Dorthea took a last walk through the apartment, assuring herself that nothing had been overlooked in their preparations to be away for two weeks. Satisfied, she walked to the door carrying the final piece of luggage to be taken out to the car. She pulled the door closed and locked it then turned and walked down the hallway.
"Is that all of it?" Kim asked when Dorthea appeared.
"Yes. I locked the apartment and left the note in the manager's box," Dorthea told her, setting the suitcase next to the other items Kim had already placed inside the station wagon. The rear seats had been laid flat to provide room for their suitcases and the ice chest packed with lunch meats, cheese, and other snacks. They decided to leave the second row of seats in the upright position while traveling to keep the luggage from sliding around the large, open space. They could easily fold the seats down whenever they needed to for sleeping.
Kim pulled a sheet of paper out of her shirt pocket. "Let see, suitcases? Check. Ice box. Check."
"We need ice for it."
"We'll stop for that after we visit Faye."
"Blankets and pillows. Check."
"Are you sure it's safe to sleep in the car?"
"Yes. We'll just be sure to pick places where there are lots of people around like the rest stops along the freeways. We don't have to do it every night but it'll help stretch our money if we do. Just like the ice box will save us from having to eat in restaurants all the time."
"I'm not sure I'm as convinced as you are, but I'm willing to give it a try."
Kim smiled. "That's my girl. Looks like we've got everything. Ready to go?"
"Absolutely. I can't wait to see everything between here and California."
Kim laughed as she swung the tailgate shut then gave it a good yank to make sure it had properly latched. "I doubt we'll see everything but that is one of the nice things about having the car. We can go as fast or as slow as we want; and we can stop and sightsee whenever we want."
"That's two things," Dorthea teased walking to the front of the wagon. "I don't think we'll have time to do much sightseeing but I'm glad to have the car for another reason."
"What's that?" Kim asked pulling the driver's door open.
Dorthea waited until they were both seated before answering. "I'm really looking forward to having time to get to know each other."
Kim inserting the key into the ignition and the engine roared into life. "We've lived together thirty years. What could we possible not know about one another?" she asked as she carefully backed out of the parking spot.
Dorthea smiled shyly. "Us."
"Us? Oh, us! Yeah," Kim grinned, "we'll have lots of time for that."
Kimberly used her shoulder to push the door to Faye's room open, the twisted twine handles of a paper bag grasped firmly in each hand. She paused before fully entering the room. "Good morning," she said cheerfully seeing the room's occupant sitting up in bed. She carried the sacks into the room and set them on the dressing table. "How's breakfast?" she asked.
Faye grimaced, pushing her spoon into a dish on the tray balanced on her lap. "Not very appetizing," she muttered.
Kim took a close look at the morning offering of some kind of cooked cereal and a slice of toast. "Maybe we should have brought food instead of magazines."
Faye lifted the piece of unbuttered wheat toast. "How about both?" she asked hopefully before nibbling on the burnt bread. "Where's Dorthea?"
"She'll be here in a minute," Kim answered, sitting on the room's only chair. "She had to make a stop."
The women sat in awkward silence, Faye playing with her tasteless meal while Kim watched. The uncomfortable quiet was broken only when Dorthea entered the room several minutes later. "Good morning, Aunt Faye," she greeted the elderly woman than maneuvered alongside the bed to kiss her on her cheek.
"My, aren't you two just a pair of chirpy birds this morning," Faye said, bending forward to push the tray to the foot of the bed.
"You're not hungry?" Dorthea asked of the mostly untouched meal.
"Not for that slop," Faye groused.
Kim stood and gestured to Dorthea to sit in the chair. "I'll be back in a few," she said shuffling around the end of the bed to the door.
"Where are you going?" Dorthea asked.
Kim pulled the door open. "I won't be long," she answered evasively before disappearing out of the room.
"I wonder what she's up to," Dorthea murmured watching the door close. After a moment, she turned her attention back to Faye. "Did she tell you we brought you some more magazines?" she asked scooting around the bed to the dressing table. She began taking the magazines out of the bags. "Two bags worth. These should keep you busy for a while," she added, stacking them neatly on top of the table.
Dorthea looked over her shoulder and smiled. "You're welcome."
"You don't have to look at me like I've never said that before," Faye grumbled meekly.
Dorthea thought for a moment then sat on the chair. "Well, come to think of it, I'm not sure you ever have." When Faye dropped her eyes, Dorthea reached over and placed her hand on top of the elderly woman's nervously twitching ones. "It's nice to hear you say it," she said gently squeezing the frail hands under her own. "But you really should thank Kim." When Faye's head bopped slightly in agreement, she smiled and sat back. "Now, since Kim has deserted us, I might as well get this over with," she started.
"The reason we're came so early today is that we're going to be gone for a while."
Faye looked apprehensively at her. "You're leaving?"
"Don't worry, Aunt Faye," Dorthea assured her as she again placed her hand on Faye's. "It will only be for a couple of weeks then I'll be back."
"Where are you going?"
"Why on earth for?"
"Because I think my father may be there."
"You found him?" Faye asked in a soft voice.
Dorthea sighed. "No, not really. But that's the last place he was heard from— he sent a family in Kalona a postcard from Gardena. That's a city near Los Angeles."
"Los Angeles. Isn't that a pretty big place; and dangerous. You looking to get yourself killed… or worse?"
Dorthea laughed. "You've been reading too many of these magazines about starlets in Hollywood. Which, for the record, is one place I have no intention of going anywhere near."
"Are you sure you should go to a place like that alone?"
"She won't be alone," Kim said, re-entering the room with a cardboard container in her hands. She carried the box to the bed and set it down next to the tray. "Just let me get rid of this," she said picking up the mostly untouched bowl of cereal and plate of toast. She stepped to the door, pulled it open then placed the dishes on the floor outside the door. Returning to the end of the bed, she carefully lifted items out of the carton and placed them on the now empty tray. "It's not fancy but I'm sure it's better than what you're used to," she said handing the tray to Faye.
"Goodness," Dorthea gasped spying the paper plates with scrambled eggs, thick slices of bacon, and pancakes swimming in syrup. "Where did you find that?"
"There's a Denny's on the next block. And I got you some treats for later," Kim told Faye. "Don't eat them all at once."
Faye took the offered white paper sack and peeked inside. "Chocolate chip?" she asked in awe.
"Yes. There's one for every day we'll be gone," Kim said as much for Dorthea, smiling in admiration, as Faye, smiling in amazement. "And when we get back we'll bring you some more."
Faye looked up at Kim. "Thank you. Could you put these in the drawer?" she asked timidly, handing the sack back. "If the nurse sees them, she'll take them away from me."
"No, she won't," Dorthea assured the anxious woman. "I've just had a talk with Mr. Galing. I told him that I expect you to receive only the very best of care while I'm gone. And I've put him on notice that I do not want Nurse Helen to bother you. He has promised that he will keep a close eye on her."
"Ding dong the witch is dead," Kim whispered gleefully.
Faye glanced at Kim and chuckled. "I'm probably not the only Munchkin happy to hear that," she commented. Kim gazed back startled by both the unexpected droll comment and the genuine smile that graced Faye's face. "Didn't think I had a sense of humor, did you?" Faye challenged.
Kim smiled uncomfortably. "No."
"Don't blame you." Faye laughed and filled her fork with a generous helping of pancake. "Haven't made much use of it," she mumbled with syrup dripping down her chin.
Dorthea and Kim stayed until Faye had consumed all of her restaurant prepared breakfast. Then after numerous assurances that they would be extra careful, and that they would indeed return, they bid goodbye to the tearful woman.
"That was harder than I expected," Dorthea said when she and Kim were walking down the steps in front of the nursing home. "She really enjoyed her breakfast. Thanks for doing that."
"I couldn't help myself. I guess I never paid much attention to what they call food in this place but when I saw her forcing that cereal down… Heck, I wouldn't serve that stuff to animals."
"It is bad, isn't it?"
Kim grimaced. "Horrendous. We'll have to make sure to keep her stocked up with snacks when we get back. If nothing else, it'll give her something to look forward to during the day."
Dorthea nodded. "That's a good idea. I don't know why I haven't done it before."
"Maybe because she didn't deserve it before." When Dorthea scowled, Kim defended her comment. "Be honest. She was a bitch so why would you bother?"
"I suppose you're right. But she has changed. Do you know she actually thanked me for the magazines today? I was taking them out of the sacks and stacking them on the dressing table, and she thanked me. I told her it was the first time I could remember her saying that." She took a couple of steps before adding, "It was really nice to hear."
"She thanked me for breakfast. And the cookies."
Dorthea grinned remembering the look on Faye's face when she opened the bag. "I bet she stretches those out until we get back."
"If Nurse Ratched doesn't find them and take them away from her."
"If she does, I'll break her arms."
Kim stopped and looked doubtfully at Dorthea. "Would you? Really?"
Dorthea thought about it for a moment before shaking her head. "No," she admitted then smirked. "But I wouldn't stop you from doing it."
Kim laughed then sobered as they walked around the corner of the block toward their car parked alongside the curb. "Faye is afraid you aren't coming back."
"I know. But I'm not sure why after all the assurances we made to her."
"Maybe, she doesn't think she deserves you to."
Dorthea sighed. "Unfortunately, there probably isn't much I can do about that."
"Do you want to?"
"I don't know. I mean, I know she's been different these last couple of visits but there's so much water under that bridge. I'm just not sure how much positive feeling I can have for her."
Dorthea stood beside the car and looked over the top of it at Kim checking for traffic before opening the driver's door. "Enough about all this. I want to forget about the past for now and look forward to California… and to us."
"That sounds like a good plan," Kim agreed then slipped in behind the steering wheel. "So buckle up," she told Dorthea when she slid onto the passenger side of the bench seat. "And let's get this show on the road."
"You do know how to get to California, right?" Dorthea asked apprehensively.
Kim smiled, reaching behind the seat. "I've got maps for every state from here to there," she announced tossing the folded leaflets into Dorthea's lap. "Pick a highway, my dear. I drive, you navigate."
The women made a quick stop to buy ice for the cooler then, at Dorthea's direction, Kim drove from Rapid Falls south to Des Moines where they picked up Interstate 80 for the remainder of the drive to California. After several hours, they left Iowa behind and entered Nebraska. It was dusk when Kim finally pulled off the highway.
"It shouldn't be too far," Dorthea said, studying the map. "Take a right at the stop sign."
Kim brought the station wagon to a stop at the end of the off ramp. When traffic on the cross road cleared, she merged in with the other vehicles.
Dorthea looked up from her map. "It's probably at that sign up ahead." As they got close enough to read the lettering, she smiled. "That's it. Mormon Island."
"Are you sure this is a campground?" Kim asked as she flipped on the turn signal and began to ease to the right side of the road.
"The map has a little tent on it. According to the legend, that means campground."
"Okay. Let's give it a try." Kim turned onto the access road, slowing as she drove through the gate. "Nice lake," she commented at the large body of water along the right side of the road.
"Over there," Dorthea pointed. "Maybe we could park over by those picnic tables."
Kim continued down the road until she found a small parking area near the tables. She pulled into a slot and turned off the engine. Pushing the door open, she stepped out of the car. "Urgh," she groaned stretching her arms above her head and twisting at the waist. "Who knew sitting in a car all day could be so painful?"
"I told you we should have stopped in Lincoln," Dorthea chastised as she walked around the front of the wagon.
"The more time we spend on the road, the less time you'll have in California," Kim countered before bending over to stretch her hands down to the ground.
"There's an information sign." Dorthea started across the gravel parking lot toward a small cluster of signs covered in maps and posters. Kim straightened back up then took a few moments to look out over the lake before following. "This says that camping is allowed at the end of the lake. There's a fee but it's a lot less than a motel will be," Dorthea told Kim when she finally joined her.
"It's not very big," Kim said, noting the small area designated for overnight use.
"We better go see if there's any place available. The park rules say that they close and lock the gate at ten."
Kim took another look at the park map then she stepped away from the signs and looked down to the end of the lake, gauging the distance from where they stood to where campers were parked along the shore. "How about we walk down there? My legs could use the exercise."
"Sounds good to me," Dorthea readily agreed. "Let me grab my jacket, it's getting a little chilly."
They retrieved jackets and purses from the car then made sure it was locked before setting off.
The road ended in a loop with picnic tables set randomly along the outside of the circle. Dorthea and Kim were pleased to discover that the area was sparsely occupied with most of the campers set up on the lake shore. They laid claim to a spot on the opposite side of the loop, hoping that being further from the lake and other campers would offer them the most security.
Kimberly walked back for the car while Dorthea filled out the fee envelope and deposited it, with their payment, in the collection box in the center of the circle where a pair of his and hers outhouses were also located. She checked out the primitive amenities the campground offered and was just arriving back at their campsite when Kim drove the station wagon into their selected space.
"The bathrooms don't have water," Dorthea informed Kim as soon as she climbed out of the car. "But they're clean. And there's some chopped wood by the collection box if we want to have a campfire."
Kim grinned. "That sounds like a good idea. Even though we're not right on the lake, we still have a pretty nice view of it. We can have a fire and watch the sun set."
"I never knew you were such a romantic," Dorthea teased.
"Really?" Kim pulled open the back door of the car. "Quit making fun of me and help me fold down this seat."
Dorthea opened the opposing door and ducked her head into the car. "I wasn't making fun of you," she said apologetically.
Kim smiled at her. "I know you weren't, honey." Dorthea sighed in relief. "Pull," Kim instructed as they worked in unison to readjust the seat back. "Did you think I was offended?" she asked after walking to the back of the car and opening the tailgate.
Dorthea caught the end of the blankets tossed to her and spread them out as neatly as possible over the unpadded surface of their sleeping platform. "I didn't want you to be. I didn't mean it that way."
"I know." Kim tossed their pillows toward Dorthea. "And just for the record," she grinned at her friend, "what could be more romantic than sleeping under the stars next to a campfire with the woman that I love? Isn't that what they always do in the movies?"
Dorthea laughed. "I'm not sure sleeping in the back of a station wagon is considered the same as sleeping on the ground or in a tent." She shut the car door and walked back to join Kim.
"Same concept. We'll just be more comfortable… hopefully. Crackers and cheese for dinner?" Kim asked, opening the cooler and removing a package of sliced cheese.
Dorthea took the offered cheese. "I'll take an orange, too. Have you ever started a campfire?" she asked pulling a box of Ritz crackers from the cardboard box beside the cooler.
"No. But it can't be that difficult."
"Do we have any matches?"
"So, how do you plan to start it? Rub your legs together?"
"Oh, funny." Kim handed an orange to Dorthea and pulled out an apple for herself. "I suppose we could use the cigarette lighter," she said retrieving a jug of water from the cooler then replacing the lid.
Dorthea chuckled. "How about, we forego the fire tonight?" She walked over to the picnic table with Kim trailing behind her. "Besides, I doubt I'll be able to keep my eyes open for much longer." She yawned as she sat down on the bench. "My eyes feel like they've done more looking today than in my entire life. The landscape is all so different than Iowa. And so beautiful."
"It is amazing, isn't it?"
"I wish we had the time to do more exploring," Dorthea mused peeling her orange.
Kim nodded taking a bite of her apple. "Maybe some day, we'll come back."
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