“I got the snacks!”
I chuckled over Jake’s enthusiasm. He was more excited about the trip than I was, but he loved to drive, and three days on the open road as we transversed the country sounded like heaven to him.Me? I wasn’t quite as excited as my best friend, but his eagerness more than made up for it. I was only doing this for him anyway. His grandmother’s ninetieth birthday could not be missed, and Jake decided to turn it into a vacation. Three days to drive there, three days to hang out and celebrate, and three days back. I still wasn’t sure how he’d talked me into going with him, but Jake was persuasive in the best of times. When there was something he really wanted? I couldn’t even try to stand in his way.
“Get a move on!” Jake called over the top of his car. I laughed again, and pushed off from the door. I turned and locked it, and then jogged down the steps with my bag slung over my shoulder. Jake popped the trunk, and I dropped the bag inside, then slammed it shut. Jake winced.
“Careful with her, now.”
I refrained from pointing out that the car was actually an inanimate object, and didn’t have feelings. But Jake was overly attached to his car, and I knew it. I patted the trunk consolingly, then climbed into passenger side. Jake shot me a huge grin.
“Thanks for coming with me. It means a lot to me.”
“Of course, Jake.” He’d been my best friend ever since he and his mother moved in next to my family. We’d been barely old enough to walk. And the past thirty years we’d been inseparable. He wanted me to go, of course I would.
He was my world
He pulled out onto the street and pointed the car toward the highway. Thirty minutes later, we were cruising the interstate at only a slightly higher speed than the limit. Jake turned up the volume on his music, classic rock, and I settled back, letting his smooth baritone wash over me, as the rhythmic whir of the tires on pavement lulled me. I wasn’t asleep, for all that it was seven o’clock in the morning, but I was soothed by the whole thing.
We rode like that for hours, occasionally making conversation, or pointing out a bit of interesting landscape, but mostly riding in comfortable silence. Jake ate like a machine, and I passed over his snacks as he wanted, whatever he was hungry for. We passed the day like that, him behind the wheel, me helping him navigate. Which, when I thought about it, was pretty much how we lived our lives. Eventually, the sun had slunk below the horizon, and Jake’s eyes began to droop.
“Maybe we should stop for the night, huh? Get some dinner?”
Finding a hotel was easy, and they had plenty of rooms available. I went to reserve two, but Jake’s face fell and he bumped me with his hip. “No need to waste the money, yeah?”
I turned to the clerk. “One room with two queens please.”
Upstairs in our room, Jake investigated everything, and found a nearby restaurant in the little book on the bedside table. It looked good to me, so I agreed. Jake wanted a shower first and I turned on the TV to find something to watch while I waited for him to be ready.
“Can you grab my bag of stuff out of my bag?” he shouted.
I rolled my eyes, chuckling as I pushed off the bed. It was a good thing I’d long ago become fluent in Jake-speak. I put his bag on the bed, then unzipped the duffel and sifted through the content until I found his toiletries bag. I shoved aside t-shirts, and there at the bottom was the bag. As well as a rope bracelet. My heart started to pound. The piece of hemp was worn and frayed, but still whole. I’d given him that when we were eight, and I’d learned how to tie sliding knot.
Why did he still have it? And more importantly, why did he pack it in his bag? He wasn’t an overly sentimental guy. So why did he have this piece of our childhood and why was he carrying it with him.
I startled, then took his bag into the bathroom, dropping it onto the closed toilet lid without look at him and heading back into the room. I told myself to put the bracelet back away and pretend I didn’t know about it, but I couldn’t stop staring.
I was still holding it in my hand when Jake emerged from the bathroom.
He caught sight of me and froze. Then he gave me a lopsided, nervous grin. “So. Uh. I see you discovered my secret.”
I shook my head, holding it up. “Jake? I… uh?”
He smiled. “I don’t go anywhere without it. That’s the moment I knew I…” He looked scared for a second. Then cleared his throat. “The moment I fell in love and lost my heart. To you.”
“You never said anything,” I whispered.
“How could I? But, you know, you have the proof of it in your hand so…” He blew out a breath. “Luke?”
I walked forward, and he sucked in a breath. When I was right in his space, took his hand in mind and slipped the bracelet onto wrist. It barely fit, even extended all the way. But I managed to get it on, and in the process, I felt like I marked him as mine. Just as I had all those years ago.
I grinned. He grinned back. And then I noticed what he was wearing. I rolled my eyes, and nudged him toward his bag. “Get dressed. I believe we have things to discuss.”
He sighed, and kissed my temple as he walked by. “I guess we do.”