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Rough & Ready
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Accidentally saved by the single dad
You know those towns with the dirty names like Spread Eagle or Horneytown? Well, with my dirty mind I decided to spend my college break visiting them on an epic road trip with my best friend.
Until my entrance to a sleepy town starts with a bang as my car crashes straight into the Welcome to Rough and Ready sign.
Local mechanic Carter turns up to save me. He’s as rough as the town’s name and immediately has me feeling ready. He’s eye candy from head to toe but his arms stand out the most. Firm biceps, taut forearms and I have an overwhelming urge to run into them.
It’ll take days to fix the car and there’s no motel in town. Luckily, he lets us stay in the trailer parked outside his house. I couldn’t be farther from my life at college.
When his six-year-old son’s around a softer side of Carter shows and I struggle to keep my cool with all the heat he creates inside me. Before long it’s obvious the feeling is mutual.
But there’s danger all around him. Danger I have to avoid from a secret I’m determined to learn. And more accidents waiting to happen.
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“HOLD ME closer, Tony Danza!”
Jo-Beth and I dissolved into giggles, our singing breaking off as laughter filled my car. I leaned my forehead against the fur-covered wheel of the old car, tears rolling down my face.
“Keep your eyes on the road!” Jo-Beth shrieked, lifting my head off the wheel and facing it forward. “We may be in the middle of nowhere but there are still, like, coyotes and shit.”
“You’re a terrible singer,” I informed my best friend, still tittering over our deliberate misquote of Elton John’s classic.
“And you’re a terrible driver and you refuse to sing the right words,” she shot back, and we laughed again because we both knew she was right. We’d been on the trip for almost three weeks, and now in the home stretch, somehow, Jo-Beth’s voice had only gotten worse with the miles.
“How far now?”
Jo-Beth looked at our map. “Since the last time you asked? About five minutes less.”
Ugh. Driving with her was awesome, but driving, period, is tedious in the extreme. You always have to pee, or you need food, or your back hurts and you need to have a walk. It’s like this never-ending confrontation with your corporeal dependencies.
But if I had to slog across the country with anyone, it’d be Jo-Beth. She’d been my best friend since the first year of college, and now, going into our fourth year, it felt like I’d known her a lifetime. Jo-Beth had coaxed me out of my shell, showing me how to navigate adult social interactions with a twinkle and a wink. She was just like that. She fit in everywhere, like putty in the cracks. Which is not to say that I’m shy. I need time to warm up, that’s all.
Dust blew past our window, further covering the beaten-up rustbucket in a layer of pale brown. I grimaced as sand smashed against the glass.
“Are you sure your cousin is really gonna want this car?” I asked.
She shrugged. “He’s sixteen. He’ll take anything with wheels and an aux cord. I think he said at one point that he wanted to use it for spare parts. Who knows. And he commented on my last Instagram of our trip that he liked how we were giving your car ‘character.’”
“That sounds pretentious.”
“Yeah, he’s going through his asshole phase,” she sighed. “Even though he liked my post, he DM’d me and said that making a private Instagram to chronicle our road trip was, and I quote, ‘tacky.’”
Damn, kids these days really were little shits. Back in my day — oh, never mind. I’m only twenty-one. Said ‘kids’ are all of five years younger than me. Still, the joy of lauding my seniority over teens had to be indulged in before I reached the point in my life where I no longer wanted to disclose my age.
“But it’s funny,” I argued. “Our trip, it’s not just like ‘la-la-la, here I am wearing a cute dress and looking hot around some cactuses.’ We’re giving the people humor.”
See, this wasn’t just any road trip from east to west coast. Jo-Beth and I, dirty-minded girls that we are, had decided to spice things up by staying every night in a town with a naughty name. To wit — Intercourse. Spread Eagle. Horneytown. The Fingers. We stopped in front of each town sign, striking a funny pose and taking a picture. We’d garnered an audience of about three friends and Jo-Beth’s cousin, but we didn’t care. The account was for us and us alone, to remember some of the best times of our lives. And there had been sweet adventures already — karaoke with strangers, delicious crawfish, mad baths in the woods. It felt like I’d lived a lifetime in the span of one summer, the last real summer I’d ever get to enjoy, because as my dad was so fond of telling me, adults don’t have real summers. They work.
Now wasn’t the time to think about that because warm rays were filling our sun roof, and everything was groovy, baby, even if we were planning on sleeping in the car that night as there was no motel in town.
“Rough and Ready, here we come,” I whistled to the tune of “California, Here I Come.” Which was appropriate, given that Rough and Ready was a little town situated in the heartland of Cali.
“The attractions of Rough and Ready are as follows,” Jo-Beth began. A few miles out of each town, we’d developed a tradition – whoever was in the passenger seat pulled out the beaten-up map that we had scrawled over with care, its wrinkles containing fresh inked guides to the tourist traps of each town. Normally, I prefer to go further off the beaten path, but as you can’t get much farther off the path than a place like Rough and Ready, we’d both decided it was for the best if, on this trip, we stuck to the town-sanctioned sights. After going through our list, we chose which activities still sounded like fun, and which were too hacky to bother with.