March 27, 2016
Car exhaust filled my lungs as a dented pick up truck zoomed past me. I coughed, trying to free the gas from my body. What a jerk. I brushed off the dust from my army green shirt. It was covered in gas stains and had a faded spot of mustard from the burger I ate yesterday. I felt my shoulders tighten as my giant backpack weighed me down. I took it off my aching back and set it on the dry sand. A buzz vibrated my back pocket, and I pulled out my phone.
Seven missed calls from Mom. I powered off my phone and put it back in my pocket.
As if she hadn’t already controlled my life enough, she also has to drain my phone battery, too.
I stepped closer to the road, hoping for a better chance that someone might stop. With the high noon sun beaming down on my skin, I couldn’t be missed. After thirteen minutes of waiting, I finally heard a car motor zooming in the distance. I stuck out my thumb, praying that they would stop. The driver switched pedals, and a long squeak echoed across the mountains.
“What are you doing so far out here, Miss?” asked the man in the driver's seat.
“Hi, my name’s Hazel. Hazel Brooks. I’m trying to get to Arizona,” I stammered.
“Well, Miss Brooks, hop in. I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about”, he said, glancing towards the back seat. A young woman sat behind the driver. Her long, blond matted hair was tied back in a low messy bun. She wore a torn baseball cap, a white tank top with a silhouette of an owl, and ripped jean shorts. Around her neck was a large, and expensive, camera. She held it close to her chest with both hands. On her right forearm, was a tattoo of the Eiffel Tower, as well as a paw print on her wrist. Her bright blue eyes looked up from the window.
“You heard the man. Hop in!” she demanded. I lifted my back onto the seat and sat next to this stranger. “Name’s Paris” she declared, as she put out her hand and gave me a sturdy handshake.
“Hazel,” I mumbled.
“Hazel. That's a pretty name.My cousin’s name is Hazel. I heard you're on your way to Arizona. I am too, I’m a photographer, if you can’t already tell. What's your business hitchhiking around?” she questioned.
“I - I want to be a writer. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer, or a doctor, so I just... left,” I stuttered.
“Well, there’s plenty to write about out here. I’ve been on the road for nearly three months. It’s such a thrill, hitchhiking, walking the streets at night, doing what ya want to for once in your life. There’s no better feeling,” she smiled. Paris reached down to the army bag in front of her.
“Look at these,” she handed me a stack of pictures. Each one had a new, beautiful location, and always with an animal print on the ground.
“You photograph animal foot prints?”
“Yep, they’re my muse. I’m making my first photography collage for this art show down in Flagstaff. My theme is animal prints, and if they like them, I could win up to $10,000. That would set me up a nice apartment in France,” she gushed.
“France? Why there?” I asked.
“Just to get away, and to see the Eiffel tower in real life, everyday. Enough about me, what’s your plan?” she questioned.
“I’m not sure, I guess I just wanted to be able to do something for myself, away from my controlling parents. I want to write exciting stories that I experienced,” I explained.
“Well Hazel, I don’t think there’s any better place to do that than out here,” she smiled. And I did too, I was finally getting out of Cortez, Colorado.
March 28, 2016
Paris and I decided to stay in a motel together, last night because it would help spare our savings. We talked until we passed out from exhaustion. I think after all this time I finally made a friend.
The beaming sunlight woke me through the curtains. I looked over at Paris to see if she was awake yet, but her bed was made, and her backpack was gone. I got up and stood in front of the mirror. My long brown hair laid on my shoulders. Under my green eyes was some leftover mascara that I forgot to take off the night before. The dresser below the mirror was left spotless. That son of a bitch took my wallet. I kicked the wall.
“Dammit!” I screamed. Suddenly the door opened.
“Hey, what’s with all the screaming? Are you one of those people who get hangry in the morning?” Paris asked, holding two paper bags. “Sorry to run off, but I thought I would get us both some breakfast before we start traveling again. Oh, and I hope you don’t mind, but I had to borrow a few bucks to buy it. It was more than I thought and I’m a little tight on cash at the moment,” she handed me back my wallet with my breakfast bag.
“Oh,” I hesitated, “not a problem at all. Thank you, very much.” I took the bag of french toast and strawberries and opened my wallet. My stash of $200 was still there. Thank God. “So you weren’t kidding when you asked me to come with you to the Grand Canyon?” I asked.
“Of course not, it’ll be so much fun! I can take my foot pictures, and you can write your stories of us traveling. It’ll be so amazing!” she exclaimed. The big grin on her face made it hard to say no.
“I guess I don’t really have anywhere else to go-”
“Yay!” she interrupted. Her smile grew and she hugged me tight.
The short taxi ride seemed everlasting. Paris shared stories of the many places that she has traveled in the past three months. She never told where she originally lived, but she’s been to Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, and dozens of other strange places that I’ve never heard of.
“And then, the women I saw at the other casino saw me, and chased me out into the street!” Paris shouted. We both blurted out laughing.
“Oh my gosh, I don’t blame her!” I laughed, “I’d be pretty pissed at you, too, if you won my stack of cash by cheating.”
“Ya well I don’t regret it. When she chased me out, not only did I leave with her money, but then I ran head first into a limo.”
“Why is that a good thing?” I chuckled.
“Because! The driver felt so bad, that he offered me a free luxury ride to Los Angeles.”
“Wow, you are one lucky girl,” I exclaimed. Another buzz came from my pocket. My smile faded as I looked at my phone.
“What’s wrong?” Paris asked with a concerned expression.
“Oh, nothing, it’s just my mom,” I glanced at my phone screen one more time before zipping it in my backpack. As I shielded my face from Paris, a single tear rolled down my soft cheek. I wiped my eyes discretely and put on a fake smile as I turned to Paris’ gentle eyes. Her small freckles across her face glistened in the sun through the window. She twittled with her camera as she patiently awaited another step for her dreams. She looks so happy. My fake smile disappeared once more as we arrived at the entrance to the Canyon. I offered to pay the taxi driver, it was the least I could do. The large white sign that hung against the booth read, “Entrance fee - $46.65”.
“Dang, I didn’t realize how much it would cost to get into the West Rim,” Paris grumbled. Suddenly her face lit up with a terrible, terrible idea.
“Do you trust me?” she asked.
“Trust you, yes, but I can’t-”
“Then follow me!” Paris interrupted. She grabbed her bag and quickly ran into the bushes while keeping low to the ground.
“What the hell are you doing!” I whispered.
“Shhhhhh!” As Paris run through the surrounding bushes, I had no choice but to follow her before she got caught. As I ran through the bushes, dirt and sand fly into my eye. I lose sight of Paris. I stumble down a rocky path. Gravel slides around in my boots as I ran. While running I notice white flashes shining through the leaves. The sky is still light, the morning sun has not full risen. I followed the bright light from a camera flash, leading to the opening of a cliff ledge. There I see Paris, knelt down on her knees, with the perfect angle to capture the beauty below her. As the sun was slowly rising, the glow lit up the canyon. By looking at Paris, I could tell that she had captured the perfect picture.
“Look,” she handed me her camera. On the bright screen, the sunrise was captured at just the right moment so the beams of light hit the lens perfectly. The deep, orange valley below was textured in unique ways, and at the bottom of the photo, was a paw print of a coyote.
“This is beautiful,” I admired.
“I know, but it doesn't even capture how it looks right now in person,” she smiled, “there’s so much more to see, come on, I found a cool trail back towards that boulder-”
“Paris, I’m really sorry, but I can’t,” I blurt, “I need to head back to the motel right now, but it’s ok, you can stay here.” Without giving her a chance to say anything else, I turn away and walk back up through the bushes, not looking back.
March 27, 2016
As Hazel walked away, I didn’t stop her. When she disappeared through the tangle of bushes, I slowly turned back to the trial, excited to finally reach my dreams. She’s just having a moment, if I give her space, then she’ll come around. I Thought to myself.
It took longer to get home because Hazel decided to leave me without any ride to get back to the motel. As I walked down the hall to the room, the door was left open with a small crack. The beds were made, and Hazels bag was gone. There was no sign of her anywhere. I dropped my camera and desperately searched through her bureau drawers. Nothing left in the drawers besides the specs of dust that came with the room. When I stood up, my eyes found brown journal attached with a note.
I know what you must be thinking. I abandoned you, and went back home without saying goodbye. I reasons for leaving now, but even if I did stay here with you, it just would’ve been a matter of time before I left. For one, I’m not like you. I’m not a free spirit you can go wherever they want, and when they want. I have a life, I have a family that I left behind, and I have a mother who is worried sick. I can’t be a writer, and I can’t just travel everywhere with no income. Traveling with you has been a dream, but reality has hit me, and I hope it never finds you. You’re too good for reality. This journal is mine, and it’s filled with stories I’ve written since I’ve came here. I want you to keep it. I don’t care what you do with it as long as you have it to remember me bye. Thanks for being my best friend,
Tears swelled up my eyes and fell to the note. I picked up the soft journal. My watered eyes blurred my vision when I tried to read. “A Trip to Paris,” was the title of the first story, and my tears multiplied down my red cheeks.
April 11, 2017
I anxiously waited for the mail. When the mailman pulled up to the mailbox, I ran out of my apartment. Almost running into Ms. Blanchet.
“Pardon moi, s'il te plait!” I shouted as I ran around her. Right as the mailman was placing the package in the box, I snatched it out of his hands. “Merci!” I run back up the winding staircase. Before I make it into my living room I start ripping open the package. Inside a small book read, “A Trip to Paris, By Paris Wolf and Hazel Brookes.”