"Class dismissed." Professor Hammond ended the lesson, standing up to grab his jacket from the back of the chair. "Don't forget, you all need to produce a piece that captures the beauty of nature in its rarest form. It's going to count towards your final mark. Extra credits for thinking outside the box, so no slacking off. Enjoy spring break, guys." Mr. Hammond winced at the end, as the sound of scraping chairs filled the room.
My best friend Emma, twisted her long, blonde curls into a bun, securing it in place with her HB pencil. "Hey, Hell's Bells, please say you're coming with me to my parent's condo this weekend," she put on her pretty please voice and fluttered her eyelashes at me. "The party is gonna be lit, and Chris and Sean will be there." She clenched her fists together in excitement.
My eyes winced. "Can't. My mom wants me to go visit her and her 'new family,′ up at Bear Creek this holidays." I cringed as I said 'new family'. Who knew, my mom would turn out to be the impulsive type that would marry a guy she only just met three months ago?
"What?" Emma whined. "But I need you. You're my wing woman," she said, pouting and giving me the puppy dog eyes.
"I'm sorry, Em. If I could get out of it, I would," I replied, honestly.
I really would too. I had no desire, whatsoever, to go traipsing through the forest in some stuffy mountain man cabin, when I could be living it up with Emma in her parent's luxury condo. Especially knowing that I could be cozying up with Chris, who I'd had my eye on for months.
"Well, at least you can work on the nature project for Professor Hottie," Emma said, fake swooning.
Fair enough, so our art teacher was a hot guy in his early thirties. That wasn't the only reason that I was taking his class. I actually enjoyed painting. It was the one thing that I was good at.
"What's in Bear Creek?" Emma asked, inquisitively.
"Mountain men, forest dwellers, bears," I snorted with amusement.
We walked over to my car, talking about random things. Mostly about how hot Mr. Hammond looked today and wondering why he wasn't married yet.
"Bye, Hell's. I hope they at least have WIFI," Emma teased.
I shot back a sassy smirk as I waved and got into my car. Then, as I molded into the seat, I tipped my head back to lean on the headrest and exhaled. They better have WIFI. I really hoped that there was a television or something because I wouldn't last five minutes otherwise. I had visions of Mom wearing a lumberjack shirt and rigger boots, chopping logs out back with an ax and roasting woodchucks over an open campfire. I shook the disturbing image from my mind before I suffered permanent mental trauma.
I was a regular girl who liked my home comforts. I enjoyed taking selfies and posting pictures of my lunch on Instagram. If I wasn't spending my evenings propping up the student bar, then I was at home, slobbing out in my pajamas and binge-watching box sets on Netflix. I wasn't looking forward to spending the next couple of weeks out in the sticks. It was a good job that I planned ahead. The trunk of my car was filled with booze and snacks. So, at least I wouldn't have to live on forest creatures. The thought of that utterly repulsed me.
I had been driving for what felt like hours and it had started to get dark. Thank God for GPS. I didn't know what people used to do before the invention of the satellite navigation system. Fine, they used maps, but that wasn't a skill that I had picked up. Besides, I couldn't multitask if my life depended upon it. I daren't try to read a map and drive a car at the same time. I would probably end up crashing into a tree. I got more and more apprehensive the higher I drove up into the mountains. By that point, I was certain that the satellite navigation system had sent me on a wild goose chase. But when I saw the sign for Bear Creek, I breathed out a sigh of relief.
I had my reservations as soon as I drove through the country hick town. After witnessing some of the locals walking by, I figured checkered shirts, jeans, and cowboy boots was the signature look around here. The sat nav took me further and further up the mountain terrain, which was all dirt track and dense forest. The sky disappeared behind a canopy of leafy green branches, and that was when I lost the signal of my favorite radio station. Feeling as if I had suffered a severed limb, I turned it off, ridding the annoying sound of static.
The dirt track veered to the right, so I followed it, my tires crunching over a gravel stone drive that led down onto private grounds. I reached the gargantuan wooden dwelling, thinking that I had taken the wrong turning somewhere. There must've been some mistake. As I attempted to turn the car around, the honeyed tone of the sat nav announced that I had reached my destination.
I parked the car and cut off the engine, looking up through the windshield to drink in the view of the two-story wooden dwelling that looked way too elaborate to be a mere hut in the woods. It was more like some hotel retreat that was used for corporate events. I found myself eating my words, hating that I would have to force feed myself an extra large helping of humble pie. Mom did good. This was a log cabin on steroids.
In fact, it looked like a work of art. I wondered whether Mom's new husband, Jack, had actually built this cabin with his bare hands, or whether he was loaded enough to buy it.
I twitched my lips in appreciation. If I had to admit, Bear Creek didn't look too shabby from up here. Mom came rushing out through the front door, outstretching her arms for a hug. "Helen, honey, come here. I've missed you so much."
I dropped my bag as I wrapped my arms around her, sucking in a lungful of her spicy perfume. We stayed like that for a few moments while we both contemplated what we would say to each other. So, she married a guy she barely knew. She must know that this would be cropping up in conversation at some point.
"Do you want some tea, coffee, a beer? You're old enough to drink now. You're growing up so fast," she word spewed. She always did that when she was nervous.
So, me being the cheeky girl I was, I decided to test my luck. "I've got something stronger than beer?" I said, wiggling my brows.
She looked at me, cocking her head to the side with that amused, yet, stern look. I opened the trunk of my car and held up a bottle of Vodka.
I had brought three bottles with me and a crate of Coca-Cola to use as a mixer. I know, I was a Vodka and Coke girl. I never said I was classy.
"You didn't think that I'd show up empty handed now, did you?" I flashed Mom a mischievous grin.
Mom rolled her eyes. She was acting like a responsible parent right now. But I could guarantee that she would be helping me to knock back that stuff later.