Chapter 118

The parking lot was a celebration in itself. Freshmen were gathering here to obtain directions for driving out to the trip’s starting point, then lingering around to greet friends as they joined the commotion. What began as a few cars stocked with students clutching maps soon escalated to nearly the entire first-year population of the HCP. Thankfully, most of them were carpooling; otherwise there never would have been enough room for everyone.

“I think that’s everything,” Vince said, surveying Nick’s trunk.

“Your stuff, my stuff, Alice’s stuff, Alex’s stuff, and Will’s sister’s stuff?” Nick asked.

“Yup, we’ve got a full house,” Vince confirmed.

“Also, my name is Jill,” Jill added in.

“Just ignore him,” Alice advised her. “He remembers, he just likes being difficult.”

Jill shrugged. “Whatever. He’s driving us all down, that makes up for a little annoyance.”

“The day is young,” Alice mumbled under her breath.

Vince turned away from the trunk and faced his girlfriend. “Sure you don’t want to ride with us? We could have someone sit in a lap to make room.”

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Sasha replied, patting him on the chest. “I have, like, zero patience for sitting in cars. It bugs me to spend hours doing something I can do in minutes.”

“It won’t be as fun without you,” Vince said.

“Damn straight it won’t,” she agreed. “I’ll be waiting when you guys arrive, though. So drive fast.”

“That’s more up to Nick than me,” Vince pointed out.

“I assure you, I’m properly motivated to make haste,” Nick chimed in. “It’s time spent cramped in my car on the highway versus time spent floating down a river with a cold drink in my hand.”

“Hear, hear,” Alex echoed.

“Sounds like the matter is well in hand,” Vince told Sasha.

“Then I’ll see you there,” Sasha said, planting a peck on his lips. There was a blur and a blast of wind and she was gone.

“I still think there’s a bit of room left,” Vince said after he’d recovered from Sasha’s speedy exit. “Jill, are you sure Will doesn’t want to come?”

“Positive,” Jill assured him. “That’s really not his scene. Besides, he says he has some project he wants to work on during the break. Trust me; my brother is way happier with his nose in a book than his body in a swimsuit.”

“To each his own,” Alex surmised. “I take it Her- I mean, Roy is making his own way there?”

“Took off on his motorcycle this morning,” Vince supplied. “Said he would have someone text him the directions when they were handed out.”

“At least he showed a little forethought in that regard,” Alice said. “I suppose progress is progress.”

“On that note, I suggest we ‘progress’ our butts into the car so we can get on the road,” Nick said. “I don’t know about you, but I’m not really feeling spending my day in the parking lot when there’s an aquatic option just a few hours down the road.”

*          *          *

Roy fed his steel pony some gas and picked up the gallop. He was racing down the highway, sunglasses on his face, duffel bag slung across his back, and helmet nowhere to be seen. Sure, some cop might bust his balls, but one quick demonstration would show that in a battle between Roy and concrete, concrete was going to get its shit wrecked.

His phone vibrated on his side and Roy whipped it into view. It was a text from Julia letting him know the exact location they were starting at today, along with flowery language about looking forward to seeing him. He supposed he did owe her a good deep-dicking for sending him the directions. Plus, she wasn’t boring in bed, even after all these months. There was something to be said for that.

Fast as Roy was going (and to be honest, the speed limit was a distant arbitrary marker for him at this point), he was still utterly smoked a few moments later as something that registered as no more than a blur tore past him and kicked up a tremendous gust of wind.

Roy coughed on the dust that had been stirred up before choking out the word “Bitch.” He pulled back harder on his throttle and ripped further past the speed limit, aware that he had zero chance of beating the girl who’d dashed past him and equally aware that he was going to try anyway.

*          *          *

“I think we’re ready to go,” Dean Blaine said as the last of the freshman drove out of the parking lot.

“About time,” Angela said, walking over and stretching her back, resulting in a series of popping sounds. “You’d think when your choices are cruising the water and sitting in a parking lot people wouldn’t lag so much in the latter.”

“They were relaxing with their friends,” Ben pointed out. “We did the same last year.”

“Speak for yourself,” Angela countered. “By this time I was already three beers deep and topless.”

“There’s no way you were already on the river by this time last year,” Ben said.

“I don’t think I claimed I was,” Angela replied with a coy smile.

“Such a wonderful thing for the dean to hear about the female half of his chaperones,” Dean Blaine sighed.

“Look at it this way, I know all the stupid crap they’re likely to try,” Angela said.

“I suppose we’ll call that a silver lining and just breeze past it,” Dean Blaine said. “Now, you two remember how this works?”

“Sure,” Ben said. “We meet them at the start point, unload the river cruising gear, and pile all their stuff on the bus in its place. Then we give them tubes and outfit them with copious amounts of alcohol. One of the local staff drives the bus to the campsite and we cruise the river with them to make sure everything is okay. That night we camp and feed them. The next day is pretty much rinse and repeat, and so on until we come home.”

“Glad to hear at least one of you is up on procedure,” Dean Blaine said. “But I would appreciate it if you would at least go to the trouble of lying to me about the prescense of underage youths and alcohol. We try to look the other way during this trip so they can let loose from stress, but there are limits. Now, off you two go. We don’t want to make our students wait.”

“Psh, with all the tech this bus is outfitted with I bet we beat the super-speed kid there,” Angela said. “We’ll be fine.”

“Drive carefully,” Dean Blaine said, handing the blonde girl the keys. He watched warily as she hopped into the cab and fired up the engine, almost immediately stomping on the gas. Inwardly he wondered if it was such a good idea to choose chaperones purely by rank instead of by those with high levels of empathy and responsibility. Then he remembered some of the antics from his own trip so many years ago and resolved that it was better to have someone who was able to handle the big problems rather than someone with a talent for handling little ones.

He hoped.