62 comments

Submitted on 11/06/2020

Categories: Adventure American Inspirational

“It doesn’t count if you’re already planning your defeat, idiot,” Marah said. 

Arizona shoved a pair of thin leather flats into her suitcase and zipped it up. 

“Why’re you even going on this trip if it’s not going to do anything?”

“It’s going to do something,” Arizona said. “That’s why I’m going.”

“Sure. So then why are you scheduling therapy appointments right after you get back?”

Arizona shrugged. “Just in case. You never know.”

“You’re going on this trip to get better. To not be so depressed. Isn’t it depressing to you that you don’t believe in yourself?” Marah leaned forward intently. She sat cross legged on Arizona’s bed, a teddy bear in her lap. 

“You know what’s not helping, Marah,” Arizona said hotly. “You. You’re not helping. You’re not making me feel better. I’m going and you can’t stop me.”

“I don’t want to stop you. I think you should go. But I don’t think it’s going to help if you don’t believe it’s going to help.”

“I’m not listening to you anymore.”

Arizona picked up her suitcase and leaned to one side to counter the weight. She walked out of the apartment’s bedroom and into the small living room, leaving her former best friend, mouth pressed tight to keep in angry words. 

◇◇◇

The little battered Jetta grumbled to a start in the cold, windy November morning. Arizona straightened the rearview mirror and looked herself in the eyes - she looked tired, lonely, almost grey. 

She smiled at herself and started to back out of the driveway. 

Out on the road, Arizona looked back. Marah stood in the doorway, arms hugging her thin elbows, smiling. As she watched, Marah lifted her hand and waved, a big sweep of her arm, and shouted something. Then she turned and went back into her own apartment.

Arizona shook her head, though Marah couldn’t see her, and drove away. Dappled sunlight fluttered down the windshield as the Jetta passed beneath old tamarisks and tired, twisted pines. As she left the dingy apartment behind, she felt a gentle weight rise from her shoulders and settle itself elsewhere.

◇◇◇

Arizona stopped just outside the border into Pennsylvania and picked up Jose. He was waiting for her outside the post office, a large cardboard box sitting on the ground beside him. 

“Hi, Jose,” she said. “You ready?”

“Sure,” he said. He lifted the box and she helped him shove it into the back seat. Arizona went back around the car and slid in, and Jose crawled over her backpack and sat in the passenger seat. “I’ve been ready since November 20, when you called me up at three AM.”

“That’s two weeks ago.”

They looked at each other and laughed, and then Arizona leaned in and kissed him on the lips. He sat back, surprised, and stared as she started the car and pulled out. 

“What was that for?”

She grinned. “Haven’t seen you in six months, lovey,” she said. 

“We broke up between July and now.”

“I know.”

He leaned his head back as she accelerated on the highway, as if to accept the new relationship. “Might as well,” he said with a sigh. “If you think it’ll help you feel better.”

She glared at him out of her corner of her eye. “Oh, please.”

They drove in silence through Pennsylvania. The state was steeped in red and brown, the colors of autumn and a deep sunset. It was lush and chilly, and Arizona rolled the windows down. 

Jose had lived in Pennsylvania right after college, but moved to Baltimore a year later. They’d met on a spring evening at a friend’s wedding. The friend’s backyard was lit with string bulbs and alive with guitar music. They’d eaten sushi together and mutually agreed to never eat it again unless they ate it together. Only the company of someone you love can wash out the ugly taste of raw fish and oily rice.

They left Pennsylvania and entered New York. Jose put his feet on the dashboard and started to doodle on a blank piece of paper, whistling through his teeth. 

The Jetta drove through a tunnel of old, bent trees, crackling and grumbling along an old gravel road. The highway stretched on in the distance, far to their left, but Arizona made no effort to cross over and merge. As she passed under shrivelled, shedding cottonwoods and golden baby faced sugar maples, she felt a lump rise in her throat at the familiarity of it all. 

Jose saw her staring hard at the windshield, blinking fast, and said, “Brings back memories, doesn’t it?”

She nodded, relaxed, and laughed. 

“Remember when Pacey tried to climb the tree in Central Park and stayed up there all night?”

“What? No!”

“Yeah, we were all there, but it was getting dark and she said she was scared to climb down and walk home through the park.”

Arizona threw her head back and laughed. “But staying the night was better? What if she fell?”

“Jack stayed with her, if I remember right. Pacey didn’t fall but Jack did, sometime at night.”

“I do not remember this.”

“Too bad. He wasn’t too hurt, he was on a lower branch.”

“Pacey’s always been insane.”

“Jack too.”

“Jack was too in love with Pacey to listen to reason.”

“Got that right.”

She smiled now as she drove, and when they neared New York City she turned the radio on and they sang Johnny Cash all the way down I-95.

“You don’t want to stop here?” Jose asked a few minutes later. 

“I hate New York,” Arizona said suddenly. 

“Oh.”

She sat forward in the seat, hands perfectly aligned on the wheel, head forward. Jose watched her. “You sure you’re okay?”

She glanced at him and sat back. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Why do you hate it? You used to love it.”

“I did six months ago.”

He was silent for a minute. “Did something happen to you here?”

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and whispered, “Yes.”

“That’s why you moved,” he said, no longer asking questions. He realized her meaning. “I’m so sorry, Arrie.”

She nodded, eyes rimmed with red. 

“This is why you’re going on a trip. To get away.”

She nodded again. 

“But why did you want me here?”

Arizona’s shoulders fell back against the grey cloth seat. “I trust you,” she said simply. 

“Marah would’ve gone with you.”

“Marah’s annoying and self-righteous. She doesn’t know when to shut her mouth. You do.” Then she added, “And I loved you once.”

“Once?”

He wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d started crying, but instead she laughed. “Once,” she repeated. 

He grinned. “Do I have another chance?”

“Maybe.”

◇◇◇

They pulled off the road in Vermont and parked next to a huge white cedar. Arizona stretched and Jose ran laps with his hands held ridiculously close to his sides. She laughed until her stomach ached, laughed as she leaned against the car to hold herself up. He saw her laughing and made a face, but kept running, so she kept laughing. 

“You know,” she said through giggles, “This is better than therapy.”

“Your therapist must suck.”

“He does.”

“Fire him, then.”

She smiled as he jogged away again. Then to herself she said, “You know, I think I will.”

After all, she didn’t need him anymore.

When they got back inside and started driving, she felt empty inside, the good kind. A hollow, tired kind of empty hunger, which you can fill with good things without feeling guilty. She was tired but open. Ready to start over.

Dusk began to fall as Arizona and Jose drove through Vermont. 

◇◇◇

They stopped on the border of New Hampshire and Vermont. Arizona pulled into a dingy concrete parking lot of a tiny sushi place whose sign was just a little plastic stand-up board. It said Spicy Sushi but it looked like home, so they got out and went inside. 

Arizona ordered tuna with seaweed and extra spice and Jose ordered sailfish with rice. They sat together on the cold curb by the rusting little Jetta and ate with their fingers. 

It was sticky and raw and sour-tasting, but they ate together, knees almost touching, as if six months had never passed. 

When they were both done, napkins thrown away and receipts tucked into pockets, they looked at each other a split second, standing by the Jetta, dusk seeping around them. Then Arizona grabbed Jose’s hand and held it tightly, smiling genuinely for the first time, all twenty fingers still sticky from shared sushi.

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62 comments

Rhondalise Mitza
04:37 Nov 06, 2020

Awww three cheers to you, Zilla! I like this a lot because it's like sushi, round and filling but wistful all at the same time. Don't ask how sushi is wistful, it just is. :)

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Zilla Babbitt
22:57 Nov 06, 2020

Haha! Thanks :)

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01:47 Nov 06, 2020

"The Jutta drove through a tunnel of old," Minor typo here (Jutta-Jetta)--I notice you make it a few times more throughout the story. So, nothing really to critique on this. It's sweet and simple and plotless. The only thing I could find was that relationship between Arizona and Marah is unclear. I will say, I'm a great lover of sushi, so the fact that you don't like it make me sad inside. :( Zilla, you really need to write more plotted stories--Warwick House was awesome! I mean, I like the non-plots, and the non-plots are almost alway...

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Zilla Babbitt
23:15 Nov 06, 2020

Fixed the typo. I'll clear up their relationship - they're good friends, though Marah doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut :). I've had sushi twice in my life. My Chinese-American friend brought it to a potluck and I tried it for him. The next year he did the same and I tried it again both for him and for me, because tastes can change in a year. Nope! It's gross. Sorry. I did love Warwick House. I'm only able to write good plotted stories when I'm fully invested in the world/idea, like Warwick House. I have an idea already for the sci...

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23:18 Nov 06, 2020

All makes sense. :) Yeah, with my profile pic, I was actually writing, and my mother decided it would be a fun idea to try out her new camera on me. XD

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20:04 Nov 06, 2020

Hi Zilla! This is a wonderful, amazing, and heartfelt story. Though I am a hardcore sushi fan, I l o v e your writing so much! I know you said only hard critique now, but you write so well and I can never even find anything wrong with your story...they're all that good! If you have time (and it's okay if you don't) would you mind giving your opinions on my latest story? I think it is a good one, but it might be trash; I have no idea. Thank you so much! (This is still owly by the way)

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Zilla Babbitt
23:16 Nov 06, 2020

Aw, thank you! I'll definitely be over there this week :)

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01:56 Nov 06, 2020

Btw, I read Rayhan's "Virtual Reality Show" a few days ago--is there some similarity I'm missing?

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Zilla Babbitt
23:01 Nov 06, 2020

Nah, just the mixing of Asian foods with the story. I just wanted to be clear that I wasn't plagiarizing :)

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23:16 Nov 06, 2020

Gotcha. :)

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20:49 Nov 09, 2020

Hey Zilla! Finished Pt. 1 of Soul of the Inca... Finally. Haven't had too much time to read recently. ;)

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Zilla Babbitt
13:48 Nov 10, 2020

Yay! I changed it so that you could comment if you wanted.

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14:00 Nov 10, 2020

Cool. :)

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10:19 Nov 07, 2020

What happened six months ago? A breakup? Someone dying? Perhaps you wrote it and I can't figure it out. I wanted to know. It's a great story. A few descriptions scattered around to give the story, passion and creativity. I think this is amazing.

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Zilla Babbitt
13:22 Nov 09, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Carol Namorato
15:42 Nov 08, 2020

Same!! I was dying to know what had happened six months ago; thought she was going to mention it in the end.

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Nyx Midnight
07:23 Nov 09, 2020

They broke up, but she says the last time they saw eachother was 6 months ago. .

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Carol Namorato
15:46 Nov 08, 2020

Hi, Zilla! I absolutely love this one! It made me smile a lot. Although I was expecting some answer about what had happened six months ago, I think the mystery made the story even more special. Thanks for this. Good job!!

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Zilla Babbitt
13:22 Nov 09, 2020

Thank you! There was a breakup, and then in New York she was assaulted - though I left that up to the reader to assume. (Or not).

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Nora K
17:38 Nov 07, 2020

Amazing story, Zilla!! For the record, I don’t like sushi either!!! :)

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Zilla Babbitt
13:19 Nov 09, 2020

We stand alone against the world, eh?

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Nora K
16:43 Nov 09, 2020

Yes indeed, Zilla, yes indeed :)

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Avani Gupta
18:22 Nov 06, 2020

Nice story, Zilla! I could feel the cuteness!! The only thing I'm confused about is the first line... how is Arizona planning her defeat?

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Zilla Babbitt
23:16 Nov 06, 2020

Ha! Thank you. She's scheduling therapy sessions right after. She's going on the trip to not be so depressed, with the intention of not needing therapy afterward, but she's scheduling the sessions anyway. Planning her defeat.

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Avani Gupta
23:42 Nov 06, 2020

How?

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Zilla Babbitt
18:11 Nov 10, 2020

Well, she's not expecting her trip to work in the way it needs to. She's planning her trip but also planning therapy right after because she thinks the trip won't work. She's expecting her defeat.

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Avani Gupta
18:39 Nov 10, 2020

Thanks! :)

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Aisa M
08:58 Nov 06, 2020

Ah, this is so cute :)

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Zilla Babbitt
18:12 Nov 10, 2020

Thanks!

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Zilla Babbitt
01:14 Nov 06, 2020

First, I hate sushi. Second, Rayhan, I swear I wrote this before I read your "Virtual Reality Show." Swear.

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Noah Morrow
01:35 Nov 06, 2020

HI zilla im a 13 year old and was wondering if you could teach me how to be good at writing stories I already created one but i was just wondering. If so please follow and message me.

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D Y
20:30 Nov 08, 2020

This is so creative and cute! Btw I just joined Reedsy and wrote my first story. Please check it out and give me some feedback:)

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Steve Stigler
14:58 Nov 07, 2020

You do such a nice job with sensory images. I particularly liked the amount of detail: not just trees, but pines and cottonwoods and maples. Nice!

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Zilla Babbitt
13:19 Nov 09, 2020

Thank you!

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06:26 Nov 07, 2020

She sat cross legged on Arizona’s bed, a teddy bear in her lap. ~ Hyphen in "cross-legged." He leaned his head back as she accelerated on the highway, as if to accept the new relationship. ~ No comma. She glared at him out of her corner of her eye. ~ I think you meant "She glared at him out of the corner of her eye." I loved this one, Zil. (Can I call you that?) The romance is not overdone, just the way I like it. Also, you said you want to go to Jerusalem? I have actually, a long time ago when my dad went there on a business tr...

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Zilla Babbitt
13:20 Nov 09, 2020

Thanks so much! I haven't tried kanafeh bit it sounds amazing. Thanks for the recommendation:)

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22:14 Nov 09, 2020

Oh, it really is. Not a problem! It was the first thing that came to my head when I saw your bio. :)

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Scout Tahoe
04:11 Nov 06, 2020

This story made me smile. I love the states and the state-name. It was fun and added a sense of home to the story. Arizona is a good character, one I'd like to know more about. "The Jetta drove through a tunnel of old, bent trees, crackling and grumbling along an old gravel road." This sentence. Just wow. I was there. Hm, critique. I did noticed the Jutta/Jetta thing, but I reloaded it and it looks like you fixed it. :) I completely disagree with Leo! (No offense at all, Leo.) Plotless stories are still good and tend to be th...

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12:28 Nov 06, 2020

Don't get me wrong, I still like plotless stories, and Zilla's are some of the best. ;)

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Scout Tahoe
13:22 Nov 06, 2020

Yes of course I’m sorry. :) Plotless or full of plot!

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Zilla Babbitt
23:01 Nov 06, 2020

Thanks so much! I do think I ought to do MORE plotted stories at least, but plotless ones tend to win and I enjoy doing them more. I like sushi if you take out the sushi and put in something else.

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Scout Tahoe
00:46 Nov 07, 2020

Haha, you’re welcome. Exactly.

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Jeffrey Pope
21:15 Nov 11, 2020

And i thought this was the hardest of all prompts. But no, you proved me wrong when you took it, made it your own, and came out with a wonderful read, making it seem as though its a piece of cake. Thumbs up!

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Kevin Broccoli
22:44 Nov 09, 2020

I loved the strong characterization in this story. I felt like I knew exactly who these people were.

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Zilla Babbitt
01:39 Nov 10, 2020

Thank you!

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Writer Maniac
08:34 Nov 09, 2020

I really love your stories, and would love to hear your thoughts on mine. I recently posted a story called 'This Moment'. Please do check it out when you're free :)))

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Backstroker too!

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Zilla Babbitt
13:19 Nov 09, 2020

:)

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16:58 Nov 19, 2020

I like how realistic your dialogue is! I also really enjoyed your story!

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