I wrote this because I miss my home and I went through these same struggles. It helps to write...
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Chapter 2- Arrival
n the morning, after scouring the bushes for bear, they huddled around at the old worn wooden picnic table and scratched out a plan for the day’s drive on the back of a receipt from the day before. They would take the short route, through Prince George which was the quickest and nicest way to go. Briar was glad about that because Jacob could get tiresome during long car rides. Even though she would miss him when he was gone, right now his incessant questions about where they would stop for lunch were irritating her to no end!
The family stomped into the old car and tried to organize themselves and all the bags smushed into the vehicle. It was a good ten minutes before they got out and onto the highway.
They had been driving for a couple of hours when Gary pulled the car into a rest stop. He braked and they all jumped out to stretch their legs. Briar surveyed the forest around her. It was a jumble of pine, cedar, and some leafy tree she could not identify. There was some poison ivy littered on the ground. She made sure to keep her sandal clad feet away from it. Gary had gotten back in the car and fallen asleep, so Briar and Jacob sat on the car’s hood, the hot metal burning their bare legs.
“Sooo, Briar, when you turn into a big city kid, and you going to get a boyfriend and a car and dye your hair blonde and carry a stupid little dog around in a bag all the time?” Jacob asked in his typical twelve year old logic. To him, he thought all city people were like that.
“Ya, defiantly... What do you think; I’m going to turn into a Barbie as soon as I get there?” Briar asked in a sarcastic tone.
“Well no, but people in the city all dress nice and are rich and have fancy cars!”
“Sorry to break it to you, but they don’t, bud!” Her brother’s limited view of the world amazed her.
Jacob looked disappointed that his vision of city life was wrong. Briar started to talk about not wanting to leave for the millionth time, and Jacob slowly crawled off the hood and walked away. Briar was too enthralled in her rant to notice. He smushed his face up to the glass on the driver’s side, then smacked the side of the car, causing Gary to leap out of his seat. He glared at Jacob with sleepy eyes, motioning for him to get in the car. Jacob got in the back seat, laughing at his prank. Briar followed and got in, immediately launching back into a rant about leaving, oblivious that no one cared. Turning the key in the ignition, Gary pulled out of the rest stop, and back onto the road.
After driving down a fairly deserted stretch of highway, passed by the occasional semi truck or mini van carrying haggard parents and their brood of kids, they came across a hitchhiker. She had blonde dreadlocks tied back with a pink bandana, and looked sweaty and hot. Gary pulled over to the side of the road, and the girl ran up to the side of the car, her big backpack smacking her back. Gary got out and helping her stuff her bag into the back of their car. Briar reluctantly moved to the back seat with Jacob. The hitchhiker got in the front seat, saying Hi and introducing herself. Her name was Rachel and she was traveling across Canada from the States. She had a nose piercing with a wooden spike through it and big glasses that covered most of her face.
“How far are you going,” Asked Gary as he got back in the car.
“As far as you can drive me, I am just going wherever I can,” Rachel replied.
Briar hoped that she was not some serial killer who was going to pull out a knife at any time and kill them all, but she didn’t look the type. Not that Briar had had prior experience with killers, but she was pretty sure she would be able to tell.
It was almost evening, and the air outside of the car was still muggy and thick, causing everyone to sweat. The air conditioning was chugging away, but not very efficiently. It seemed to be blowing hot air out. Sitting in the backseat, Briar and Jacob tried to keep occupied by playing the licence plate game, but seen as the road was basically deserted, it was slow progress. Briar kicked a fast food wrapper from lunch around on the floor in attempt to occupy herself.
When it was finally to dark to see anymore, they stopped for the night at another camp site, this one near a lake. Briar and Jacob walked up to the dark edge of the water, it lapping coolly at their toes. Briar jumped in, letting the cold water envelope her body. She lay on her back, looking up at the tall trees covering the starry sky. The cold water was incredibly welcoming after the hot day. She lay there with her ears under water until Jacob came up and splashed water into her face, causing her to choke and almost drown.
“It’s dinner, didn’t you hear me stupid,” Jacob asked, breaking the silence underwater.
Briar got out and grabbed a towel from inside the car, tying it around herself before making her way over to the fire her dad had started. Gary and Jacob were sitting roasting hotdogs; Rachel had left to sleep at her own campsite. Briar grabbed a seat beside Gary, resting her head on his leg. She tried to imagine life without Gary and Katee. She would not have her parents to talk to, or her brother, annoying as he was, to hang out with. She had still not come to full terms with it. Pushing those thoughts out of her head, she ate dinner, talking loudly to Jacob about how much she didn’t want to be leaving home, hoping her dad would catch on and decide to drive her back home. Gary looked over at them sadly so Briar stopped.
Later that night, after they made sure all of their food had been put away properly and they were all wrapped in their sleeping bags, Briar laid awake, listening to the sounds of the river flowing by and the birds high up in the tree’s sleepily call to each other. To her dismay, she started to think about what would happen when she was with her relatives. Were there even trees in this city? She had never been there, or even met her aunt and uncle. What if they were crazy! It seemed like it would be forever until they got there, like they would just continue to drive forever. But in would only be one more day, and then she would be in the strange city, away from these trees, the birds and the river. She wished she could just walk out and into the forest. Just live there forever, hidden in the trees, never having to deal with real life again. Never having to make an important decision like this ever again. She could find a cave and live there for the rest of her life, until she got old. But then thinking about the fact that there were not pillows or warm blankets in the wild, and no good food, she decided to stay put. She eventually fell asleep, listening to the rustle of leaves in the cool breeze.
That morning, they woke to find a note from Rachel, saying she had gotten a ride with a couple who left earlier. Feeling almost sad that she had left, left the picnic table. She walked to the car and grabbed a toothbrush. She walked down to the river. The water was perfectly clear and she could see the large gray rocks beneath the surface. The day was starting to warm up again, and Briar sat on a warm rock, thinking about the day ahead of her as she brushed her teeth. Today was the day they would make it to Airdrie. Soon she would be in her aunt and uncles house in the suburbs, surrounded by identical houses with manicured lawns and perfect families with two kids and a dog named Buddy. She had never been to their house, but she was pretty positive it would look just like that. They packed up the tent and Briar took one last glance back at the river when they drove away. They stopped at a Tim Horton’s for breakfast, grabbing bagels and cardboard cups of coffee to start the day. In a couple more hours they would be pulling into the paved driveway of her Uncle John’s house, beside their fancy silver BMW or something. She had not bothered to ask her mum about where they lived, figuring it would just be more painful to know, but now she was incredibly curious.
“Dad, have you ever been to John and Isabel’s house before? Are they in the suburbs?” Briar yelled from the back seat. Jacob had managed to score the front.
“Your mum didn’t say much; just that it was a big house somewhere outside of the city...”
Hmm, they could not live on a farm, could they? Briar hated farms and the animals that lived on it. As a child she had been run over by a neighbour’s cow and that had scared her into never going near farm animals again. She also harboured a long time grudge against horses. Something about them gave her chills and made her want to run in the other direction.
“How much longer ‘till we get there,” Jacob whined.
“Soon enough, be quiet, your annoying everyone,” Briar was becoming irritable, getting angry about the fact that they were going to dump her off at some strangers house without so much as a description of where it was. The more she thought about it, the more it bugged her.
“We’ll be there soon Jacob, don’t worry,” her dad said, glaring into the rear-view mirror at Briar who was grumbling in the corner.
“I’m hungry, can we stop, I want a burger.”
“Seriously? You just ate; do you have some sort of disease,” Briar could not stand her brother, of her dad, or anyone right now.
“Stop it Briar, you don’t have to swear at him, he was asking a question,” Gary started to lose his cool, Zen like state.
She leaned back in her seat, chewing on a hang nail, trying not to cry. Why was she going through with this, it was ridiculous! And why did she always have to piss everyone off? Grabbing her I-pod out of her backpack that was lying on the floor, she shoved the ear buds in and turned up the music to full blast. Some pop song blasted in her ear... She didn’t even like pop music she was a strict classic rock fan, but she could not be bothered to change it. She felt bad for getting mad at her little brother. He could not help it if he got hungry. But being too prideful to apologize, she glared at her hand, chewing on the same hangnail and trying to look like she didn’t care.
After a while, they passed a sign saying Airdrie, AB- 436 km”. Briar sighed. She wanted to get there soon; they would at least have air conditioning! It was almost three in the afternoon, but the sun was un-relentlessly pounding down on their little car.
“Can we pull over, it is way too hot in here, and I think I might die, there is a rest stop right up there ” Jacob said. Normally, Briar would have made a sarcastic comment about not being physically able to die right now, but she still felt bad about being mean earlier, so she refrained. Jacob and Gary got out and made their way toward the outhouses, but Briar didn’t move. Staying up late, waking up early, and travelling all day in the sun did not make for a very good combination. She was exhausted! Tipping her head back onto the warm seat, she closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
Briar woke up when Gary slammed the brakes on, and she smacked into the back of the seat in front of her. Wiping the sleep out of her eyes, she looked out the window and was surprised to see city! Strip malls and bright fast food signs met her tired eyes. Cars sped past them. Gary was wrestling with the glove compartments latch, trying to grab the directions to her aunt and uncles house.
“Read there out to me, Bri.”
Briar grabbed them from her dad’s outstretched hand. They started down a busy road with four lanes of traffic. They took multiple turns until they got onto a quiet road leading out of the city. Briar looked ahead on the directions that were printed in her dad’s meticulous writing, and noticed that one of the directions was “Pass ‘Old Cow’ farms...”
“Hey dad, why do we have to go past a farm, how far out of the city is this?” Again, her fear of them living on a farm hit her again. As much as she loved the outdoors, Briar could not stand farms, the animals or the chores that went with them. When all of her friends went off to summer horseback riding camps, were they learnt stupid stuff like braiding manes and how to ‘trot’, whatever that meant, Briar always stayed home. She didn’t like how big horses were, how they smelt, or how they seemed too stupid to walk in a straight line, always crashing into people.
“They might, your mum didn’t say anything about it really,” Gary said in a bored tone.
“They had better not, I hate farms.”
“I LOVE farms, cows are just sooo cute! Can I get one dad?” Jacob asked
“No, not right now.”
Jacob huffed and stared out the window, trying to act mad. It didn’t last long, not until he went off into another mindless conversation. After about an hour of driving down a dark road, they saw a sign that said Old Cow Farms.
“Where to next?” Gary asked from behind the wheel.
“Make a sharp left and follow the road for three kilometres, then turn to you right and follow that until you get to the first house on the left.” Briar said in an uneasy tone. By now they were out in the pitch black, with only a couple houses far back from the road, their bright yellow lights standing out against the black night. It didn’t seem like a place to put a housing development... it was a perfect place for a farm though. Turning right down a bumpy road, they followed that until they saw a driveway turning off to the left. Turning the car, they drove down the long twisted drive.
“Were we supposed to call before we showed up?”
“Nope, I don’t think so... Your mum told them to expect us tonight.” Gary mumbled, seeming intent on the road.
They pulled up to a house, sitting alone in the dark. A porch light was on with moths circling it, and illuminating a creaky porch swing. The lights were on in what Briar assumed to be the kitchen, and you could see someone moving around inside. Gary turned the car off and they got out.
“Well, let’s get inside then,” Gary said. He led the way up to the front door, Jacob and Briar trailing behind him. Briar thought she heard the sound of a horse whinnying, but that was her imagination she told herself.
“Oh my god,” Briar said, surveying what she could see in the dark “this is NOT cool!”
Gary knocked on the door and took a step back, waiting for whomever to open the door up. It was thrown open by a middle aged woman with dark hair tied back, a white Western shirt and jeans on. Behind her, a man stood with a stained t shirt and jeans on.
“The Thompsons!” The woman, Briar assumed to be Isabel, said in a chipper voice. She threw her arms around the two kids before they had a chance to react. John, her husband, shook their hands in a more subdued fashion than his wife’s.
“Come in, come in, I am so glad you guys made it safely here! It’s too bad its dark, or I would show you around outside too!” She gestured wildly at the dark abyss. “The barn is over there, I’ll show you in the morning!”
Briar looked at Jacob in horror. BARN!? They were both ushered into a warm living room after pulling their sneakers off and dropping them beside a collection of brightly coloured cowboy boots.
“So, tell me ALL about your trip here! What were the roads like?” Isabel seemed to take up the whole room she was so loud. Her husband sat quietly beside her.
“Can I make you some coffee, tea, hot chocolate, anything?”
“Tea would be great!” Gary replied. Jacob and Briar nodded in agreement. Briar surveyed the room they were in. The walls were anointed a buttery yellow and there were red carpets on the floors and tons of framed pictures of people standing beside horse on the walls. The couches were mismatched and covered with embroidered pillows. There was a big wooden bookshelf in the corner filled with worn books and knick knacks.
“So guys, what do you like to do?” John asked, his voice slow and quiet, completely opposite from Isabel.
“Umm, I like music and, ahhh reading and stuff like that...” Briar said nervously.
“I like cows, I want to get one sometime, but dad says no, so I am just going to have to get one later!” Jacob said in his usual chatter.
“Well I’ll have to show you the cows in the morning!” John said.
Briar tried to not laugh. A COW, she thought, was he serious?
Isabel returned with the tea, and the adults made polite conversation while they sipped at their drinks. Then they were showed to their rooms, Gary in the spare room that would become Briar’s room and Briar and Jacob on the couches in the living room. When the adults were in bed, Briar and Jacob stayed up talking about her new home.
“They seem really nice!” Jacob said lying on the little loveseat in the corner of the room.
“Yes, but do you realize that this is a farm, with animals that will kill me, and nasty farm stuff on it!” Briar said in a shocked tone.
“Oh you will live Bri; at least you’ll have cows!” And with that Jacob turned off the light and turned over to sleep. Briar lay awake, tossing and turning, thinking about what was going to happen, how she was going to stand living here for a couple days, let alone a couple years!