The Last Stop Before Arrival
The van pulled up to the gas station and rumbled to a stop.
“Last stop before we get home,” Mr. Carlton said, turning around in the driver’s seat. “Anyone who wants to stretch their legs should do so now. It’s gonna be another coupla hours before we get there.”
The girls and I hopped out, leaving the boys to continue napping in their seats.
“They could sleep anywhere,” said Patricia. “It’s not fair.”
“My dad always tells me ‘Life’s not fair,’” I said sheepishly.
“So does my mom,” said Wanda. “All the time.”
“Well, they should both lighten up.”
Patricia led the way into the convenience store, where the usual cluster of dozens of colors assaulted our sense. Candies, chips, sodas, CDs, magazines. Carefully placed products leapt off the stands in an effort to grab our attention, and our dollars.
“Can you believe what Billy said about me?” Patricia whined. “I can’t believe him.”
Wanda snatched an orange bag of chips off the rack. “Oh, give us a break. We all know you want to sleep with him.”
“You shut up, I do not.”
“You talk about him all the damn time. It’s starting to get annoying.”
“Starting?” I muttered, hands in my pockets. I didn’t actually have any money left at the end of our trip.
Wanda laughed, Patricia shot me a dirty look.
I shrugged. “You didn’t pay any attention to him until we rode that Ferris wheel and you had to sit next to him. Now he’s all you talk about.”
Patricia gave a haughty sniff and turned away from me. “Whatever,” she said. “You two are just jealous.”
“Well,” said Wanda. “Here’s your chance.”
Patricia and I followed Wanda’s gaze to the door, where Billy and the other boys were strolling into the convenience store, having been clearly just woken up by Mr. Carlton.
When I turned back to the girls, I found Patricia hiding behind Wanda and pointedly trying to ignore me.
“Aw, come on, Trish,” I said, poking my head around Wanda. “Make us jealous.”
Wanda rolled her eyes. “What about you, Jess?”
“Yeah,” Patricia said, poking her nose in my face. “You’ve been eyeing Todd the whole trip.”
I blushed. It was true.
“You could actually beat Trish at something for once.”
“Hey!” Both Patricia and I said in unison.
Wanda rolled her eyes again.
Patricia and I looked at each other, then glanced at the boys, who were obliviously shuffling about the store.
“I’ll do it if you do,” Patricia said, folding her arms.
Wanda rolled her eyes and wandered off toward the cashier to pay for her chips. “We both know she won’t do it,” she sang.
Patricia grinned. “You’re too much of a mouse, Jessie.”
I glared at her. She was right. And I was tired of her being right all the time.
I glanced around for the boys. There, over by the soda. Then I marched off toward them without a second glance at Patricia.
Todd glanced at me as I approached and I froze in place halfway down the aisle. He pushed his glasses further up his face, then frowned at me.
“Oh, hey, Jess. When’d you get here?”
I shrugged, not looking at him. “Uh, you guys were asleep.”
“Yeah,” said Billy, turning away from the soda cooler. “Then Mr. C went and woke us up. Pissed me off. I was up so late last night.”
“Oh, yeah?” I said. “What were you guys doing?”
Todd shrugged. “Just watching tv.”
“Yeah,” said Billy. “There was this one show where-”
Todd elbowed Billy in the side. “Dude. Girls don’t want to hear about that stuff.”
“Why not? It’s about them.”
“Not really,” I muttered.
“How the hell not?”
I shook my head and turned to go back to Patricia.
But then I saw her face as she was watching me.
Watching me talk to Billy.
I smiled as I realized she didn’t know what we were talking about. All she saw was me and Billy and Todd talking.
So I turned back to the boys.