July 20th Friday.
The trip to Lakewood Cabin was a rather quiet one. The kids had taken off two hours ago, 11am—not the actual time that was agreed upon the night before, thanks to Stacie and Louis, who had arrived at the meeting point at 10.57am. They had tendered some excuses about having to wash the bus and have it fueled for the trip, which none of the kids were having, since they were always the ones to come later than the rest.
It was Ezekiel, the eldest among the clique who first took the initiative to take a jibe on the two love birds, then the rest followed like gang members who had been waiting their turn to assault a target. The two had apologized sincerely, and everyone had taken their spot in the white Ford Transit that belonged to Stacie’s grandpa. Ezekiel had taken the wheel for one hour and an hour later, Louis relieved him and drove for another hour.
The sun took on a harsher form as noon passed by, its golden ray beamed brightly on the windshield, forcing Louis to put on the fancy sun shade he had purchased at Walmart weeks ago. Everyone remained stuck to themselves since the clash earlier at the meeting point. Obviously everyone was still hurt, the accusers and the accused alike.
Finally, Stacie broke the lingering silence. “Maybe we should top up the fuel right there,” Stacie who had been sitting right next to the driver’s sit for direction’s sake said lightly as she pointed to the gas station right ahead by the right side of the road.
Obligingly, Louis pulled from the main road and drove towards the old-looking gas station which also featured a grocery store.
“I’m famished, who else is?” Stacie said as she alighted from the space bus. To her amazement, everyone raised their hands abruptly. “Good!” Stacie responded as though addressing a group of kindergartens.
“I’ll go with you, I need to use the restroom,” said Danielle, whose face said something entirely different… more like, I need a break from the weird mood flying around here.
It was as though everyone saw the perfect opportunity to relieve themselves of the mood that had stuck with them all day as they all took turn to alight from the bus.
While Louis filled the tank with gas, and Danielle and Stacie went on their quest for food, Ezekiel decided to bring everyone together with a little ‘say cheese’ time. A couple of minutes later, Stacie and her best friend, Danielle showed up with two paper bags full of cheese, and six cups of coffee in three paperboard carriers.
The sight that graced them as they approached the bus was unbelievable. Ezekiel, the very pioneer of rage from the morning incident had become the pioneer for unity. The sight had Stacie and Danielle giggling like little girls as they joined in the exciting moment they’d missed all day.
The trip had taken a sudden cheerful form with Ivan, the liveliest of them all taking the wheel. This meant loud rock music for the rest of the trip. By 5:30pm, the energetic atmosphere waxed cold when the sound of siren broke in.
“Goodness, the cops!” Stacie’s voice held panic from the front seat she had been sitting all day. Tension filled her eyes as she gazed back to search everyone’s face for even an iota of calmness. But none was nowhere near having the look.
“The drugs, Lou, the drugs!” was all Ivan could mutter as he switched off the radio.
“It’s kept safe guys,” Louie said assuringly. “So everyone just keep calm and be yourselves, and we’d all be fine. Now pull over Ivan.”
Ivan pulled over, and immediately, the police car parked a few distance behind them. Radio communication in motion with fading rumbling voice of a lady dispersing instructions of some sort from the patrol car. Sounds of the car door opening and shutting informed them of the now-approaching cop. A black cop in his mid-forties appeared beside the driver’s window and knocked. Ivan wound down the car’s window with a fake smile formed in one corner of his mouth just to hide his tension.
“Driver’s license please.”
“Coming through sir… here,” Ivan sad as he handed his license to the cop.
“I see y’all are in a hurry,” he said gazing through the window at the kids behind. “Where you kids up to?”
“I’m sorry officer, didn’t realize I’ve exceeded the speed limit.”
“I’m certain that wasn’t the question I asked you, son.”
“Oh! Lakewood sir, we’re going to visit a friend whose dad had just passed away.”
“Whose bus is this?”
“My grandpa’s,” Stacie announced.
“I see. I’ll just take a moment to confirm your license.”
“That’s okay sir.”
The cop left for his car, and two minutes later, he was back to his previous position beside the bus.
“Your license checks out,” the cop said with a suspicious gaze. “I don’t need to do a thorough search on your bus, yeah?”
“We have nothing to hide officer,” Ivan quickly chipped in.
“Drive safely then. Thanks for your time,” the cop said tapping the side of the bus as he walked back to the patrol car.
Ivan breathed a sigh of relief as everybody else while the patrol car drove past them.
“That would have been our ride to jail on a bad day,” Patrick said looking through the window as though making sure the cop was really gone.
“I bet it would,” Jasper agreed.
Louis, sitting behind the two, patted their backs in a reassuring tone. “It’s all over now guys, and we haven’t gotten busted. Have we?”
“That was really close,” Ivan said as he ignited the engine and took off from the spot they now seemed to dread the most.
The sun sank behind the horizon, revealing a vivid orange as they made the drive further closer to Lakewood. Silence, once again became the order of the evening as Patrick took the wheel. By 11pm, Louis who had taken the final wheel pulled the bus as close as he dared to the cabin’s porch when they arrived at the old cabin. They were supposed to be excited, but fatigue cut them short. For all the money in the world, they would have had never imagined a place that was so secluded from the entire world. It seems as though they’ve been left in a whole new world all by themselves.
“Here we are guys, welcome to the Lakewood Cabin,” Stacy announced, smile fading as she tried to detect an approving look on their faces in the moon lit night.
To be continued…