Allison let her arm dangle off the side of her bed. The fan was on. The window was open. But the light breeze did little to dry the beads of sweat that were beginning to condense on her forehead. She patted at it with the back of her hand.
“What?” said Lydia. The other girl always looked perfect, but even she was having trouble keeping her makeup as flawless as she liked. Right now she was re-applying a coat of sticky lipgloss, mirror held above her head, lying head-to-toe with Allison on Allison’s bed.
“I said it’s freakin’ hot.” Allison said, louder this time, so she’d be heard over the fan, hand held to her forehead for emphasis.
Lydia’s mumbled response was barely audible. Allison sat up. Her tangled curls, though secured in a ponytail, stuck to her neck, and she swiped them back, hoping Lydia wouldn’t notice.
“We should do something,” she said.
“Like what?” Lydia smacked her lips together, not looking away from her reflection.
“Go somewhere.” Allison knew she sounded about as enthusiastic as a wet mop, but it was hard to drum up the energy visible excitement would take in this heat.
Lydia sat up, almost bounced up, really, and Allison saw she wasn’t having the same trouble with enthusiasm. “I know,” she chirped, snapping her compact mirror shut and twisting the top of her lipgloss on in one swift motion. “Your family has that cabin up near Santa Cruz, right?”
Allison opened her mouth to speak, but she didn’t think she’d ever mentioned that it was her aunt’s cabin – or that it was more of a fortress, a hideout in the woods for hunters, filled with guns and snares and ammunition – so she had no reason to be mad at Lydia for suggesting it. Allison squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them again. She smiled at Lydia. “My dad would never let us.”
Lydia scooted closer to her, leaning in so her long, auburn hair brushed against Allison’s knee. “Well then we just won’t tell him.”
Allison’s smile faded a bit. “I don’t know… if I could do that.”
“Sure you could, come on. You sneak out for your little makeout sessions with Scott three times a week.”
“Shhh!” Allison shot a hand out to cover Lydia’s mouth but she batted it away, grinning, and Allison had to laugh. It was true enough, and her father had definitely been napping last time she checked, so he wouldn’t have heard her anyway.
“Come on, it’ll be great. You snag the key, I’ll get us some gas money. And we’ll be partying at the beach in no time!” Lydia did a little dance where she sat, making Allison grin again.
“Okay,” she said, and really, how could she say no to that? Lydia had spent the last few nights at her house, so she’d just tell her dad she was going to spend a few nights at Lydia’s. And maybe they’d really have a chance to get away.
Stealing the key to the cabin wasn’t difficult. It was still in the guest room, hanging on a hook, and all Allison had to do was slip it into her pocket when her dad wasn’t home. She casually slipped her sleepover at Lydia’s into the conversation at dinner, and her father was mostly nonresponsive. He hadn’t been the most talkative since Aunt Kate’s death.
Allison couldn’t blame him.
Lydia showed up in the morning, bright and early, horn blasting, eager to get as many good daylight driving hours in as possible. It would take them at least five hours, if they took the coastal route – which, they’d discussed earlier, was the only real way to go. Allison was waiting for her in the living room, things already packed.
“Going so early?” her father grunted from behind his newspaper.
“Yep,” Allison said simply. She found herself gleeful, exhilarated by the very idea of getting out of Beacon Hills for a few days – unable to bring herself down far enough to wrap her mind around inventing an alibi. “Love you dad,” she said, smiling at him, and she heard him say, “Love you, too” before she shut the door, but she didn’t look back.
She waved at Lydia, opened the passenger door and plopped herself down on the leather, throwing her bag over her shoulder and grinning at the red-haired girl. Lydia looked positively glamorous; her hair was a pleasantly-tousled mane around her face and she wore big, black sunglasses and red lipstick that recalled movie stars of old. She grinned back at Allison, rolling down the windows and turning the volume dial on the radio up.
“You bet,” Allison said, strapping herself in, and they took off down the street, out of Allison’s neighborhood, out of Beacon Hills as quickly as possible.
Soon they were barreling up highway 101, the DJ’s voice going to static, and since Lydia’s hair had been flying all around her face and obscuring her vision, she’d elected to roll the windows up and put the air conditioner on instead. This hadn’t tempered her enthusiasm one bit – she grinned, looking at Allison out of the corner of her eye, and said “I’m so glad we’re doing this. It was a great idea, Allison.”
“It was your idea,” Allison said.
Lydia ignored this, pointing to the glove compartment. “Look in there, there’s a CD case.”
Allison, about to comply, drew her hands back when she heard the words “CD case.” “What?” she said. “Listening to the radio fade in and out is the best part of a road trip!”
Lydia raised her eyebrows, trying (to moderate success) to give Allison a withering look while keeping her eyes on the road. “How is that the best part of a road trip? No, the best part of the road trip is my mixes. Look in the back, second to last disc. That one’s my favorite.”
Allison fixed the mix out of its sleeve and popped it in. Loud guitars started up immediately, making her jump, but Lydia just giggled, poking at her – “You don’t like the Runaways?”
“Love ‘em,” Allison said, beaming at Lydia, because she really did, and it was the last thing she’d expected to hear coming out of her friend’s stereo.
“I don’t give a damn ‘bout my bad reputation!” Lydia belted, laughing, and rolled her window down as they merged onto another highway. Allison was amazed again – she wouldn’t know the first thing about navigating these highways if her life depended on it.
Which – someday, god knew – it might… but they had left so they could get away from all of that, so Allison quickly banished the notion from her head.
The rest of the songs turned out to be a weird mix of punk rock, indie pop and a bunch of Nicki Minaj tacked onto the end. It did make fun driving music, although Lydia spent most of the drive singing along to lyrics that Allison didn’t really know, and she wasn’t exactly sure they were complying with speed limit laws the whole time. But Allison was confident that whatever trouble they got into, Lydia could get them out again.
They ate lunch at a little diner off highway 1, before a long stretch of road that seemed like they wouldn’t see anything else for a long time. It was a mom-and-pop place, not a chain, and the waitress looked glad to see them, like the place didn’t get a lot of business. They hadn’t brought much besides gas money, so they shared a salad, like in the cafeteria at school, and talked about boys and laughed.
“Stiles really likes you, I think,” Allison said, popping a cherry tomato into her mouth.
Lydia rolled her eyes at this. “Sure he does. Lots of boys do.” She grinned, snapping a particularly crunchy piece of lettuce between her teeth. “I’m better off without them.” And Allison, laughing, silently agreed.
Two more hours of driving before they’d reach the cabin. The coastline wove in and out of their view, and they were beginning to see more redwoods as they drove further north. Allison tried to avoid looking at the bear crossing signs. The black-on-yellow silhouettes reminded her of something, but it wasn’t bears.
A brief lull in the conversation (and the end of her mixtape) had Lydia grinning slyly, as though she had something to say but didn’t want to initiate it.
“What?” Allison got right to the point, nudging her on the arm (lightly, so as not to disturb the steering wheel).
“I got my cousin to buy us a couple of boxes of wine,” she said. “They’re in the trunk.”
“Ooh, wine,” Allison teased, “Getting fancy, are we?”
“Boxes of wine,” Lydia repeated. “Not fancy. But it gets the job done, if ya know what I mean!”
Allison threw her head back in mirth. Despite everything, could she really be having a fantastic summer? But it seemed they had the makings for it all, right here in Lydia’s car. Good friends, wine and the wilderness. Who could ask for more?
“I just wish your family’s cabin had Wi-Fi!” Lydia chose that moment to chime in, and Allison shook her head. Of course, Lydia could.
“Why do you need Wi-Fi? We’re going to the beach!” Allison retorted.
“Duh, Netflix!” Lydia said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
They debated the merits of Netflix at the beach for nearly the rest of the drive.
It was getting dark when they got to the cabin. Allison panicked for a moment when she thought the key wouldn’t open the locked door, and Lydia offered to pay for a motel room, even though that would mean they wouldn’t have enough gas money to get back home. Luckily after a few more tries the key worked, and they stumbled inside, tired from the road.
Allison made a beeline for the bed, dropping her duffel down on the rug next to it and flopping down on the mattress face first.
“It’s funny how sitting for five hours can wear you out like that,” she said, letting her eyes fall closed for a moment before turning to Lydia. “There’s another room, in the hall, first door on the right, if you want.”
But Lydia came back from the room a moment later, eyes wide, clutching her luggage. “I don’t think I want to sleep in there, Allison.”
Allison sat up, brows knitted. “What’s the matter?”
Lydia tilted her head in the direction of the room, and Allison stood up, following her. Lydia turned the knob and, as she pushed the door open, Allison fought the urge to gasp aloud. A map of the area, pock marked with small red dots, covered almost an entire wall, and there were pictures and headlines littering the desk and tacked to various places on the map.
“Oh,” Allison said, gulping, and they left the room, shutting the door behind them.
The main room of the cottage, Allison noticed, was lined with mounted shotguns. They probably all worked, too. She made a mental note not to spend too much time here on their trip.
“Want to break out one of those wine boxes?” she asked, but Lydia, obviously a little shaken by their find in the back room (and, of course, tired from hours of driving), shook her head.
“I’d rather just try to get some sleep,” she said. “We can have more fun tomorrow.”
Allison nodded, fluffing a pillow up and planting her face into it unceremoniously. Lydia took a little longer to unwind – she spent about twenty minutes in the bathroom – probably taking off her makeup, Allison mused – and when she came out she was wearing a silky pink slip and a pair of fluffy slippers.
“You can sleep in here, if you want to,” Allison said, as Lydia had begun to lay pillows out on the couch.
“That’s sweet of you,” she said, and padded over to the bed, taking off her slippers and slipping beneath the sheets next to Allison.
“Away from Beacon Hills at last,” Allison murmured. She turned the switch on the lamp next to the bed and snuggled deeper beneath the blankets, and for once, fortress walls around her and Lydia breathing softly by her side, she did not worry about things that howled in the night.