Chapter 1: Life is A Journey, Might As Well Enjoy The Ride

Palmdale, California, population 147,897. Actually, after today it would be 147,895. Today starts the next big journey of my life. After two long years at the local community college, my best friend Jade and I have our car packed to the top with all the things we have deemed necessary for our road trip to our new life In Seattle, Washington. I skip down the front steps of my childhood home, my flip flops slapping happily against the pavement carrying my final bag, the one most important to me, within it lies all of my music, every c.d I own, and a few of my favorite reads.

"Annalisa Marie Benson," my mothers soft voice calls out, sounding as stern as she can muster. I roll my eyes dramatically before turning around to and smiling widely at her.

"Yes Mom," I say, walking to her slowly enjoying the slight, yet still warm breeze that blows over our valley.

"First of all don't you think that you should put something more on. And second, did you honestly think that I would let you leave here without saying goodbye?" she asks, tears threatening to fall from her big green eyes, the same eyes that stare me in the face every time I look in the mirror.

"Ugh mom, we are going to be in the car most of the day, and second of all I would never leave without saying good bye to you," I say, reassuring her easily by wrapping my arms around her and hugging tightly. We hold this hug, longer than I think either of us intend to. I can feel it starting. The tears welling in my eyes, and I blink furiously against them, when my best friend and road trip partner Jade, her shoulder length black hair blowing freely in the slight breeze, steps out of the house holding a blanket and smiling widely. I smile back letting go and stepping back from my mom's embrace.

"Aww, Mom, its going to be okay, you know I will take care of the girl" Jade says easily, walking over to wrap her arm over my moms shoulder.

"Uh oh, now I really should worry," my mother teases lightly, placing her arm around Jade's waist, squeezing her lightly.

" That was just mean," she says, sniffling playfully trying to muster the tears that came all too easily to me. I laugh half-heartedly digging through my bag in search of my camera.

" Hold on, don't move, one last picture before we hit the road," I say, finally finding it at the bottom of my bag. I walk over to the other side of my mom and wrap my arms around her to insure that all of us are in the picture. I snap the picture quickly and look at it happy at how it comes out.

" All right, well we better get going. Love you Momma B" Jade says, pressing a slight kiss to my moms cheek, and walking to the now fully packed and ready to explode Ford Explorer. She glances once over her shoulder to give me a look that says that she is giving me the moment that I need. I turn to look at my mother, and her brilliance. I smile shakily, and try to blow through the tears. I kick the step lightly, trying to find something to say.

"Well Baby-Doll, I guess that this is it huh? I love you. I am so proud of you for making this leap, you know how proud I am of you don't you? You're the first one in the family to go to college, and don't you worry about me. I will be fine here without you, and remember you can always come back here for anything," she says, grabbing me into a rough hug.

" Oh momma, I know. I love you too, and I miss you already. Remember your cell phone charger is on the desk right by the fridge, and you will probably have to get milk before the end of the week, and don't for-"I am stopped mid-sentence, when my mom firmly covers my mouth with her hands.

" I know honey, I can take care of myself, I'm the mom remember?" she asks, smiling brightly, tears already rolling down her face.

" Okay, your right. I love you, and I better go now, or else I will unpack that car, and stay here for the rest of my life. Bye mom, I will see you later," I call over my shoulder, putting on the best strong face I can muster. I climb into the car shutting the door behind me and strapping my seatbelt on.

" So, ready to go?" Jade asks, looking over at me reading my facial expressions easily.

" Yes," I reply simply, pulling my sunglasses from my head, I start the car and start t our newest and biggest journey so far.

" Jade, please, we have been driving around all of Portland for an hour trying to find this place, and I have to pee, so please, please, please, pull the damn car over so I can go," I say, bouncing in my seat, almost in perfect rhythm of the song playing on the stereo.

" Jesus woman, you have the bladder of an old lady. I swear I think I know where this place is, just give me five more minutes," she says, looking around, instinctively biting on her lip ring. I close my eyes, trying to go to my happy place and praying that we find this place quick.

"Eureka, I found it," she yells happily, causing me to jump nervously caught off guard by the sound. I look up at the hotel she wants us to stay in and look at her.

" Are you serious?" I ask, looking back at the hotel. And I use the term hotel loosely. Its run down at best.

" Come on Ana, it has a certain, charm to it," she says, looking at me pleadingly. I groan loudly.

" Fine, fine. I don't care where we stay as long as it has a bathroom," I say, dragging myself out of the car, grabbing my bag and shutting the door behind me. I walk quickly to the lobby where I find it empty, save for a completely empty vending machine that hums loudly.

"Hello," I call out, looking around. I turn around to stare at a tattered bulletin on the wall, when a voice from behind causes me to jump and let out a small yelp. I spin around quickly pressing a hand to my racing heart, and come face to face with the person behind the counter.

" Sorry didn't mean to scare you little lady," the older man stares at me, looking me up and down. I feel myself growing increasingly nervous before he clears his throat loudly waiting for me to say something.

" Oh erm, yeah I was just hoping you had a room open," I say, easing slowly up to the counter. I watch him sit down slowly in his chair.

" Sure do, little lady," he says, grabbing a paper from the counter. He slides it across the counter towards me, and I look at it. Seems easy enough. Name, car description, how many nights we will be staying. I fill it out quickly, and slide it back to him.

" That will be forty-five fifty," he says, chewing incessantly on his tooth pick. I reach in for my wallet and decide to pull out cash instead of my credit card. I slide the fifty across the counter.

"Keep the change," I say, grabbing the key quickly from his hand and walk back outside to tell Jade all about how much she owes me for making me stay here at this hotel.

" Come on Ana, it wasn't that bad," Jade says. She has been trying to get me to talk to her for the last hour. I shoot her a look before turning my head back to the road.

"Wasn't that bad my ass," I say, glaring at the road ahead of me. " The bed, ha, cant even call it a bed. Its was a bed of torture," I say, trying not to smile.

" I will give you that, the bed sucked," she says, putting her feet up against the dash board. Just like that the mood lightens in the car as we continue to drive down the I-5.