© Copyright 2008 by Elizabeth Delayne
Jamie set down her Sudoku puzzle book and rubbed the stiffness from her face. She was used to being confined to an operating room for hours, on her feet, with sometimes little more than minute, practiced movements. She liked, in her off time, to ride the tractor or sit on the front porch of her grandmother’s house in one of the white rocking chairs, with the big blue sky—or, for rocking—the dark, wide open night sky,
But she wasn’t used to sitting in a confined space.
She could run her hands over the table between herself and George. With the team’s oversized laptop and George’s, there was little room left. She could get up to stretch her legs, move from chair to bench, or, if it was vacated, back to the comfortable love seat, but even that was limited to the narrow and short isle of the RV.
And how much could you pace in a confined area without bothering the other people on board?
Thessa had retreated first—donning her earphones and MP3 player, then heading back to the bunks. Across from Jamie, George worked on his laptop. His rectangular glasses were perched on his nose, his dark eyes intent on whatever he was wrote. To her right Felicity had stretched out on the bench like sofa and dropped into some deep netherworld of sleep. She was close enough that Jamie would have barely had to lean over to touch her.
And how she slept like that ... Jamie had to wonder. It didn’t look comfortable. People could, she knew. She’d worked long enough in a hospital to see people sleeping in some of the most uncomfortable positions. Still, it wasn’t just the narrow sofa. It was the noise. Just behind her, Cameron and Tyler sat on the love seat playing some battle game. From their competitive man noises to the sounds on the game, it wasn’t quiet.
And yet, Felicity slept.
Jamie glanced up and studied their only other passenger. Their current camera man, this one’s name was Louie, leaned against the front railing and filmed. He’d chatted a little with them, when he wasn’t filming. He was a film student at UCLA, he enjoyed the travel—so he’d worked for the show for the last three seasons. He an Tyler had a definite bond.
A bond that was severed, it seemed, when the camera went up. From that moment, until the camera went down, neither would trust the other.
A stream of beeps brought her attention back to the table, and the laptop to her left. Jamie slid over to the other seat and lifted the top. A rolling wheel scrolled across the screen.
“It’s our assignment,” Felicity jumped up, as if she hadn’t come out of sleep, and slid in the seat Jamie had vacated.
Noting George’s look, Jamie turned the laptop so he could see as well. “Kind of hypnotic isn’t it?”
With a hand on either of their chairs, Cameron leaned in. “Click on the wheel to open it.”
“No—wait,” Felicity pushed up. “We have to get Thessa first. We all need to be here.”
“I got her,” Tyler said from the sleeping area.
The camera guy was filming still. He must have known that the message was coming up.
When everyone was assembled, Jaime clicked on the rolling wheel. It opened to a simple email.
“That’s it?” Felicity asked.
“They add the graphics later,” Tyler said and tapped the screen where the a link was posted.
When she clicked it, the screen slid open to a video. It was one of the two series hosts, this one the female Alani Corsivo, and as always, her long wavy dark hair spilling over her olive toned complexion.“Welcome fellow Wheelers to the road trip adventure of a life time. I bet you’ve been waiting for this first little message from us. And it is little or for the little, for when we were children, we walked like a child, played like a child, but when we became adults it became our job to safeguard the children. Today’s mission has no clue, for it is not the guessing game that’s so important, or where you’re going, but what you’re going to do. So, head on toward your place, and I’ll meet you there soon.”
“So no clue,” Cameron moved and dropped down on the bench sofa.
“We’ll get to the clues soon enough,” Tyler assured him.
“That’s it then?” Thessa seemed unimpressed. Maybe a little irritated.
Tyler lifted a shoulder. “It’s not our job to make it all exciting.”
With a quick glance at the RV’s occupants—all now within view—Jamie shook her head. “I was wondering why people would want to watch us ride on a bus.”
“You haven’t watched the show regularly,” Felicity reminded her.
“Maybe there’s a reason for that—“ Tyler nudged Felicity’s shoulder. “After how bored she is with us. Iowa, after all, must be so exciting.”
“You’re going to get letters,” Felicity glanced at him, surprised.
“From all the Iowans?” It was Cameron who jumped in with the reply. “Apparently, there’s so much more to do in Iowa. No one’s watching.”
Jamie just rolled her eyes and took the ribbing easilly. Even she knew this was more likely to end up on camera than hours of road living.
Invited to play an online game by George, Felicity moved over to sit beside him and Thessa took a place on the other side of Cameron. Earphones in place, she leaned back to return to her nap.
Tyler took the seat by Jamie. With all of them there, around the table, the table’s already limited space seemed to shrink.
It seemed rude to return to her Sudoku now—even if she;d wanted to. She tapped her fingers on the book.
“Should we be preparing for something? This challenge?”
“Resting maybe,” Cameron said.
Once again, Jamie wondered if she should have watched some of her grandmother’s DVDs before coming on this journey. “Do you have any idea what our first mission is going to be?”
“Not something easy. Usually something to bring us together as a team,” he said.
“And to bring out our strengths and weaknesses, right?” Jamie tucked a leg under her and turned so that she leaned against the wall of the RV and looked at Tyler. “I mean, it’s not my strengths I’m worried about.”
“More the weaknesses,” George agreed. “Might be a good time to go over what we think our strengths are, lay them out on the table. I’ll vote myself as the least athletic.”
Tyler chuckled as he leaned back in his seat, comfortable in his position as leader. “Chances are, we’ll all get to use our strengths a good bit. Our chief occupations could tell us a lot. I had to do quite a bit of cost calculations my first and second time out. Have so much what can you do with it. We have a professor, a nurse, and Cameron’s got the extreme sports down.”
He laughed at the expression on Jamie’s face. “I see that might be one of you’re weaknesses.”
“I’m not too extreme in anything.”
“I’d have to add that one to my weaknesses,” George looked with trepidation toward Cameron. Jamie laughed. She could almost see the images of flipping bikes and half-pipe tricks rolling in George’s mind.
“Don’t limit yourself to what others call a strength. I’ve been in the emergency room and on the other side of surgery,” Tyler looked at Jamie. “That’s pretty extreme in itself.”
“Sliced off my finger in a bike accident a few years ago,” Cameron said from behind them. “After it was over, it left a wicked scar.”
Jamie turned around to find him holding up his finger. Thessa, who had pulled off her earphones, grimaced. Jamie reached across Tyler and took Cameron’s hand, turning it over as she studied the mark that wound around his finger like a ring.
“It did leave a scar,” as she let go of Cameron’s hand, she gave Tyler a belated apologetic look.
“I don’t think I could handle the hospital...” Thessa outwardly cringed. “Not as one of our challenges.”
“Not as a career either,” as Jamie watched, Felicity seemed to struggle over whatever image she had in her mind. “It’s nota happy place. How do you deal with it? The death, the ... I mean, people don’t go to the hospital because they’re healthy.”
“You ... focus on the healing, the living. The first year, the head nurse told me that every person who comes into the hospital has at least an ounce of living to focus on. If that’s gone, you have to let them go.”
“It has to be sad.”
“Sometimes. More than sometimes.”
The mood of laughter had turned to dark and gloom. Jamie turned away from it and circled the conversation back around to Tyler. “What about you. What are your weaknesses?”
“Running long distances—I don’t have the patience. Climbing something blindfolded.”
“Even with a harness?”
“Even a foot off the ground. Carelessness,” the answer came out easily. “People that are careless. I’ve been set up around that a number of times.”
“Like with Zeke,” Felicity surmised.
Tyler laughed and when Jamie looked at him, he just shook his head. “It is just so odd that you’re on this show and you’ve never been a fan.”
“Neither have I.” said George.
“Then we’re going to have to do a blitz of information,” Tyler sumised, more it seemed to deflect from who ever this Zeke was. “That’s definitely going to be a weakness.”
“And Zeke—“ Jamie pushed.
“Tyler got in a fight with Zeke–this hotshot from his second season—nearly got kicked off the show,” Felicity explained. “Physical punching and everything.”
George laughed. “You’re obviously not upset about it.”
“The guy deserved it,” said Cameron.
“But they didn’t kick you off?” Jamie asked Tyler.
Tyler shook his head, but it was Felicity who answered first. “Someone nearly got killed because of Zeke’s carelessness and attitude. He was just dealing with it.”
“I wasn’t that innocent. I’d had enough—and I let it get to me. I let him get to me.”
Jamie considered that. Those buttons seemed more like protective, responsible instincts than a weakness. “And...”
“Zeke ... should we know about him?”
“It’s not a secret.”
“Zeke was a bad seed ... for all of us. Played team tensions against each other, took short cuts. He started fights ... and then, left his teammate alone without a spotter on the ladder, which was his responsibility, because the girl he was flirting with had to do her job elsewhere. The camera man followed him instead of dealing with it. I’d crossed the wall to complain to producers about him and they let him keep going—pushed him on. So when it came down to it, I was in hot water, but they used it to up the ratings.”
“And called you back the next season.”
He shrugged if off easily, but Jamie wondered if there was something else there ... something else he wasn’t telling them.
Couldn’t tell them with the camera’s rolling.
For a moment everyone sat, absorbing the moment, the tension they’d heard in Tyler’s voice—or unlike Jamie and George—remembering the season of the show where all of that had gone down.
Jamie looked at Tyler’s hands. They weren’t the hands of a simple CPA. They were the hands of someone who worked, someone who—in his later years—would have hands like their driver Bob, or like she remembered on her grandfather.
Family hands, she thought.
And hands that protected.
Something, despite the violence behind the reasoning, melted at the thought. There as just something ... hot about a guy who stood up for someone else.
Tyler the protector. Another reason she would have to be careful.
“So you really hit the guy?” Jamie asked.
Her teammates just laughed. Across the table, Felicity shook her head sadly. “We’re going to have to get the DVDs of the seasons and catch you up on some things.” She glanced at George and smiled. “Both of you.”
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