Excitement…tinged with apprehension. That’s what Gabrielle was feeling as she drove down the unfamiliar country roads. She was visiting her cousin Wes on his farm for the weekend. She’d never been on a farm before. But he’d been asking her repeatedly to come out and visit and, as she hadn’t seen Wes in forever and missed him, she finally gave in. She would have preferred he visit her in the city, but she was always up for something new and different.
Driving down the country roads, she noticed they were few and far between. She also noticed with dismay that some of them weren’t marked. Her eyes went back to the directions she held in her hand. She was looking for Road N. She drove a little further until she came up to a “T” in the road. Slowing down, she was irritated to find it unmarked. ‘Dammit,’ she thought to herself. That was probably the one she wanted. It would be just her luck that she would need the unnamed road. Comparing her directions to the meter reading on her dash, she noticed that she had already driven more miles than she should have – she should have reached Road N by now. ‘Stupid MapRight’ she muttered as she reached for her cell. After what seemed an inordinate amount of time, her cousin finally answered.
“I think I’m lost in the boonies,” she told Wes.
Wes chuckled. He could just picture his cousin, looking completely fabulous yet completely out of place on a lone country road. He imagined her gabbing on her cell, looking through her over-sized sunglasses. Hell, she was probably even driving in stilettos. ‘That’s Gabrielle’ he thought fondly.
“Good to hear your voice sweetie,” he replied.
“Yeah, well, it’ll be great to see you. Now tell me how the hell to find Road N.”
“Where are you now?” he asked.
“Shit I don’t know. Some boring-ass road,” Gabrielle replied as she looked around for any type of landmark.
“Did you pass the three white silos yet? You need to turn there,” Wes told her.
“How the hell am I supposed to know that? The map doesn’t say anything about silos,” replied Gabrielle in frustration. “I just see an old orange barn coming up on the left.”
“You’ve gone too far,” Wes advised her. “You need to turn around and go back about five miles.”
“Oh, fuck,” said Gabrielle as she hit the brakes and spun her car around in the middle of the road.
“Just look for the silos, and then turn right,” Wes instructed her.
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll see you in a few,” said Gabrielle as she hung up.
Trying not to get frustrated and relieved she was at least now going in the right direction, Gabrielle tried to relax. Finding her turn, she soon found herself nearing Wes’ farm. Breathing deeply, she rolled down her windows in the sunshine. Instantly, she crinkled her nose. ‘Mistake’ she thought as she rolled her windows back up.
A few minutes later, she was pulling up in front of Wes’ house. He bounded off the porch to greet her and, as Gabrielle stepped out of her car, immediately had her in a bear hug.
“Gabby! It’s been too long,” he said excitedly. Letting go of her, he swept his arm in a wide arc and asked “so, what do you think?”
“It smells like freakin’ Africa out here.”
Laughing, Wes replied “you’ll get used to it.”
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “I doubt it.”
“You will. Come on, let’s get your stuff inside.” Gabrielle popped the trunk to her rental car. Wes chuckled as he looked inside. Turning to Gabrielle, he said “two leopard-print bags and a zebra bag? It looks like you have ‘freakin’ Africa’ in your trunk.”
“Oh, shut up,” retorted Gabrielle good-humouredly as she started handing bags to her cousin. “Just show me where my room is.” Grinning widely, Wes obliged.
After unpacking and taking a mini powernap, Gabrielle came down from her room and found Wes in the kitchen, rifling through a box. “Whatcha doing?” she asked.
Wes looked up from the box. “Oh, my dad brought this box over when he came out to visit last week. He knew you were coming and thought there might be stuff in here you’d want.”
Curious, Gabrielle walked over to the table and peered into the box. In it, she easily recognized various items from their youth.
“Hey,” she began, “this looks like stuff from your room – from back when you lived in Los Ameros.”
“It is,” replied Wes. “Mom found this box in the back of my closet. Hey, remember these?” He pulled out two plastic helmets, with wires and plastic sunglasses taped to them.
“Oh my God. Our old spy gear,” Gabrielle gasped. “Dude, remember all the spying we used to do?”
“Yeah, and all the trouble we got into as a result?” he replied. They both laughed as they recalled the mischief they got into as kids.
Wes dug around a little more in the box. “Hey, wasn’t this your record?” he asked as he pulled out an old disco record.
“Um, definitively not,” replied Gabrielle.
“Oh, yes it is. Don’t you remember? You used to play this all the time and danced in front of the mirror when you thought no one was looking”.
“Seriously, I didn’t,” denied Gabrielle as she took a turn shuffling through the box.
“You did too. You were a closet disco lover,” he goaded. He knew damn well it wasn’t her album, but that didn’t stop him from teasing her.
“Oh, bite me,” she retorted.
In mock outrage, Wes grabbed the box and turned away.
“Well, if that’s the way you’re going to be, then you can’t see what else is in the box.”
“Fine,” replied Gabrielle with a shrug. “It’s all your crap anyway.” She jumped up on the table and surveyed the kitchen. “So, what do you have to eat in this place?”
“You’re favorite,” replied Wes as he sat the box down and walked over to the fridge. Pulling out a bottle of wine, he poured for himself and his cousin. The rest of the evening passed quickly as they cooked, drank, ate and reminisced.
The following morning saw Wes up early as usual and Gabrielle – well, she was never really a morning person. But by 11:30 she was up and ready to start her day. Sort of. Groggy and in need of some serious coffee, Gabrielle went outside looking for her cousin. She found him near the barn.
“I’m going to Starbucks. Do you want anything?” she asked.
“Uh, sweetie, I live in the country, remember? There isn’t a Starbucks within a thirty mile radius of here.”
Incredulously, Gabrielle stared at Wes. “Dude, that’s seriously jacked up.”
He looked at her bemusedly. She shrugged. “I’m just sayin’.”
“You’re weird. Who says that?” he asked.
“You’re weird. Who doesn’t?”
And with that, Gabrielle turned on her stilettoed heel and gingerly walked away in the soft dirt. Wes shook his head at his cousin. “Effen city girl,” he muttered affectionately.
“I heard that,” she tossed over her shoulder.
“What?” replied Wes innocently.
Gabrielle turned back toward Wes, hands on her hips. “You haven’t changed one bit,” she observed.
“Nope, and you love me for it,” Wes replied. To which Gabrielle simply sighed loudly. Realizing she wasn’t going to get her normal morning latte, she continued. “Fine. I’ll make my own coffee. You do have cream, don’t you?”
“Yeah, it’s in the barn,” replied Wes with a glint in his eye.
Gabrielle arched one brow quizzically at her cousin.
“Well, the cows do need to be milked. Do you want to try?”
“I don’t know,” she replied slowly. “Don’t you have machines for that?” Slightly curious, Gabrielle took a few steps toward the barn.
“Yeah, but you can milk one by hand, just to say you’ve done it.” Pausing, he looked at her slyly. “Just be careful you don’t milk a male cow, ‘cause you know….”
“What?!” Gabrielle’s head whipped around.
Laughing, Wes chided her. “You don’t milk male cows, dumbass.”
“Bite me,” she retorted.
“So, is that a no?” he asked.
“That’s a hell no.”
Wes just couldn’t help himself. He loved giving his cousin shit. He had intended to take it further, but he couldn’t. He was doubled-up with laughter as it was.
Gabrielle was decidedly less amused. Shaking her head at her irrepressible cousin, she headed indoors. Roughly thirty minutes later, Wes joined her. He found her curled up on the couch, coffee cup in one hand and examining a small white tile that she held in her other hand. Coming closer and realizing what she held, he excitedly grabbed it from her.
“Where did you find this?” he asked.
“It was stuck behind the cushions,” Gabrielle replied, wondering why her cousin was so excited. “What the fuck is it?” she asked.
“It’s a mah-jongg tile.”
Gabrielle looked blankly at Wes. “Yeah, like I said…what the fuck is it?”
“You know, you should clean up your mouth. I think the city’s corrupting you.”
“No, you’ve just lost your edge,” Gabrielle countered.
Wes rolled his eyes. He handed the tile back to Gabrielle. She studied the dragon picture on the face of it more intently as he explained the game to her. Then he finished excitedly: “I’m so glad you found it. I pulled the set out the other day to play and saw that I was missing a piece. I was really bummed. Turned the whole house apart but couldn’t find it anywhere.”
Handing the tile back to him, she stated “you’re so weird.”
“Yeah? You’re weird.”
“Your face is weird.”
“You know, as much as I love standing around bantering with you, I do have other things that I need to get done.”
“Really? What else is there to do around here besides milk cows?” Gabrielle asked teasingly.
“Somehow, I don’t think you’ll be much interested in anything that goes on here,” Wes began. But I do have to go into town for a few things. Wanna come?”
“Oh, like I’m going to pass up a chance to go shopping,” replied Gabrielle.
“Well, don’t get too excited,” cautioned Wes. “We don’t have fancy malls here – just a couple strip centers.”
“Oh,” Gabrielle replied, just a tad disappointed. Her tone didn’t escape Wes.
“You know, if you’re interested, there’s also a county fair going on right now,” he offered.
“A fair?” Gabrielle’s interested perked a little. “I haven’t been to a fair since I was a kid.”
“Since? You’re still a kid, Gabby. I don’t think you’ll ever grow up,” said Wes affectionately.
In response, Gabrielle crinkled her nose and stuck her tongue out at her cousin.
Wes laughed. “See what I mean? Come on, I’ll win you a ridiculously oversized stuffed animal. I still have a pretty good arm, you know.”
Excited, Gabrielle jumped up from the couch. “I guess living in the country does have its perks,” she said as they headed out the door.
(c) Dahlia Ramone: February, 2007