I heard the rumbling engine of Tessa’s sedan heading towards my house. Laying on my bed, I stared at the ceiling contemplating my life choices. I’d spent years studying to become a lawyer, only to fail the Bar Exam twice by a few points. She was coming over to help me figure things out, and I had unlocked the door for her to come right in when she arrived.
Hearing the engine shut off, I waited to hear the slam of the car door. Instead, I heard her lay on the horn like she did whenever someone cut her off in traffic. I waited for her still, then she honked again. Groaning, I trudged to the window to see her parked in the driveway. “Are you coming in?” I asked.
“You’re coming out, Grace,” Tessa called back, poking her head out the window, “We’re going on a road trip.”
“Ugh, I can’t handle that right now,” I whined, “I just want to curl up and die.”
“And that’s exactly why we’re getting you out of the house. Don’t forget to bring a jacket, it’s a little nippy out here.” She smiled at me, her blue eyes filled with hope, and honked again. The neighbors across the street started yelling, and I rolled my brown eyes.
“Okay,” I sighed, “I’m coming.”
I stepped outside into the cool, autumn air and entered her car. She instantly drove off, and I fiddled with the radio dial. “By the end of the day,” Tessa piped up, “You’ll figure out exactly what you’re supposed to do with your life.”
“What if I don’t?”
“Then at least you can say you had an awesome day with your best friend.” She shrugged and giggled.
After several questions, she still wouldn’t tell me where we were going. It was almost noon and my stomach was grumbling. We’d been driving for an hour and I wanted to stop for lunch, but Tessa ignored my suggestions. She shoved a bagged lunch into my chest, and I ate it quickly.
Finally, things started becoming clearer as I focused on the passing street signs. “I think I know where we’re headed,” I grinned.
“Do you?” Tessa asked, eyebrows raised.
“We’re going to the Blue Ridge Parkway, right? We’ve talked about going there for months, but I thought we were waiting for the summer.” My heart pounded and I couldn’t wait for my first experience taking in the gorgeous sights.
“I think you need it now more than ever,” Tessa said, “We shouldn’t wait to cross our adventures off our bucket lists. We need to start taking more chances and saying yes to everything.”
“Well, most things.”
“Woohoo! We’re going to the Parkway!” I pumped my fists in the air and they smashed against the roof of the car. “Ow,” I said, shaking my hands. “How long until we get there? Are we on it right now? How much longer?”
“Calm down,” she laughed, “Take a nap and I’ll wake you when we’re close.”
“I can’t sleep now! I’m too excited!”
As excited as I was, the turkey sandwich she made me knocked me out cold. Leaning my head on the window, I fell asleep, and moments later I was jolted awake by Tessa swatting me with a map.
“Wake up! Wake up! It’s time to see the sights!”
I shook myself awake and sat upright. On the left of us was a steep mountainside covered in trees with leaves in yellow, red, and orange. Even leaning over Tessa, I couldn’t see the top of the mountain. Rolling down my window, I stuck my head out to feel the rush of wind on my face. My jaw dropped when I saw a valley of rolling hills and a deep gorge running through the middle. I imagined swimming in the cool water of the gorge and listening to the gentle waves that I’d make with my arms ripple and swoosh.
“Look at all those colors and natural beauties,” I gasped. “Doesn’t it look so peaceful?”
“I can picture myself climbing some of those luscious trees and reading a book while lounging on a branch,” Tessa added, “No one could touch me or ask me what I’m doing with my life. It’d just be me lost in an adventure of my imagination.”
“Why would you waste all those sights reading a book?” I asked, “You could make your own adventure just wandering through those grassy fields and climbing the steep rock faces. Everything looks so expertly crafted and untouched by people. It’s like a perfect scene out of a travel magazine.”
“It’s not about scenery for me,” she replied, “It’s the atmosphere. So serene and pure. I bet there’s tons of woodland creatures frolicking around. Do you want me to be like Pocahontas and canoe along the rushing rivers and jump off super high cliffs?”
“Yeah, right,” I chuckled, “You hate camping. You really think you could connect with nature like that?”
“You’re the one that wants me to take in the sights!”
“Take them in, not merge your soul with them.”
We both laughed and continued in silence down the winding road. We passed endless patches of trees, saw a few cows in the distance, clear blue skies, and beautiful rocky cliffs and hills. I wanted to roll down the hill from the road like a kid, screaming at the top of my lungs. I wanted to climb to the peak of the mountain, conquering every rocky step and forested area on the way.
A few cars drove by us in the other direction, taking me out of my daydreams, but other than that I was more relaxed than I could be at a spa. Nature had always intrigued me. I loved the smell of sap and trying to catch a butterfly so I could see the design on its wings. I loved the sound of the leaves crunching as I hiked every trail I could find. If anything, I was the Pocahontas out of the two of us. I was the one who could have a raccoon on my shoulder and a hummingbird buzzing in my ear while I jumped across a ravine.
After a long drive with sights of flowers, animals, and magnificent mountain ranges, Tessa pulled over to the side of the road on a dirt patch near a truck stop. I stared out at the vast farmland at the bottom of the hillside, listening to birds chirping and feeling the wind circle around me.
“This is beautiful,” I whispered, hugging my coat tighter around me. Tessa stood beside me, resting her elbow on my shoulder. “Tessa, thank you so much for bringing me out here.”
“I knew it would do wonders for you.”
“This mountain range is the true wonder. In this moment, I feel invincible, like anything I do will be perfect. The mountains are so grand and the valleys look like they could lead to a magical adventure. I feel like I’m standing in a storybook, getting ready to slay a dragon or something. This is incredible!” I spread my arms out like I was showcasing the Parkway and spun in circles. Tessa ducked to avoid getting swatted in the face. When I was dizzy, I collapsed on the ground and pretended to make snow angels in the dirt.
“What are you doing?” Tessa squealed, “You’re going to get covered in dirt. You’re not getting back in my car until you’re cleaned off.”
“I don’t care!” I grinned, “I’ll sit in the back on a towel. I just want to act like a kid and forget everything. Right now, you and I have no responsibilities. Come join me, Tessa!”
“I’m not laying on the ground,” she said, sitting on the hood of her car. “You can go crazy all you want. I’ll watch.”
I stopped flapping my arms and legs and stared at the sky. A few small clouds passed overhead and a bird soared between them. “Tessa?” I asked after a few minutes.
“What if I don’t want to be a lawyer?”
“What do you mean?”
“I think being out in the fresh air has given me a clear mind. What if I’m not meant to be in a stuffy courtroom? I want to connect with nature and preserve all its glory. I want to enjoy my life and live to the fullest.”
“You sound like a cliché.”
“I don’t care. It’s true. I’ve always wanted to fight for justice, but I love nature too. What if I’m not meant to defend people?”
Tessa smiled and walked over to help me up. “You’re sounding like an environmental lawyer.”
“I am?” I asked, brushing myself off. Tessa focused on picking dirt and leaves out of my short hair while I pondered her thought. “That’s an interesting idea. At least all that schooling wouldn’t go to waste. Why didn’t I think about this before?”
“You just needed a new perspective.”
“Yeah,” I said, looking out at the farmland with fresh eyes. “Nature really is a wondrous thing.”