| I merge onto the highway heading south bound. We pass Braintree Plaza and then in fifteen minutes or so I am merging onto interstate ninety-five south. Once we cross the state line into Rhode Island, Tom turns on the radio, and he keeps the volume down low. He reclines his seat and says he is going to take a little nap. The events from the last few hours have caught up to him and he is exhausted. I say for him to have a nice rest and I am happy he is taking his nap now for I will need him to drive in a while.
I have been driving for several hours now and I must use a restroom. A blue sign appears on the right side of the highway stating that there is a rest area up ahead in three miles. There is a food symbol and a bathroom symbol as well. I switch to the right lane and once the off ramp appears my bladder feels as if it might rupture. I am taking the off ramp as I glance at Tom who is gently snoring away. I keep the car running as I leap out of the car and run into the woman’s room. When I exit the restroom five minutes later, the car is turned off, and Tom is standing outside of the car.
Tom then runs into the men’s room and as he is in the restroom I look around the massive parking lot. There is a diner called ‘Ally’s Place’ and I decide we will take some time to grab something to eat while we are here. Tom and I have not had anything to eat since early this morning and my stomach rumbles at the thought of food. Tom emerges from the men’s room and the both of us are more relaxed since our bladders are empty. I suggest that we walk around the parking lot for a while before we go into the diner to get something to eat and Tom pouts for a moment for he is starving. I am just as hungry but my legs need to move first and I beg just for a couple of laps.
Tom asks as we walk, “Max?”
I respond, “Yes?”
Tom asks, “Do you think Victor and Gwen know that we are gone yet?”
I say, “I highly doubt it.”
Tom asks, “Why do you say that?”
I answer, “Because it always takes Victor a day or so to face us again after a fight like that. By the time that they notice that we’re gone we will almost be in California.”
Tom says, “That was my next question.”
I look at Tom and I am a little confused, “What is?”
Tom says, “Where we are going.”
I smile, “Yes we are going to a little town in California called Brant.”
Tom asks, “I take it you have done your research on this place?”
I smile again, “Of course I have. I always knew we would end up in California, it is the opposite coast, and it was just a
matter of time before I found the perfect town for us.”
Tom asks, “What is so special about Brant?”
I say, “It is a beautiful seaside town, a small town where everyone knows everyone, and it has an incredible school system.”
Tom asks, “So we are gonna still go to school while we work full time plus?”
I reply, “We worked full time and went to school full time when we lived in South Boston. We can do it in Brant too.”
Tom says, “I know we did it back in South Boston but I was just hoping that we didn’t have to work so hard.”
I say, “You aren’t gonna have to work so hard Tom. I want you to back off of the overtime.”
Tom asks, “What about you?”
I reply, “I’m an EMT and overtime is my life. I already have the career that I want. What I really want you to do is spend
more time doing school activities and let me do the worrying.”
Tom says, “That doesn’t seem fair.”
I reply, “I am a solid ‘B’ student Tom. I will eventually go on for my paramedic degree but right now I am content being an EMT. You will be the one to really go off to college.”
Tom says, “What if I want to work the overtime just to save for the day that I do go to college.”
I roll my charcoal gray eyes, “Alright, alright. I am not going to argue with you. If you want to work all the overtime then do it.
But you will get scholarships, grants, and federal aid. This way you really won’t have to worry about paying for college.”
Tom asks, “Max?”
I say, “Yes my darling brother.”
Tom says, “I am really worried about one thing.”
I ask, “What’s that?”
Tom says, “We are exceptionally close. I am afraid that we are going to drift apart.”
I say, “We are awfully close. Don’t worry about that Tom for we will only get closer.”
Tom asks, “How do you figure that?”
I reply, “Tom, we are the only family we have ever have and that we ever will have. This experience will only bind us closer
together because we are the only family we got. Nobody can ever take that away from us.”
Tom says, “I’m still worried about it.”
I smile, “You always worry but don’t fret about it too much, okay?”
Tom says and he does not say this very often, “I love you Max.”
My heart warms, “I love you too little brother. Now let’s get something to eat before our stomachs start eating us alive.”
Tom says, “I don’t always worry.”
I laugh, “Oh no, you just worry most of the time.”
Tom and I enter the diner and there are three truckers that are sitting at the counter drinking coffee. There are two couples sitting in booths overlooking the huge parking lot. The waitress, Gale who is probably in her late sixties by my guess, seats us in a booth overlooking the highway. Gale leaves us with menus and she promises to be back with our sodas. Tom and I look over the menu and I am so hungry I wish I could order several meals. When Gale returns with our soda we are ready to order. Since we are just outside of Philadelphia both Tom and I order Philly Cheese Steak Subs. I order mine with steak fries and Tom orders his with onion rings. We also order potato skins and salads as well. Gale smiles and disappears with our order. No, Tom and I are not hungry, not at all.
Gale brings our salads and as we inhale the lettuce we talk about the driving schedule. Tom insists that he takes over driving when we leave the diner. I am a little reluctant but I give in. Tom is a good driver it is just he gets a little intimidated when he drives on the highway. Tom gets freaked out about the big tractor trailers, I do not blame him for they freak me out a little too, but I just have to trust my brother. Our potato skins arrive and we inhale those as well. Tom and I do not slow down when our subs come either. By the time we finish the subs we are so stuffed. We are not uncomfortably full but we feel perfectly full.
We pay the bill and we emerge from the diner. We decide to walk about the parking lot a little before getting back into the car. Tom pauses at the car and stretches his body and I do the same. There is also a gas station here in the rest stop. We only have half a tank so we fill the car up and then Tom merges onto the highway.