Chapter One: The Great Road Trip, Version Three. or - How did we get here from there? Ariel sets off on another unplanned road trip with her two best friends, determined to be the rock for Leeni.
My name is Ariel Lynne Rogers, newly divorced mother of one. During the past two years or so, I have undergone a major transformation from frumpy homemaker to semi-goddess, if I do say so myself. Gone are the old maid glasses, hello Lasik Vision correction; no more contacts, and I can SEE the alarm clock in the mornings! I have had to wear glasses or contacts since third grade, so this is a BIG change for me. For my last birthday, I went to the salon, and told the girls ‘I’m not leaving until ya’ll work your magic on me and I look completely different.’ So, a haircut and coloring later, plus waxing in places I never knew you could DO waxing, the new me emerged. My friends, Leeni and Roy didn’t even recognize me that night when we met up at the local watering hole. It was a fantastic night. With the large chunk of money I got from the divorce settlement (my lawyer is the BEST – he found out where my ex was hiding money in a dummy account, and got it all for our daughter and me to live comfortably on.) I splurged on two whole new wardrobes for myself and my daughter. It was a ‘what not to wear’ minus the annoying hosts of the show!
After checking everything three times, just to make sure the house won’t burn to the ground while I’m gone, I nervously light another cigarette while sitting on the front steps. I know, it’s a nasty habit; one that I will break myself of eventually, but now is not the right time. Besides, I go thru a pack in like, four or five days, so it’s not like I’m lighting one from the butt of another. It could be worse, and believe me, during the divorce, I thought of harder stuff, but that would have put my having custody on the line, so I stuck to the cigarettes. I’m planning on quitting, but every time I say ’today’s the day’ some high stress factor emerges, and well, it’s ‘ok, tomorrow’s the day’.
“Mom, how long are you gonna be?” my little pumpkin, Suzanne Elizabeth Rogers, or Little Suzi for short, asked me. A bundle of precocious eight year old energy, who has two states of being: hyperactive (awake) or comatose (asleep). She is my life. Big, beautiful eyes of vibrant blue, sandy blonde hair, and all tomboy. She is currently sporting the latest boo-boo on her right kneecap from a fall off her bike. Evil Kenievel has nothing on Suzi; there isn’t a ditch or mud puddle she doesn’t try to jump over, often with the result of me doing an extra load of laundry with extra shout it out added, and that’s after I’ve hosed her down on the back porch. Can’t really blame her, I did the same stuff as a kid, and at least she’s not one of those couch potatoes, staring at the Xbox all afternoon. She would rather go outside and climb trees, or play in the tree fort I finally built for her with Roy’s help for her last birthday. The one her dad was supposed to build almost four years’ prior, but never followed through with his repeated promises of the best tree house ever.
“I don’t know sweetie. I have to go with Uncle Roy and Aunt Leeni to the hospital. Do you remember Aunt Leeni’s son, George?” She nodded to me as she ate another bite of her apple. “Well, he had a bad accident, and we have to go and get him. But, you’ll be having fun while you stay with mom-mom, and I think she said something about a carnival-“
“Oooo! I’m gonna win another goldfish this year to put with Nemo!” With that, Suzi was all cheerful and started rambling on about all the rides and games she has planned to do. Just then, my ex mother-in-law pulls up out front. Suzi runs over to hug her, as I slowly walk to the car with her bags and stuffed bunny. After giving Ms. Rogers my cell number and any other info I had at the time, they are ready to head out.
“Now Suzi, you be extra good for mom-mom, and I’ll bring you a big surprise.”
“Ok mom, geez. Gotta go!” And with that, she throws her arms around my neck, kisses my nose, which I do in return, hops into the back seat of the car, and they’re off.
Whew. Ok, I can do this. If the BattleAxe and I just had a civil conversation without once bringing up her no-good son, my ex, then this day may be looking up after all! My musings were interrupted by a loud horn honking.
“Hey chick! Let get our butts in gear and get this show on the road!” My best friend, Caroline Solomon, Leeni to all her friends, was hanging out the sunroof of an all white 2004 Crown Vic. Damn; they said they’d get a rental car, not a modern day land yacht! Leeni is what I call a classic beauty. Even first thing in the morning, bedhead and all, she just oozes sexiness and charm. She is my modern day Audrey Hepburn. Shoulder length dark brown hair, almost black, with the biggest greenest eyes I have ever seen. I am sooo jealous of her. I only wish we were the same size, as I would be raiding her clothes closet any given chance I got. The woman has STYLE with a capital S. And her shoes- Carrie Bradshaw of ‘sex and the city’ could take lessons from this woman. We went on a weeklong cruise last winter, and the woman had three suitcases – two of just shoes!! And I’m talking the GOOD ones, only a few were Payless BOGOs.
Roy Hammond, god’s answer to every woman’s fantasy and Leeni’s other half for over 15 years now, even tho neither want to admit they want to get married, put the monster in park, and got out to help me with my stuff. At about six foot even, he had muscles that wouldn’t stop, which is very helpful in his part-time job as bouncer at the local pub. When we all first met, he had the original ‘Joe dirt’ mullet, but now keeps it shaved short military style, which is a very striking look for him. Blue eyes, bordering on gray, and the cutest damn smile I have ever seen. “How was the BattleAxe when she got Little Suzi?” I knew he would know what I was mulling over, he always does.
“Fine. No cussing, no thrown objects. She even hugged me and said for us to have a safe trip and that George was in her prayers. Imagine that. Maybe his leaving us isn’t entirely my fault after all.” I looked at Roy sideways as we loaded and rearranged the suitcases in the trunk, and gave him a tiny nudge. “But, the day’s still young.”
“But we’re not anymore.” Nudge back, followed by a peck on my forehead. Same little game we do every time Jake’s mentioned. I don’t know how I would’ve coped without Roy and Leeni’s support through the whole desertion and even messier divorce.
“Ok you two! Do you want me to start the driving, so ya’ll can neck in the back?” Leeni’s teasing snapped me back. She smiled and winked.
“Nah. I’ll start out. You two hate the D.C. Beltway as it is. And, we’re gonna hit rush hour already.” Roy checked that everything was secure, slammed down the trunk lid, and with a grand flourish, opened both passenger doors. “All aboard for the Miami Express!” Leeni and I climbed in as we laughed at his antics. We were off on another adventure together. I only hope this one ends better than the last time, I thought to myself.