*Declaimer: I am not Ellen Hopkins.*

*And sorry if some of it sounds a bit disorderly but I messed up a lot on explaining the camping and setting up the tent part since I have little knowledge of that experience hehe. Hope you enjoy, nonetheless.*


We weren't

Exactly where we were

When we went on our


Of course,

We wouldn't have enough


To find the spot where


But what we did know

Was that we'd been

In the desert east of Reno

And Tony even contacted

Dr. Starr

To ask more or less how to

Get there.

We agreed

That we would only

Go as far as where

We'd started off,

Leave our message

For Conner,

Spend one night,

And pack up and leave

As fast as we could

In the morning.

I'm actually

Really nervous.

Tony glances

At my stiff expression

While maneuvering the


Through the rough


His father had presented


With a new car

When he moved in with him.

Things seemed to be working out

For Tony.


"You're so pretty,"

I can't help saying aloud

As I glance at Vanessa,

Sitting with her back ramrod


In the passenger seat of my


Jeep Wrangler.

The idea would have been

So laughable

A year ago.

Me with a new car.

Not even in my wildest


But things were

Working out

For Dad and me,

Even for Talia, my dad's


And me.

We had many a laugh

In the kitchen

As we attempted to conjure up

Something edible and anything but


Now, if only

Things could work out

For Vanessa and me.

She gave me a tiny smile

After I'd complimented her

But it was too small

Compared to the brilliancy

That I knew she was capable of.

So I inquire,

"Are you okay?"

The muscles in her neck tighten

As she looks out the window,

She brushes a strand of hair behind her ear

With shaky fingers.

I'm kind of worried about what Daddy

Would think

If he found out.

For a moment

I don't know

What to say.

"Yeah," I finally

Try to make a crack

Out of it,

"I'm guessing an all-round

Tough as hell

Army major

Such as your father

Wouldn't be too happy

About finding out that

His only daughter

Is now in love

With a once gay loser."

I glance at Vanessa again

And her hands are clenched

Into fists.

I bet her nails are digging into

Her skin

Something fierce too.

"Hey, careful there," I say

In a quieter voice,

"Don't hurt yourself."



I can work this out

With Daddy.

I mean, I've gotten through

A lot already, haven't I?

My father is just another


In this continuing challenge.

Maybe Grandma can help me.

Oh, who am I kidding?

Daddy is too grounded

On his opinions to be


The possibility of his

Approving of Tony

Is downright slim,

Almost an



And just when we were

Starting to even form

A relationship of our own


Talk about tragic.

But if I had to choose between


And Tony,

I would have to pick the one who

Needs me most.

And that's Tony

Because he's been abandoned

And pushed around

His whole life

From what I've heard,

Never having the chance

To be a regular teenager,

Only experiencing love once

And losing it so tragically.

I mean, maybe

The reason why

We both made it

Through Aspen Springs

Was because

We had given each other




So Daddy

I can deal with.

Tony, I can't

Let go of.

I know this is serious,

Tony is staring at me

With an apologetic look

In his fiery eyes,

I don't mean to be a jackass.

Keeping one hand around the wheel,

He stretches his other hand over to

Lay it on my cheek.

I'm just trying to make you smile.

My mouth responds to his exact wish,

Widening into a decent smile.

"I know," I reassure him warmly,

"But you should keep your eyes on the road."

His hand slides down my cheek,

Slowly grazing my neck,

Finally falling to the hand that I had clenched

Over my knee.

He gives me a wink

Before turning his eyes

Back to the road ahead.

Though, the idea of

Just driving off with you

Is pretty tempting right now.

I grin.

"In other words, you'd kidnap


Tony smirks.

Not exactly…kidnapping since

You'd be with me willingly.

I nod, feeling my face fall.

"I guess you're right."


A minute later

Her face is sullen


"But you won't do it,

Will you?" I predict.

She turns her head

Towards me and

Her eyes are the saddest

I had ever seen.

There's nothing more

She can say.

We slow to a crawl

At the site of

Nothing but

Rocks, dust and a

Hiking trail

That marks the spot

Where we should

Start off from.

I put the car in park

But hesitate with my hands

Sticking to the steering wheel.

"Do you think," I ask slowly,

My eyes fixated on the nothingness


"We should keep sneaking out here

And try to find the cliff where it happened?

Or do you think it's better if we just end it


Vanessa is silent for a long time. Her auburn

Eyelashes brush against her cheeks once and

I wonder if she's fighting back tears

However, when she speaks her voice is firm.

Since we're short on time, we should just

Pretend it's good-bye for now, she murmurs,

If we get another chance, maybe we can make it

A real hiking expedition to the ridge.

I look at her a minute longer in my peripheral vision,

Then say, "Okay,"

And swerve the car into the base just below the hiking


We're here.


A ball of hot desert dust

Blows in my face,

Making my eyes itch.

I wipe my lids with the

Back of my hand

As we unload the jeep.

It's summer,

Which makes sneaking out

Much easier, I guess.

Daddy might not mind too


If I get home late

Since there's no school.

I really hope so…

Every time I start to


My stomach flips over


So I try to concentrate

On other things.

In the trunk of Tony's jeep

There's a fancy-looking

Folded-up tent,

A bundle of blankets,

(Looks like four of them),

Two sleeping bags,

Water bottles and thermoses,

And a cardboard box with compartments

That I have no clue what they are for

Until I peer inside.

Tony comes around to the back of the car

And chuckles.

"They're a thousand times better than MREs,

I promise," he pulls out a protein bar and adds,

"Healthier too."

I smile down at the protein bars, mini bags of pretzels,

Cheeses, juice boxes, a few cans of soda even, fruit…

Tony told me when we'd spoken on the phone

Not to worry about bringing anything, to entrust him

With the preparations.

Apparently, he was dependable.

Tony pulls out the tent and

Begins looking for an

Adequate place

To set it up.

The sky overhead

Is perfectly clear

But the sunlight isn't blinding

Like on a regular summer day

In Nevada.

However, I expect it

To get pretty cold

At nighttime.

For the time being, I shed

My heavy jacket and

Trample happily in my boots.

Our experience with the tent is

A bit hesitant

But otherwise, successful as we

Recalled the tactics we learned

The year before

On our hiking trip

With the aids from the rehabilitation clinic.

Once Tony begins setting up the pegs,

Preparing to nail down our construction,

I rush over to help him assemble the sections.

"Did your dad help you select some of this stuff?"

I inquired with a smile evident on my face.

He grinned.

He suggested what he thought was the most dependable.

Slowly, I crouched down next to him, my smile slipping,

"Does he know about…me?" the question slipped out

Before I could catch myself.

But Tony turned back to the hammer and peg

Without much concern on his face.

I told him I was meeting you here, told him we were

Going to…pay our respects to our friend. He didn't

Make such a big deal about, didn't ask a lot of questions,

Just that I keep my phone turned on so we could check up

On me.

I diverted my gaze.

"Oh," was all I could think to respond.

Tony gave one hit with the hammer, then

Looked back to me.

I think he's scared of prying to just end up

Losing me.

His lips were pressed down in a serious line

As he said this.

But he winked at me suddenly and returned

To his work, all traces of worry gone once more.

I was rounding the jeep to get

The inflatable mattress

When Tony's voice sounded

Behind me,

"Let me get that," he said

So I moved over towards

The sleeping bags.

Tony must've reached for

The mattress

But at the last minute

Grabbed my hand instead,

I didn't see when he did this.

When I look up, his eyes are closed,

His forehead pressed against mine

And my back is firm against the

Side of the jeep,

Tony's lips lock with mine.

I knew this was coming.

A moment we would want to

Let go of feelings, every restraint.

Escape from reality,

Escape from the memories.


Vanessa makes a movement

Like she's about to pull away

So I don't let her.

I capture her lips again.

She utters this sound like

She can't decide if she should

Break off



I want to make her want



I bring my hands,

Which are wrapped around

Her wrists

Down to her waist.

I'm afraid of surrendering her mouth

In case she says, "no"

So I continue kissing her greedily

Until I feel one of her hands lift

To the back of my head,

Her fingers clutch at my hair.

When my lips leave hers alone,

Vanessa leans her head back

Against the jeep

With a sigh.