You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.Johnny Cash
Singing loudly along with the radio, Everett and Maeve were having the time of their lives.
Getting from Windenburg to Del Sol Valley on a budget meant driving for about 4 or 5 days, staying overnight in cheap motels and living on mostly non-perishable simple foods. They would drive all day, occasionally stop for food, sights or to stretch their legs, on the road Maeve would feed Rett snacks while he was driving.
They had no firm plans for the road, whenever the sun started to go down or Rett got tired of driving, they’d look for signs and then stop in small no-tell motels along the way, usually just get one room to save their very limited funds and figure out the details later. As soon as both were well rested they’d grab something for breakfast and get back on the road.
The very first overnight stay had turned into a long discussion about who would get the bed, both insisting on the other taking it.
“Floor’s fine!” Rett sighed.
“You drove all day and paid for the room. No way! I take that chair, you get the bed!” Maeve determined.
“That’ll be the day that I’d let a girl curl up in a chair to sleep like a cat when there is a bed to be had. My father and grandfather would bend me over their knees. You get the bed, I’ll take the floor!”
“So will I then. Hope our bags enjoy the soft big warm bed!”
“You are so stubborn!”
“And you are the proverbial kettle calling the pot black!”
“Okay, how about we’ll share the bed. I am so exhausted, I couldn’t if I wanted to, so you are perfectly safe.”
“As if I couldn’t handle you if you were to try anything I didn’t want!”
“Here we go again. Pissing contest. Fine, whatever helps us settle this. You win. You’re right. I am shaking in my boots.”
“You should be! Left or right side?”
“I don’t care!”
“Awww … I kinda wanted to be closer to the bathroom …”
“I meant right.”
“Oh, but that’s by the window. I like the window …”
She burst into laughter, doubling over.
“Very funny. Glad you’re amused. I am still super-tired, about to keel over, so which side?”
“I don’t care, but you are going to shower before you get in, right?”
“I was gonna do that first thing tomorrow mor… right .. I am totally gonna shower tonight. Not like I am tired or something. Why would I be, right?” watching Maeve’s facial expression change to disgusted when he started talking, triggering him to change is mind in mid-sentence, Rett didn’t even argue, just grabbed his toiletries and went into the bathroom.
As soon as the door to the bathroom shut, Maeve laughed, making little whip-cracking sounds and motions with her hand.
“What a patient lil man-whore. I almost feel a little bit bad about screwing with him like that. Maybe he really isn’t so bad after all …”
The next few nights they managed to get a room with two single beds, one time had to share again and they did without argument, both fell asleep as soon as they hit the pillows anyway. At some point they had no choice but to take a room at a small B&B, with a tiny single bed in a tiny separate bedroom, but a larger couch in the main room, where Rett decided to sleep, letting Maeve have the room.
About 30 minutes after they both turned in, he felt something poke him. When he opened his eyes he saw Maeve.
“What?!” he groaned.
“There is something in my mattress. Like bugs or mice.”
“That’s stupid. Mice or bugs don’t dwell in mattresses. It’s probably just old and squeaky. Just go back to bed! And let me sleep.” he turned his back towards her.
“Rett, the window is also drafty in that room, there is no heater and it’s like a freezer in there. I am frozen solid.”
“Then see if there is another blanket … or put more clothes on.” he mumbled into the couch.
“Everything’s wet, I hand washed it earlier. Also, there is a thunderstorm outside now …”
“Oh my Gawd, Maeve, chill. Since when are you such a scaredy-cat? And I’d be concerned if the thunderstorm were inside. What do you want me to do about all that anyway?! Just figure something out, not my problem!”
“Wow, you piss pot, I’ll make it your problem!” she countered, lifting his blanket, and just started climbing across him, wiggling her hips she shimmied in next to him, then shoved her feet in between his legs.
“Seriously woman?! Oh God, your feet are icicles! Get them off of me!” Rett twitched, trying to push her away from him.
“My hands are even colder. Feel!” she slipped them under his shirt, he jerked and tried to fight her off, groaning and complaining, then ended up on the floor with a loud thud, to the sound of her giggling.
“You are pure evil! I was sound asleep, now I am wide awake! And we don’t both fit on there! Obviously!”
“Then you go sleep in the bed with the creepy crawlies in the icebox!”
“Fine!” Everett got up, mumbling complaints and unflattering things he went into the bedroom, slamming the door shut.
Few minutes later he came back out, Maeve looked up at him.
“Okay, you were right. I stand corrected, there is definitely something crawling around in that mattress! That’s just nasty! And it really is unbearably cold in that room. Sorry I blew you off. All that being said – scoot! I am coming in there! I don’t even care.”
He forced his way next to her on the couch, to the sound of her giggling.
“Told ya!” she giggled, shifting around trying to accommodate his frame next to hers in the small space.
“You think that’s funny, huh? Here, feel my cold feet and hands now!” he did to her what she had done to him, she squealed and swatted, both of them laughing hard until they ran out of steam and fell asleep together.
Once on the road again the next morning, suddenly the sign appeared on the side of the road, welcoming them to Del Sol Valley.
They both cheered and celebrated, overcome with a strong sense of relief and accomplishment.
Rett pulled over the car at the first possible place to stop after the sign.
“We made it! We are actually frigging HERE!” Maeve cheered as they exited the car and they stuck their heads together for the obligatory Selfie.
“Hey, let’s get the guitars and play something. Our first duet of many on Del Sol Valley ground!” Rett suggested excitedly.
They did, until they noticed movement near the car. Two people creeping around suspiciously.
“Fuck, they’re trying to steal my car!” Rett exclaimed, both ran back to it but could only watch the car drive off.
“Call the cops! My phone’s in the car!” he told Maeve.
“Rett, both our phones are in that car, charging!”
Rett cursed colorfully, angrily kicking rocks across the ground. Stranded in nowhere, Del Sol Valley was huge and started in the desert with just a few houses here and there which eventually turned into industrial zones, followed by suburban areas, before it eventually turned into the big, bustling city everyone knew.
After a nearly two hour walk through nothing but quasi desert with not a single home or business in sight while carrying their guitars, both of them now bordering exhaustion, they came upon an industrial style suburban area where they saw a car rental place they beelined towards.
“Sorry Miss. This here has you at 19.” the attendant told Maeve, pointing at her ID.
“Yeah, almost 20. So?”
The attendant pointed at a sign behind them.
“Minimum age to rent is 25. How old is he?” he asked, pointing at Everett.
“22 … FUCK!” Everett sighed.
“Yeah, agreed. Awfully sorry kids, but there is nothing I can do for you then. Rules are rules and I am afraid there is no leeway to accommodate you. If either of you were at least a little closer to 25, I could maybe turn the other way, but you are both just way too young. By the way, Miss, your credit card was declined anyway. Want me to cut that up for ya?”
“Might as well. Crap, my parents must have cut me off totally. They gave me that for emergencies years ago, never used it. Now we have an emergency and my parents screw me over once again. Go figure.”
“Fuck!” Rett cursed. “Hey, do you have a phone I could use? Ours were stolen.” he asked the attendant.
Two hours later they both stood in the lobby of a huge mansion, Maeve could barely stifle her surprise, while Rett was getting hugs from family.
“Uh, guys, this is Maeve, my friend. Maeve, my aunt Anastasia, my uncle Riordan and my cousins Finn and Fiona. Maeve and I came here to make music. Oh, and thanks guys for helping out and for paying the cab to here. Sorry for flinging that on your so last minute.”
Naturally neither Anastasia nor Riordan wanted to hear any thanks, let alone apologies, just hugs and to hear about the trip, as well as get to know Maeve, as did Finn and Fiona until their teenage minds were distracted by their cell phones.
Rett and Maeve were fed, got put up in guest rooms with their own bathrooms to clean up and rest up some. At some point later Maeve went to see Rett, but his room was empty. His aunt, uncle and cousins were in the lobby about to leave for a party and had not seen him.
Eventually she found Rett sitting in a corner in the backyard of the sprawling estate.
“Here you are hiding, looked all over for ya, how’s it going?” she said worried, gently rubbing his hand.
“What do you think how I feel? We barely just arrived – literally – and I already failed. And I lost my car, my laptop, all my clothing, not to mention your stuff. Dammit.” he told her, disappointment sounding in his voice.
“You didn’t fail, Rett, we were robbed. Happens to the best of them. Your aunt is handling it, sounds like she’s some big shot attorney with all the right connections. By the way, I can still hardly get over this place. I am literally in shock. Why did you never once mention that you had family so wealthy living in Del Sol Valley literally until the cab dropped us off here? “
“Give it your best guess.” he growled.
“Oh, now you think I could be a gold digger? After I literally spent almost a week sleeping in all the Michelin Road Atlas rejects along the way literally next to you, both of us eating most meals from a bag, if I wasn’t tossing dried fruit, chips or candy into your mouth from the passenger seat? NOW you think I am using you?”
“No, I don’t. Has nothing to do with you. I just wanted to make it here myself, not barely hours after I get here already run to my auntie for help. And don’t give me the ‘they are so nice’ spiel, I know they are, but that doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t made it one day without needing their help.”
“Speaking of, your cousin, Finn, does he have a girlfriend? He is SERIOUSLY hawt! WOW! Mega-drool! Yes, please, I’ll take a double-helping!”
“What?! Pump the horndog brakes, woman! He just turned 16, you cradle robber! Back away from the kid!” Rett was instantly upset, jumping up, glaring at Maeve, who was now standing as well.
“Well, looks older and what’s three or four measly years between us, right? I wouldn’t say no to your uncle either. Man! He’s delicious, yummy yummy! The genes in that family are insane! That’s just not fair. Should be illegal for an entire family to look so perfect, the ultimate Del Sol Valley look times four! And did they have those kids in kindergarten or what?! Your aunt and uncle look so young.”
“Can you PLEASE calm yourself down? What’s with the fangirling? In between wiping that drool off your chin, can you maybe remind yourself that my uncle is also married to my aunt?! And can you just not?! Your weird man-eater side is creeping me out. But at least now I know what your type is. Tall, dark, handsome and mysterious, huh? How cliché! I honestly expected more from you than the same old lame stereotype to get your panties in a wad.”
“Jealous, Rett? A girl not drooling over you for once? Awww … that must be rough! Poor lil Everett-y…” giggling she tried to pat his head, grumpily he swatted her hand away.
“Nope. You already made perfectly clear to me how repulsive my red hair is to you. So can we just not do this now?!” Rett growled and ran off, up the stairs to the terrace, Maeve caught up to him sitting on the armrest of a patio chair and and just pulled his head against her chest.
“Rett, come on, I was just playing. Look, I get you’re upset, but it’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. Your aunt said she and the others had to go to some party, she figured we weren’t in the mood to join them, but she said to tell you we are welcome to stay here for as long as we need to. Can we please? At least a few days?”
“Sure, not like we have many options right now anyway. Maybe we can start looking for a place to stay from here and leave once we found something we can afford. And start looking for ways to make money while we’re at it. We’re approaching totally broke fast.”
“Agreed. We got this, Rett.”
Later, as they watched the sun starting to set over Del Sol Valley, he told her
“One day I will own a home just like this one with this exact view. I am gonna do this, Maeve. Just a setback right now. A test to see how serious I am about it all. And I am damn serious.”
“That’s the spirit. I believe in you, Rett. You’ll make it big one day. Just like your grandpa. If anyone can, it’ll be you.”
“Thanks, means a lot. I’ll never forget that you were there when I really needed a friend. That’s pretty huge. And thanks for not writing me off like the rest of them has.”
“Straight back at ya, friend. You were there for me too and we weren’t exactly each other’s greatest fans, let alone friends.”
“So we are friends now then?”
“Is that a serious question after all we’ve been through together already?! We did the friend crash course, man!”
“Okay, this day is definitely getting better by the minute.”