A couple of hours past and both of them tried to hold a conversation. Caroline’s eyes were shutting down if a conversation wasn’t held. Mike was still passed out at the back, like a guy who spent three days drinking his sorry ass down to bottom – seemed like he could sleep like this until evening. Matthew and Caroline argued about music, resulting Carolines eager for sleep fade away. She wanted something aggressive like rock and Matthew wanted something peaceful like the indie kinda genre. They argued for it solid twenty minutes with radio chatter in between them. After that, they would settle on alternative rock. Both of them wasn’t big fans of it, but it sounded somewhere close to what they wanted. In the end – they found something that would satisfy them both, even if that wasn’t what they wanted.
Every piece of green land covering endless fields of countryside reminded them of the childhood spent on fields. When both of them were young and had to help their grandparents. Back then they were kids and gave out no thought about a reward for the job they helped. Nevertheless, they were adults now. They had their own lives to live on and helping grandparents weren’t an option anymore – as they were gone a long time ago. It was weird that both of them grew up in the countryside, helping grandparents cultivate the land. Two strangers who met a day ago had much more common than they knew about.
Signs for border went like a countdown, countdown to next country and disappearance from theirs. They didn’t take the highways. Highways were destined for people who were in hurry and Matthew van couldn’t label in that category. His van didn’t drive fast, with age like hers it was expected it won’t. Its engine could be heard all the time they rode and somehow they didn’t care. Old rustbucket was something else from the inside, something magical. Caroline was hyped about form the first moment she glanced in it. Somehow she knew he will begin going somewhere with it and she couldn’t wait to tag along – now she was with him, driving to South of Europe.
“How long until the border?” she yawned and flickered her eyes. Music was to calm and from staying up all night, her body told her to take a break.
“Emmm… An hour or so.”
“Okay, I’ll try to stick with you until then. If I passed out, poke me few times and I will keep you company.”
“Sure. If you want, you can take a break. I sure don’t mind steering with my thoughts and music covering over them. Plus – there is plenty of space beside Mike.” He pointed to his passed out friend and smiled.
“Sure mate. Think I’ll pass on the offer. Sure you don’t mind if take a nap right beside you. I hear it can influence drive or some sort, perhaps it’s some chicken shit, but who knows, right?”
“Yeah, I think you’re overthinking it little. I’ll be fine, no worries.”
She smiled, rolled in cozier position. Her feet extended on vans panel and she rolled together like a hedgehog, covering herself with a blanket from Matthew collection. After she passed out, he started playing the tunes he intended in beginning and sang along them. It was now just him, country roads and music from cars stereo. It went peacefully.
From time to time he checked out on both of them; glancing over his shoulder to see how Mike doing and receiving only snoring from his part. Caroline changed poses after ten or fifteen minutes, looking for one comfortable position on vans seat. Matthew felt like dad, who’s carrying a loving daughter and annoying son to field trip – a very long field trip.
More than a couple of hours passed and sign ‘border’ began appearing for the second time. Closing on to them was Latvia. Matthew knew some people from there, only because of his family. He and his family would spend Easter and Christmas there, with other distant relatives. He didn’t enjoy moving to a different country just to spend holidays there, but that’s how he met Nicole.
Nicole apparently was Matthew cousins best friend, with who he met on last Christmas. Nicole was wearing a funny elf hat that day and both of them made fun out of it. She was funny and liked every joke Matthew told her. Her smile was everything he needed, with her he spent all Christmas night thinking about ‘why gnomes make gifts, but their boss delivers them?’ That was funny and dumb topic, but they didn’t care, all they wanted was each other company. It was after that night when Matthew called her and asked if she wants to hang out.
“Hang out? But we live hundreds of kilometers from each other.” She laughed through the phone
“It doesn’t matter. I can drive to you by bus, just for a couple of hours or nights. Which one you prefer?” they both laughed
“Okay. Let me think. We spent Christmas together and now we are crazy about each other. Do you think we have to rush this? Slow and steady wins the race, you know that Matthew. I think everyone knows it.”
“That’s more like a ‘no’ than ‘yes’ I’m sensing.”
“No. No. Don’t take it the wrong way. I just had ‘experiences’ in the past. I rushed things. I wanted the flame to keep burning but forgot to give it a break. In the end, it burned out.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“All I’m saying is. We should take it slow. You know, like normal people do.”
“Are we normal people?”
“No. We sure ain’t.” they laughed and scheduled days when they would meet up.
Sometimes she went to him and sometimes he went to her. Their meeting up like this went for weeks after Christmas, following with a month. Later on, Matthew bought a van and decided to drive to her for a week. Matthew hasn’t felt like this with anyone but her, she was special to him. She loved him and he loved her. That was the perfect beginning of the year and they both thanked their parents for it.
Van was passing by the border now and surprisingly there was no one, not a single soul. Few trucks stood there, with their drivers sleeping in them. Few people walked in the far distance. Open border welcomed them to their brotherly country. Light with gingerish color suddenly appeared on his cars panel. His van began asking for fuel and that made Matthew stop after half an hour.
At the gas station that seemed familiar to one, he had near his hometown. Matthew had just come out of the shop, with a hotdog in his hand and receipt from fuel he filled – he liked to collect them, see how much he spend on his love. He was almost at the van when a strange smiling face came to his direction. Just when he has thrown the receipt in vans glove box, pushing Caroline’s legs gently; a stranger wearing military backpack approached him.
“Hey man. Nice van you got there. The mid-80s I’ guessing.”
“Yeah… Is there something particular you want?” Matthew grew curious.
“Crap, where’re my manners. Names Steven. Nice to meet a friendly face. By any chance, you’re going to Estonia?”
“Nice to meet you. Well, I just came from there and south of Europe is kinda my destination.”
“Bummer! Well, you can’t be lucky all the time. I have to ask – You’re going to South with this?” he pointed to the van.
“Yes man,” he smiled “I just hope it will hold that long.” He laughed and Steven joined him
“But I heard the ones from war, can hold up more than you expect from them.”
“I hope this one does.” Another car drove to gas station and Steven began saying last words to Matthew as he emerged to cars direction.
“Okay man. I wish you a good journey. I’ll hitchhike my way home and then… who knows. It’s always nice to meet a fellow traveler. Good luck.” He waved at Matthew and smiled.
“Good luck you to man.” Both exchanged smiles and Matthew jumped back behind the steering wheel, continuing their journey.
Right after he jumped in, Caroline’s head raised up.
“Who was he?” with a soft voice she whispered to Matthew “he seemed cute and strong, looks a little like a military dude. I would definitely lay on him.”
“Wow. Are you horny all the time?”
“Not always. Only when I wake up.” She winked at him and Matthew genuinely nodded to her.
Wheels began moving and they were again on the road. The road was different here – the same countryside feeling, but not quite. Caroline had woken up for a brief moment and fell asleep again, leaving Matthew alone with his own company. The stereo played and all three of them kept moving. Matthew was positive it will go like this for a while and that made him happy.