OXRO—Part Five

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Home Sweet Cabin

Within minutes Ethan’s eyes fell upon a break in the everlasting supply of foliage. Asia followed Ethan’s lead turning onto the cobblestone driveway, parking her overworked SUV behind his Dodge.

Asia killed the engine, threw her head back on the headrest and rubbed her strained eyes from staring-at-the-gray-pavement so long. She was second-guessing her decision, regretting saying yes to Ashlyn as she lain across her bed telling her about all the fun to be had at Denver’s Parents’ cabin. Then, Ashlyn disclosed how much they would be saving on airfare and hotel fees. Asia’s ears peaked, hearing about saving some scrilla. Her purse was tapped out after paying for three years of spring break trips. Freshman year in Miami was Jordan’s idea; sophomore year in Cancun from Leslee’s insistent campaigning; and for junior year Ollie and Emily wanted to swim with dolphins in Punta Cuna. Asia was tired. Tired of overhyped freshman, boozed-up sophomores, and skanky undergrads. She yawned glancing in the rearview mirror as Leslee nudged Yasmin causing her head to bang against the window.

“We’re here!” Leslee announced getting out the car.

Yasmin wiped her eyes, confused and bewildered, “Here where?”

Denver pulled Yasmin’s door open. “Tranquility!”

Yasmin squinted her eyes at the sun’s bright shine falling over tall pine trees. She stepped out the car, her drowsy body instantly waking with every step, breathing the crisp forest air.

“This is a badd cabin, baby!” Ashlyn said fixing the spaghetti straps of her sundress.

“Bad as in good, right?” Denver asked glancing at Ashlyn then back at the two-story log cabin with six windows across the top and a wrap around porch.

“Damn good!” Jordan threw his Nike duffle over his shoulder. “This is why I go to class at eight in the mo’nin.” Jordan said over exaggerating his southern accent.

Asia nodded in agreement as she watched Shaka find the tree he wanted to release all the water Leslee let him consume this morning.

Ethan grabbed Leslee’s bag while she leaned against the warm truck. Eric, being the gentleman reached for Yasmin’s Dooney & Burke suitcase.

“Thanks, but it has wheels.” Yasmin expressed reaching for the handle.

“It’s okay.” Eric pulled the suitcase out the truck underestimating its girth; it tugged his shoulder down. He quickly regained his composure. “I got it!”

Yasmin smiled as Eric walked away lugging her suitcase and his. She rose up an eyebrow at Asia, whom had her arm hanging on the truck’s rear door.

Asia shot up her eyebrows twice. “Better than Robert.”

“True that.” Yasmin nodded as Asia slammed the door.

They eagerly waited behind Denver like horses at the Kentucky Derby starting line. Jordan bit down on his lip, jittering with anticipation. He’d never known anyone with a second home. For goodness sakes, his parents were still trying to pay their first one off, after the housing bubble exploded. Denver pulled the shiny gold key out the loose pocket of his sweatpants. Asia wondered why it wasn’t on the key ring with his house key, car key, and dorm room key. While Eric listened to the symphony his empty stomach was churning. Denver slid the key in the lock, twisted it, and as the lock popped back in the birch door it was music to their ears. Denver flung the door back and let the extravagance of the oasis wash over them.

Like the starter pistol had been fired they ran into the house awing at the ten foot ceiling and wooden beams in the living room, then the seventy-five inch flat screen hanging over the massive fireplace. Eric wondered why there wasn’t any residue of soot but then again this was Texas, where was there a time one needed a fire to keep warm. He shook it off.

“PS4! Say what.” Jordan harked pushing the geometric engraved buttons of the game’s controller.

“Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances.” Ashlyn listed wiping her hands over every surface in the kitchen.

“Look.” Leslee said holding a ceramic dish she pulled out the wooden cabinet with glass doors and stuck it in Asia’s face. “It looks so new.” Leslee rubbed the smooth, cool, green surface on the outside.

“Oh, a pot.” Asia said unimpressed leaning against the island.

“A lasagna dish.” Leslee snarked.

“A casserole dish to be precise.” Asia corrected.

“What’s biting on your uterus?” Leslee said putting the dish back on the shelf from which it came.

“Nothing. I just don’t like acting like I’m not use to nice things.” Asia cleared up side eyeing Jordan and Eric taking a selfie by wall mounted deer head.

“Uh, The bitch is coming out.” Ashlyn said playing with the Kholer faucet. “Is baby sleepy.” She pinched Asia’s high-boned cheeks.

“Stop.” Asia slapped Ashlyn’s hands away. “And I am.” She frowned.

“Then lets go get a room so we can put you to bed.” Leslee said taking Asia’s hand leading her out the kitchen like a little child.

Ashlyn skipped to the master bedroom tucked away down a hallway behind the stairs while Denver followed reading a text. Eric, Jordan, Yasmin, Leslee, Ethan, and Asia filed up the stairs with their bags in tow to claim their resting place. Shaka stayed downstairs peering out the massive window into the placid forest.

In the middle of the hallway was the rectangular room Eric and Jordan’s raced too after running up the stairs. A nightstand separated two identical twin beds with plush down feather pillows lying on top of a blue patchwork quilt. Eric unpacked his black puma duffle bag carefully not to unfold the neat clothes. Jordan walked back into the room re-buckling the tan belt around the waist of his dark blue jeans.

“Why would Denver’s parents have twin beds?” Eric asked. “Isn’t he the only child? Why would they need this many rooms?”

“I don’t know because they can afford it.” Jordan answered pumping two squirts of Dial soap into his hands in the in-suite bathroom.

“Frivolous spending.” Eric refolded a pair of blue jeans.

“Don’t care.” Jordan said shutting off the faucet. “Whew! I was holding that since Austin.” He affirmed with a sigh of relief. He grabbed a pillow and laid at the end of the bed watching Eric toss rolled up shirts in the pine draw while he waited for the sleep to pour down on him.

“T.M.I” Eric picked up a green shirt that fell on the floor.

“Just to let you know ole dude is blowing up Yas’ cell.” Jordan kicked off his black and blue Nikes. The shoe discount was the only reason he wore that referee uniform from Foot Locker.

“I got this.” Eric said with a cocky disposition. “You just need to decide what we are doing first: ride ATV’s, wakeboard, or Xbox.” Eric beamed with excitement from all the possibilities of fun. He wasn’t a big fan of Taylor but he’s known Keith since sophomore year. If Ethan thinks he’s cool people then he’s okay with Denver. As Eric stood in the state-of-the-art cabin that he would never be able to afford on his salary as the bartender at Hooligan’s, a bar 1.5 miles from campus; having a rich affiliate wasn’t a bad thing.

“Are you serious?” Eric questioned. His eyebrows knotted up looking at Jordan with confusion. “It’s spring break! And you’re about to sleep!”

“Hell yeah!” Jordan explained contorted awkwardly trying to arrange his 6 foot 1 body in the twin bed. “I had a Chem., English, and French Renaissance final. I’m tried as hell and actually its Friday. Spring break starts on Sunday.”

“Cool” Eric said with a careless shrug of his shoulders. He tucked away his enthusiasm to chase an adrenaline high, for a relaxing evening instead.

In the middle of his second turn Jordan a silver glint from Eric’s bag caught his eye. “Is that a glock? I know you didn’t bring a gun.” Jordan sat up restless; trying to get relaxed in that bed was giving him a workout.

“Yeah.” Eric said calmly. “It’s my safety blanket. It chases all the monsters away!” He rubbed along the sleek metal body of the gun then checked if the safety was still on.

“You ROTC’s kill me!” Jordan said getting off the bed, leaving the room.

As Jordan strolled down the hall his ears picked up shouting leaking from the room by the stairs. Jordan shook his head and jogged down the stair in search for a comfortable place to lay his head.

The room by the stairs was getting a show. Ethan stalked back and forth like a panther at the zoo. Leslee stood with her back to the window, arms folded and a stoic face to match.

“Why not marriage?” Ethan demanded to know turning in front of the large armoire.

“I don’t have a problem with marriage. It can be a great thing.” Leslee said. She glanced at the three-carat diamond ring still in the half open box on the bed.

“We already do all the things that married couples do: cohabitate, sex, and you cook dinner.” Ethan slapped his sides. “Hell, we even have dinner parties with our friends.”

Ethan planned to propose to Leslee at the end of break after days of carefree bonding. Unfortunately, his plan was destroyed when she started unpacking his bag and found the black ring box.

“I know! We’ve been doing all that for three years. You were in love with the lifestyle not the life commitment; remember!” Leslee said using her hands to convey her point.

“Its just the appropriate time, the natural course of things.” Ethan declared gaining enough composure to stand still.

“You’re a liar, Ethan! You’ve been pushing to get married every since that acceptance letter from Yale came back.” She was still shaking her head, unconvinced from his comment.

“I have always wanted to marry you. I just pushed up asking you because I’m leaving in four months.” He said smooth and calmly. He knew Leslee was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with no matter how spicy her temper.

“I admit that your love for me is true but you want to put a ring on it because of your insecurities. Get this Ethan, one can have a ring on and still have an illicit affair. I will not marry someone that doesn’t trust me.” Leslee declared.

Ethan didn’t say a word, just stared at her breathing rigorously. He didn’t know what to do or what to say.

Leslee’s emotions got the best of her. She couldn’t understand how she could be okay with him leaving and he couldn’t be sure of their love when he’s gone. She stormed out the room in a fury.

Ethan angrily threw his body on the bed, breathing in the deep pine smell that swirled in the room. He thought it was the right move. He hoped his plan wasn’t screwed up. There were still some more days left, things could be salvaged.

The living room television was blasting an old episode of Martin to drown out the happenings upstairs. Eric and Asia were stretched out on the couch. Leslee speed walked pass them headed for the front door. She slammed it behind her causing the side windows to vibrate.

“Oh, thank God! They finally stopped.” Eric said turning down the volume. “I thought we left our parents at home. Nag, Nag, Nag; Bitch, Bitch, Bitch; if they are going to act like this we should’ve left them.” He looked at Asia for agreement.

Asia rolled her eyes at his insensitivity. Even though the shouting was a nuisance, Leslee was her friend and roommate. During the long three-year relationship Asia had been able to be unbiased although she had known Keith since high school.

“I guess I’ll check on her.” Asia said pulling herself off the cozy couch. Shaka whom was lying in front of the red brick fireplace trotted behind her. He followed her everywhere she went. He would even sit outside the door when she had to visit the little girl’s room.

Asia held the door open for Shaka to pass in front of her. Unlike Leslee, she gently closed the door behind her. With his television buddy gone, Eric got up and strolled to the kitchen. The aromas of the spices sparked his curiosity. Eric caught Ashlyn and Denver in a passionate make-out session while the food around them was also steaming.

“Are you guys going to cook or kiss because I’m hungry?” Eric said sitting on the maple barstool.

They stopped, released each other’s bodies and resumed their kitchen duties. Ashlyn stirred the sautéing food in the black cast-iron skillet. Denver went back to chopping vegetables on the wood-checkered chopping board. Eric gazed at the food none of which sparked his appetite.

“What are you cooking?” Eric asked with a turned up lip.

“I’m making stir-fry.” Ashlyn confidently expressed with her hair swept back in a messy ponytail. “With juicy ginger & rosemary beef tips and a side salad.” Ashlyn sprinkled a dash of salt in the skillet. She salivated at the sound of the entrée.

“I’m making the salad,” Denver said slowly slicing the cucumbers; the blade barely missed his index finger. He continued chopping hoping Eric didn’t see that mishap. But he did. Eric shook his head at his lack of culinary skills.

Ashlyn placed the big wooden spoon on the light brown granite countertop and assisted her inexperienced knife-wielding boyfriend.

“Why do you always fix diet food?” Eric asked peeling a nicely ripen banana. “I want some starch, carbohydrates, and fats. The things on the food pyramid that’s worth eating!”

Eric wasn’t against eating healthy. He ate healthy for breakfast and lunch. He wanted a hearty meal for dinner that would stick with him the whole night. Not rabbit food that will have him waking up with an empty, growling stomach at 3:32am to raid the kitchen.

“It’ll be on a bed of rice.” Ashlyn annoyingly added rapidly slicing a carrot.

“Tomorrow Asia’s cooking. Soul Food. ” Eric said. He left them to prepare their salad or to return to their love session. Either way both choices were undesirable to him.

Eric walked through the kitchen and pulled back the glass patio door stepping outside in the backyard. He eyed the gas grill in the middle of the outdoor kitchen where he imagined barbequing some hearty beef ribs, smothered in spicy barbeque sauce tomorrow; while he watched Yasmin in a barely there swimsuit basking her already bronze skin under the flaming sun.

Jordan finally found a place to sleep. He was deep in a dream world swaying back and forth from the gentle breeze in a canopy. Yasmin was on the phone with her legs dangling in the pool. Eric kicked off his brown old navy flip-flops and placed his legs in the pool taking a seat next to Yasmin. The cold water sent a chill up his legs. She tapped her thumb on the phone ending the call. She placed the phone on her side. Then slowly kicked her legs around in the water making waves.

“You decided to answer Jack’s calls.” Eric said trying to spark a conversation.

“You mean Robert.” Yasmin clarified. “No. That was my mom. She wanted to make sure everything was okay”.

There was no way she was going to ever speak to Robert again. Once back in town she was going to change her phone number to avoid his non-stop calls.

“Are you and your mother close?” Eric asked. His heartbeats raced ever time he talked to her. He let the honeysuckle, rose perfume she wore treat his nose. “You know, can you talk to her about anything.”

“We’re as close as a mother and child can be. I tell her the basics: I’m safe, I ate, I’m dating whoever; things like that.” Yasmin made quick glances at him, then back at the thick layer of trees at the end of the property. “What about you?”

“My family has always been close” Eric scratched the stubble around his jawline. “But my recent decision has torn a rift.” He stared off at the trees where the sun narrowly peaking above them.

“About the Marines? I didn’t know you committed yet?” She laid her pecan eyes on him, giving him her complete undivided attention for the first time.

“No, I haven’t but the fact that I’m thinking about it frightens them.”

Yasmin gripped his arm as if she can hold him from going. “It bothers me too.” She took a long, deep breath. “The thought that one of my homies will be fighting in a war in a distant land is scary. I wish you wouldn’t. I would miss you terribly. But at the end of the day it’s your choice.” She assured him as a tear hung in the corner of her eye.

Denver came out, “Dinner’s Ready!!” He yelled; then went back in.

Yasmin gently kissed Eric on the cheek then pulled her legs out the water and followed Taylor into the house. Eric stood up off the ground, legs dripping water on the warm concrete as he watched them gathering plates and utensils from the cabinets. He was confused she called him a homie and gave him a sincere kiss on the cheek. Never has he known of homies kissing each other. Asia never kissed Keith or Jordan no matter how many times he asked. Eric walked over to a sleeping Jordan. He yanked down the canopy. Jordan fell onto the emerald green grass, his right side breaking his fall.

“Let’s eat!” Eric shouted running away laughing

“I owe you!” Jordan shouted getting up off the ground, holding his side.

In the front yard Leslee and Asia were leaning against the now cooled down cars while Shaka explored the woods.

“Are we going to hear the same argument all week?” Asia asked. She remembered the last time Ethan and Leslee had an endless debate. They were deciding on what apartment to move in. Leslee wanted to move in an upscale loft with concierge, cleaning service and valet parking; that her parents offered to help pay for from their retirement money. Ethan picked a modest two bedroom, one bath apartment with no frills only wood floors throughout. In the end after five loud debates and strong brainstorming they picked Ethan’s choice.

“He just wants to get married he doesn’t trust me.” Leslee told her former freshmen dorm roommate.

“Don’t give me that. Ethan trusts you. You have the password for his cell and the pin for his debit card. If a guy trusts you with his money, he trusts you.” Asia reminded her.

Ethan gave her the pin to his debit card because he kept forgetting to pay the rent. Leslee would give him her half at the beginning of the month and he put his half in at the end of the month with hers that added up to twelve hundred a month. His forgetfulness went so far that they almost got evicted.

“That’s right!” Leslee tsked. “I stand to be corrected.” A smile emerged taking over her face.

“I don’t think it’s about trust. You’re both just panicking. Ethan just wants to make sure all his affairs are in order before he leaves.” Asia lightly nudged Leslee’s arm. “You my friend is his first priority.”

“See this is why I come to you, wise one.” Leslee jokingly said.

“Shut-up! But you know I got your back” Asia assured. She had seen Ethan go through copious amounts of girls. Leslee beat them all in a landslide.

“Now, all we have to do is get you a man. Every guy is not like Zack. What about Jordan?” Asia threw the suggestion out there.

“Hell to the no!” Asia responded shooting down the coupling of her and Jordan down. Zack was her boyfriend from high school; he got another girl pregnant during junior year. After the years of dating since high school she never knew he had a chick on the side.

“Just for fun!” Leslee said with a giggle. She stopped trying to compose herself back to a serious state. “Just for fun!” Dating Jordan could never be serious.

Ashlyn came out the front door interrupting their girl talk to inform them that her healthy meal was ready for consumption then fled back in the house. Leslee walked towards the door as Asia called for Shaka. Shaka came running from the dense woods with something clasped between his teeth. Asia bended over and pulled the triangle, metal object out of his mouth.

“What is this?” Asia studied the silver triangular piece of metal. Asia gave it little thought and threw it on the ground. She went back into the house as if what Shaka fetched was a meaningless piece of metal. Although it wasn’t, it was a calling card. It was the beginning of the end. It was an arrowhead.

 

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