I had a nice view of the town from the cliff at edge of the woods. I had never seen the town from this angle this early in the morning. We usually came here in the evenings. This was the spot where we would make bonfires and watch the stars. This place had been there for years, and we had a lot of memories there. Now, I could add to that the memory of changing clothes there, struggling to put on my t-shirt as fast as I could, the rush only making me more visible to anyone that may have been passing by. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to change in public.
Having finally put on my beige V-neck, with my head inserted in the proper hole this time, I scanned the view in search of my house. There it was, still in one piece. I started to wonder if that wasn’t the last time I’d see it like this. I stood there, staring, for a couple more minutes, when I heard that annoying cough behind me. I flinched and glanced back behind my shoulder. Martin was leaning against a tree, a suitcase at his side. His black sweater against the dark forest, combined with his deathly white complexion and fair hair made his face look like a disembodied floating head.
“I don’t think we have the time to be staring off into the distance like that, now do we,” he said in a monotone.
“And who do we have to thank for that, huh?” I sent him a smirk. “How long have you been standing there?”
“I just came,” he said. “Mia’s changing somewhere in the woods. She said I didn’t even let her take a proper shower after the party.”
“Well, shame on you.” Not that any of us had a chance to take a shower. I hadn’t even realized that until we had to spend some time cramped in a small car together. The two guys that came with Martin didn’t say anything, but you could see in their eyes that they were praying for it all to end. They left us there in the woods and took the car. They drove away so fast that I was genuinely surprised they didn’t hit a tree. “Seriously, Martin. What have you gotten us into?”
“Don’t expect me to apologize.” He adjusted his glasses.
“Oh, don’t worry, I don’t. But why?”
“Everyone makes mistakes,” he sighed. “Alright, enough chitchat. Let me change now.”
“You want me to watch?”
“Remind me why we’re still friends,” I sighed, shaking my head, as I made my way deeper into the woods.
“Spare me the sappiness, please,” Martin replied in as flat a tone as usual. I remember that he didn’t always use to be like this. I mean, I hadn’t known him for nearly as long as I’d known Brandi, Ian, and Freddie, but having been his roommate in college, I thought I got to know Martin pretty well. We used to play games and watch Netflix all the time – we had a lot of fun and got along really well. I mean, we still do all that, but he’s become so distant lately, and I don’t really know why.
I heard the sound of an engine somewhere in the distance. I looked around for the trail – there was no way the others could find us in this thicket. As I walked, I felt a gentle tap on my back. The loud YEAAUGH sound I made echoed throughout the forest, mocking me, waking any sleeping animal within a mile. Someone was having a chuckle behind me. It was Mia, her orange ponytail jumping up and down as she desperately tried not to burst out laughing.
“What did I ever do to deserve this?” I gasped, still trying to catch my breath after that little heart attack Mia gave me.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to,” Mia giggled, wiping a single tear from her eye. “I really forgot how easy it is to scare you.”
“Hey, like you wouldn’t scream if someone pushed you in the middle of the dark forest like that.”
“Maybe you’re right,” she said, this time with only a smile on her face.
“So,” I said in almost a whisper. “Martin really didn’t tell you anything about this DVD thing?”
Mia sighed. “He didn’t say anything. He did seem a bit more jumpy than usual yesterday, but he didn’t say anything about the disc.” She lowered her gaze a bit and even though she was still smiling, I could tell it wasn’t as genuine anymore.
“Don’t worry,” I said as I stretched my arms and then placed them behind my head. “I’m sure he just didn’t want to worry you.”
“Yeah, but still,” she turned her eyes back to me, a stern expression on her face. “I think he owes us all an explanation, now that he’s made us go on this road trip together. I mean, what a hassle…”
“Well…” I began and stopped for a second. It was hard to keep my frustration with Martin’s behavior at bay, but if anyone had it worse than any of us, it was Mia. “You know, it’s been a while since we got to all spend so much time together. We should make the best of it, like Freddie said.”
“Says the guy who had a car bust in through his living room wall because of all this,” Mia chuckled. “I guess you’re right, though. Thanks.”
“No problem,” I grinned as I tapped her on the shoulder. “Now, let’s go find that van. The parking lot should be nearby.”
“Aren’t you forgetting someone?” Martin’s cold voice came from behind.
“I thought you’d catch up.”
“And so I did.”
We made our way through the wood and reached the parking lot without a problem. The big light blue Mazda Bongo van stood parked there. The four people standing outside it were lost in conversation, so they didn’t notice us approaching right away. Ian was the first to face us.
“Hola!” he yelled in our direction. “Qué tal?”
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Freddie grunted at him, much to the amusement of Jess. “You know, one of these days, I’m gonna learn Irish and do the same thing you do in front of other people.”
“But I don’t speak Irish,” Ian retorted with a wide grin.
“Why discourage him, Fred?” Brandi asked in her usual collected tone, but you could tell by her smile that she was enjoying how embarrassed Freddie was looking. “I think it’s always great to learn a second language.”
Freddie made a deep, irritated sigh as Mia, Martin and I approached the group. “Yeah,” I added with a smile. “No hay problema, eh?”