Ticklish Weekend at Auntie's

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Four hours. It had been four hours since Valerie and her mother, Cynthia, left their home in Charlotte. For four hours, Valerie sat in the passenger seat of her mother's SUV and gazed out the window, anticipating the inevitable ennui of their destination. The girl counted cows grazing in rural pastures, kept note of licence plates from different states along the highway, and half heartedly engaged her mother in the alphabet game across passing billboards. The car played mostly rock ballads from the 70's and 80's, music that Valerie's mother would school her on as  being from 'her generation'. The gentle blue glow of her phone screen only provided Valerie so much solace from the droning of her mother's small talk and the vibratory hums of her Navigator.

"Just another couple of exits," said Cythina, upon passing the turnoff to Blue Ridge Parkway. She glanced over to her daughter who sat slouched in her chair, knees bent and pressed against the dashboard, scrolling through her Facebook feed for nearly the twentieth time since they left. The lowered window allowed a brutish wind to tossel around her long, naturally strawberry blonde locks. Her freckled kissed cheeks basked in the sunlight beneath a pair of wire framed aviators. Valerie had picked out a comfortable outfit for the road; a high ending Alice blue tank and a pair of denim shorts that fit snug against her petite frame. Black and pink Vans and mismatched ankle socks completed her ensemble. "Are you excited to see Aunt Marilyn?"

"I guess," said Valerie. The teenage girl set her phone aside and crossed her arms, staring aimlessly out into the barren highway before her. Valerie groaned; her eyes rolled from beneath her shades. "I just don't see why you're leaving me at your sister's house for the weekend."

"It's just for a couple of days," said Cynthia. "She insists that the last time she saw you was four Christmases ago. You know, Marilyn asks about you all of the time. I figured it would be good for you both to spend some time together while I work on getting this house sold in Jefferson."

"But it's going to be so boring," said Valerie. "It's going to be two days of 'how's school going', 'you do anything exciting over the year', 'and 'you know, when I was your age...'." Cynthia chuckled, despite her attempt to convince her daughter that she was wrong.

"I'm sure you two will have a lot more fun than you expect," said Cynthia. "Marilyn can be full of surprises sometimes."

"Penelope's mom drove her and a bunch of our other friends to the beach for Spring Break," said Valerie. "Why couldn't I have gone with them?"

"Because you're going to reconnect with your family, Val," said Cynthia, a much more parental tone seeped into her voice. Cynthia quickly reverted to the calm in which she prefered speaking to her children. "Spring Break just started. It's only two days and then you can go back to do anything you want."

"But why didn't you bring Gary or Connor?" asked Valerie.

"Because your brothers are off on that camping trip with your father," said Cynthia. "We all would have gone, but I had to work and you said you didn't want to."

"I would have gone if I knew that this would be the alternative," said Valerie under her breath. Cynthia sighed. For years, the woman had tried to learn the complicated distance that Valerie put between herself and others, including her family. Unable to blame her for taking after herself at that age, Cynthia fought the motherly impulses to hound her daughter into submission, especially since she had turned eighteen a little over three months prior to their week long break from school.

"Trust me, she may surprise you," said Cynthia. "You may have more fun over there than you know." The woman grinned. Valerie chuckled in disbelief, yet said nothing more on the topic as she continued to stare out of the window.

Cynthia's car veered off of the highway upon reaching their exit. Relics of Cynthia's home town passed by, each with their own lengthened anecdote that slowly chipped away at what remained of Valerie's attention span. Eventually, the landmarks that passed by Valerie's half opened eyes became less commercial and more residential. Being able to stretch her legs was the only redemption Valerie could find within their destination. The teenager imagined that if she could find a couch to lay on, a television to have playing, and her phone to occupy her, the weekend ahead would not be entirely unbearable.

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