Written by: (Phoenix2020)
Griffin awoke with a jerk and sat straight up. Not sure why he was suddenly on high alert, he listened carefully but heard nothing except Nicholas’ deep breathing beside him. He’d had to practically drag him to bed when he woke up in the living room with Nicholas’ head in his lap. Had he dreamed the noise or had it been … NO … there it was again, definitely real! It sounded like it was just on the other side of the wall behind the bed’s headboard, the back end of the RV. He not so gently nudged Nicholas. “Nicholas, wake up!”
“Huh? What is it?”
“Shhh … listen. Something’s happening outside on the other side of this wall.”
Practically holding their breaths, the boys listened and, again, a sound like metal on metal and then a thump and a mumbled curse.
“Someone’s out there! Our bikes!”
Nicholas was the first to spring into action, but Griffin was right behind him as they jerked their shorts on and quietly padded to the door. They both grabbed the flashlights kept in the storage compartment beside the door and then looked around for something to use to defend themselves, if necessary, but came up with nothing. Nicholas quietly unlocked the door and began to ease it open as Griffin quickly scooted over to the kitchen to grab the largest knife he could find.
The boys tiptoed along the side of the RV, Nicholas in the lead, with flashlights pointed at the ground. As they neared the rear of the RV, they could make out frantic whispers. Holding up a hand to stop Griffin, Nicholas motioned that they would jump out on “three”, then held up three fingers and began to lower them one at a time. As the last finger went down, Nicholas jumped out and screamed “FREEZE!” with Griffin stuck like glue to him. A duo of yelps erupted simultaneously, and the boys hit the source of the yelps with their flashlight beams.
“Please don’t hurt us! We’re sorry!” Standing frozen in their beams were two boys appearing to be roughly the same age as Nicholas and Griffin, with the shorter one cowering behind his buddy.
“What are you doing?” Griffin asked.
“Uh, well … we … uh, we’re trying to get to Pennsylvania and we saw your bikes this afternoon and we thought maybe you didn’t really need them since you have this nice RV and all and we don’t have anything and Pennsylvania is a long way to walk and we’re so sorry and we’ll just leave and we won’t bother you …”
“Whoa, just slow your roll, OK,” Nicholas said, raising his hands. “Who are you and why are you trying to walk to Pennsylvania?”
“My name is Casey and this is … uh … my little brother, Jamie. Our mom died last year and our stepdad is a monster so we left home and we’re trying to get to our mom’s sister in Pennsylvania. We mostly travel at night and we spent yesterday in those trees behind the campground. We saw your bikes and waited until we thought you’d be asleep to come get them. We wrote down your license number so we could find you and send you money for the bikes after we got to our aunt’s house, honest! See?” He held out his hand with the number written on it.
“Look, let’s go inside and talk before one of the other campers call the cops. Of course, that option is still on the table,” Nicholas said. “Drop your backpacks on the ground first.”
All four sat on the living room floor, drinking Snapple, as a much calmer Casey explained their situation. They had snuck out of their house four nights ago after their stepdad had come home drunk and wasted and, once again, became verbally abusive and then physically abusive. When he knocked Casey across the room, Jamie had managed to grab a baseball bat and hit him hard enough to knock him out. They had stuffed some clothes in their backpacks along with all the money they had and could get from their stepdad’s wallet and took off.
“Wow,” an empathetic Griffin said, “that’s awful. You hear about this kinda stuff but, honestly, I’ve never known anyone in that situation. I never realized until now how fortunate I’ve been.”
“Yeah,” agreed Nicholas, “me, too. How old are you guys?”
“I’m 18 and Casey just turned 20,” answered Jamie, speaking up for the first time.
“Well, it’s only 3:30 so why don’t you guys stay here and we’ll talk more in the morning and figure something out. You can sleep on the sofa bed. The bathroom is over there.”
“Thank you for being so nice after what we tried to do … stealing your bikes and all.”
“It’s alright. Desperate times, desperate measures and all that. I get it,” Nicholas nodded. “You will still be here in the morning, right?”
“Definitely!” they both stated emphatically.
Griffin and Nicholas laid in bed, discussing the situation. Both agreed that they couldn’t just put them out but neither was completely ready to totally trust them, either.
“Well, assuming they’re still here in the morning, we’ll talk more with them and decide then what to do,” Nicholas decided. “Let’s try to get some sleep.”
Griffin fell asleep almost as quickly as he’d awoken an hour ago. Nicholas struggled a bit to calm his mind but, eventually, he also drifted off.
As usual, Griffin was the first to wake and, less enthusiastically than was typical, he made his way to the bathroom. Fortunately, halfway across the bedroom, he remembered their guests and pulled his shorts on. Opening the bathroom door to the sound of a squeal, he froze in place.
“OH! I’m sorry … what the … !” Griffin just stared.
Grabbing a towel, Casey wrapped up but not before Griffin got a very clear and very unmistakable look at everything that made Casey undeniably … a girl … uh … a woman, actually!
He stumbled backward, pulling the door closed with him, and just stood there … processing.
“What now?” Nicholas thought as he quickly came out of the bedroom to see a shook and wide-eyed Griffin standing rigidly in front of the bathroom door, just as it opened.
Casey sheepishly emerged and Griffin whirled around. “Lucy, you got some ’splaining to do!!”
“What the hell is happening?” an only half-awake and quite confused Nicholas asked.
“He’s a she!”
“Please! I can explain,” Casey pleaded. “We thought it would be safer to travel if we pretended to be guys. That’s one of the reasons we travel at night. We’re both pretty tall and … ”
“Wait! We?” a now completely awake Nicholas stuttered. “Jamie is … ”
“My little sister, not my little brother.”
Nicholas and Griffin collected clean clothes and performed their morning ablutions, while Casey dressed in the living room and woke Jamie. She explained to Jamie that their subterfuge had been exposed … quite literally … and they both fretted that they would be booted out to fend for themselves again.
Over breakfast, they discussed the situation more. Nicholas and Griffin talked it over while making their bed and straightening up the bedroom as Casey and Jamie did the same with the sofa bed and living room and washed the breakfast dishes.
“So … we’ve talked about it and this is what we’ve come up with,” said Nicholas, coming back into the kitchen with Griffin trailing close behind. “First, do you have ID?”
“Why?” asked Jamie. “You don’t trust us?”
“Uh … a few hours ago we caught you trying to steal our bikes! Trust has to be earned,” Griffin declared.
“He’s right, Jamie,” a more pragmatic Casey responded. “Yes, we have our driver’s licenses.”
“Good. I’m not wanting to get arrested for kidnapping or transporting minors over state lines or anything like that,” Nicholas explained. “If you are, in fact, over 18 you may join us in our travels and we will get you to your aunt’s house in Pennsylvania. That is, if you want.”
“But, we are taking our time and it will probably be a week or two before we get there. We thought we might try to make Philadelphia by July 4th because … well, that would just be a cool place to celebrate Independence Day,” Griffin added.
“OH, WOW!! Yes!!” an elated Casey burst out. “That’s a lot sooner than we could’ve gotten there walking!”
“Or riding bikes,” quipped Griffin.
“There are conditions, though,” a serious Nicholas interjected. “First, you will stay with us wherever we go. We are not comfortable leaving you here in the RV while we’re out for the day … at least not yet. As Griffin said, trust has to be earned.”
“Absolutely! Agreed! Right, Jamie?”
“Definitely! You guys are angels, aren’t you?”
Nicholas and Griffin just looked at each other, blushing, and said in harmony … “He is!”