Four friends, Clarissa, Paul, Joanie, and Tara were walking through their old stomping grounds, the Border Forest. The name was a misnomer as the forest actually lived in the middle of the town they grew up in. Tara had brought her boyfriend, Jim, for the occasion, to ‘meet her past’ as she said it. Her past, however, was doing their best to keep Tara’s insisting voice out of their heads.
As Tara looked about to say something, Clarissa quickly started, “I remember that time your dad, Joanie, tried to take us camping.” She snorted as she started laughing hard. The others laughed at her. She continued when she could breath again, “And we ended up eating at Denny’s every night!”
The others laughed at the memory. Except for Tara, she plunged right in, “Oh my goodness. That was such a horrible vacation. I can’t believe we came out of that alive. What an exciting adventure.”
Paul choked trying not to laugh. The inside joke between Paul, Clarissa, and Joanie was that Tara was a robot. She never expressed her emotions. Anything and everything she said was done without a change in tone, or inflection. ‘What an exciting adventure’ might as well have been ‘I eat beans’.
Paul, on the other hand, jumped on his toes when he talked. He flailed his arms so much he once knocked out one of Clarissa’s teeth. So, Paul literally jumped into the conversation, “It wasn’t that bad! I mean Denny’s rules! And we won that contest there, remember that!”
“Oh yeah!” Clarissa exclaimed.
“Oh yeah.” Tara monotoned.
“Jim and I had a great time last night with the Hendersons.” Tara moved on. Her soft voice dripped with pride. “That’s Jim’s family’s friends.”
“Oh that reminds me, how’s your uncle doing, Joanie?” Paul asked.
Jim continued with Tara, “Yeah, they’ve been a part of my life since I was a baby. So it was nice to see them again. Even though they were just passing through.”
Tara beamed at Jim.
“Oh, his heart’s fine. The surgery was really successful.” Joanie answered Paul.
“Remember when I had that surgery on my foot?” Tara asked, taking a look at her foot as though it might still need surgery, “It still hurts from time to time.”
“Wasn’t that just stitches?” Clarissa recalled.
“It felt like surgery, Clarissa.” Tara explained.
“Oh.” Clarissa bit her tongue, “Got it.”
Tara continued, “They, the Hendersons, live in Arkansas, but are making their way up to Maine for the summer. They showed us pictures of their road trip. It looked fun.” Tara finished with absolute certitude that the Hendersons were having fun.
Paul politely “Mmhmed” and stuffed his hands in his pockets.
“Oh, and my parents are having a cookout this weekend. You all are welcome to come. We’ll be making burgers and my dad wants to try and make his own fries. You should come just to see that.” Tara rolled her eyes at her obviously obnoxious dad.
“Your dad can be so funny sometimes.” Jim giggled, poking her nose.
“I know. He’s such a silly goose.” Tara laughed.
No one else laughed.
“You know, we should probably head back. “Joanie finally spoke up. She looked everywhere but at Tara.
Clarissa agreed, “Yeah. Let’s take the other way…it’s shorter.”
“Oh yes, it is shorter.” Tara knew. She instantly turned around and started heading back to the cars hand in hand with Jim.
It took a moment but eventually, after staring at Tara’s retreating back, the other three followed.
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