Leslie rang the doorbell at exactly 8:03 Saturday morning. She rang it again when no one answered. And again until Ann opened the door dressed in plaid pajamas.
Ann said, “What?”
Leslie brushed past Ann to enter the home.
“Time to get dressed, Ann,” Leslie said.
Ann said, “Do you know what time it is?”
Leslie checked her watch. “Approximately 8:02 am, which means we are now running two minutes late. We don’t want to hit traffic.
Get dressed. And pack an overnight pack.”
“But where are we going?” Ann called out from her bedroom. She unearthed a blue duffle from her closet and started randomly shoving clothes into it.
She pulled on some clothes, repacked her duffle bag so she didn’t have 4 pairs of socks and no pants and headed back out to the living room.
Leslie shoved her out the door and they were on their way.
It was only after consuming half a thermos of coffee and taking a nap that left her with a crick in her neck that Ann was ready to ask the important question.
”Am I being kidnapped?”
“I am merely taking you to a cultural event that will enrich us both.”
“Oh,” Ann said.
“We are going to see where Lincoln was raised.”
“So..we’re driving all the way to Illinois,” Ann said. She was wondering if Leslie had remembered to pack Fritos. She loved Fritos.
Leslie gasped and the car swerved.
[”The car did not swerve,” Leslie said to the camera later. “I was avoiding a squirrel. I happen to be an excellent driver.”]
“Lincoln was raised right here in Indiana,” Leslie said. “In fact, it was on Indiana’s frontier that he learned the skills that would enable him to be president.”
“How old was he when he left Indiana?” Ann asked.
“Nine years old,” said Leslie. “But a very mature nine.”
“I can’t believe that Illinois takes all the credit for Abraham,” Leslie said, taking the exit. “Really. He learned to read in Indiana. Would he have been President if he hadn’t learned to read? He would have just been a lazy, illiterate farmer. A lazy, illiterate farmer whose career was almost foiled by sleeping with his very cute boss.”
“Are we where we are supposed to be?” Ann said.
[I wanted to keep Leslie off the subject of political careers,” Ann told the camera. “She tends to burst into song.”]
“For today, yes,” Leslie said.
Leslie pulled up in front of a white building. They checked in, dropped their bags off and went in search of the “classic Americana” lunch experience that the concierge suggested.
Ann took a bite of her hamburger. Leslie poured syrup over her waffles, watching the syrup overflow the little waffle pockets.
“Which way to Lincoln’s house?” Ann said.
“That’s Wednesday,” Leslie said.”Today is lights. Tomorrow is ponies. Wednesday is Lincoln.”
[”I once told Leslie how much I loved playing My Little Pony. I didn’t think she would remember,” Ann said.]
In the backseat of a car, Ann and Leslie sat with Joe’s kids, Kaitlin and Cameron.
[”We asked Joe, our neighbor at the B&B to drive us with his family. Being the designated driver for a holiday light show is like being the designated driver for Pawnee’s annual Oktoberfest celebration, held every year in March to celebrate the vital role our local greenhouses play in the economy.
No one wants to miss the pumpkin beer,” Leslie said.]
"Look at that Santa!” Ann said. “His shoes light up!”
Kaitlin dropped a handful of cheerios into Ann’s hair. Cameron clapped. Ann reconsidered how much she wanted to have kids of her own. She’d be a great aunt to Leslie’s kids.
Leslie didn’t say anything but she had her Blackberry out. Ann craned her neck.
“What,” Leslie said, shoving her phone in her purse. “I was just wondering what their electricity bill would be. You know, in case Ron asked.”
Ann reached across Kaitlin’s car seat and squeezed Leslie’s hand. Leslie squeezed back.
“Okay,” Ann said. “i need my hand back. I have Cheerios in my armpit.”
Nine am found Ann and Leslie on the horse trail with one instructor that Leslie kept trying to out enthuse, four girls under the age of twelve and three dads who had apparently read a Chicago Tribute article about the importance of bonding with your pre-teen daughter. Ann and Leslie knew this because the cluster of dads spent the first eight minutes of the ride talking about it. They might have spent more time except, at the nine minute mark, Ann fell off her horse.
“Ann, Ann,” Leslie said, looking left and right in an apparent attempt to figure out how to dismount. “Are you dead?”
“No,” Ann said.
Leslie didn’t hear her though, she was too busy yelling, “Could someone get me off this dratted horse?”
Ann insisted she was fine but the riding instructor made the whole group return. Ann laid down in her bed in their B&B room while Leslie paced and tried to decide if she was going to go to the kitchen and get soup for Ann or if she was going to sue the B&B for every cent they were worth.
“Leslie, really. It’s okay. It’s just a fall,” Ann said.
“But, Ann, you fell off a horse,” Leslie said as she sat on the bed next to Ann. She patted Ann’s head. “I just want to make sure you are comfortable. And cause everlasting misery to those who would harm you.”
Ann laughed. “I’m sorry we can’t go to Lincoln’s house like you planned.”
“It’s okay,” Leslie said. “We can stay here all week if you need the time. I can quit my job and move in with Ben...and April and Andy.”
“In a hypothetic world where you needed a place to live, I’d kick the butt of anyone else you tried to live with,” Ann said.
“Except Ben,” Leslie said. “Eventually. Not now. I’d want to live with you first.“
“I’d want to live with you first, too,“ Ann said.
“I know what you mean,” Leslie said.
[”I hired a Lincoln to give us the full experience, even though we had to miss out on the Pioneer Village,” Leslie said. “And I bought Fritos while I was out.”
Leslie turned to look at Ann, a smile on her face. Ann returned the smile.]