Man, this pandemic has tightened the belt on travel plans, hasn’t it? I’m not usually a big fan of road trips, but I’ve scheduled myself for some Vitamin Sea therapy at our condo in Long Beach in November.
Until then, I’m stuck taking virtual road trips. There’s nothing like a good book to take you away from the day-by-day pace of life.
Here’s a short excerpt from my work in progress (Summertime Getaway, Book One of the Road Tripping Granny series). I hope you’ll enjoy this look at Granny Jo’s youngest granddaughter.
From Alyssa’s first chapter (an unedited first draft):
Must be nice to know what you wanted to be when you grew up. Alyssa decided she didn’t need to grow up since she had no freaking idea what she wanted to do after high school. She still had two years, so what was the big rush? Apparently, what she wanted didn’t matter.
“You can work for me at the summer camps,” her mother had told her.
But she had zero interest in managing a bunch of screaming kids everyday.
“I can get you a filing job,” her father said.
Yeah because staring at boring paperwork until her eyes crossed sounded fun. How about she hung out at the community pool with her friends like she’d done last summer?
“We didn’t pay for that driver’s license so you could use it irresponsibly.” Her mother again. Could anyone guess that responsibility was the woman’s catch-word? Ugh. None of her friends had parents riding them to work full-time all summer.
“I can work at the mall.” Her best friend worked at the yogurt shop in the food court at Washington Square. She never worked more than twenty hours per week or four hours on a given day. She still had time to hang at the pool and money to spend in the shops.
“That’s not the sort of work experience you want on your college application.”
“Who says I’m going to college?”
Which was the wrong thing to say. She supposed she would go to college because it seemed like her teachers, her parents, and even her friends expected it. But that was two years away, and if she went to community college like RJ, she didn’t really have to make up her mind about a degree for four years. How could she think straight with her parents constantly nagging her?
Finally, the scent of smoking meat and grilling food overrode the chlorine stench of the swimming pool. Kids and teens splashed in the water, laughing and calling out, while a smattering of parents and grandparents reclined in loungers. They hadn’t had time to relax by the pool because they were driving to a different part of Yellowstone National Park every day. Even with the hikes they’d taken, her rear was tired of sitting. The back seat had to have conformed to the shape of her butt by now, and they still had the two-day drive home.
“Perfect timing,” her mother said as Alyssa ducked under the covered cooking area.
Four tables were occupied and two of the other grills were manned – by men. Usually her dad did the grilling, too, but there had been some sort of exchange of looks as the three of them carried the trays of uncooked food out and then her dad helped her carry the platters back. Something to do with Granny. Ever since PopPop passed, things had been weird between her parents whenever the subject of Granny came up.
Her mom flipped her shoulder-scraping bobbed hair and began piling chicken on the large platter. Alyssa settled the bowl for the corn onto the metal piece beside the grill and gripped the plate. Her mother’s dark blonde hair had highlights and nearly unnoticeable streaks of gray, but otherwise is was the same color as RJs while Alyssa’s was darker and curly, like her dad’s. Alyssa used to think her mom’s eyes were pretty—pale wintry blue—and smiled that hers were the same color, but now that her mother seemed to pin Alyssa with them like steely daggers, they’d lost their appeal.
“We should have just ate here,” her mother said. “Although we don’t have paper plates, so it would have been a pain to carry everything.”
“Well, I already set the table.”
Her mother’s glare scalded her. Did she used to look at her that way? Alyssa didn’t recall. But since she turned sixteen in February, it seemed everything with her parents changed. And she didn’t like it. She wanted to go back to being their coddled little girl.
“Did your grandmother show up?” There it was, that strange tone, almost controlled, like you used when talking with extreme patience to a toddler.
Alyssa nodded and squinted at her mother. What was going on behind that strange tone?
“I hope you didn’t overcook the chicken. Dad doesn’t do that.”
Her mother huffed. “I know how to cook chicken. It’s perfect. And the corn…” She used her grilling tongs to move one of the unshucked ears into the bowl.
Although the plate began to feel heavy under the load of meat, Alyssa didn’t move away from her mother. She knew the drill. She was expected to walk back with her and probably carry something else, too. She had to wait for her to scrape sauce and drippings from the grate. With one hip cocked, she studied two birds swooping around a group of kids eating hot dogs in the grass. One dropped a chunk of bun and a bird snatched it up before the kid had barely moved away.
“I’m looking forward to the trail ride tomorrow.” The lid clanged shut on the grill.
Her mother handed her both of the grilling implements before picking up the bottle of sauce and heaping bowl of corn. Tantalizing smells wafted from the grilled chicken an bratwurst on the plate she carried. Their flip-flops created a symphony of sound as they walked back toward the condo.
Last summer, they never walked together without having a full-on conversation about school, music, family, or something. Now, every conversation turned to what Alyssa planned to do for a summer job or study in college. And she didn’t want to get in those arguments again.
“It will be nice to get a day off from riding in the car.”
Her mom’s mouth twisted into a wry smile. “Hopefully the saddles won’t slap us silly since we have the long ride home on Sunday.”
“Don’t remind me.” Alyssa mimicked a put-upon drama queen. Her mom’s grin stretched to show teeth.
But they arrived at the condo before she could capitalize on the moment, say something to continue their warm camaraderie. Her mom cradled the bowl on her hip and swiped her key in front of the handle. The green light flashed, and she twisted the handle, pushing her way into their unit in the same moment.
“If you want to eat,” she called out striding three steps to deposit the corn on the end of the counter. RJ appeared an instant later, holding out her hands for the meat platter.
Alyssa rolled her eyes. She nearly bumped into her mother who was opening the fridge and pointing to the collection of bowls inside. While her mom washed her hands, Alyssa pulled out the macaroni salad and green salad, sliding them onto the counter. Her dad set them onto the table where Granny sat, chair askew as if she’d started to get up. It was strange to see her still since usually she bustled about the kitchen, baking something delectable.
Alyssa missed her baking forays while Granny and Pa traveled, although she always made sure to host a pie baking day before Thanksgiving and the annual Christmas cookie bake day. Their big flour festivals with giggles and stories and girl movies had ended just before Alyssa turned thirteen. By then, her voice competitions and competitive sports had started taking up most of the weekends anyway. Granny and Pa came to all her concerts, games and tournaments until they started traveling for half the year. Still, they always asked for details when they made their weekly digital calls.
Alyssa plucked a grape from the bowl of fruit Granny had brought. Her mother frowned but only said, “Did you remember the salad dressing?”
“I was just getting it,” she said around the globe in her cheek.
“I’ll take that off your hands,” her mom reached for the fruit, but Alyssa twirled to block her with her body.
“You’ll eat all the watermelon.”
“No one else wants it anyway,” her dad said and the grin on his lips almost twinkled in his eyes.
RJ joined Alyssa and their mom in a cry of denial. Alyssa’s smile stretched her lips as she set the bowl on the table beside Granny and slid into the chair next to her.
“Are we hoarding the fruit here?” Granny leaned closer as if sharing a secret.
“Protecting the watermelon from Mom.”
Granny nodded. The rest of the family joined them and settled in. Her father laid his hands palm up on the table and Mom and RJ took one. Alyssa and Granny linked up quickly, but it took a moment for Mom to reach her left hand around the bowls of food so Granny could hold it.
Many women’s fiction and chick lit stories are written in first person from one person’s perspective. These books will always have two characters who help each other on their journey. Can you think of a recent (non-romance) that was written from a dual point of view?
What do you think of little “Lizard” (as her Grandpa Jake dubbed her)? Do you want to read more?