Chapter 18 – San Francisco or Bust
I checked my watch again and glanced over at Timothy before leaning over the stair railing to call upstairs, "Todd! Come on! We're going to miss our flight!"
"I'm coming!" Todd emerged from his room, one hastily packed duffel bag slung over his shoulder. "And it's still two hours until the flight Ginny, chill out."
"We still have to drive to the airport...unless you have a transporter you've been hiding from us. Plus check in and security," I tossed him the keys to my dad's car so he could put his bag in the trunk alongside ours.
Standing beside my dad, Mrs. Anderson was wringing her hands anxiously. Dad put his arm around her shoulder and gave it a light squeeze. "Don't worry Susan, I'll get them to the airport and Linda has assured me she'll be waiting on the other end to pick them up."
"I know, I know...I suppose I should get used to it..." She continued to fret until Todd came up and gave her a tight hug.
"It's just a few days Mom."
"In a large, unfamiliar city..." she replied but she returned the embrace and then straightened her shoulders. "Go on now, Ginny's right, you'll miss your flight if you stay here comforting me."
The three of us, accompanied by my dad, piled into the car and waved as we pulled out of the driveway. Tim busied himself with college pamphlets during the drive to the airport. I leaned over the seat and smiled at Todd, "your Mom realizes you're eighteen right? And going to college in a few months?"
Todd just shrugged, "she's been really emotional lately. I think she'd lock me in my room to stop the whole college thing if she could."
"Be patient with her. This is tough on we parents," Dad said with a wink. "Will Veronica be able to get away to meet up with you guys before the competition?"
"She said they had the days free to go sight seeing so yeah, we should be able to hang out," I said. "Well Todd and I anyway. Tim plans to ditch us to go tour Berkeley," I said, teasing him.
"Perhaps Veronica can help you pick out a bridesmaid dress for the wedding," Dad suggested.
Before I could even muster up an eye roll, he gave me the warning look so I just smiled half-heartedly and nodded. "Sure, she'd like that I'm sure," I said. Jennifer had given me leave to choose any color or style I wanted after I'd reluctantly agreed to be one of her bridesmaid. Truth be told, Dad had already volunteered me and was giving me the same look then so I didn't really have much choice. Besides, I was making an effort to be nice. Really, really nice.
"Maybe I'll go with Tim if y'all are going to be shopping all day," Todd said with a chuckle.
It seemed as if we'd barely settled into our seats with a quick drink service when the Captain came on the speakers to announce our upcoming landing. "An hour long flight barely seems worth it huh?" Todd said as he tucked his tray up and gathered up her trash for the flight attendant.
"Better than a five hour drive," I pointed out. "I'm pretty sure your mom would have had a genuine heart attack then."
Todd laughed, "probably. Especially after..." he trailed off. His face became clouded with sadness for a moment. "Well you know," he said quietly.
I nodded, then put my hand over his on the arm rest. "I never much liked landings," I said as the plane began its descent. There was a slight tremor, perfectly normal but completely nerve-racking for me.
"It's the take offs that bother me," Todd said, giving my hand a quick reassuring squeeze. He glanced past me, to where Timothy was sitting and smirked. "Look at him, completely unfazed."
Timothy had headphone buds on and his eyes were closed. "Is he actually asleep? How does anyone fall asleep that quickly on a plane?"
A few minutes later the plane's wheels made contact with the ground and Timothy jerked awake. He swiped at his mouth twice as he sat up straighter. "I take it we've landed?" Todd and I nodded and suppressed a laugh.
We each took the time to text our families while waiting for most of the plane's occupants to disembark. Then the three of us stood up to retrieve our bags from the overhead storage bins. As it was only a long weekend trip, we'd all managed to pack our stuff in carry on luggage which saved us a trip down to baggage claim.
Veronica's aunt Linda was waiting for us just beyond security as promised. She welcomed me with a quick embrace and shook hands with Todd and Tim before shooing us on toward the parking garage. "Veronica is very excited to see you all and I'm quite glad you could all come to share this with her. You're her oldest friends after all."
"We were happy to come, of course," I said. She grabbed my hand and gave it a firm squeeze, reminding me a bit of Gran.
"Well she was busy with a rehearsal or she would have been here to greet you as well but they should be finishing up by the time we get to the hotel. I'll trust the four of you won't need a chaperone for your sight seeing?" she gave each of us a hard look, as if searching for intent to get into trouble. After a moment she smiled and released us from her glare.
"Eeeee!" Veronica squealed as she saw us and ran across the hotel lobby. More than a few people looked up to see what was making so much racket.
Todd and I had a chance to exchange a nervous look before she reached us and threw her arms around my neck. "V? You okay...?" Todd asked, clearly startled by her odd behavior.
"Perfect now! I can't believe you all came!" She's dragged Todd and Tim into hugs as well.
"Who are you and what have you done with our V?" I asked, grinning.
"Oh hush you," she said with a laugh. "I'm still the same person – just...well, happy. Come on, I wanna introduce you all to some people." She hooked her arm with mine and started pulling me across the lobby.
"Your hair is still pink..." I said, staring at her head.
"I know right?! No matter now many times I wash it, it just hasn't faded. I've come to like it though...maybe I'll dye it blue next time," she said with a laugh. Ahead of us, Aunt Linda looks a little horror struck but she said nothing. "Darren!"
A black haired teen spun around to face us when his name was called. His face broke into a grin when he saw Veronica and he strode over toward us. "You must be Gin," he said, sticking his hand out. "And Todd and Timothy yes?"
"This is Darren, one of our best male vocalists," Veronica said.
Darren had the grace to blush. "Well thank you Ver," he said. "It really is a pleasure to meet you all, Ver talks about you all quite a bit."
"Darren will be joining us today...if that's alright with you all. He was actually born in San Fran before his family moved a few years ago so I thought he might be a good guide."
Within an hour, we'd gotten checked in and stowed our luggage in our room. Timothy had already made his departure for Berkeley so it was just Todd, V, Darren and me. As we started to make our way out of the hotel, Todd and Darren fell into easy conversation while V and I chatted about "girl stuff," as Todd called it.
"So you need some shopping therapy then," V said after I told her about being volunteered as a bridesmaid. "Both for practical reasons and just because?"
"Absolutely," I said while Todd pretended to retch behind us.
"Perhaps Darren and I will go find a sports bar or something while you two get your girly on," he teased.
"Actually, today would be a better day for small things like shopping seeing as the concert is tonight. Then tomorrow we can all go sight seeing," Veronica pointed out. She and Darren looked toward each other for conformation. "So maybe you boys should go do...whatever you boys do and Gin and I will go shopping and maybe go to the spa to gab?"
"So you and Darren....?" I stepped out of the changing room and present my back to Veronica so she could zip me up. "Is there something I should know?" I said with a mischievous grin.
Veronica blushed but shook her head. "Sadly not, he's tragically taken. Not that I haven't wished a bit..." she was lost in thought for a moment while I checked out the dress in the mirror.
"This dress is horrible," I said.
Veronica snapped out of her reverie and took a moment to take in the whole dress. "Yeah, yeah it is...but then if you really want to embarrass Ms. Moore...everyone will assume she chose it."
I smirked. "Perhaps....though honestly I don't want to ruin her day or anything. It is my dad's wedding too after all." Veronica was already unzipping the dress for me and pulled another from the rack.
"Is she really so bad? I mean it seemed like she was pretty okay...for a teacher."
"That's the real crux of it though V, she was my teacher...she works in my school." I stuck my head out beyond the curtain, "Dad would have never known about the whole pregnancy rumor Chrissy started if it weren't for her." I retreated into the changing room and pulled on the next dress. "Though, just between you and me, she's nice, and she makes my dad happy."
"Oh so you are happy for him?" Veronica asked as I emerged once more.
"It's taken me awhile but...yeah I suppose..." I grumbled. "I mean I'm not thrilled or anything but the truth is I'll be leaving home soon enough anyway. Okay, I like this one..."
"Much better," V said with a nod. "Did she really give you full reign to pick your own dress? What if it looks nothing like the others?"
I just shrugged, "I think she wanted to make being a bridesmaid as painless as possible."
"And not incite more teen drama?" Veronica teased.
"Okay, so, how did all this happen? Last time we spoke you didn't mention anything about joining choir and now you're at a state wide competition to perform." One of the masseuses came between us but after the first ten minutes of awkward silence only punctuated by the occasion grunt or groan, we'd gotten used to talking around them.
"Actually it's show choir," Veronica pointed out. "And, honestly I was a little uncertain where it would go. I mean my birthday was coming up which meant I could flee home if I truly hated the place but....well I didn't hate it," she said with a laugh.
"I get that. I mean I miss you of course but I get it. But how? Did you go to them and audition?"
"Actually I was overheard singing by Darren, he was the one who dragged me to the choir room. They'd just lost two female vocalists and were really in need of someone," Veronica said. "It was better than spending my final semester of high school sulking huh?"
"True, I think it's great V, honestly. And you seem happier than I've seen you in years."
We dodged a few rent-a-cops to get backstage to find V before her big debut and Todd was keeping an eye out while I knocked. The door swung open and we were greeted by Darren, Veronica and a handful of others. "What are you guys doing back here?" V asked with a grin.
Todd, retreating from his guard post, came in as Tim presented her with a bouquet of red flowers. "Just wanted to say good luck..."
"And break a leg... which one is appropriate here?"
"Either, or. It's not theater after all," Veronica said, placing the flowers on a counter. "Thanks guys, I'm really glad you're here."
There was a knock on the open door and one of the stage hands popped in. She looked at the three of us, clearly out of place amongst the others, but turned her attention back to Darren and Veronica. "You're up next. Five minute warning."
"Thank you," Darren said. She gave us another look before disappearing. "I think you all better go find your seats."
"Right, good luck!" I said again before ushering Todd and Timothy back to the auditorium. Aunt Linda was looking around anxiously for us when we scurried into our seats just in time for them to announce Veronica's school.
"Where were you three?" she hissed. She didn't actually need a response as she turned her attention to the stage.
When Veronica and her team came onto stage, I like to think we were among the loudest audience members.
After the concert ended, we waited in the lobby for a chance to see Veronica but she was wrapped up with her teammates. "We'll see her tomorrow," I said, giving her aunt a hug. "You'll tell her congratulations for us?"
"Of course dears, you all go on now. You'll never find a cab if you don't go now," she said.
Timothy, Todd and I pushed our way through the packed lobby, hoping for relief on the curb but it seemed more crowded if possible. "We're never going to get a cab at this rate," Todd groaned.
"Why don't we just walk? The hotel is only a couple blocks away," Tim suggested. After a few moments of hopelessly searching for a miracle cab, we nodded and started in the direction of the hotel.
We were only twenty feet beyond the crowd when Tim groaned, "I think I dropped my phone back in the auditorium. You two go on, I need to go back and get it."
"You sure? We can come with and help you find it," I suggested, already turning around.
"No, don't worry about it. I'll catch a ride with Veronica and her aunt if I cannot catch up with you two," he said.
"Guess it's just us then," Todd said as Tim worked his way against the current of people.
We passed the first block in relative silence. The sights and sounds of the city were enough to fill the gap. An impressive sculpture was situated beyond the next building, overlooking the gorgeous bay waters. "Wow, nothing like this back home," I said as I circled the sculpture. Todd was silently staring out into the water. He either hadn't heard me or had no comment. "Hey, Earth to Todd," I said coming up beside him.
"Huh? Oh sorry...just thinking."
For a moment I thought I'd lost him to his thoughts again but after a moment he turned toward me. "Remember when you asked if I had any regrets?" I nodded, recalling the strange dream that had led me to question him. "Well I thought of another one, beyond the whole drinking and driving thing."
He seemed so lost that I was almost afraid to ask, "what was it?"
"You. I don't mean I regret being your friend or anything," he hurried on, clearly afraid he'd just offended me. "I mean not seeing you, really seeing you, until it was too late. I regret not calling you that summer after eighth grade. I was very stupid then and now, well we never really had a chance."
I sputtered as I tried to find a response. What was I supposed to say now? What COULD I say? "Todd...."
He cut my words off, pressing his warm lips to mine.