September 21, 2001
In the morning, I awoke from a dreamless sleep to the sound of singing birds and the sun’s soft yellow glow through my curtains. I rose at my own pace, stretching as I sat up. Once my feet hit the floor, I didn’t even bother to make the bed. Reaching for the outfit I had folded and laid next to my suitcase, I was ready to go.
I pulled the white T-shirt over my head and stepped into my jeans. Finally, I reached for the nightstand, picking up the necklace. I lifted my hair to fasten it before heading into the hallway.
After completing my morning routine, I put the finishing touches on suitcase before taking it out to the car.
As I loaded my luggage into the truck, I stopped to watch the sun climb over the skyline of the city. I made sure to appreciate the bright reddish light as it reflected onto the tallest buildings’ shining gray roofs. Though I wasn’t sure exactly how long, I knew that, after that morning, I wouldn’t be back in Stoneview for a while. While I was gone, I wanted to remember it in its purest form: sparkling underneath the fresh light of a new day, unexplored by all except for those who believed they were too broken to be fixed.
Having seen the light rise into the sky in an uncertain number of brilliant shades, I returned inside to wake Grant.
We began our drive towards Virginia after breakfast, locking up the apartment for an undescernible amount of time.
I put Grant in charge of the map, considering it was a road trip of his own design.
“Where, exactly, do you think our stopping point for the night will be?” I asked him, rolling down the windows as I drove. The wind picked up, the breeze ruffling our hair.
“Richmond, hopefully,” Grant replied. He paused. “The name sounded kind of familiar,” he continued. “And it said it was the state capitol, so…”
I nodded. Listening to him talk made me feel an unexpected sort of sadness. He even sounded lost.
I loosened my grip on the steering wheel as we ended up at a stoplight. “Looks like we have about a four hour drive, then.” I turned to him. “Hope you can make it.”
He smiled, nodding. “I can, trust me. I don’t mind waiting.”
The light turned green, cutting off the conversation as I shifted the car back into drive.
As we headed onto the next road, I wondered how long Grant had been waiting already, and what, exactly, he was waiting for.
It was all I could do to hope we didn’t both take that question to our graves.
We stopped in Durham for lunch at a run down sports bar. Being early into a Friday afternoon, the weekend rush had yet to begin, though it was obvious that the staff was anxiously awaiting it.
I didn’t miss that feeling at all as I settled into one of the sticky booths by the window. Watching as a girl in a football jersey handed Grant and I our menus, I vowed to never work in the food industry again if I could help it.
After we had been sitting for a while, Grant looked up from his menu. “Do you know what you’re getting?”
I shook my head. “No. You?”
“Nah.” He looked back down, thinking. “The buffalo chicken strips look good.”
I looked down at the picture of the food. “They do, don’t they?” Looking at the price, they looked even better. “Let’s get those.”
A waitress brought out our drinks. “Y’all ready to order?” she asked.
I looked up, smiling. “Yes. We’ll have two orders of the buffalo chicken strips, please.”
“Okay.” She scribbled the order down before disappearing again.
I twirled my straw around in my drink, looking at Grant. He was now staring out the window next to our booth, watching a small bird hop past on the sidewalk.
I took a sip of soda before breaking the silence. “Do you remember anything in particular about Richmond?”
He looked at me, wide-eyed in surprise. Whether this was from the sudden end to the quiet or the question itself, I didn’t know.
Once he was ready to speak, he shrugged. “I dunno.” He looked down at the table, running his finger over the edge of it. “I don’t really think that I lived there or anything. Maybe I took a day trip there as a kid or something.” He paused, looking back into the distance. “Seems like there were a lot of museums.”
The quiet returned, staying until the waitress returned with our food. The mood didn’t change much as we ate, either. Grant found another TV to focus on, this one hanging over the bar.
I sighed, nibbling at the end of my chicken strip. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but this wasn’t it. I wanted to jump straight to the part where we either started figuring stuff out or embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. Whichever came first.
After what seemed like a short, very quiet lifetime, we finished our food, leaving our leftovers out for the waitress to clear. I left the total on the table, plus a little extra.
As I stood up to leave, I tucked my wallet into the bottom of my purse.
I really needed to start leaving smaller tips.
The welcome sign in Richmond reads “Virginia is for Lovers.” Once the blue sign with the red heart in the middle comes into view, I feel a swell of pride. We made it to our first destination.
“Welcome to Old Virginny, Grant,” I said. “This is our beginning.”
We continued our descent into the city. Soon, the rural roads that had brought us there morphed into stretching skyscrapers, shining waters, and lengthy highways, barely concealing streets full of small businesses and Southern charm behind their flashy windows.
I drove right past all of that, in search of a fast food restauraunt and a motel.
It didn’t take long to find a McDonald’s. Once I had successfully purchased two Quarter Pounders for our dinner, I kept driving until I came across a motel that it didn’t look like we would get murdered in.
In a few minutes, I confirmed the motel’s vacancy and got us a room for the next two nights.
After finishing our burgers, Grant and I took our bags with us to our room.
I turned to him when we were inside. “Do you want the bed?”
He shook his head. “You can have it.” He motioned toward the hole-covered sofa bed in the corner of the room. “I’ll take the couch.”
He examined the channel guide as I sat my suitcase down on the bed.
“Do you want to go anywhere else tonight?” he asked.
I shook my head. “No. That’ll come tomorrow.”
Soon after we changed into our pajamas, we retired to our respective sleeping quarters. Cutting the light out, I walked past Grant’s sofa bed to the queen sized mattress in the middle of the room.
Once I was settled, I turned over on my side. I could faintly make out the shape of Grant, half asleep already.
“Goodnight, Grant,” I said quietly, not expecting him to answer.
“Mmmm… ‘Night, April.” He shifted slightly, burying his face in his pillow.
I smiled to myself, eyes flickering shut. No sleeping pills were needed that night.