"Suffocate, well worth the wait. Right here,
I'm all yours, my dear, tonight.
What can compare to this dimly lit masquerade shielding my hesitance,
hold, the crowds now part.
And I see you again. Bright eyes, how will this one end?"
- Remember Maine: Waiting Up
We pulled into Denver at about two in the morning, and we stumbled off the bus half-conscious and grumpy. I was perfectly content with holding Lillian in my lap all night as we slept, and I didn't appreciate interruptions.
As Lillian and I waited for the bus that would take us all the way to Reno to arrive, we sat on a bench and watched the streets, nearly empty, for it was too early on a Monday morning for anyone in their right mind to be out. It was very dark and very chilly – neither Lillian nor I had remembered a jacket, so this time I had a reason to put my arms around her. She protested, of course, worrying that I was cold and started fretting over my thin t-shirt, which was dirty and had a tear in it from the boxcar. I bit my lip to hide my smile as her old iridescence began to come back.
"I have something to show you," I whispered, letting my smile break through. I rummaged into my bag and pulled out my camera and turned it on. I shuffled through the pictures that I had taken of Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, and all the rest stops in between; Lillian's eyes widened in wonder at each shot.
"Beautiful," she said once I had reached the final one. It was a picture of Smithy's Grove at sunrise, soon before I had left on my journey. I nodded in agreement.
During my journey, I had discovered more than just the girl I loved. I had discovered the United States. I had discovered plains and mountains. But more importantly, I discovered myself. Before, I was just a kid who didn't know what he wanted out of life, who saw nothing in the future other than a long, mundane life in Smithy's Grove. I had begun to value people more, to let people into my life, good or bad. I had expanded my horizons and friendships. I didn't have one mindset anymore. And I couldn't myself be unhappy. As tranquil as Smithy's Grove was, it was my home, and when Lillian was there, I didn't mind the quiet. She was my spark, my best friend in the whole wide world.
The bus to Reno pulled up, and Lillian and I looked one last time at the road, but not for long. There was no such thing as an empty road anymore. We stood and walked slowly to the bus, our arms around each other's shoulders.
Just as I was about to step onto the bus with Lillian close behind me, I heard a voice. It was a familiar voice, a voice that caused my heart rate to dramatically speed. And before I could turn around, I was pushed up against the bus.
"You can't escape me," Lauren whispered before she took control of my lips as Lillian looked on in horror.