Read ISS Online

Authors: L Valder Mains,Laurie Mains

ISS (7 page)

“I don’t know about you but I vote for the big guy there,” she said nodding to the RV, “maybe we can watch TV,” she added hopefully.

The RV was huge inside and spotless. It reminded Jack of the hotel room his family had stayed in while on vacation in Las Vegas. There was lots of chrome and mirrored surfaces and two fat white leather seats that swivelled on their bases. The RV smelled like old people he thought as he flopped down onto the overstuffed couch. He leaned back and got comfortable and shut his eyes.

“It suites you gramps,” Sara said laughing as she walked past him to explore the rest of the vehicle.

He heard the taunt but he was so weary he drifted, off to sleep before he could think of a comeback. He was well on his way to deep sleep when she screamed. He jumped straight up off the couch and whacked his head on the overhead storage locker.

“What’s wrong?” he yelled struggling to pull the gun free of his coat pocket.

“Oh my God,” she yelled from the back of the RV,” it’s got hot water.”

He sat down trembling from the scare she gave him and laughed. He laughed so hard tears streamed down his face.

“What’s so funny?” she said when she came back but he could not answer he was laughing too hard and holding his stomach.

“Why do you have that out?” she said.

He looked at the gun in his hand and laughed harder, it took a while but when he got control of himself he said.

“When you screamed I thought you were in trouble but you were only in hot water.”

“Very funny,” she said giving him a look, “give me the keys I’ll get our stuff and by the way you need a shower.”

He handed her the keys and after she went outside he said to the air behind her.

“I think I’ll have a shower.”

When she came back inside he was in the tiny bathroom and she heard him killing an old Beatles song. After the second chorus she banged on the bathroom door.

“Hey Ringo, save me some hot water.”

She heard the water stop and he came out a few minutes later wrapped in a pink bath towel shaking water from his hair. Washing it had made it curly. She liked the way it looked though he needed a trim. She also noticed that he’d shaved the blonde fuzz over his lip. She’d wondered about it, was it supposed to be a moustache or what? She had to admit he was kind of cute for a weird space geek.

They brushed past each other in the narrow hallway and she caught the scent of clean boy skin and shampoo.

He was taller than her by a few inches, strong and slim, not unattractively skinny, just spare and really kind of muscular for a science geek who never worked out. She realized that she’d been avoiding looking at him as a ‘guy’ these past few days but now she couldn’t avoid it. She slipped into the tiny shower and shrugged out of his sister’s clothes. She opened the bottle of shampoo that was on the shelf behind her and soaped her hair and the smell of the shampoo made her think about his curly hair. She found a wash cloth and soaped her body all over while she thought about his strange pale blue eyes.

She’d never seen eyes like his before, sometimes they were greyer than blue. Set wide apart in an open and seriously handsome face. He still had lots of child in his features but they hinted strongly at the man he would become. His strong jaw and symmetrical features in her mind somehow did not mesh with his weird personality and odd lack of talking. She stopped herself when she started thinking she liked the sound of his voice. At that point she realized she was letting him get way too far inside her head and she needed to stop. Her resolve was short lived when her mind wandered to the bump she saw in his pink towel but just then the hot water ran out and took those thoughts away with it.

Jack was studying the map spread out on the dining room table and shovelling microwaved spaghetti into his mouth. The best way to get to Clayton would be to take Interstate 40 East through Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It was about seven hundred miles. They decided to take the RV reasoning that it would be easier than looking for a place to sleep every night and after all the keys were right there in the ignition. Though neither of them had driven anything that large he figured they would manage. It was an automatic transmission and there wouldn’t be much traffic. The thing that made up his mind was the CB radio installed right in the panel above the driver’s seat. They would be able to talk with ISS anytime they wanted. It really felt like they were making progress.

After they ate he put on a movie he found in a drawer. If they’d had any doubts about it before it was now clear that the RV belonged to old folks because the movie was really boring. Before it ended Jack went out and sat on a picnic table down by the lake and looked up at the stars. All his life he wanted to fly into space, he’d watched all the launches on television when he was a kid and he knew every astronaut’s name and where they were from. Now he was actually going to fly into space and the sky loomed huge above him and he felt the beginnings of elation take hold of him; this was his chance to make his dream come true.

“What are you thinking about?” the sound of Sara’s voice startled him.

“I was thinking about what it will be like up there,” he said.

The evening sky was bright with stars when she gazed up.

“I think it will be cold.” she said.

She hugged herself pretending to shiver and then shivered for real when a breeze rose up off the lake. He looked at her and smiled.

“You’ll need to wear a pair of long johns under your space suit.”

They sat quietly watching the silent universe turn before them. A falling star streaked across the sky.

“Quick, make a wish,” she whispered.

He thought for a moment but there was really only one thing he wished for and, though she never said it, he knew what she wished for was the same.

“I’m cold I’m going in,” she said, and she turned and walked back to the RV and a few minutes later he joined her.

There was something different this time when they went to bed. He was not aware of what had changed but something definitely felt different. Maybe it was because this was not his bed they would be sharing. They never talked about whether they would sleep together in the RV neither of them had wanted to bring it up. When it was time to get ready for bed he found himself watching her. She stood with her back to him and he noticed that tonight all she was wearing was one of his tee shirts and panties. He felt shy when he stripped down to his under pants and tee shirt and crawled into the bed. When she lifted the sheets and got in he noticed that she was not as careful not to brush up against him as she was last night. Her foot touched his bare calf and it was shocking.

“Ahk! Your feet are really cold,” he said.

“I know, I feel kind of cold tonight,” she said. Her voice was low and sounded vulnerable to him.

“Do you want me to see if there are more blankets?”

“I looked already there aren’t any,” she said.

He was surprised that she felt cold because he felt oddly warm in spite of the cool night. He lay silently thinking about her, wondering what she would do if he touched her, if she would freak out. Before he could stop himself he spoke.

“Would you be upset if I… touch you?”

She lay quiet for a long moment and he was beginning to think she might be mad or would start crying or something. He’d blown it he just knew it.

“You mean like a hug?” she said.

“Yeah, a hug, to warm you up,” he said.

He was about to add, ‘I won’t do anything creepy’ when he heard her say ‘okay’. She spoke softly and it took him a moment to process her one word answer then a few moments more to figure out what to do next. He slid his hand under the covers towards her until his fingers touched the cool skin of her leg. It was soft and smooth but before he could begin to explore it she found his hand and gently pulled him over onto his side then tucked her back up against him holding his hand in front of her. His legs touched her legs and his chest touched her back as they curved together. He was tense at first but it felt so warm and comforting he soon relaxed and simply enjoyed the sweet feeling of her tucked into his embrace.

“Is this okay?” she asked.

“This is really nice,” he murmured into her hair.

They lay quietly for a time and then for no reason he could explain he nuzzled his nose into her hair at the back of her neck. At first he did not realize that he was doing it wanting to snuggle with her just came naturally; he loved the feel of her skin and the smell of her hair against his face. After doing this for a while he felt more than heard her making a deep throaty sound, like a cat purring, and he hoped it meant she liked what he was doing.

The purring made him brave and he snuggled more closely and this time put his lips to her neck and ever so softly kissed her. She did not immediately object to this so he pressed his lips to her skin lingering swimming in the rich sensation of her sweet scent and again she did not object. Emboldened he placed tiny kisses along her neck and shoulder until she’d finally had had enough. Squirmed out of his grasp and turned around to face him but before he could apologize she kissed him, gently, sweetly, but definitely.

When morning came and they awoke. Moving quietly, they were quiet, self-conscious of their new intimacy and shy about what happened between them the night before. They avoided eye contact and touching or even speaking to each other until, comically, they bonked heads bending over to pick up a dropped dish towel. This released the tension and awkwardness and they laughed rubbing foreheads and when they were near she leaned in and kissed him.

She kissed him and he felt like he had to tell her something, he felt an urgent need to say something important, but he didn’t know what it was. The only thing he knew for certain was, if he opened his mouth, whatever came out would sound lame; it happened whenever he tried to talk to girls so he settled for sneaking sidelong glances and suppressing the urge to grin.

She seemed different, more real, or maybe it was something else entirely. Overnight something he could not readily define, had changed. He struggled as the understanding he was aiming for skittered just beyond reach. He could not describe exactly what he was feeling in words but he knew he wanted her to stay with him, he needed her to stay.

***

The new ride had a diesel engine which caused a hitch in their plans, it meant they couldn’t use the gasoline they’d collected in Eloy. The fuel gauge in the RV read less than half and he wasn’t sure where they would find more diesel fuel.

“Do you think we should take the motorhome,?” he said.

“Are you kidding, of course,” she said.

“Well we are going to have to find diesel fuel, the tank is only half full,” he said.

She smiled at him and said, ”You mean it’s only half empty. You’re such a pessimist.” She laughed and darted away when he tried to tickle her.

“Whatever,” he said and smiled, ”but we still need to find fuel. Our trip through New Mexico will have lots of empty miles.”

Fuel was a problem but they agreed they didn’t want to give up the comfort of the motorhome. They started out after breakfast transferring the items for ISS from the Subaru to the storage areas underneath the RV. They planned to keep their eyes open for abandoned highway tractors to syphon fuel from and fill the RV tank. This could be a problem because he did not know how far half a tank would take them in a big vehicle like the RV. He had not noticed many big rigs while they were traveling yesterday but he hadn’t been looking for any. Sara studied the roadmap; the route they were planning to take would take them all the way to New Mexico and would pass through a lot of small towns and a few large centers like Tucson so she wasn’t worried about finding fuel.

They set off and had been driving for an hour when he spotted a large semi-trailer truck halfway into the ditch. They stopped and he got out with his syphon hose and an empty fuel jug. He was about to crack open the saddle-tank on the driver’s side of the truck when he heard a vehicle approaching fast from behind them on the road they’d just come down.

He could see that Sara hadn’t heard it coming and he was turning back to warn her when a white van suddenly appeared on the road and screamed past their parked RV narrowly missing it and ramming headlong into an abandoned U-Haul trailer sitting crossways in the lane ahead of them. It smashed into the trailer with such force the van took flight and slammed into the ditch on the far side of the road. It rolled several times before skidding to a stop on its roof. The speed and violence of the impact was shocking and they were frozen into stunned silence watching the front wheels of the van spinning in the air.

“Holy Crap!” Sara ran to the vehicle and he headed to the RV. He had no idea what to expect inside the van so he got the gun before heading to the over-turned vehicle. He did not know if it was the same van he saw in Eloy but he wasn’t going to take any chances with their safety. When he got to it Sara had already crawled halfway in through the passenger side window and was trying to free someone.

“She’s stuck Jack, I can’t get her out.”

He bent down and saw a large middle-aged women strapped into a wheelchair dangling upside down. She was conscious, talking a mile a minute, telling Sara that when she saw our RV she went to apply the brake but something went wrong with the hand controls and it jammed the accelerator wide open. She was explaining all this as Sara frantically tried to release her from the seat. The wheelchair wheels were designed to lock into place behind the steering wheel and it was jammed, the wheel locks were design not to release if there was pressure on them. The seat belts that held the woman in the chair were hopelessly trapped behind the steering column and the distorted metal of the dashboard. He reached his head and shoulders in and tried to help Sara work her free but it was no use, they needed a knife. He was about to tell her this when he heard a pop and turned and saw a spark and smoke begin to waft from the rear of the van.

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