12: Delaware and Pennsylvania

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Autumn pulls out the biggest suitcase she owns and stuffs a few changes of clothes into it. She packs a separate back full of books, maybe a hundred, to add to her ever-growing list of books she'd read. She has completed 451, nearly halfway to her goal.

She can't shake her jubilant gratitude toward Adrian for sacrificing his summer break to taking her around the country. It was just incredible!

After stuffing as many books as she could fit into her bag, she zips it up and brings both her clothes and her books down the stairs. The next morning, she wakes, brushes her teeth and her hair, then hears the unique ba-beep of Adrian's car. She smiles. 

She peers out the window and, yes, sees Adrian's ugly yellow Volkswagen beetle waiting in the driveway. She waves to let him know she sees him, gets dressed, curls her hair and walks outside, ready for a road trip. 

She thunks her suitcase into the tiny trunk with Adrian's, keeping her books with her (partially because she wants to read in the car, partially because it doesn't fit in the trunk). 

"Thank you," Autumn says when she slides into the passenger seat. He only smiles at her. "It's gonna be a fun summer," he says, and with that, they drive off.

When they get to the highway, Adrian extracts the state checklist from his pocket and hands it to Autumn. She unfolds it and reads the order in which the states are written. 

"First," says Adrian, "You can check off Delaware, since we've been here already." He hands her a pencil, and she does. "Next, we're going to Pennsylvania!"

"What are we going to do there?" Autumn asks curiously. 

He winks. "That's for me to know, and you to find out."

Autumn laughs lightly, thinking she should have known it would be a surprise. She takes a few guesses, but, smirking, he won't tell her if she's correct.

She takes a picture of the Welcome to Pennsylvania! sign when they get to it. "Almost there," Adrian says. They drive for another hour, Autumn finally pulling out a book to read. 

The drive is relatively short, only about two hours. They pull up at a hotel just as the sun is at its peak in the sky. Adrian pays for one night at the front, and they use a luggage cart (they take turns riding it while the other one pushes - something the both of them secretly wanted to do) to take their bags to the top floor. 

Laughing, the two throw their things in the room and go straight back to the car. He starts the car and drives until they arrive. 

The first thing she sees is an enormous Roman Numeral analog clock at the top of a tall building, leading up to a pointed steeple. The building is made of brick, with many windows lining two stories. To the left and right of the building are brick arches only half the height of the structure between them. Autumn is mesmerized. Her eyes follow the building from its sturdy base to its thin point at the top. 

"Independence Hall," Adrian sighs. He takes her hand an lead her inside. "C'mon! We have a lot to see!"

Autumn stumbles forward, snapping out of her gaze. The two head inside, where they tour freely around replicas of rooms where the Declaration of Independence was signed, where Congress would assemble, where the Supreme Court determined the fate of the country. 

Autumn loves it. Adrian can see the excitement and fascination in her eyes as she reads up on each replica, smiles at him and starts explaining how cool it is. He chuckles. She's so cute when she's excited. 

They tour the museum where the Liberty Bell is kept, and Autumn snaps a photo. They tour the area until it begins to get dark, and they confide back at the hotel. 

"That was amazing!" Autumn repeats over and over, failing to come up with better adjectives. "I loved Independence Hall! And the very first bank that ever existed in the United States! Isn't it just... amazing?!"

Adrian laughs. "You've never been so talkative in your entire life!" She grins. 

The two go to sleep that night, Adrian feeling successful and Autumn feeling excited.

Neither get much sleep. 

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