In Which We Reach The Antlers
It wasn't until they crossed the Saint Croix River that Randall fully thought about what was going on. He was going to his parents' house with a girl from another planet. What kind of half baked, bizarre idea was that? How did that make any lick of sense?
Randall just shook his head.
They were in Wisconsin now, and he was relieved to be back in a state that had actual seasons. It was early Autumn, and the world was shifting hues. When he had stopped for gas in Minnesota, the air had been cool. It wasn't so cold that he wasn't comfortable in a short sleeved shirt, but it held just enough crispness to wake him up. The experience was a nostalgic one. He had only lived in southern California for six months, but the monotony of the weather had already gotten to him.
Ruth poked him in the shoulder.
"Hey, did you hear me?" she asked from the passenger seat. "I asked you a question."
Randall shook his head, "Sorry about that. I didn't hear you," he apologized. "I was just thinking about stuff."
Ruth cocked her head at him, "What were you thinking about?" He had the feeling she expected something deep and introspective. This of course, was not the case, and so it came with great chagrin that he answered her.
Randall looked back with a small amount of embarrassment, "The weather."
"Seriously?" she asked.
Randall nodded in response.
"That's... well... an exceptionally dull thing to get lost in thought about," she said with a laugh. "I just wanted to know how long it was going to be before we got to where ever we're dropping off George."
George was, yet again, snoring in the back seat.
The man seemed to spend the vast majority of him time with them unconscious. His ability to sleep through anything impressed Randall in an odd way, and wondered how one went about developing that sort of skill. His impression of George had changed over the last few days, the previous night's story not withstanding, and it turned out that George was actually sort of likable.
Even if George could be slightly condescending.
Randall finally pulled himself into the present, "There aren't really any places to stay in the town I'm from, so we'll get him a place in Eau Claire. That's about an hour away right now."
Ruth listened intently.
"After that, it's about a forty minute drive south to my folk's house," he continued. "I e-mailed my mom yesterday to tell her to expect us... of course, lord knows how she'll react to you." Randall shook his head.
With that, Ruth punched him in the arm.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked, looking almost mockingly cross. Her face then turned into a smile, "Trust me when I say this is going to be so much fun. It will be a good time."
George rumbled in the back seat and blinked awake.
"Who's going to have a good time?" asked the older, blearier traveller from the back seat. "Because if you two are thinking about making out or something, please pull over and let me get out of the car." George yawned slightly, and cleared some sleep from his eyes.
An awkward silence filled the car for quite some time.
Eventually, they reached George's temporary destination. Eau Claire was not a large place by any definition of the word, but it served as the commercial hub for that region of the state. Because of this, motels and hotels were abundant. Since George would be staying somewhere on Randall's dime though, Randall didn't choose all that extravagant of an option.
"There is seriously a place called the Antlers Motel?" George asked incredulously.
Randall looked at George, "Hey, don't knock it. It's inexpensive and the people who run it are nice." George continued to stare at the dark brown building. Randall stopped for a moment, "That, and you aren't paying for it."
Randall sighed, entered the building, and got George a room. After a few minutes of haggling, Randall gave George some money for food. This was not something Randall was all that happy with. In his ideal world, going on a road trip usually did not entail financially supporting two extraterrestrials along the way. With that, Ruth and Randall left George at the small motel, and began to drive south. Instead of merging back onto the interstate, Randall remained on the small two lane highway that led south out of town.
Randall was going home.
The drive down was quite lovely, and as Randall had driven this way a million times before, he began to navigate by reflex. He knew every turn, he knew every tiny town along the way where he'd have to brake, and he knew exactly where the radio stations changed.
It was that kind of drive.
After about forty minutes, they arrived in a town slightly larger than some of the tiny outcropping of humanity they had passed through. It's population couldn't have been that much higher than sixteen hundred, and the small highway they drove in on became its Main Street quite literally.
He had no idea he'd missed the place so much.
Randall turned right off of the main road and drove past a small grocery store. He was on his way home and he could have driven the rest of the way with his eyes closed.
Ruth looked at him and giggled.
"You have no idea how silly that grin looks on you," she said. Randall had no idea that he even had been smiling. She continued, "Now, before we go any further, I figure we should get our story straight."
Randall sighed, his trance of nostalgia broken.
"I figured we'd stick to something close to the truth," said Randall. "We met at a coffee shop near my job, you work in a music store, yadda yadda yadda." He smirked, "...and the reason I'm driving you across country is because you were supposed to drive out and see a friend, but the day my job burned down you crashed your car."
Randall turned to her, "Is that alright?"
Ruth nodded, "That works. How much longer till we actually get there now?"
"It's just up the block here," replied Randall.
With that, he pulled the car up to a two story blue and white house. It was nothing spectacular, but it was the house that Randall had grown up in. There was a large tree in the front yard, and it shaded the driveway.
"Well, we're here," said Randall, unbuckling his seat belt. "Now it's time for the most surreal experience of my life."
Ruth smiled at him, "Oh, it won't be that bad."
"You say that now, but we haven't even gotten out of the car yet," replied Randall. He shook his head, "No, it will be fine. In fact, I expect to enjoy myself... it's just still going to be ten kinds of strange."
With that Randall and Ruth disembarked from the sedan, and walked up onto the front porch. Glancing at his watch, he realized it was significantly earlier than he thought the would arrive. Apparently he'd been driving faster than he'd realized.
Randall turned the doorknob, knowing it would be unlocked.
Now there are quite a few things Randall would expect to see on the other side of the door. Perhaps the room would be rearranged, perhaps his mother would be waiting there. Perhaps no one would be home, and his parents' cat would make a mad dash out of the door. All of these things he would have been distinctly prepared for.
It should be understood then that when Randall opened the door, he was not confronted by anything remotely on that list. What he saw when he opened the door took him so by surprise that he was literally at a loss for words. In his experience, there was really nothing to prepare him for this moment.
Randall's ex-girlfriend Sarah looked up from a cup of tea towards the door and smiled, "Hey Randall."