A Place Without YouBy: Jewel E Ann
Don’t sweat it. Everything is temporary.
I stare at the words on my thoroughly dented metal water bottle as I wait for my dad in the crowded, three-star hotel lobby filled with music enthusiasts. This will be the most epic three days I’ve ever had with my dad, and we’ve had a lot.
“Where are you?” I answer my phone, picking at the frayed hem to my high-waisted cutoffs accompanying my red crop top and tons of beaded bracelets, necklaces, and dangly earrings.
“Sweetheart, I’m still at home. I think I ate some bad sushi last night, and since then I’ve been praying to the porcelain god. I’m afraid I can’t go. Can you still get back home? Has the plane left?”
“Wait. What? You’re not coming?” His home in Oceanside, California is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive to our hotel in Indio. He has to make it.
“Henna, I’m drenched from a cold sweat, painful stomach cramps have crippled me, and I’m not sure I can make it to the bathroom without shitting my pants, let alone spend hours in the car. I’m so incredibly sorry.”
“Oh, Dad … I’m sorry. That’s awful.” And gross. I drop down onto a chair that a gentleman vacated when his wife arrived with their key cards.
“Next year. I promise. No sushi.” He tries to laugh, but all I can hear is the physical strain and weakness in his voice. “I’ll fly you out in a week or two, and we’ll do something else before school ends. Then we’ll have two weeks on the beach together this summer.”
I nod to myself, biting on my gray painted thumbnail to channel my disappointment into something more sympathetic. “That’s fine. I’ll send you video and some photos.”
“Henna, you have to go back to Colorado. You can’t be at Coachella alone. It’s not safe for a young girl like you to be there without a chaperone.”
“Dad, I’m an adult. It’s a music festival. I’ll be fine.”
“You’re eighteen. That’s not really an adult.”
“I’ll be smart.”
“Still. The answer is no.”
“Mom sent …” I stop myself. General Mitchell Lane is not as free-spirited as the mother of his child. Something tells me that the stock of condoms my mom sent with me is not going to comfort him.
“Mom sent what? A bodyguard?”
“Not exactly.” I wrinkle my nose.
“Then get back on that plane and go home. Okay?”
I shake my head. It’s Coachella. The lineup is so sick. I could die just thinking about it. There’s no way in hell I am going back home before the weekend is over. “Okay. I’ll go home.”
In three days.
“Thank you, Henna. And again … I’m so sorry.”
“No apologies. I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
There are two groups of people: those who love Coachella and those who have no clue what they are missing. I belong to the first group.
Me: You’re the coolest mom ever, right?
I grin, swiping out of my messenger screen to order a ride as I wait outside the hotel. Sushi-sick dad cancelled our reservation. Not cool.
Juni: Your dad just called me.
Juni … because my mom is too cool to be lumped into the “mom” group. So I call her Juni.
Me: Of course he did.
Juni: I’ll arrange your transportation home.
Narrowing my eyes, I frown at the screen.
Me: Such a waste of a dozen ready-to-use condoms that YOU sent with me. My first April as an adult—what happened to telling me to just “live?”
Juni: Yeah, yeah. I already made arrangements for you to stay with Lauren, unless you have friends there who have room for you. Now that your dad’s not there, I’m feeling more maternal anxiety and worry.
Me: I’ll figure something out.
Juni: BE SAFE!!!
Me: Will do. <3
Sliding into the backseat of the Prius, I hug my bag to my chest as the opposite door opens.
“Uh?” I slip out one of my earbuds, pausing my music, as I glance in the rearview mirror at the driver. “Did I get in the wrong car?”
“You clicked ride share,” the driver says.
“Oh. Okay.” I shrug and give the blond guy sliding in next to me a smile and an exaggerated once-over because he’s quite the snack.
Jeans and cowboy boots are an interesting choice for a day in the desert.
A few seconds later, he catches me assessing him and his hair again—buzzed close to his head on the sides and longer on the top. Did he forget his cowboy hat? That’s the real unsolved mystery in my head.
His lips move. I stare at them for a few breaths before I realize he’s talking. My hand tugs out my earbud again.
“Sorry. Did you say something?”
“What are you listening to?” he asks in a voice as smooth as his Mediterranean eyes.
“That’s kind of a personal question. Like asking my underwear color.”
He grins. It’s all kinds of wicked. “Personal?” He shrugs. “I don’t know about that. Depends on the song … and the color.”
“Amy Shark, ‘Adore.’ And red and silver polka dots.”