“Don’t get too comfortable.” – Hercules
“You almost ready there, Nikita?” Brian asked as I laughed at him. He’d taken to calling me various nicknames because we couldn’t find one that stuck. I called him Sheriff because he reminded me so much of Woody, but I’d refused him calling me Buzz. I certainly didn’t feel like a Space Ranger.
“Nikita? That’s a new one.” I commented as I threw a bag into the trunk of his car. We would be heading to pick up Kevin on the way, and driving to Lexington, Kentucky….which was pretty far.
I didn’t know how I would survive a 13 hour drive with a detour in Orlando. Especially with the cousins. Lord have mercy on my soul.
“Well you gave yourself that name, remember? I’m gonna keep trying until I find one that fits you.” he chuckled. I hopped into the car and after we stopped for some gas and snacks, we were on our way.
We picked up Kevin and started to move along but by the time we got into Georgia, I was feeling queasy. I didn’t get sick on rides….but for some reason I didn’t like cars.
“You okay, buddy?” Kevin asked, looking at me with concern.
I looked back, obviously about to hurl.
“I told you not to eat that breakfast burrito.” Brian teased. He didn’t tell me shit, he was the one who made them. Microwaved them. Whatever he did to them, I was gonna blow chunks. We pulled over in some town on the border.
“You poisoned it.” I moaned as Kevin was inside a Burger King getting seltzer water for my stomach.
“I did not.” Brian protested. We got back into the car and Brian turned on the radio, flipping through stations.
“You’re all I ever wanted…”
“This is a good song.” Brian commented. I made a face. I swear sometimes I wonder why he’s my friend. I thought he’d be listening to Garth Brooks or something. Whoever that is.
“NOT THAT!” I yelled, not wanting to be reminded of a band Crystal liked. I was not gonna listen to Nsync. Not unless I wanted to puke again. We listened to another station and Kevin told him to stop.
“Wait, isn’t this that Titanic song?” he asked. We kept listening and it was definitely Celine Dion.
“I’m not changing it.” Brian said. Nobody argued and halfway through we ended up singing it….badly. The three of us sounded like crap on a stick….but it was still fun.
“This does not leave the car.” I told them as Kevin laughed at me.
“You kind of look like Jack.” Brian mused at the red light, smirking.
“No, I do NOT.” I protested, pouting. I did not want to be compared to Leo whatever-his-name is. Great. Now here come the Titanic jokes. Can we send Celine back to Canada and forget this happened?
I finally fell asleep halfway through Georgia and woke up with my head on Brian’s shoulder, Kevin was driving. I guess they must have switched at some point because Brian was leaning on me, fast asleep. It should have felt weird, but I wasn’t bothered at all. I put my head back down and when I woke up, we were in Kentucky.
“Wow.” I said as I looked out the window. The farm Brian lived on was pretty huge, with white fences and rolling hills. It was beautiful. I definitely wasn’t in Tampa any more. Brian yawned and stretched, reaching for his seatbelt.
“Home sweet home.” he drawled. I swear, every minute that went by….he was getting more and more country. His accent was coming back.
“Ew, what reeks?”
I wanted to gag when I stepped out of the car. The ground was a bit dusty and covered with gravel, and it smelled like manure. Well, it smelled like shit anyways.
“Nick, be nice.” Kevin said as Brian’s mom walked over to greet us. She looked really familiar, reminded me a bit of Belle with her dress and apron. It wasn’t very cold although I was dressed warm, expecting to be freezing my nuts off.
“Hi, ma.” Brian said as she hugged him and kissed his forehead. I looked at my feet, feeling my heart ache a bit for my own mother. I wondered if she was watching me and quickly shook that away. Not here.
“Where’s the snow?” I said without thinking.
“It hasn’t been cold enough, but I reckon it might snow for Christmas. You never know, hun.” Brian’s mom said. I almost snickered at “reckon” but Brian nudged me. Jackie led us into the house and it was really nice and roomy unlike at Kevin’s.
“Hello, boys.” a stern voice said from the doorway. A tall man stood there, eyeing me and Brian.
“Hi, dad.” Brian muttered. I could tell he wasn’t exactly thrilled to see him. Brian’s dad- Harold glared at Kevin and me as if we were not welcome.
“Well, aren’t you going to introduce us to your friend?” he asked.
“This is my roommate from college that I told you about. His name’s Nick. You already know Kevin.” Brian explained.
“I’ll show you where y’all be staying.” his dad told me.
Harold took me to the room next to Brian’s and I set my bag down.
“So you’re my son’s roommate? Nick, was it?” he asked gruffly. He kinda made me…..no, really made me nervous.
“Yes sir.” I said. He kept staring at me, staring at me hard and squinting. I was squirming a bit without stopping myself. After a while he nodded and left the room. Brian came in the room and practically tackled me.
“What do you think of my house?” he asked as I pushed him off. The room was tiny but for some reason I felt at home there. I felt a connection somehow to this place.
“I like it.”
“Awesome. I want you to meet Bella. Come on.” he said excitedly, pulling me up. I wondered briefly who Bella was until we got out to the fence and he started calling her……well making goat noises. This was the goat I’d seen on his dorm wall all semester.
I swear, I do not know him.
This black and white goat came out and Brian reached down to pet her. I didn’t know whether to laugh or not. I knew he loved that goat, but the noises were too much.
“This is Bella. She’s prettier than her pictures.” he beamed. I bent down to pet her, but she decided to gnaw at my sweatshirt.
“Your goat is trying to eat me.” I said, rolling my eyes as he laughed.
That night was the night before Christmas eve and we had fried chicken for dinner. Like real fried chicken. Not from KFC. I was in heaven.
“That was delicious.” Kevin said, patting his stomach.
“Son, tomorrow morning you can show Nick how we do things around here. Take him while you do your chores.” Harold told us. Kevin frowned and Brian looked offended.
“Dad, come on. Nick doesn’t want to see any of that. Plus it is Christmas Eve and we have guests.” he protested.
“Nah, it’s cool. I don’t mind.” I smiled.
What was I getting myself into?
“Good. You boys better get to bed then if you want to start early. No excuses.” Harold winked. I looked at the clock, it was only nine.
“It’s not time for bed yet.” I whispered on the way.
“You didn’t have to tell him yes. Now we have to do work tomorrow.” Brian sighed.
“A little work never hurt anyone.” I reasoned.
“This is different, Nick. You’ll see. Maybe we will get a snow day. I’m not that lucky though. My dad would have me working on Christmas too if you weren’t here.” he said, not looking at me. The feeling that Brian didn’t like his father was stronger now. We said good night to each other and went to bed, me holding the picture up as I lay awake. The woman was so familiar.
It suddenly hit me. My dad was kissing Brian’s mom.
The question was, why?
Another thought occurred to me as I fell asleep that night….
I really hope I don’t have to milk any cows tomorrow.