(Part One can be found here)
We packed what we had, I emptied my bank account, and our next step was to pick up 13 year old Stephanie from her mother's place in Clearfield, Utah. Byron also had one more surprise guest for the trip.
"My friend Jason is going to go with us," he told me once we picked Stephanie up. Stephanie scrunched in the back of the car under the hatch back with a suitcase of clothes and two pillows. I rested comfortably in the front seat next to Byron.
"Where's he going to sit?" I was perplexed. Already Stephanie was riding illegally. It was an unsafe position, perched behind the two seats in a very small space under the glass hatch back window. I wondered what her chances of survival would be if we were to slam on the breaks or get hit by another car.
"Where you are."
"Then where am I going to sit?" I already knew the answer.
"With Stephanie" he told me, still staring straight ahead at the road. Stephanie grinned wildly in the rear view mirror. My face was the polar opposite. I thought for a brief second of calling the whole thing off. I should have.
When we pulled up to the dingy, run down trailer by the CVS Pharmacy in the bad part of town, I wondered what kind of a person it was we would be picking up here. I didn't have to wonder long. Just as I finished scrambling over the seat to find a nest by Stephanie, Jason walked out with a small suitcase in his hands. It was all I could see until he found a spot between my knees to shove it into. My view for the next 150 miles was focused squarely in the back of his head.
Jason was 20 years old, about 6'2 from what I could tell, and was another cowboy like Byron. He was also overly macho and believed that all men were created to rule the world, while women should only speak when spoken to and be found in the kitchens of America, barefoot and pregnant. I was appalled on every level and made no secret of it.
Somehow, scrunched up with Stephanie in the back of the CRX, I managed to get comfortable. The sun coming in through the slanted hatch back was glaring into my eyes, blinding me as I tried to relax. I finally borrowed Byron's hat to cover my face and leaned back, leaving him to be the subject of ridicule for his hat hair. I shut my eyes and drowned out the sound of Jason's taunting and Stephanie's incessant "little girl" giggle. Eventually, I dozed off.
When I woke up, I was drenched in sweat. We had been on the road for about 2 hours and were driving through the desert at around 40 miles an hour, other cars whizzing past us as though we were sitting still. I could tell from the sound that the car motor was working as hard as it could. The high pitched whining drowned out whatever conversation was going on in the front seat.
"It's so hot in here," I complained. I wasn't known for complaining.
"I knew we shouldn't have brought the girls," Jason said sardonically. "They just bitch and complain all the time."
Much to my chagrin, Byron laughed.
"Hey," I threw in, "this was OUR trip and we invited you."
"Shows what you know," Jason retorted. "This whole trip was my idea."
I lifted the hat from my eyes and looked directly at the rear view mirror. Byron briefly glanced my direction and looked straight back at the road. That was all the confirmation I needed. It was actually I who had been invited along.
We stopped for a while and bought some bottles of water for the road. As we sat baking in the heat, I could feel my skin beginning to scorch. I was afraid to say anything because of Jason's attitude, but I knew that I would sunburn faster than anyone else in our small party. I knew that I would survive though, so I just kept my mouth shut. To me, we were off for an adventure. We had a long way to go still and I didn't want problems along the way.
Jason and little Stephanie started getting along really well. She had developed a crush on him many years previous. Finally, due to lack of options, Jason noticed she was becoming a young woman - though a little chunky she was. When we got back on the road, she complained about her legs feeling cramped up, so she climbed over the seat and sat in Jason's lap for a while. He didn't seem to mind. In fact, the 20 year old invited the 13 year old girl up.
We finally stopped for the night near Lake Havasu. Byron had a tent somewhere in the mess where Stephanie and I had been sitting all day that the boys put up. While they worked on the tent, a man in a near by cabin watched us closely. The cabin advertised that it had groceries for campers, so the guys finished up and went in to find something for dinner. When they came out, they had a can of chili, a bag of Frito's, a saute pan and very wide eyes.
"Oh wow. You'll never believe what just happened," Byron said. "That guy in there just offered us $100 for an hour with one of you two girls." Appalled, my face grew red with anger and disgust. I nearly got up and went over to say something to the man but Byron stopped me.
"Let her go," Jason said. "Maybe he'll rape her and we can get the $100 from him." Byron smirked, but we all knew that Jason was only half way kidding. I sat back down and tried to hide from the perverts gaze. He sat in his rocking chair on the front porch of the cabin, looking like a horror scene from Deliverance. Every step we took, his eyes would follow us girls. Chills ran up and down my spine and I knew deep inside that the man was evil. I prayed that the boys didn't leave us alone at all that night.
The boys tried to make a camp fire, but failed miserably for the first hour. All of our stomachs were growling and each of us were growing impatient. When the fire finally got started and the can of chili was pried open with a pocket knife, the smell of it hitting the hot pan made us double over in anguish at the hunger. Even before the chili was hot, the bag of Frito's were opened and we had eaten about half of the contents.
We didn't change into night clothes, we just went into the tent with our clothes on and slept like that. We couldn't wait to get out of that place. Stephanie and I were afraid to even go to the bathroom in the night. We knew the old man was still watching, waiting for his moment to pounce on one of us. It was a very long night.