As the sun starts its descent behind the mountains, Sarah yawns a bit. Dax looks over. “Let’s pull over.” Sarah nods.
They find a cozy dirt path off the road that opens to a clearing in the woods, a perfect place to park for the night. Sarah rigs the mosquito net with the back door popped, while Dax goes to relieve himself outside. There is a cool breeze and it will be lovely to sleep with the door open for a change.
Dax and her spent the bulk of the summer working double shifts in part-time jobs, socking away all of their money. They sold both of their beat-up cars to buy this van, and kept the rest to finance the trip. It was important to both of them that they do this themselves and not rely on any loans from their parents. Besides, who knows what trouble they might run into along the way and they’d want to keep the call home for funds as a safety net.
Dax returns to help finish the ritual evening prep. The cooler and duffles go in the front seat. The curtains get hung on the windows. The blankets and pillows get fluffed and straightened. The battery-operated lantern gets turned on. While make-shift and too rough for some, it’s home for them. They usually read for an hour before sleep, today has been too magical for that. Instead, they lie next to each other and listen to the night sounds outside the van.
Smiling in silence for quite awhile before they turn to look at each other, they’re almost giddy. Dax pulls her closer and kisses her on the forehead and then the nose. Sarah giggles.
He kisses her eyelids and then her cheeks. His lips glaze over her earlobes and then her neck. Her giddiness quickly transforms into something else. His lips move to the other side of her neck and then gently brush her lips. They glide down her chin to her throat and then meet the barrier of her t-shirt’s neckline.
It’s only been a few short months since their first intimate encounter in the tool shed of the tulip field, but they’ve wasted no time since. They have explored every inch of the other and continue to do so everyday… almost. There is an ease that they feel with one another that allows them to be totally free.
And right now, Sarah wants more and she’s not going to be patient about it. She abruptly jumps up, as much as the roof of the van will allow, and rips off her t-shirt and then her jeans. Dax only needs a second to see her down to her panties and wants to rip the rest off. He pulls her onto the blankets beneath him, then props himself up to rip off his t-shirt and button-flies. It’s been a week since they hit a laundry-mat, so he has the benefit of wearing no briefs.
By the look on Sarah’s face, she sees it solely as her own benefit. She doesn’t wait for Dax to disrobe her remaining garments. She quickly rips them off. Dax growls under his breath as he’s perched above her.
She reaches up to run her fingers along his cut abdomen. “You sound like a bear.”
He smiles seductively at her. “I feel like a bear.”
Sarah smiles as her eyes glance downward and she runs her fingers along his navel and down until she feels the soft hairs leading to the source of his aching. He growls again and quickly lowers himself on top of the naked length of her. This won’t be too gentle as the bear takes over. He pushes her legs open and feels the warm folds between them with his fingers. He moves the tips, dancing over the soft flesh. Sarah’s mouth falls open with a gentle moan. He covers her mouth with his and takes her moan inside of him until it builds within his belly and he can’t take anymore wanting.
They both moan. She wraps her legs around him and her head tilts back. Dax is ignited. His pace quickens and Sarah can feel the vibration building from her toes. It’s climbing her legs toward her thighs. His breath is erratic. Sarah pushes harder against him. Dax clutches the blankets below them to steady his need to explode. They both moan as they reach the precipice of release. She can feel the wave wash over her as both of their bodies stiffen and their ravenous desire escapes in a moment of rapture.
Dax collapses on top of her and they both breathe heavily from exhaustion. Dax buries his head in her neck and kisses it. Afraid that he’s crushing her, he rolls to his back and pulls her on top of him. “Is that the first time we… together?” Sarah’s head rests on his chest, as she nods against it without a word. He smiles with his eyes closed. “Let’s do that more.”
They quickly drift into a smiling sleep.
About a week later, the van travels the single highway that goes in and out of the keys. Dax drives south. Sarah is napping in the passenger seat. The turquoise blue water surrounds them and the sun beams through the sunroof. The windows are open and the warm breeze wafts through the van and blows Sarah’s hair in front of her face. Dax looks at her and smiles. He carefully grabs her camera from the divider and snaps a few photos of her. He doesn’t focus of course, he has to keep his eye on the road. But here is wishing for a few good ones. He puts the camera back on its perch and gently moves the hair behind her ear. She doesn’t wake. He smiles to himself.
Hours later they are in Key West. Dax pulls into a parking lot of a convenience store just as Sarah stirs. She wipes the sleep from her eyes. “We’re here?”
After they restock the cooler, they find a beach-side watering hole that has hammocks for chairs. Dax and Sarah claim one for their own, along with a couple of Pina Colada’s. Dax sucks the straw until he gets a brain freeze. Sarah laughs. “Slow down. I want to go swimming.”
Dax holds his head and sucks down the rest of the drink. “Too late. What’s the rush anyway.”
Sarah laughs and follows his lead. The frozen drink slurps through the straw at the bottom of the empty cup. “Ugh.” Sarah grabs her head.
Dax laughs and calls to the waitress. “Two more, please.” They both laugh and swing in the hammock.
The waitress returns with the refills. Dax raises his glass toward Sarah’s. “To only the beginning.” They clink glasses and slurp until they get brain freeze then laugh.
It feels like they have all the time in the world, not a rush in sight. Maybe it’s the feeling like their deep in the Caribbean or maybe it’s just that they really don’t have an agenda. It’s whatever they feel like doing, whenever they feel like doing it. They swing in the hammock until the sun sets and they watch the stars twinkle overhead.
That night they pay for a camping spot on the beach and pitch a tent. They’ve been looking forward to this the whole ride down… sleeping by the surf, gentle ocean breeze, waking up to the waves.
Sarah and Dax lay on top of their sleeping bags with the tent flap open and the mosquito net on. The gentle surf of the Keys lies just beyond the tent opening. But it’s not quite what they had imagined. The ocean breeze is non-existent. They’ve switched the direction of the tent opening several times thinking they were just out of position… but no, the air was as still as a jar. And each time they got out to turn the tent, the mosquitos had a feast on Sarah, even with the gallon of insect repellant that she applied.
Dax helps to rub the all-too-familiar pink lotion on the bites, but the itching still keeps Sarah awake. Dax tosses and turns from the heat and ridiculous lack of air circulation. “Where is the breeze? We’re right be the water… but nothing.” Sweat beads on his forehead.
Sarah stairs at the pitched ceiling of the tent, willing herself not to scratch, and trying to convince herself that it will all be worth it. “Wait until we wake up next to the water tomorrow.”
Dax sits up. “I’m gonna pop in the van for a minute and run the air. Maybe I’ll be able to sleep if I cool off for a bit. Dax unzips the mosquito net.
Sarah instantly panics. “Don’t let the mosquitos in.”
Dax exits quickly and a moment later Sarah hears the car engine hum. In the meantime, Sarah spreads all four limbs out to cool off better. Her skin is a patchwork of pink poke-a-dots. She’s trying not to think of the constant itch, because once she starts scratching she won’t be able to stop. Outside the car, engine stops and the door slams.
Dax comes back in the tent. “I think that should do it.” He zips up the mosquito net again and lies down next to Sarah.
In the stillness, a buzzing sound fills the void. Sarah eyes dart around. Then she starts smacking her arms and legs. “Ew. Mosquitos got in.” She continues to smack at her skin. It’s enough to make her want to cry.
Dax turns on the flashlight to search for the critter, or critters. They’re both swatting at the air. Sweat beads on Dax’s forehead again. Sarah is scratching everywhere. The buzzing continues, so their quest to kill the critter is a bust. Dax is full-on sweating now. Sarah is up and dancing around from the itch, nearly bumping the roof and collapsing the tent.
Dax stops and looks at her then at his sweat drenched shirt. He busts out laughing. “Let’s get out of here.” Sarah nods emphatically. Dax rattles off a plan. “You grab the blankets and make a run for the car.” He throws her the car keys. “I’ll collapse the tent and be there in a few. Keep the air running.” They quickly jump into disassembling action then head north.
Days later, Sarah and Dax exit Café Du Monde in New Orleans’ French Quarter with a to-go bag and two coffees. A weathered raisin of a man drums on a set of white containers and a few pots, outside the patio restaurant. The street is full of music and aromas. Sarah has to admit that this city is truly intoxicating. It’s like sweet sensory overload.
Dax pulls a beignet from the bag and powdered sugar goes everywhere. Sarah takes a finger to wipe some off his face and lick it. She smiles coyly. Dax grabs her and wipes the white dust all over her shirt. She laughs then grabs her own beignet and showers the powder all over him. They laugh like school children.
They sip coffee as they stroll the walk around Jackson’s Square and the French Market. Street musicians, artists and horse drawn carriage drivers compete for the tourists’ attention. It’s autumn and all is decked out with pumpkins and ghostly themes. They walk and take it all in.
A charcoal artist calls Sarah and Dax over. “How about a sketch of the lovely couple?” They know that their strict budget doesn’t allow for street art, no matter how tempting. They politely decline. As they turn to continue their walk, they bump into an older woman dressed like a gypsy. Sarah grabs her hand to steady them both. “I’m sorry.”
The woman grasps her hand and looks into Sarah’s eyes intently. Then she turns and smiles at Dax. “Your in love.” Sarah and Dax smile but don’t really respond. Of course, it’s obvious they’re in love. Sarah is in deep and Dax is right there with her. Yet neither one has uttered the words… not yet. It’s been six months and although there were a thousand perfect moments for them to say those three words, they just haven’t yet.
Sarah suddenly wants to somehow bind them together more permanently. She wants a symbol that what she’s feeling is not going to evaporate into thin air. They continue their walk and pass a tattoo parlor. She stops. “Let’s get tattoos.”
Dax looks at her oddly. “We just passed on charcoal art, now we’re okay with tattoos?”
Sarah points to the sign in the window. Two for One. “Budget be damned. Just something small.”
Dax is surprised. “You’re serious?”
Dax spies in the dusty storefront. “You realize there are needles involved?”
Sarah pulls him by the hand into the shop. The door jingles when the door opens. There is only one customer in the back. His shoes are visible under the privacy curtain and the sound of the machine hums on and off. A voice calls from behind the curtain. “Someone will be right with you. Take a look at the books while you wait. Sarah flips through one of the books.
Dax steps up to another then looks at Sarah. “You’re serious serious?”
Dax opens his book. “Ok. What are we getting?”
Sarah looks at him. “Let’s not tell each other. It’ll be a surprise.”
Dax flips through more pages. “Ok. But a few guidelines. No names.”
Sarah is giddy with anticipation. “It should be something that symbolizes us as a couple.”
Dax flips to a page and holds his place with his hand. “Ankle or wrist only. I don’t want any creepy tattoo guy checking out any other parts.”
Sarah smiles, holds her place in her book and extends her other hand. “Deal.” They shake.
Shortly after, Sarah sits in one artist’s chair while he works on her ankle. Dax sits in another while he works on his wrist. Dax calls out to her. “No peeking.”
Sarah laughs but bites her finger from the pain of the needles.
The artists finish their work. Both Dax and Sarah step out of the back and are ready to unveil their masterpieces.
Sarah smiles. “Ready?”
Dax nods. “One.” “Two.” They finish the count of three together and unveil their art. Both of their mouths drop open when they see what the other has done.