For the week and a half leading up to the trip, Jodie took the opportunity to point out every single tree around Monument that changed color. Her enthusiasm was visceral when the temperature dipped into the low 50s, not only for the long weekend ahead, but because she could begin to wear what she referred to as her “normal wardrobe”. Mitch agreed, since most of his clothes were jeans and long sleeved shirts, and generally he preferred to have a few layers on. Avi declared that they were out of their minds, but stopped his teasing when Jodie called him out for consuming pumpkin spice lattes as though they were water.
Handling errands the night before, Jodie and Mitch left on Friday morning to get a good view of the foliage during the drive. It was particularly splendid past Vermont’s southern border, and the Green Mountain range that welcomed them was blanketed in a vibrant patchwork quilt of reds and yellows, oranges and purples.
“Missed this,” Mitch commented, his eyes fixed on the road but he was able to admire the sweeping vista of mountains and valleys when the highway crested.
“What? Driving, or-” Jodie gestured with both arms. “This?”
“Both,” nodded Mitch. “Thanks for letting me take the wheel.”
“Wasn’t gonna go up in your car,” Jodie scoffed. “She’s a duct tape death trap.”
“You leave Pokey alone. I mean, you’re right, but don’t be rude.”
It was good though, to get onto open roads and away from the noise and congestion of Monument and Wickburg. The freedom to drive was also a gift in and of itself, which had a deeper psychological impact on Mitch than he realized. Being unable to escape when he needed solitude made him even more distraught. The independence would have been a blessing when he was dumped; then again, he also wondered if he would have just driven his car straight into the Nashua River.
And although he was grateful for the ride from Avi, he simultaneously wished that it never happened because he let his guard down. They would have eventually gotten along well enough without being forced into contact for over 6 hours, but he could have kept some of the more vulnerable content locked away. Through that opening, the Spartans were able to slip past his walls with their toy horse.
It left Mitch with…feelings.
Feelings were complex and tangled and something that he was ill-equipped to handle in his present state. In a post-Calvin world, what remained of Mitch was burnt-out shell of a man. All of his energy went keeping himself from collapsing, there just wasn’t any room to want. And now he was forced to contend with the fact that he was dumber than the Trojans.
Still, he stewed. Not anywhere in that 6 hour car ride had a girlfriend been mentioned, nor in the last few weeks that they became practically inseparable. Not even hinted at! It irked Mitch, and he was confused as to how she never came up once. They hashed out relationship stuff constantly; so in all of that time, how did Avi manage to completely omit his own status?
Maybe he had an inflated sense of self importance, assuming that of course Mitch would be attracted to him, and didn’t want to deflect that attention.
No, that wasn’t right. According to Ann, Mitch spent the last 5 years in a relationship with a textbook egomaniac. He assumed that by now he could recognize one, and Avi was nothing like Calvin.
Realistically, Avi was being polite and did not want to rub salt in Mitch’s wounds. That made him somehow nicer than he already was, which annoyed Mitch even more, because he didn’t need to be handled with kid gloves. He could deal with being happy on behalf of someone and their good fortune.
Not that he was entitled to information, it was just odd to not be granted access to something that he freely gave.
“What’cha thinking about?” asked Jodie, dragging Mitch from his thoughts. Taking a quick glance in the rearview mirror, he noted that his jaw was firm and brow completely furrowed.
“Nothing.” He shook his head, rearranging his face into a mask of nonchalance. “Nothing at all.”