“Welcome to—” the girl at the front desk began, but I cut her off, frustrated, overwhelmed and feeling like we’d wasted too much time already.
“Is your manager in?” I asked.
If she was taken aback by my abruptness, her expression didn’t show it. “Of course, just a moment,” she said, removing herself from her chair and click-clacking over to the manager’s office.
“Can I help you?” an overweight gentleman with a buzz cut asked.
“Spencer Blackwell,” I said, offering my hand.
My name registered with him. “Ah, Mister Blackwell, you can call me Jeff. How are you this morning?”
“I’m well, Jeff. I need to unload these two vehicles,” I said, pointing to my Aston and Bridge’s SLS.
“What are you looking for them?” he asked.
“No less than one-point-two.” His eyes lit up. They were worth half a million more resale.
“I can’t do that,” he said, already chiming in with a cliché.
“How about this, have your men check them out. See if they meet your standards, then we’ll talk.”
I didn’t really have time for this. I was already getting antsy. We’d wasted hours.
“Fine. Martin!” he shouted toward the girl at the desk. She nodded and pressed a button.
A man in blue coveralls came out.
“Martin, can you check out these vehicles for me.”
“Yes, sir,” Martin answered.
Twenty minutes later and Martin returned with a thumbs up, saving Bridge and me from ridiculous small talk with the car salesman. “SLS needs some realigning, but other than that they’re perfection.”
“My office?” Jeff asked.
I nodded and followed him back before sitting before him.
“And you have the titles?” he asked.
“In my pocket.”
“Why do you want to sell?” he asked.
“Unnecessary,” I answered. “Are you interested or not?”
“I’ll take them for one.”
“Not in a million years,” I challenged, sliding deeper into my chair, my right hand casually resting on the side of my face. “I’ve offered one-point-two. It’s more than fair. They’re in almost perfect condition, and their commercial resale is close to one-point-seven. You know it. I know it. But if you feel like you need to win here, how about we meet in the middle?”
“I’m listening,” he said.
Fifteen minutes later, Bridge and I walked out the sliding front door and stood, another check next to the one I already had, and our bags at our feet.
“Where to?” she asked.
“We walk,” I said pointing to a dealership half a mile south, “to that truck dealership.”
“I can’t walk that far carrying these bags. I’ll stay here and you can come get me when you’re done,” she said.
“I’ll carry the bags,” I said.
“You can’t carry all these bags, Spence. I’ll stay.”
“You don’t understand. When Dad finds out we sold the cars, he’s going to ask around and these guys won’t forget buying two luxury sports cars in one day, especially when they see what the guy who sold them to them picked you up in. You have to come.”
“Fine,” she pouted.
I gathered as many bags as possible and pushed on toward the dealership.
“I can’t believe you can carry all that shit. You’re not even breaking a sweat,” Bridge commented halfway there. “I can’t even keep up.”
“Yeah, well, I have to do this kind of training for rowing at school. Upper body strength is number one for that team.”
“Damn, that must suck.”
“Tell me about it,” I laughed, spearing her with a look.
She laughed. “Sorry.”
I took a deep breath. “Although, it doesn’t suck when we race at parties.”
“I’m afraid to even ask.”
“We toss a girl on each shoulder and race down the street with them.”
She rolled her eyes.
“The girls love it.”
“Anyone in particular?” she asked.
“Does it matter now?” I quipped.
“I suppose not, asshole.”
“Sorry,” I said, realizing I was taking my frustrations out on her. “I’m still getting over Soph,” I said, referring to my old prep school friend.
Sophie Price was the most beautiful girl you’d ever met. Seriously. Take it from someone who’s met Bar Refaeli in person. Soph was even more stunning. Especially since she’d had a personality makeover. I’d never regret anything as much as not making her fall in love with me.
“You can’t make anyone fall, Spence. Either they do or they don’t.”
“I said that out loud?”
“Duh, and it’s been two years, Spencer. You seriously need to get over her. She’s with that Ian guy anyway, right?”
“That hot South African guy named Ian,” she concluded.
“That hot Saffy named Ian who gives his life to mutilated Ugandan orphans and worships the ground Sophie walks on.”
I stopped and glared at her. “That’ll do, Bridge.”
She pretended to zip her mouth closed and we kept walking.
I’d researched the truck dealership beforehand and knew exactly which vehicle I wanted. A black Ford F150 crew cab.
“You’re kidding me,” Bridge deadpanned when she saw it.
“I’m not,” I said. “We’re moving to a ranch. In Montana. I’m not kidding.”
I started to fill the bed with our bags as a salesman came barreling toward us.
“How you doing, folks?”
“I’m going to make your life easy,” I told him, settling in the last bag. “This is the truck we want. I’m willing to pay fifteen hundred below asking price and in cash.”
He grinned from ear to ear. “Let me talk to my manager,” he told us before running back toward the main building.
“Stay with the bags?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said, pulling the tailgate down and settling in for the wait.
“I’d take this opportunity to say goodbye to your phone.”
“You’re crapping me.”
“Bridge, you’re a walking blip on Dad’s radar with it. Come on.”
“Fine,” she huffed.
“And don’t contact anyone you know letting them know what’s going on!” I yelled back as I followed the salesman.
“I know, idiot!” she yelled back, making me laugh.
Another fifty-seven minutes later, and I had the keys in my hand. The title I had mailed to Brown and put it in August’s name. I’d told August to expect it.
“We’re done, Bridge,” I said.
She hopped off the tailgate and I began filling the backseats of the cab with our luggage. Bridge lifted the tailgate and hopped into the passenger side. I followed suit and got in the driver’s.
She looked around her, inspecting the interior with her hands. “It’s actually pretty comfortable,” she admitted.
“’Merican made,” I said, exaggerating the drawl a little.
“What now?” she asked.
I grabbed my GPS from my bag and mounted it to the dash.
“That’s not built in?” she said.
I laughed my response.
“We’re done,” I told her, settling into my seat.
“This is it,” she said, an obvious lump in her throat.
I didn’t want to say it but I had to. “Can I have your phone?”
She studied it in her hands and looked sad. I knew she wasn’t unhappy about the phone itself, but the phone represented a lifeline to our mom.
“Bridge,” I said softly, reaching my hand out.
She put it in my hand and I took it with mine to find the nearest trash can. On the way, I rang August one more time, letting him know we were about to head out and I’d ring him at the nearest payphone when I could. He assured me everything was in place and we hung up.
I slipped both phones into a sturdy plastic bag then placed it on the ground. I raised my booted foot and beat the ever-loving hell out of the contents in that bag. When I was done, I peered inside and found nothing but mutilated pieces of glass and plastic, microchips and two batteries. I dug through the mess and found the SD cards. I took the lighter in my pocket I’d brought just for such a reason and burned them into charred unrecognizable pieces, letting them cool before throwing them back in the bag and then into the garbage.
Goodbye, Los Angeles. Goodbye, Dad. Goodbye, life.
It’s for Bridge, I kept chanting in my head over and over as I headed back to the truck.
We’d gotten on the road by noon, just in time for Bridge to feel “starving.” We stopped at some fast food restaurant and got her something. The entire nineteen-hour drive turned into a two-day fiasco of her feeling ill, me stopping to feed her what seemed like every hour, getting a crappy room at a hotel that would take only cash, filling up the bottomless tank (the truck, not Bridge), staying within the speed limit to avoid getting pulled over, getting Bridge clothes when we got to Salt Lake City and all the while driving by myself.
Yet, I wasn’t looking forward to reaching Bitterroot because it meant a life I wasn’t prepared for, a life I didn’t really want. I’m aware how selfish that sounds, but the thought of not being able to return to Brown, despite the fact I didn’t want to go when I first graduated, was brutal. I’d grown to love Brown, the people there, even my professors. I missed my teammates already. I missed the girls. The glorious girls with their short shorts and bright smiles.
I needed to get Brown out of my head. I was never going back there, and I needed to get used to that.
“How much longer?” Bridge asked. I hadn’t known she’d awoken.
“We’re about an hour away,” I told her, the sinking realization that we were too far gone now.
“Mama’s probably panicking right about now.”
I nodded my reply.
Bridge started tearing up. “I’m afraid, Spence.”
“Bridge, it’s seriously going to be okay.”
“I hate being judged. What if everyone there judges me? I don’t think I can handle being judged...at least not without Mom there.”
“Did you know I wore glasses when I was younger?”
“Of course,” she told me quietly through tears.
“Okay, but listen. I was five years old, sitting in my assigned seat at the back of the classroom. My teacher called on me, asked me to read something she’d written on the board. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t see what she’d written and thought it was because of some insufficiency on my part that I couldn’t see the board. I thought I wasn’t as smart as the other kids. So I sat there, quiet, adrenaline pumping through my little body at a rapid rate, eyes burning, on the verge of tears. The class had turned to look at me by this point, fifty eyes studying me, waiting. She asked again, her tone laced with impatience, but I had nothing to tell her. A few kids started snickering around me, some accused me of being stupid; others giggled with each other. Although it was only a handful, an adrenaline-filled fear kicked into high gear and affected me more deeply than I had ever remembered feeling affected. My pulse strummed feverishly from the tips of my ears to the ends of my fingers. Hot tears betrayed me, spilling over onto my cheeks, making those who were laughing, laugh harder. I was humiliated.”