My dad often told me that if something sounds like it’s too good to be true, it often is.
“Come with me! Come on! I swear- it’s all free. Paid for by my firm. You just have to pack and get us to the airport on time!” Lex is looking at me- big eyes and a devil may care grin. If she wasn’t so damn cute, I would have flat out said no out of the gate.
Instead, I ask, “What’s the catch?”
“There isn’t one. I swear!” She pulls off her ball cap and runs a hand through spikey blonde tipped hair and winks at me.
I tighten my ponytail, and pick up my coffee cup to buy time in giving her an answer.
“Poppy, come on. When’s the last time you’ve gone on vacation?”
She’s got a point. I’ve not had an adventure or vacation or really any time off in so long, I can’t even remember where I went. Well, I do, and it ended it in a fight with my ex, and me taking a cab to the airport alone and buying a separate return flight early. “Fine. Yes. I’ll go.”
“Thank you! I really didn’t want to have to go on this trip alone.”
“So, while you are doing all of these seminar conference things, what am I supposed to be doing?”
“You can chill by the pool. Go to the spa. Go shopping. Hike. It’s Hawaii. A five star resort. I don’t know. Hang out with all of the trophy wives of the partners. And when the meetings are over, accompany me to the dinners and dazzle everyone with your wit and charm.”
“You think I’m witty and charming?” I raised an eyebrow at Lex.
“We wouldn’t be best friends if I thought otherwise.”
She had friend zoned me years ago when we met in college. It sucks. She was my dream woman. Smart. Funny. Successful. Motivated. And until three months ago, she was in a long term, very serious relationship with a woman I couldn’t stand. Vapid. Materialistic. Feckless. Everything Lex wasn’t. But I got the appeal. She was hot in a traditional sense. And she was successful in her own right. But whatever. She’s gone. Lex is single. But I’m her best friend.
Days later I’m packed and pulled up in front of her home waiting for her to jump in and so we can board a flight to Oahu. At least she booked us for first class.
We park and go to check our luggage. “I’m sorry, your flight has been delayed.” We were greeted with the news at the gate.
“For how long?” Lex asks, concerned.
“There’s a mechanical issue with the plane. It can be a while.”
“I need to be there by dinner this evening. Is there another flight?”
The agent is typing furiously on their computer. “There’s another flight in one hour in terminal two. It doesn’t appear to be sold out. We can book you on it and it, if you run, you can make it in time to check luggage and board.”
“We’ll take it.”
“Oh. It’s not first class.”
“You won’t be seated together.”
Lex looks at me.
“I’m fine with it. I have work I can do on the plane. I’m good.”
Lex looked down at my sparkly flip flops. “Can you book it in those?”
“We are about to find out.”
We took off running full speed wheeling our suitcases to the next terminal. Dodging weaving amongst the other travelers.
Bags checked, flight boarded. My seat was blissfully a window seat. Not so bad. I accomplish all of my work tasks, and get a nap in.
When we land, Lex meets me in the walkway. “That wasn’t so bad.” She yawns and stretches.
“No. Not at all. I got caught up with a lot of work stuff. If we were seated in first class next to each other I would have just gotten drunk and talked to you the whole flight.”
She laughs and tells me about her seat mates as we walk to the baggage claim.
We wait and watch all of the passengers collect their bags. Only two suitcases are left on the carousel spinning unclaimed. An attendant comes and collects them and wheels them to the unclaimed baggage area. The carousel stops with a loud buzzing.
Lex looks at me. I look back at her. She checks her watch. “I need to be checked in for the conference in two hours.”
We file a claim with the airline in hopes our baggage is tracked down and head to the rental car facility.
“I’m sorry, there is no car reserved in your name,” the clerk informs Lex.
“What do you mean? Maybe check under-”
“There are no more reservations left to be picked up today.”
“Is there availability? Are there any cars left?”
“Yes, of course. I just need a driver’s license and a credit card.”
Lex opens the case of her phone and pulls out her license. “Oh shit,” she whispers.
“My cards are missing.” Her eyes are panicked.
“It’s okay. You can call and cancel them. I will get the car. It’s the least I can do. It’s an otherwise free trip, right?” I smile and reassure her.
Fourteen hundred dollars later, we are en route to the resort.
“Poppy, I hate to ask you, but this dinner is semi-formal. We need to stop and get something to wear. I will pay you back.”
Another grand and a half later after shoes, makeup, toiletries and outfits for the next couple of days are purchased we are sitting at a table with Lex’s partners and their spouses - and damn Lex looks good in a linen suit with a black button down. I’m telling myself to stop staring. Friend zone sucks.
We hadn’t even checked into our room yet, we had changed in the fitting rooms. I manage to make conversation and do as I had been asked- charm our table mates with my wit and humor.
We make our way to the front desk. “Alexandra Baron, I have a reservation for a two bedroom suite.”
“I’m sorry, no. You have a standard king room.”
Lex opens her phone, and shows the clerk the reservation.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Baron, I don’t know what went wrong, but we don’t have that in our system.”
Lex looks at me with eyes that look like they may brim over with tears. “Are you okay-”
“I’m fine. We can share a king bed and be just fine. I don’t snore. I don’t bite.” I force a smile. “Or, I can get my own room.”
“No… No… You don’t need to do that. I told you this trip was supposed to be free. You’ve already covered the car and new clothes.”
“Can we have a credit card for incidentals?”
Lex looks at me side eyed.
I exhale and pull out my credit card.
“I’m so sorry.” She whispers.
“It’s not a thing.”
The following morning, we order room service, a bottle of champagne for mimosas. Lex goes to pop the cork for the champagne, it hits the sliding glass door and cracks it. Add that as an incidental, thank you.
Lex heads to her first conference. I decide to go to for a hike nearby.
I come back to my rental car after a wonderful and relaxing hike to a nearby waterfall. The tail light is smashed in. Someone had backed out and hit my damn car. Add that to the cost.
I’m trying to not cry.
I call it in and report it.
I go back to the room and tell Lex. She can’t stop laughing. “I’m so sorry. I am. I know I told you this was a free trip and it’s not so free now.”
I shake my head. There’s nothing I can say about it.
We call the airline and find out no one knows where our bags are. Still. They are gone in the wind.
I’m trying to not add up all of the costs in my head.
Day two, I go for a hike, while looking over a cliff, my designer sunglasses slip off and fall down the cliffs. Still no luggage found.
Day three, no luggage. Lex trips on the floors of the lobby going from one conference room to the next. An urgent care visit and prescription later, add it to the bottom line.
Day four, we’ve given up hope on the luggage. It’s our last full day and finally a day without incident. But we need to purchase luggage to bring back what we’ve purchased. Just add it on.
We go to dinner, and one lychee martini becomes three.
Lex is sitting across from me and my head is swimming. The music is thumping rhythmically around us. The setting sun is casting orange and pink hues through the deep blue sky and glittering off of the waves. It’s the golden hour.
“What?” Lex asks.
“This free trip has cost me over five grand.” I start laughing hysterically.
Lex laughs with me. “I swear, you know I will pay you back.”
“Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t even care anymore. I’m just glad this is the last night.”
“I’m kind of sad this is the last night. I’ve enjoyed these last few days of going to sleep next to you, waking up with you.”
I keep laughing. She’s kidding, right?
Lex stands and takes my hand. She’s no longer laughing. She’s looking at me, and before I know it, her lips are on mine.
Four nights, five thousand dollars later, she’s finally mine.
There’s no such thing as free. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is. But some things are worth more than money.