“Finally that class is over,” I thought to myself, as I worked my way through the crowded hallways of a school I had grown to hate. The semester was over, and most of us had survived exam week with passing marks. Some of us passed just barely, but barely passing still gets you through (just not as proudly). A long semester break lay ahead and from the excited voices of all the people in the halls, many of the tired students had vacation adventures planned – I know that I sure did.
My bags were already packed and loaded in the back of my car, a 1966 Mustang my father and I restored from a rusty mess while I was in high school. The sun gleamed off of the chrome and shiny paint, as I walked up to the only thing I had left that reminded me of my father. I threw my book bag into the backseat as I climbed into the driver’s seat, shutting the door behind me with a thud. Turning the key in the ignition, the Mustang’s engine rumbled to life with a deep throaty roar you can only get from an American muscle car.
“God, I love that sound,” I said with a grin, as I revved the engine a few times before putting the car into gear and maneuvering out of the crowded parking lot. Pulling out onto the main road, I twisted the knob on the radio and the melody of “song title here” came pouring through the speakers. I slammed the accelerator to the floor and smoked billowed up behind me, tires squealing. The tires grabbed and pushed me back into the leather of the driver’s seat as I sped off. My adventure had begun.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t really that much of an adventure, but it was the first time I would be visiting my hometown since I set off for college nearly four years ago. Also, it would be the first time seeing Haley, my best friend, since high school. Although it had been ages since we saw each other in person we remained close. Haley and I kept in touch through e-mails and the occasional phone call, keeping each other updated on the latest happenings in each of our lives. Being able to see her again made the long drive home completely worth it ; just thinking about it put a smile on my face.
The stars twinkled in the night sky and illuminated the darkness, along with the intermittent glow of fireflies floating through the air along the countryside. Dusk had set in well by the time I pulled up to my mom’s house. A chorus of chirping crickets filled the air and the steps of the porch creaked as I walked up to the front door to knock. I inhaled deeply, enjoying he fresh air, as I waited for my mom to answer the door.
It was strange being home again, laying in my old bed, in a room that had hardly changed since I had left – like time had stopped and captured a moment in the history or my life. Trophies from my days of wrestling and playing football in high school were lined up on a shelf on the wall above my bed, reflecting the faint moonlight coming through the window. Thoughts of seeing Haley in the morning filled my head, as I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up to my stomach grumbling and the smell of a hearty country breakfast flooding my nostrils – fresh baked biscuits, eggs, sausage, bacon, and grits. I had almost forgotten what eating a real breakfast was like, having had no more than coffee and the occasional donut or pastry every morning in the city. Mom didn’t say much while we sat at the table eating. She just smiled to herself as I devoured what she had prepared. I know she was happy that I was home again, even though she never said so out loud.
Since Dad had passed away a couple of years ago, Mom rented out our farm land to the neighbors. Without a farm to worry about, and a steady income from the rent money, Mom spent most of her time in a little bakery she had opened in town. Her passion for baking and cake decorating made the business an instant success. Mom’s ornate wedding cakes made her an instant celebrity, even landing her a spot on the front page of the local gazette.
The timer on the oven rang and Mom excused herself from the table, scurrying into the kitchen. Since we were done eating breakfast, I began clearing the table. I entered the kitchen with my hands full of the dirty dishes from the table, to find Mom putting the last of the muffins she had just pulled from the oven into a basket.
“These are for you to bring when you go visit Haley later.”
“Thanks Mom, she always loved your cooking.”
The wind chimes swayed gently in the breeze, quietly playing its song as I sipped a glass of cold lemonade. Mrs. Gilbert told me Haley had ran into town, and would be back any minute. I waited on the front porch, rocking in the old rocking chair her dad used to sit in – smoking a pipe and whittling a piece of wood. I had only been there about 5 minutes, or so, when an 80s Bronco came roaring around the corner, kicking up dust as it came down the dirt road leading up to the Gilbert house. The old truck pulled to a stop next to my Mustang and grumbled and roared as the engine revved a few times before finally being shut off. The Bronco had a set of huge tires. It was white with a few rust spots here and there, but the engine sounded powerful. The dust was still settling when the driver’s side door of the truck swung own wit ha creak. A pair of legs in a sun dress appeared, as Haley hopped out of the lifted truck.
I had stood up to greet her, but was speechless as Haley walked up the porch steps and gave me a hug.
“I missed you,” she said, before taking a step back and punching me hard in the arm.
“Ow! …what was that for?!”
“That’s for not coming to visit sooner,” she said with a grin.
Haley had always been a bit of a tomboy -working in her dad’s garage and playing football with the guys. This was the first time I could recall seeing her in a dress, and she looked good; better than I remembered. Although she had taken over Hank’s Garage – the family business – when her dad passed away about a year ago. She had grown into a beautiful woman. All the grease, motor oil, and testosterone of the garage hadn’t stopped her from blossoming.
“You look beautiful,” I said, finally able to speak.
Haley blushed saying, “When I heard you were coming back into town, I went out and bought this dress.” She hesitated a bit, “…I wanted to look good, when I saw you again.”
“Well, you do!,” I exclaimed, smiling and hugging her once again. “I missed you too.”
I had never looked at her as anything other than a friend before, but today that was changing. Not seeing her for so long made me realize how much she really meant to me.
The next couple of weeks flew by. Haley and I spent just about every moment of it together. We talked for hours about nothing in particular, and the end of each night it seemed to get harder to say our good-byes.
“You know, in a few days I have to go back to school,” I explained to Haley, “it’s my last semester and I’ve already had a couple of good job offers.”
“I know,” she said with a sigh, turning away to hide the tears forming in her eyes. “Can I come with you?,” she whispered.
“Huh?,” I said, a little surprised.
“I want to come with you,” her voice was louder now, more determined, “My brother practically runst the garage already, plus, I’ve always wanted to move to the city… I’ve just never had a good enough reason to leave, until you came back.” She looked me in the eyes, her eyes still moist from the tears, glistened a little. “I love you Jonathan William Roberts.”
I love you too Haley Jo Gilbert,” I replied without hesitation, not even having to think about it. I knew it was true. I had fallen in love with my best friend. I had fallen in love wit hthe town tomboy my friends used to play football with, only she wasn’t a tomboy now. Haley had grown into a beautiful woman, a gorgeous woman in fact.