Forward from Nine:

It’s been a while since I posted a story. I saw some criticism that I put out too much “extra crap”, and I probably took it to heart more than I should have — it was a single person’s complaint. This story was actually requested, in a sense! After some readers saw my comments on my last Friday Update about “The Adventures of Tara and Kylie on the Beltway”, they thought it’d be nice to see Tara and Kylie interacting in the time before Mythos. A million ideas sprung to mind, so I took some of them and wrote this story.

Note that since this story actually heavily features the main character, I couldn’t get away with using gender-neutral pronouns and only names like “Ky” or “Nelson” to account for if your version of Kylie may be male. This story happened in the Mythos canon, and it’s not too difficult to mentally change out Kylie for Kyle if you can ignore all the gender references (and one mention of a bikini top).

“The Road to Nowhere”

August 31st, 2018
10:47 AM
Lansdowne, Maryland

Kylie shouldered a purple duffel bag over her shoulder as she carefully moved down her staircase. It was a force of habit – she was often making sure Buffy wasn’t underfoot, but she’d already dropped off the dog at her parents’ house for the week. Once she arrived in the living room, she plopped down the bag next to her carry-on suitcase, making sure not to crush any of the grocery bags full of snacks right beside it. 

Crouching down beside the assortment covering the carpet, she began checking through her bags for the second time.

Or perhaps it was the third?

Before she could realize that it was, indeed, the sixth time for her to check if all of her items were present, the sound of a horn blaring from outside cut through her thoughts. Kylie cringed, knowing full well the source of that noise.

“God dammit, Tara…”

She rose to her feet with a sigh, moving to the front door to look upon the bright red vintage pickup truck sputtering in front of her home. 

“You can come in, you know!” Kylie shouted over the din of the ancient engine.

A very familiar face surrounded by a mass of untamed blondeness poked out of the driver’s-side window. 

“Why? We’re just gon’ head right back out!” called Tara in response, grinning widely.

Kylie rolled her eyes. “Just get in here! I need to make sure I have everything!”

Leaving the door open, Kylie went back to her pile of provisions and checked through the for the third/seventh time. The raucous sound of the truck shut off, and the sound of Tara’s boots in the front hall replaced it. 

“What the hell’s all this?” Tara snorted, looking over the bags scattered around the floor.

“It’s everything!” Kylie replied defensively, “all the snacks we need, my clothes, toiletries, some extra food, some maps in case our phones die, tools–”

Tools?” Tara cut Kylie off, “we’re goin’ on a road trip, not buildin’ a cabin!” 

“You never know what can go wrong out there!” came Kylie’s indignant reply, turning to face her friend, “I just want to be prepared!”

“See, this shit is exactly why you need a vacation,” Tara smirked, “you’ve been an uptight mess!”

“I’m.. I’m not!”

“Yeah, you are! You have been ever since…” Tara drifted off, clearly thinking better of bringing up Kylie’s recent breakup, “… ever since these past few months.”

Kylie looked down, partially knowing Tara was right, and partially because she was remembering Lisa suddenly ending their relationship. 

“Sorry,” Kylie said meekly, after a moment, “I guess we can leave the emergency camping kit behind…”

“Woman!” laughed Tara, moving to grab some of the bags of snacks, “for one thing, I ain’t mad about the snacks. This’ll be good for today.”

“Today?!”

“But anyway,” Tara continued, heedlessly, “it’s your birthday! You gotta relax! Let’s just get this shit in the truck and–”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Kylie rushed in front of Tara before she could leave the house, “your truck? I thought we were taking my car?”

“Your car? You want us both stuffed in that lil’ thang?”

“My car isn’t little! Not only that, it doesn’t make noises like it’s about to fall apart!”

“My truck is in perfect condition!”

Tara had turned and moved up to be face-to-face with Kylie, though with Tara’s height it was more like face-to-chin. 

“Does Slappy even have enough room in the cab for all these snacks?” Kylie challenged.

“For one thing, it’s Sleipnir. And for another, it ain’t like the two of us are that big! We can put yer bag in the bed.”

Kylie let her eyes linger on Tara’s for a moment before smirking. “Birthday.”

Tara blinked, her annoyance vanishing in her confusion. “What?”

“Birthday,” Kylie repeated smugly, “it’s my birthday, and I say we take my car.”

“You can’t just use that as an excuse to get your way all day!” Tara huffed, “we’re takin’ my truck!”

August 31st, 2018
1:06 PM
I-95 near Richmond, Virginia

Kylie’s fingers tapped on the steering wheel as she maneuvered her car through some relatively light traffic. She was half-singing along to the soundtrack to “The Greatest Show,” clearly not knowing all the words, but doing her best to fake it. Tara was slumped in the passenger seat, dropping an empty family-size Dorito’s bag on the floor before reaching into the back seat to get an equally-sized bag of Utz potato chips. 

“This album can’t be that long,” Tara growled irritably, pulling her next sack of salty snacks into her lap.

“Oh, it isn’t,” replied Kylie with a smirk, “I’ve repeated it twice, now.”

“What?” Tara squeaked, suddenly sitting upright. “You bitch, that means it’s been my turn!”

Kylie practically cackled, but relinquished the aux cord to her passenger. Still glowering, Tara dug around in her bag until she produced a portable CD player. As she plugged the cord into the device, Kylie took a double-take at what Tara was up to.

“Is that a fucking CD player? Ready to play the hits from nineteen-ninety-fucking-four?”

“Hey!” Tara shot back, “I’ll have you know this is an MP3 CD player! I burned my songs onto discs so there’s a lot of music on ‘em!”

“What did you burn it with, a 486?” Kylie continued, mockingly. “Just pull up Spotify or at least put the files on your phone, you psychopath!”

“I ain’t got no Spotify,” Tara growled, with just the barest hint of a pout, “and I could never figure out how to get files off my computer onto my phone. I hate these damn things.” 

“Swear to God, Tara… if I hear one Toby Keith song…”

“Did you just name the only Country singer you could think of? Just ‘cause I like the music don’t mean I like all the music! I mostly like the stuff Grandma usedta listen to.”

“All my hopes rest on Miss Edda having good taste in music, then…”

Kylie chortled at herself, but kept her eyes on the road as traffic was starting to pick up as they neared the interchange with I-295 – which meant she didn’t see the brief, sad smile Tara had at the mention of her late grandmother. 

As much as Kylie wanted to roll her eyes when she heard the CD player whirring to life, the sound that came through the speakers made her pause and listen. At first it was few heavy piano chords, which were soon joined by… a typewriter. As Kylie furrowed her brow, trying to place where she’d heard the familiar intro before, Tara began to sing along in perfect time (though definitely not in perfect tune).

Tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen,
Pour myself a cup of ambition,
Yawn and stretch and try to come to life…

The realization slowly dawned on Kylie, unable to help but break into a wide grin as Tara continued. The little blonde was now leaning toward Kylie, her head tilted up to her friend’s as she kept singing along… perhaps a little flirtily. 

Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumpin’,
Out on the street the traffic starts jumpin’
With folks like me on the job from nine to five…

When the familiar chorus hit, the song had finally reached the point where Kylie knew the words. Soon her voice joined Tara’s as the two belted out along with Dolly:

Workin’ nine to five!
What a way to make a livin’.
Barely gettin’ by,
It’s all takin’ and no givin’.
They just use your mind
And they never give ya credit.
It’s enough to drive ya crazy if ya let it!

The bickering of the music was all-too-quickly forgotten as Kylie and Tara gleefully sang along, bopping in their seats. Neither of them even seemed to care much that traffic slowed to a crawl due to a fender-bender up ahead.

And for the first time in months, Kylie wasn’t thinking about Lisa.

August 31st, 2018
10:47 PM
Richmond Hill, Georgia

It had been a long day of driving for the two ladies. Somewhere around Raleigh, they stopped for gas, and Tara took the wheel while Kylie ate a hot dog of questionable origins. As it started to grow late, the pair decided to look for a place to stay for the night; they certainly couldn’t take the entire drive in one go.

Unfortunately, even with Kylie’s attempt at being prepared, the two of them underestimated how hard it could be to get a hotel room on Labor Day weekend. After calling around from inside a Burger King, they found a vacancy at a motel just a little bit outside of Savannah. 

Upon arriving, they discovered that the air conditioning hadn’t been turned on, thus inside of the room was somehow even hotter than the outside. Even though they arrived after nightfall it was still nearly ninety degrees. Kylie cranked up the AC to the maximum, then she and Tara changed into shorts and their swimsuit tops to wait outside for things to cool off. 

Parked just outside of their room for the night, Kylie and Tara sat on the hood of Kylie’s car, laying back with their heads resting upon the windshield. They both cradled blissfully cold bottles of soda, looking up at the moon. 

“Is that a full moon?” Kylie asked idly after taking a gulp of Dr Pepper.

Tara was still sipping on her Mountain Dew, but hummed out a negative response. “Naw,” she finally said as she’d finished nearly half the bottle in one pull, “waning gibbous.”

Kylie rolled her head to the side to glance at Tara, eyebrow raised. “Waning gibbous,” she repeated, “listen to you, being all astrological.” 

“Hah, hardly,” sighed Tara, her eyes never leaving the sky, “I just know the moon phases. I paid attention in science.”

“You don’t pay attention to anything,” teased Kylie, “I bet you’re a werewolf.”

Tara guffawed loudly at that, which made Kylie giggle and make shushing noises. “It’s late!” Kylie half-whispered while still laughing, “can’t have your loud-ass wolf laughing waking up the people of this fine establishment.”

“Yeah, I’m sure the folks paying hourly for their rooms are just sleepin’ in there,” Tara chuckled back, before taking a much more reasonable drink from her bottle.

The two lay quietly on Kylie’s car for a few minutes in silence, illuminated by the moonlight and a flickering lamp attached to the motel. The crickets seemed louder to Kylie than they had in Baltimore, though to Tara it sounded more like home. 

“You ever think about how set you are?” Tara finally asked.

Kylie blinked, pondering the meaning of the question. “How ‘set’ I am?”

“Yeah, how set you are,” repeated Tara. “Like your job, your future plans… do you feel like you got it all figured out?”

“I mean…” Kylie began to reply, before trailing off to truly consider it, “I guess I thought I had it figured out. Keep working at the Chesapeake, Lisa would maybe get a Law degree or just do… I dunno, something else at the law firm that would pay well. We’d buy the house from my dad, or he’d just give it to us after renting it for long enough… I guess that all kinda fell apart.”

Tara sucked on her teeth, considering Kylie’s reply. “So you’re in my boat, now. Yeah, I got grandma’s house, but I can’t work at a gas station forever, right? Even if I became the manager, is that really what I wanna do for the rest of my life?”

Draining the last of her Dr Pepper as she listened, Kylie let out a sigh. “Why are you asking that, anyway? We’re not even that far into our twenties. Nobody has their shit together yet, unless their family is rich.”

“I guess,” Tara relented. “But sometimes I just worry that like… nothin’ in my life is gonna matter.”

“You and me both,” sighed Kylie, tapping the empty soda bottle against her thigh idly. “It’s not like we never have to think about it, though. Maybe we just shouldn’t worry about it right now. Especially since we’re on vacation, which was your idea.”

Tara snickered at Kylie’s teasing, rolling off the side of the car to stand and stretch. 

“Yeah, yeah, but I’m gonna make ya enjoy this, even if I have to beat the shit outta ya. I’mma go check to see if the room’s cooled off, yet.”

“Good idea,” Kylie nodded, remaining laying on her car. “God, we haven’t shared a bed since we were kids…”

Tara was thankful that she was turned away from Kylie at that moment; her eyes went wide, her breath caught in her chest. She swallowed before responding. “Heh… yeah. But if you start snorin’ I’m kickin’ yer ass onto the floor!”

As Tara went back inside to check on the temperature, Kylie’s attention was focused onto the moon once more. She frowned, pondering Tara’s question again. Was there any real plan for the future? She hadn’t considered a life without Lisa. 

Letting out a long breath, Kylie could only assume that everything in her life moving forward would likely be boring and mundane.

The duo left the motel early, arriving in Key West on Saturday evening. Tara would tease whenever she caught Kylie “subtly” checking out a girl on the beach, and Kylie would point out any guys she thought Tara would possibly find attractive. 

Oddly, Tara never seemed very interested, commenting about how the men had “too many muscles,” or “too much of a tan.” 

While the destination for their trip was ostensibly their reason for going in the first place, years later both of them would remember the true adventure being the journey to get there. And, of course, their journey to get back.

But that’s a completely different tale…

17