Nola picked up the car and followed the rental agent's verbal instructions to the nearest grocery store. She picked up a few basics. Now that she knew where the store was it would be easy to get back to it once her friends arrived at the airport. The next stop was a gas station she had passed on the way to the store. Who knew that getting a local map would involve so many choices? She finally settled on one that looked like it would do for this trip. It covered the area around the airport and off to Hazleton and to Lake Pocono where the butcher shop that specialized in native meats: elk, buffalo etc. was located. It was a good thing that she had called them and asked for directions. Because without the names of the towns the owner mentioned it would have been much harder to find.
She easily made her way back to the airport with plenty enough time to study the map to be sure she could get them to the cabin. The instructions from the cabin owners were lame and this was annoying but she hadn’t been lying when she said that she had traveled lots of places. Many American cities had the same pattern around their airports and America had only become more homogeneous since her first forays at map reading and travel. Plus when you are dropped of in the middle of no where in Mexico and told you have to geologically map a 25 square mile area in 3 days, most road maps don’t pose too much trouble. Oh she’d been lost plenty of times in her travels. But she had discovered that lost was really only a matter of degree. You always had some broad knowledge about where you were. It was only the fine details and specifics that could make you feel lost and getting found was typically a matter of admitting to yourself you needed help with the fine details and asking a question. Even with the lousy instructions to the cabin she was sure she could get them there before dark.
There were big hugs at the airport. The three of them had gathered only a few short months ago in Savannah but it seemed longer somehow. Perhaps because that was before she had gone to 3rd and she allowed herself an internal smile. It was always good to be in the company of other Streghe.
They managed to make it most of the way to the cabin before they had to stop and ask directions. Then when the google and mapquest instructions only got them close enough to be frustrated by almost right street configurations, they got lucky and asked some guys outside a house having an evening beer for help. After one of the guys realized that it was virtually impossible to explain how to get there if you had never been, he led them there in his truck. A real knight in shining armor, even if the armor was a pickup truck.
The cabin was rustic and comfortable. The kitchen would be challenging. But there was a fabulous large deck with a great view. A great room with a fireplace and enough space for a nice ritual. After settling in to their rooms and doing some slight rearranging to make the space more comfortable they settled around the table with glasses of wine and began the conversation that would flow for the next 4 days. They were also waiting for the last of their group to arrive. Time seemed to stop whenever a group of Strega got together. They used cell phones to let their families know they were safe and sound. But they didn’t turn on the radio or the television all weekend. It was like slipping into another world. After 2 phones calls from the 1st degree, who lived locally and who had made the cabin rental arrangements, Nola told her teacher that the 1st degree wasn’t coming up tonight. About 2 hours later the 1st degree actually said this herself via the final phone call of the night.
Their time together was well spent. The ritual went well. She was able to impress her teacher with a new and unexpected skill she had picked up since her 3rd degree. They did a lot of joint teaching and career counseling of the 1st degree.
The countryside was beautiful. The cabin had a glorious view. When they went out to visit the butcher who sold local game or to visit the town of Jim Thorpe, she was both the chauffer and the navigator. Everyone has their skills and when in a group it was best to go with your strengths and let everyone chip in as they could.
Soon enough it was time to pack up and return to the airport. She wasn't sure whether to tell the rest of them about meeting Owen or not. New students often popped up only to disappear just as quickly. So she decided not to say anything and just wait and see what, if anything, would happen.
Owen was able to talk his brother into letting Eric say with him at the cabin on Sunday night. Hanging with Eric was like being with his grandfather had been. Easy and fun so he took every opportunity he got. As a result he was up early on Monday to make sure he got Eric to school on time. He dropped by his parent's house to kiss him mom goodbye again and managed to get his dad, and only his dad, to drive him to the airport and evade prodding questions from his mom.
It was around 10AM when he arrived at the airport. He was fidgeting. Nola had said she would call him. But she hadn't said whether she would do this while she was here or when they got back to New Orleans. And, damn the woman, she hadn't called yet. She had said that she had to get her friends to the airport for a noon flight. So he was stalking the rental car counter hoping to catch her as she returned the car. Ridiculous? Maybe. Probably. But the flights up here had been fun. He hadn't had time to stress about what it would be like to be back home and as a result he had had a really good time. Lots of folks commented on how good he looked and how happy he seemed. They also shook their heads a lot and made noises about not understanding the appeal of New Orleans, but well, he was used to it.
He was pacing a bit back and forth around the baggage claim when, finally, she walked through the door with 2 other women. She didn't see him because she was focused on helping get their bags through the door. She went straight to the rental car return counter.
The other 2 women, whose flights he knew were earlier, went ahead to check in. She said she'd meet them upstairs when she finished turning in the car. So when she turned around and saw him there was no one there but him to see how surprised and glad she was to see him.
"Well, at least you look pleased."
"and more than a little surprised. What are you doing here?"
"You didn't call. You promised."
"Wha..." Her brow wrinkled. "but I didn't promise to call you while I was here." At least I don't think I did. No, I didn't. "I figured we'd both be plenty busy and I'd call you when I got home. You weren't expecting me to call, were you?"
Rolling her eyes, she said, "Owen, you are too big a flirt. When is your flight?"
"3 something out of Philadelphia or at least that is what I hope you said."
She pulled her ticket out and they compared and yep he had got it right.
"Impressive. But I was planning on trying to get an earlier flight out.” And she looked at him again. “You got a haircut.”
“Well it looks good.”
“Thanks!” he smiled and then wondered how someone who had only met him once on a plane ride just few days ago would notice a hair cut.
The car rental agent handed her the receipt. And as she went to put it away she looked around for her ticket. He waved the tickets and said, “Now, want to see if we can get on an earlier flight together?”
She sighed, “Ok, but this means that you will have to meet my teacher. I’m supposed to meet her upstairs before her flight takes off.”
“Cool.” And took her hand and started walking like he knew where he was going.