There is something magical about California.
You just feel lighter somehow, like your cares couldn't get through airport security or something. I turn to my best friend as we wind along the road in our hire car and laugh, we throw our heads back and howl open mouthed, my brother looking at us with mild concern. Maybe he's too old and he doesn't get it anymore, but then he wraps his long arms around us and now he's laughing so hard his eyes are closed tight shut. You wouldn't understand unless you were there, that it's the landscape, the feel of everyone you love so close it feels like you could wrap them up in a single moment and hold onto them forever that's the punch line.
Along the way we play eye spy and chatter excitedly, even Mom and Dad join in, telling us about all the boring stuff they are going to do like play golf whilst I pull faces of disgust at Anna. She and Matt are quiet, they hold hands and he points out sights from the many postcards we've sent her over the years. Anna looks across the ocean on awe, her eyes wide as though if she blinks something could be missed, whilst Matt has only eyes for Anna, as though seeing the world reflected in her eyes only makes it more beautiful.
There's a pang in my chest as I turn away from their intimacy, it's not that I'm jealous he's getting most of Anna's attention, and they are certainly very PG about their relationship. I just envy them; I want someone to look at me that fondly, I used to hear him sneak out at night to see her, so that every morning he walked around like a zombie. I've had boyfriends, but none of them were exactly love material.
There was Peter who was on the football team, but our dates consisted of some kissing outside my locker followed by the quick demise of the relationship when he tried to put his hand up my top at a party. Then there was a foreign exchange student I'd had a huge crush on that I'd eventually kissed at a dance before he went back home. Finally just recently there had been Antony. Tall with jet black hair and dazzling green eyes, I'd been smitten from the moment I sat next to him in Biology; he took me on a real date. We'd gone to a fancy Italian restaurant; it had been ever so romantic, afterwards he'd walked me home and kissed me outside my house all slow and passionate like in the books I'd read. Not like Peter who seemed to think kissing involved sticking as much of your tongue in someone's mouth as physically possible, I mean really yuk.
Antony and I went out for a few weeks, we went on four dates, and we kissed pretty much constantly. Then out of nowhere he broke up with me for his old girlfriend Jenny, I was so upset I gave her evils in the school corridors even now. There was a rumour going round that they had gone all the way, I couldn't help but wonder if that's why he broke up with me. Anna says I'm too good for him, but that's what your best friend is supposed to say when you break up. If she and Matt ever break up I have no idea what I'd say, as far as I can see they are perfect for each other.
All this makes it far harder to enjoy the drive, I start to get moody, my face getting steadily sourer till Dad suggests we stop and take a break. I apologise and tell them it's just the heat getting to me, before walking over the cliff edge we've parked at. Matt comes over and hugs me, we're closer than most siblings and so even though I'm still not really back to normal I return the embrace.
"Why don't you sit in the middle for the rest of the way? I'm sick of you taking up the window seat."
He says it jokingly, but I can tell it's a peace gesture, that he wants to give me some time to have Anna to myself so I smile gratefully at him for a second before giving him a playful shove.