The last day of classes came quickly and soon I was saying good-bye to Franklin, Indiana, and getting my bags ready for the three-hour bus ride home. I was in my room, checking over my luggage one last time to make sure I wasn't leaving anything behind, when Marissa came in.
"Oh, hi. Hey, have you seen my blue miniskirt? I have a date tonight and I want to wear it."
"No, I haven't. Is it a date with Tom?" "Lord no. I caught him making out with that girl at the coffeehouse and broke up with him right there. I'm going out with his friend, Bill. He's a football player."
"That's great," I said, trying to pretend I was impressed.
"Hey, shouldn't you be gone already? I thought you lived like six hours away or something," Marissa asked while rifling through my clothes for her skirt.
"No, only three hours, and my bus doesn't leave for another hour and a half. By the way, I don't have your skirt, I already checked through my clothes twice before you got here."
"Oh, alright, well, if you find it let me know."
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, she said, "Well, I'm off to the showers before my date. See ya next year."
"Yeah, bye," I replied as she walked out the door.
I'm applying for a different roommate next year, I thought to myself after she left.
I spent half an hour slowly going through the room one last time. The year before I had left a pair of shoes over the summer and they were nowhere to be found by the fall. Not wanting to deal with Marissa when she got back from taking a shower, I decided to leave early for the bus station. So I picked up my two suitcases, shut off the lights, and walked out of the room, officially ending my sophomore year in college.
The bus ride home was long and very boring. I stared out the window for awhile, but the endless miles of cornfields grew monotonous quickly.
Everyone around me was asleep or reading a book or magazine, so there was little chance of me striking up a conversation with anyone. I then turned my attention to my pending summer plans. I knew I had to spend at least a week or so at home to go to Carol's graduation and visit with my parents and Joe for a few days. I still wasn't sure on where to go, though. I had narrowed my choices to New York or London. I began listing the pros and cons of each city in my head in order to pass the time. London was a great music city, but so was New York. London had great museums, but New York did as well. Airfare was a lot cheaper to New York, but London was in another country, and I had always wanted to travel outside of the US. New York had the Statue of Liberty, but London had St. Paul's Cathedral. Ultimately, New York was the safe choice. It was in the United States, it was closer to home, and I had already been nearby with my family back in high school.
I'm tired of being safe, though, I thought to myself. I've been safe and boring my entire life; I don't think I've ever taken a real risk before.
With that thought, I decided on London. After all, I would probably have the chance to visit New York City some other time in my life; I might never have the opportunity to go to London ever again.
It was 9:00 at night by the time my bus arrived at the Michigan City station. I stepped off the bus into the cool night air. There was a slight breeze and looking skyward I noticed that the stars were shining brightly. I got my suitcases from the luggage compartment of the bus and lugged them to the nearest bench. A few minutes later I saw my dad walking towards me with my brother.
"Hi Dad!" I said enthusiastically as I gave him a big hug.
"Hi sweetie, it's so great to see you. How was the bus ride?"
"Alright, lots of cornfields."
"What did you expect, it's Indiana!" he replied with a chuckle.
"Hey Joe, I didn't think you'd come out here to greet me," I said looking at my brother.
"Yeah, I wasn't, but Dad said I could drive if I came."
"Oh, I see how it is, you don't care about your big sister, you just wanted to drive," I said with a smirk.
"Yep, you got it," he replied also smirking.
"Come on you two, we better start heading home. Your mom's waiting up and we've got your sister's graduation to go to tomorrow," Dad said picking up my bags.
We had about a twenty-minute drive ahead of us, and I was a little worried about Joe driving in the dark. He was fine, though, and Dad kept an eye on him the whole time. I started to nod off a little towards the end of the ride, since the car was pretty silent. Dad had never been much of a talker and Joe was too preoccupied with the road and the radio to talk much. We arrived home to my joyful mom, who had been cleaning while waiting for us to return. It felt a little strange to have my own mother cleaning the house for me, since she usually only did that for company. She also had freshly baked cookies on the kitchen table, a reminder of my elementary school days when she would greet me with a snack after school everyday. We sat up talking for around forty-five minutes, eating cookies and drinking milk. Mom wanted to hear everything that had happened to me at college, although there wasn't much to tell. She got me updated on all the latest happenings with the relatives and family friends. A little after ten, though, she sent me to bed, since we had to get up early to make Carol's graduation at 1:00 the next afternoon.
I opened the door to my room to find it absolutely sparkling clean. The carpet had been vacuumed recently, there wasn't a speck of dust to be found, and the sheets on my bed smelled like they were fresh from the dryer. I smiled at how much Mom had worked to make me feel at home. The pale blue walls still held my Beatles and Stones posters and pictures Joe had drawn for me as a toddler. I remembered the controversy in my family when I decided on painting my walls blue. Up until the age of ten, I had lived in a bright pink room. Mom had rejoiced at having another girl and although Carol's room had been yellow as a child, it was decided that my room would be pink. After enough pleading, my parents finally let me choose the color of my walls, which I immediately decided would be pale blue. Mom said that blue was a boy's color and tried suggesting purple or mauve. I was determined, though, and eventually got my blue room. I flipped on my radio while getting ready for bed and fell asleep by eleven under my sweet smelling sheets.
Dad woke me up the next morning at seven o'clock, since we had a four-hour drive to get to Carol's graduation ceremony. Unfortunately she went to college in Illinois, otherwise I would have just met my parents there, but there was no bus station anywhere near her campus. I always told her that she went to college in the boonies, which wasn't all together untrue. After a shower and breakfast of pancakes and bacon, we were all dressed and out the door by eight. I felt like I was a kid on a family trip, since it was summer and we were all packed into the station wagon. Joe had pleaded with Dad that morning to let him drive at least part of the way to Illinois, but Dad refused. I wasn't going to offer to drive, since I had no clue where the tiny hick town where Carol went to college was.
The graduation ceremony went smoothly and we all had an early dinner with Carol afterwards. I hadn't seen her since Christmas break and it felt wonderful to see my big sister again. She was full of excitement about her new job, which was as an assistant at a day care in town. She had majored in education and was hoping to find a teaching job over the summer for the next school year. She was renting an apartment with a friend of hers from college and seemed very grateful to be moving out of the dorms.
"I wish I could spend some more time with you guys, but I have a party to go to tonight, I'm moving into my apartment tomorrow, and I start my job Monday," Carol said at the end of dinner.
"Are you sure you don't need help moving?" Mom asked.
"I'm sure. Patty and I are getting a bunch of frat guys to help us, so it shouldn't take long. We're already packed and everything."
"Alright, well, be sure to call us over the summer and let us know if you get a teaching job," Mom replied.
"Of course, and I'll try to come visit one weekend, too."
After hugs and good-byes, we all piled back into the car for the return trip home. I hadn't told my parents of my travel plans yet; I was waiting for the right time. I had only been home a day, anyway, and they didn't need my plans on top of Carol's graduation.
The next afternoon after church I began telling my parents about my plans. They seemed to be in a good mood, so I was hoping for a decent reaction.
"I was thinking about going somewhere over the summer this year."
"Really, where to?" Mom asked.
"Well, I kind of decided on London."
"London? That's awfully far away. There's plenty of places to go right here in the United States," she replied.
"I know, but who knows when I'll have another chance to go to another country."
"I thought you were going to spend the summer at home with us."
"Yeah, well, you both work and Joe's going to be busy with his friends, so there's not much for me to do here."
"You don't need to be going off to England. You should stay home and get a job over the summer to save some money for college," Dad chimed in, having been silent until then.
"I did that last summer and I have barely spent anything from my savings this year. I don't need a lot of money at college; I hardly ever go out. Plus, with that scholarship I got, I don't really have to worry about tuition or anything."
"Still, you never know when some extra money will come in handy," Mom added.
"I want to have fun this summer, though. I'm 20 years old; I'm old enough to decide what to do with my summers."
"Who would you be going with?" Dad asked.
"No one. Just myself."
"A girl your age shouldn't be going to London alone," he replied resolutely.
"I can take care of myself. I practically live alone at college and nothing bad has happened to me."
"London is a lot different than Franklin, Indiana, Maria," he said.
"Well, I'm an adult and I'm paying for it, so you can't really stop me from going," I said and went to my room.
I was surprised at my actions. I was rarely so assertive with my parents. Usually if they disapproved of something I wanted to do, I would back down and not do it. For some reason though, I was determined to do what I wanted this time.
The next morning I went to the bank to find out exactly how much money I had in my savings account. I hadn't made a deposit in awhile, so I wasn't really sure on the amount. It turned out that I had $500, which was a bit more than I had expected. Of course, I had been saving since high school, when I had made regular deposits from my paycheck from working at the pharmacy. A few doors down from the bank was a travel agency, so I walked in to see the prices on flights to London. I was thrifty with my money, so after leaving the travel agency, I called O'Hare Airport to compare prices directly from the airlines. I could get a slightly cheaper fare through the travel agent, so I booked a flight the next day. My flight left from O'Hare next Wednesday and the return date was July 22, although it could be changed at anytime. That meant that I had about a month and a half in London. My next problem was finding a place to stay for that amount of time. I couldn't really afford to stay at a hotel for that long, so I started looking for alternative lodgings through the travel agent. She suggested renting an apartment.
"I can call some people in London and see if anyone is sub-letting an apartment over the summer or is lodging tourists. I think that would be the cheapest route to go."
"Alright, that sounds fine. You have my number, so give me a call if you find anything."
By that Saturday she called me to say that a wealthy businessman who worked in London had an apartment in the city that was going to be unoccupied all summer. He worked in the city, but was spending that summer in his home in Scotland, so he wanted someone take care of the apartment while he was gone. The rent was lower than the hotel rates, and since I would be doing him a favor and he was not short on cash, he would pay the utilities as long as they weren't excessive. It was absolutely perfect. I would have my own apartment for the summer at a low cost. I gleefully hung up the phone and went to tell Mom about my plans.
"Well, sounds like everything's final, huh?" she asked after I had explained everything.
"Yeah, pretty much."
"I was kind of looking forward to having you home over the summer, though."
"I wouldn't get to see you that much anyway. You work until one, and then you always have something to do in the afternoon, so I wouldn't see you until after dinner. Then, if I was working, I might not even see you then."
"Yeah, you're right. I know you really want to go, I just hope everything works out and you have fun. Are you sure about this businessman?" she asked cautiously.
"Yes, the travel agent talked to him and the person who rented his apartment last summer and he said that it's a really nice apartment and that he doesn't raise the rent or anything."
"Alright, but I want his name, just in case."
"Mr. David Hewlett. He's supposed to be fairly well known in England."
"Well, you better go start packing."
I didn't really have much to pack, since I hadn't unpacked much since coming home from college. I looked in dismay at the clothes in my suitcase, though. I was in desperate need of some new summer clothes, but didn't have enough money to go to London and go shopping. Luck seemed to be in my favor, though, since that night my aunt called me to say she wanted to take me shopping on Monday for my birthday. Although my birthday had been over a month ago, this didn't surprise me since my aunt was known to be fairly scatterbrained. I went to bed that night thinking that the gods were in my favor for this trip.
The rest of the week sped by, and before I knew it I was waking up on Wednesday morning. My flight left at 2:30, so I had plenty of time to get ready and do any last minute packing that I needed. I had more than enough clothes now that I had gone shopping with my aunt that Monday, my passport was ready, my money was in traveler's checks, and my carry-on was packed.
Mom insisted on the whole family going to the airport with me, so we all left at 12:30 in order to get to O'Hare an hour before my flight. Right before we left the house, though, Mom handed me an envelope.
"What's this?" I asked, looking at it in my hand.
"Open it and see," she said smiling.
I opened the envelope to find $50 inside.
"Wow, what's this for?"
"Your trip. It's some extra spending money, just in case."
"You really didn't have to do this."
"We wanted to," Dad replied.
I smiled with tears in my eyes, grateful for my parents' approval.
We arrived at O'Hare at 1:30 on the dot, so we had an hour to kill after finding my gate. Joe complained that he was hungry, so I went with him to find a vending machine.
"I don't know why you have to go to England for a month. You're just wasting your money," he said while we were walking through the airport.
"I am not. You're just jealous because you're not going anywhere this summer," I replied with my sibling rivalry attitude coming through.
"I'm completely not jealous! I wouldn't go to England if you paid me. It's just . . ."
"It's just what?"
"No, it's not nothing, you were going to say something."
"No, never mind."
"Aw, you're going to miss me, aren't you?"
"No, that's not what I was going to say."
"Yes it is! You're going to miss me and you don't want to admit it!"
"Oh, fine, that's it, but you don't have to go broadcasting it to everyone."
"Aw, I'm gonna miss you too, Joe," I said, putting my arm around him.
"Don't get all mushy on me. Come on, I'm starving," he replied as he walked ahead of me.
Soon I heard the boarding announcement for my flight come over the PA. I said good-bye to my parents and Joe, with my mom getting teary-eyed as usual.
After some final bits of advice from Mom and Dad, I walked through the gate and onto the plane that would take me to London.
I was prepared for the long flight and had a book and two magazines to keep me occupied. By the time we landed, it was late at night, or early in the morning depending on how you look at it, in London. Wanting desperately to go to bed since I couldn't sleep on the plane, I got my luggage as quickly as possible and took the Underground to the stop nearest my apartment.
Thankfully my travel agent had given me a map of the stops on the Underground so I already knew which line to take. After a two-block walk, I arrived at my apartment building, went inside, and took the elevator to the third floor.
I found number 314, dug out the key Mr. Hewlett had mailed me, and opened
the to door to the apartment I would be spending my summer in. Turning on
the lights, I was surprised at how large it was. I went through the living
room in a daze, walking down a short hallway to the bedroom where I collapsed
on the bed and immediately fell asleep fully clothed.
Written by Blackbird. May not be reproduced in any form, by any means, without the permission of the author. Permission may be obtained by e-mail.
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