43. you, me, and the road.

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Ethan leaned against the doorframe to our room and knocked gently

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Ethan leaned against the doorframe to our room and knocked gently. "All set, babe?"

"Just about," I said, cramming in one last pair of socks into my bag and leaning against the bulging compartment to close the zipper. It took some convincing to coax it shut, but I finally prevailed. Even if it did look like it was about to burst right back open.

He raised his eyebrows as he surveyed my luggage— a full-sized purple suitcase, a
hot pink nylon gym bag and my usual pebbled grey leather purse. A stark contrast to his one, moderately-full brown suede duffle.

I gave him my best innocent look, tilting my head and batting my eyelashes. "What?"

"Are you sure you packed enough? I think you might need some more clothes," he said with a smirk. "I mean, ten tank tops, countless pairs of shorts and five pairs of shoes can't possibly be enough for six days."

Men just didn't understand.

"Girls have more stuff to deal with. You don't have to pack makeup or hairstyling products. My blowdryer takes up a ton of space."

"To be fair, you don't need any of that either."

"You're sweet, but you're a liar. Besides, I let you talk me into taking the truck. Now there's plenty of cargo space, and I intend to use it."

"I think you packed more for this one-week trip than you brought with you when you moved in," Ethan grumbled, hoisting up the bags and carrying them down the stairs. "I even saw you throw in two of your enormous hardcover books. When do you even think you'll have the time to read both of them?"

In my defense, the books were part of a trilogy I was currently obsessed with. I'd just devoured the first one, and after a huge twist at the end, I was dying to find out what happened. I couldn't leave the books behind and leave myself to wonder for a whole week.

Plus, books were a great escape from real life. One that I hoped I wouldn't need, but if this trip to meet my mom went sideways... My throat tightened.

"I might be a little nervous," I admitted, following behind him down the staircase. "And overpacking to compensate."

He set the bags down and turned to look at me, his gaze tender. "Hey, it'll be fine. More than fine. It'll be great," he said, wrapping me in a hug.

I sighed, and the turmoil within me settled. "Okay, let's get this show on the road."

———

I climbed into the driver's seat of Ethan's truck, fastening my seatbelt and adjusting the seat position. Even with it all the way up, I could barely see over the hood. And now, I had to drive this beast.

As I threw the transmission into reverse, I began to edge out of the parking stall at a snail's pace. I slammed on the brakes in a panic; the truck was too high and I couldn't tell whether anything was behind me. I could tell Ethan was biting his tongue to stop himself from backseat driving.

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