I was so excited to finally be going. Everett let me take the first shift driving, the road map we'd marked all over spread out in front of him in the big cushy passenger seat beside me. This wasn't just a trip to find hope, it was also a vacation. Mav and Kai were both in the back, staring out the windows, our bikes were attached to the back of the vehicle. He made me get rid of my adorable 'useless town bike' and swap it for a mountain bike that was just one inch too high for my comfort. It was scary to ride something you barely reached the ground on! We were stocked with healthy snacks and drinks and on our way to adventure!
I may tend to romanticize things. My butt fell asleep after an hour on the road, Kai kept trying to climb into Ev's lap while he directed me, Mav acted like she was starving (we only gave them each a little hard food, afraid of how their stomach's might react to their time in a moving home.) So it wasn't a magical Finn and Jake adventure. It was more of a snooze fest, but let's look at this through the rose-colored glasses of a woman with the heart of a child. Because I ate one (no, no I didn't.)
I really was having a great time, though. Ever since that day at the lake, it really felt like Everett was warming up to me (finally!) We went on long walks, talked about stuff, canoodled (that means kissed. And stuff.) I was worried we didn't have much in common at first, he was so reserved, but once I accessed my less silly side, turns out we were both interested in learning, and that, my friend, is the best interest to share. He taught me all sorts of things about the east, I got him interested in ancient history, and of course we both shared a deep love of music. We even started practicing and playing together, which turned into my favorite part of day. We blended so well, especially now that we'd both liberated a pair of Strad's, the best violins that ever existed. Tone was no challenge on something as magical as a Stradivarius.
I was more interested in expanding my skills to other instruments than him, so he taught me piano and we both got better at cello, but beyond that, I was on my own. I had brought a flute, harmonica, and guitar along with the other instruments, hoping to get proficient as well. After six hours of driving, we stopped to eat. The nice thing about being the only drivers was we could just stop in the middle of the road, no worries, and do our business. Of which I had much to do- I had drunk way too much water while driving.
He made macaroni and cheese with bacon while I emptied my bladder and gave Mav and Kai some food, water, and love. I took Kai out to run around a bit after and then headed back in to dive into a bowl of awesome.
"Aren't you glad I threw all that meat into the freezer in hell? I don't know what I'd do without bacon." I shoved a big spoonful into my mouth and wiggled my eyebrows at him.
"You know, at best the meat can stay frozen for two years before being nutritionally void," he said. "We only have about a year left."
"By then we should know how to deal with our own livestock. It will be healthier then, anyway. I don't like the idea of killing our own food, but we should be able to work up the nerve by then. We need to research kosher slaughter and preparation, it's the most efficient and humane method."
He nodded thoughtfully, scooping up some pasta and then dropping it. "Or we could be vegetarians," he suggested.
"You shut your dirty mouth," I barked, waving a piece of uncrumbled bacon at him. "That is a terrible idea, and I doubt anyone we find would agree to it."
"Alright, alright," he grumbled, finishing up and getting seconds. "But you'll be helping, you know."
"Of course. I'll study butchering so I know how to cut them into parts and prepare the different cuts and things. Slaughter and skinning? That's all you, manly man." I kissed him on the cheek as I took my bowl to the sink and started washing up. He finished eating and started drying dishes for me. When we finished, he snagged me around the waist and dragged me outside to look at the stars.
"One thing I don't miss is all the city lights ruining the view," he said, kissing me.
"You're not even looking!" I protested, pulling away. He laughed and squeezed me, turning to look up. He pointed out some constellations for me. The only one I could ever find was the Big Dipper. He seemed to be familiar with all the most popular ones, and even a few I'd never heard of. After a while, we hopped back in the RV, this time with him behind the wheel. We made it to our destination, a city called Embreton, about five hours later. We took care of the animals once we found a nice house with a fenced in yard. Kai had to mark everything. I stayed with him, holding onto Mav, while Everett took his gun off safety and searched the house. Once we were sure it was clear, we set about cleaning it up. I was- unfortunately- in charge of the kitchen. I took out the trash and put in a new bag, dragging it over to the fridge to toss all the expired crap away.
While I was using the dishwasher to re-wash all the dishes, sterilizing the surfaces, and wiping out cabinets, he was stripping the bed in the master bedroom and washing it all, cleaning out the bathrooms, and vacuumin. We'd switch duties at the next house, but thank goodness that wouldn't be for two weeks. We'd considered just staying in the RV, but neither of us liked being confined for long. The RV was just in case a trip took a while or we got tired.
I made us a simple lunch once we finished cleaning. Smoothies made from frozen fruit and fresh veggies from our garden, and chicken sandwiches on bread he'd baked before we left.
We ate in silence, both pretty exhausted. The drier went off when we were cleaning up, so we hurried to finish the dishes and I helped him dress the bed back. We collapsed on top of the covers and blinked.
"We can go to bed early, but we really shouldn't this early or it will throw us off," Everett said, stifling a yawn.
"Then let's do something so we don't pass out," I said, my eyes already closed.
"I saw some cards and board games in the closet," he said, getting up. I heard him rummaging in the closet across the hall and sat up as he came back with a stack appropriate for two players. "What looks good?"
"I used to play Guess Who with my grandmother," I said smiling. "Let's try that."
We played board games for a few hours, laughing and joking so we wouldn't fall asleep. When we could no longer focus our eyes, we put them away and put a movie in. We had made it to 5pm. The second Bill Murray showed up on screen holding flash cards, we were out.
Kai woke us up around 3am, no longer able to hold his pee. Everett groaned and got up, his feet scuffing the hardwood floor as he dragged himself down the stairs to let him out. I yawned and rolled over, grateful that my cat went in a box. I dozed in and out until he came back, his cold feet an unwelcome invasion to my space, but instead of complaining, I fell asleep until the rooster crowed at dawn.
We spent the next couple of weeks riding around in a Jeep, spray painting signs with our info and putting up posters on the inside entrances of the biggest walmarts. We didn't see any signs that there was anyone else, though. Once we covered the surrounding cities and visited the more touristy areas and taken pictures, we set up all the animals back into the trailer (except Kai and Mav,) loaded up the RV, and took off on a seventeen hour drive to our next destination, a little town called Bomova near the bottom of Arkansas.
It was early fall, but it still felt like late summer, which made us realize a flaw in our plan. We needed to get another map and route ourselves according to season, or we'd end up too far north for winter. I pulled over at a rest stop and he ran in for a map. We spent the next hour plotting out a path that would keep us in warmer areas until spring. It was going to take a couple years to search the whole country, anyway, so if we got stuck somewhere for a month, it wasn't a big deal.
We spent seven months (the longest we planned to stay away) running around the country before we went back home to Mollyville, Missouri. What we found when we returned shocked us.