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This is it! Welcome to Part One of The Florida Trip. This is intended as a direct sequel to my previous Trip series, The Baseball Trip. Think of this as The Baseball Trip: Season Two. You don’t have to read the original story to get what’s going on here, but it’ll definitely help. Everyone is over the age of 18.

6 months later

It was the coldest winter I could remember. Snow started piling up in early October and stayed through spring. The wind blew icy, biting. Even inside my little apartment, heat blaring, I was cold. Like the chill had settled into my bones.

It was early February and I was lying on the couch, watching a meaningless basketball game and wishing it was baseball instead. The windows rattled with the cold. It was only 4 o’clock, but the day was already dark and brooding.

My roommate Julia’s cellphone started to sing through her door. An upbeat tune that made everything else feel even flatter. Julia and I had been close friends once, but we hadn’t been the same since the previous summer.

We’d gone on a road trip together — six baseball games over eight days across the American Midwest — along with my friend’s younger sister Kelsey and her best friend Sarah. All of us squished together in Julia’s tiny Volkswagen Beetle. Through a series of circumstances even I have trouble accepting in retrospect, I ended up hooking up with the terminally sexy Sarah. Then bombshell beautiful Kelsey. Eventually athletic, incredible Julia joined in, too.

Then we got back home, and everything broke apart. Sarah went back to her boyfriend. Kelsey went off to school and met someone, too. As for Julia, I asked her for a real relationship and she shot me down. Hard.

We both moved on. I started dating a girl named Alyssa in October. Julia got a boyfriend a few weeks after. We pretended like everything was OK. But the two of us were living with a sort of zombie friendship that looked like it was fine and acted like it was fine but was clearly dead inside.

Through the bedroom door, I heard Julia answer her phone with a shout. A cry of joy like I hadn’t heard in a long time from my dour roommate. She babbled excitedly — bubbling like a teenaged girl getting asked to the prom. I did my best to pay attention to the TV. I couldn’t help but try to listen in. After about twenty minutes I heard Julia stop talking.

“OK,” she said, “Yes. I’ll ask him.”

Julia stepped out into the living room.

“What’s up?” I asked, barely looking up from the game. It was a safety mechanism I’d picked up after our road trip. Even though she’d crushed my feelings, I couldn’t help but still crush on Julia. She was super pretty — lithe and fit with tied-back brown hair and bright green eyes. God, she even moved like an athlete: every motion fluid and confident. We were both with other people, but I couldn’t help but still have feelings for my oh-so-fuckable roommate.

“That was Sarah,” Julia said. I spun my head around like it had been set on a spring. “I think we need another road trip.”

*

This was the story as Julia explained it to me. Sarah was at art school and miserable. Classes were tough, and the other students were snobs. Then, when she needed him most, Sarah’s stupid boyfriend split. It wasn’t a big surprise, really. Sarah had cheated on him the past summer (with me, natch), after she’d halfway sort of broken up with him for being a tremendous jerkwad. Great romance, this was not.

Still, it was one more weight on a set of shoulders that were already slumping and suddenly Sarah was shot. She’d called Julia just to say hello and, out of nowhere, she’d broken into tears. They talked for a while, and then they had an epiphany.

I’m not sure how it came up. I guess the skies parted? Like a golden gift from the heavens the idea just appeared? I don’t know. But somehow Sarah and Julia decided that the only cure for the February blues was for all of us to just jump into a car and go.

I hadn’t spoken to Sarah since the baseball trip (or Kelsey, for that matter). The thought of seeing the sexy brunette again got me all jostled — like getting psyched up for a scary ride. Excited about the idea of it, terrified of the actual event.

Would Sarah and I pick up where we left off? What would happen if we did? Worse, what would happen if we didn’t? Would Kelsey come along, too? I got so wrapped up in all the questions I lost track of Julia, waving at me from the far side of the couch.

“Earth to Ben,” Julia said, “Dude, when you get back to the planet let me know. I have to give Sarah an answer. Are we going on a road trip or not?”

I mean, seriously, did Julia really have to ask?

*

“A road trip?” Alyssa asked. She tossed her red hair back out of her eyes. “Wait, is this going to be another one of your rolling orgies?”

My girlfriend and I were eating dinner at some little taco joint on Elmwood. One of Alyssa’s places — I could never remember the name. They served mediocre tacos and strong margaritas. Played loud canlı bahis guitar music and had pinatas hanging from the ceiling. You know the place.

As I said before, I’d met Alyssa back in the fall. We had the same Modern Poetry class and she did a wicked imitation of our Professor that made me shoot soda right out of my nose. Well nothing says relationship material like a guy snarfing his drink all over a table at the Student Union. Alyssa clearly agreed, and we’d started dating soon after.

Alyssa was clearly too pretty for me. Her long red hair came with the expected complexion — pale skin and freckles everywhere. Best of all, she had this wicked little smile that seemed to scream danger in all the best ways.

I’d told Alyssa about my sex-crazed summer early on in our relationship. Her reaction had been surprising: she was into it. It turned out my girlfriend had a bit of a wild past. And a not-too-tame present, as well. Alyssa asked me about the baseball trip all the time. She almost seemed more obsessed with it than I was.

“It’s really happening,” Alyssa said, waving a tortilla chip in the air while she spoke, “Another fuckfest on America’s highways. I always dreamed I’d be here for this moment.”

“It’s not a fuckfest,” I said, “Just some old friends getting together for Spring Break.”

“Wait,” Alyssa said, “Are Sarah and Kelsey coming, too?” The two girls — buxom, brunette Sarah and beautiful, blonde Kelsey — had become almost legends to Alyssa, I think. She’d met Julia plenty of times but the other two participants in my epic road trip were mostly myths to her. I’d shown her pictures a couple of times, but they didn’t do my companions justice.

“Actually, the trip was Sarah’s idea,” I said, “I’m not sure about Kelsey — she’s being cagey. Super serious boyfriend. Super stressful classes. That kind of thing.”

“Sarah’s the really sexy one, right?”

“Well…”

“And Kelsey’s the really pretty one?”

“I mean, compared to you she isn’t that…”

“Oh my God, yes! I think I might cum just sitting here thinking about it.”

A couple of tables turned around to look at us. Alyssa laughed. I shrugged. Slowly, they all turned back to their dinners.

“Don’t get too excited,” I said, “Julia’s got her boyfriend, Brandon. Kelsey and her guy, Kevin, are apparently attached at the hip. Only Sarah is single right now, ironically. Anyway, that’s why I wanted to talk to you first. Make sure it’s OK.”

“Awww, asking my permission?” Alyssa asked, “That’s cute.”

“Actually, I was hoping you’d come along,” I said.

“Wait. Seriously?”

“Don’t be mad. I thought you might…”

“Mad? Hello? This is, like, the best day of my life! Oh my God. Where are we going? Should I even bother to pack clothes?”

The tables all turned to stare at us again. I could only smile and shrug.

*

So, my girlfriend was going. We just didn’t know where yet. Baseball was again, the obvious first choice.

“No baseball,” Julia said.

We were sitting on the couch together, spitballing ideas. Both of us covered in clothes like we were about to brave a blizzard. Sweaters, jeans, and thick wooly socks. Julia looked severe — her hair was up in her every-present ponytail — but she was smiling. It wasn’t just sharing the same piece of furniture, I felt closer to my roommate than I had in months.

“We did baseball last time,” Julia said, “Besides it’s too cold. We need to go now. Not in April.”

“You love baseball,” I said, “I thought we’d go down to Spring Training. It sucks here but this is, like, the nicest time to be in Florida because it’s warm but not too humid.”

“Look, I promised Sarah a nice trip and that’s not baseball,” Julia said, “Besides, we owe her for dragging her around last time. And there’s no way we can convince Kelsey to come if it’s sports.”

“Alyssa wants to come, too,” I said, “And I bet if Kelsey comes her boyfriend Kevin will join. What about Brandon?”

“Yes, my boyfriend will be joining us,” Julia said, “No, that is not an excuse for us to go see Spring Training.”

“Fine,” I said, “But then what?”

We got off the couch, fired up the computer in my bedroom, and started doing research. I kept waiting for Julia to grab her glasses so she could see the screen. She’d gotten contacts a few months before, but I still wasn’t used to it. Seeing her face without the frames.

Julia and I laughed and shoved each other over the keyboard like old times. If I’d thought planning a trip would have fixed us, I’d have suggested it a long time ago. We were “Julia and Ben” again. Benlia. Jublien? I don’t know. It was too awesome for me to care. But while the friendship thing was promising, the trip planning was not.

Anything East Coast was too cold. California and Las Vegas were too expensive and too far for a drive. Julia made it clear that Sarah had been promised a road trip — no planes allowed. I pushed for a boat trip, but that got torpedoed. I fought for Mardi Gras, but that bahis siteleri was a no go, as well.

“It’s too soon,” Julia said, “We won’t have time to plan, let alone drive. Besides, my tits are too small for Mardi Gras.”

“New Orleans should be so lucky to see your boobs,” I said, “I gave them an A+, remember?”

Julia punched me in the shoulder. We stared at the screen, blankly. Then Julia’s head popped up like her timer had just gone off.

“Wait a minute,” she said, “Maybe you weren’t far off with Florida. Like you said, it’s warm but not blistering. And it’s just on the far edge of drivable.”

“Baseball?” I asked.

“I’m going to shove a bat up your ass,” Julia said, “No. The other thing that’s in Florida.”

“Gators? Crazy people? Wait, I know, basketball!”

“Disney, you doofus,” Julia said, her eyes alight, “We should go to Walt Disney World.”

*

I’ll admit, I didn’t really see the appeal of going to Walt Disney World at first. It seemed like a great place for two groups: people who had an eight-year-old child and people who were an eight-year-old child. What was a group of crazed college kids going to do at Disney?

“You don’t get it,” Julia said, “This isn’t like, Six Flags or whatever. Disney is… It’s not just rides. It’s the characters and the atmosphere. The whole feeling of the place. OK, you said it’s for children and it totally is. But that’s kind of the point? You get to feel like a kid again with all that unspoiled wonder and awe. The sense that there really might be magic in the world.”

“They should hire you to write the brochures,” I told her.

“Trust me, when I tell Sarah and Kelsey they’ll flip out. And when you get there? You’ll see it too. I promise, Ben.”

Sure enough, when Julia called Sarah to tell her about our plan, she screamed so loud I heard it all the way across the room. Kelsey, who to that point had been wishy-washy about the whole trip thing, agreed to go as soon as Julia said the word ‘Disney.’

With that level of enthusiasm, how could I possibly say no? I figured, well, the girls all put up with baseball for me. The least I could do was endure a corporate, cartoon rat and his animal kingdom.

We found a surprisingly affordable deal online. Two rooms and five nights at the Happiest Place on Earth was, somehow, within our reach. The five of us — me, my girlfriend Alyssa, Julia, her boyfriend Brandon, and Sarah — all agreed to pile into Julia’s tiny Beetle, once again. Kelsey decided (insisted, actually) that she and Kevin would go in their own car and we would all caravan down to Orlando together.

Surrounded by such freezing cold, the thought of warm Florida seemed almost impossibly good. And while Disney may not have been my first choice for a vacation, I was more than happy to sacrifice if it meant seeing my friends again. Everything was set. Of course something had to go wrong.

*

This time it was my fault. Sort of.

Two weeks before our trip, Julia’s boyfriend Brandon came over for dinner and… other things. Brandon was a nice guy, really. Good looking with that permanent stubble-beard thing going on. I tried hard to hate him, but I couldn’t.

We all ate dinner together. Afterward, the amorous couple went back to Julia’s bedroom. I knew what that meant. I turned on the TV as loud as I could. The last thing I wanted to hear was the sound of Julia and her boyfriend fucking. It reminded me too much of our own previous adventures.

If all of this sounds petty, well, I suppose you’re right. I had my own girlfriend after all. I doubted Julia enjoyed hearing the two of us from her bedroom, either. I could rationalize it all I liked, but it didn’t change things. The heart doesn’t have ears or understand language. It doesn’t ‘do’ logical arguments. The heart just yearns.

I was midway through the midnight SportsCenter when Brandon came back out into the living room. He was wearing boxers and nothing else. I couldn’t help but be jealous. I mean, I’m still in pretty good shape, but that dude was freaking cut.

Brandon sat down next to me, pulled a pillow over his lap, and sighed. “How’d the Sabres do?” he asked.

“Lost one zip.”

“Fucking hell,” he said. The room was dark, and the TV lit us both up bluish. Something about the way Brandon stared off at the TV seemed sad.

“Hey man, can I ask you something weird?” Brandon asked. “Julia told me you two were, like, together. Before we met.”

“I don’t know if I’d say together,” I said, “We hooked up a couple times. It wasn’t anything serious. Just something that happened that, honestly, probably shouldn’t have. We’re just roommates, man, trust me. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“Sure, but… OK this is awkward. I’m sorry. When you two were together. Like, intimate. I was just wondering if she was, like, I don’t know…”

“Aggressive as fuck?” I asked. When we’d hooked up over the summer Julia had nearly killed me. People thought I’d been ravaged by a wildcat after a night bahis şirketleri with Jules. Maybe they weren’t far off.

“Ummm, no?” Brandon said, “Really super passive, actually. I mean, she just lays there like she can’t wait to get it over with.”

“Yeahthat’swhatImeant,” I said, the words spilling out faster than I could gather them, “I was being sarcastic. You know? Like how the big guy from Robin Hood was called Little John. It’s a joke.”

“Oh.”

“She was the same way with me. Totally. Never said a peep.”

“Yeah, man. Sure,” Brandon said. We sat in silence for a while. Watching the television like it would tell us all the answers. My breath shallow in my chest. Finally, Brandon got up and stumbled back to Julia’s bedroom. I sighed in relief and went back to SportsCenter, so happy that I’d somehow escaped my miserable mistake. God, I thought, could you imagine if he hadn’t bought it? I’d be a dead man.

*

Brandon broke up with Julia the next morning.

I was out for an early morning class, so I missed the fireworks. I came home to a living room littered with spent tissues and a pretty, red-faced girl watching hockey on TV and sniffling.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Julia said, she didn’t look up, “He just woke up this morning and…”

“I’m so sorry, Julia.”

“Did he say anything to you?” she asked.

“No,” I said, too quickly, “We talked a little last night after you two… We watched TV. That’s all, I swear.”

“Fuck him,” Julia said.

“Brandon?” I asked.

“No, Jack Eichel. Yes, fucking Brandon! Stupid asshole.”

I sat next to Julia and tried to comfort her, but it was like hugging a triangle. All sharp edges and odd corners. I felt terrible, but I also didn’t want Julia to know exactly how terrible I felt. I’m a bad friend, is what I’m saying. But I did my best.

We spent all day on the couch together, drinking hot cocoa and staring at the TV. It was oddly comfortable — this shared, miserable silence. Then we were watching some dumb afternoon gameshow and they gave away a vacation in Hawaii. Julia gasped and leapt to her feet.

“Our trip,” Julia said. “Fucking hell. That asshole waited till, like, right before we leave. It’s like dumping me the day before my birthday.”

“Fuck Jules, with all the… I didn’t even think about the Florida trip.”

Once again, we were about to leave on an expensive, expansively planned road trip and we were short one member. Losing Brandon meant losing his money towards gas and hotels. Plus, now we had an extra five-day Disney ticket that no one was using, which felt wasteful. It seemed to me that Brandon ought to shell out for his last-minute change in plans.

“Even if you could convince him, I don’t want his fucking dickwad money,” Julia said.

“Fuck, Julia, I’m really sorry,” I said.

“It’s not like he was my soulmate or anything,” Julia said. She flopped back down and dug her feet under my legs. It was kind of affectionate, sort of aggressive. Typical Julia, in other words. “I’m sad he’s gone but whatever, I’ll get over it. We need to find another person for the trip, though. I don’t think I can afford to go, otherwise.”

“What about your friend Mel from Notre Dame?” I asked, “I bet she’d love to come along.”

“She’s in Australia with her boyfriend. Some guy she met last summer, like, right after we left. I guess he’s from down under and she’s off meeting his family?”

“Holy shit. Seriously?” I said, “Wow, good for her.”

“And bad for us,” Julia said, digging her toes deeper into me, “You sure you can’t think of anyone else?”

“I’m sorry. I’m blank. Maybe I should call Jim?”

“Very funny. I’ll see if Sarah has someone.”

Julia reached for her phone and texted Sarah. As it turned out, she did have someone: her little sister. Well, not so little. The girl was about to go to college the following fall. It seemed like having Sarah’s sister around might be a damper on things but, well, I couldn’t exactly complain. This trip was going to be awkward enough.

That night, Julia, Alyssa, and I began packing for just the three of us. Julia seemed surprisingly upbeat throughout the process. I thought maybe she had Disney-brain: that state of mind that said nothing mattered, so long as you were on your way to the Magic Kingdom. A bomb could go off in the apartment, but who cares because Mickey! I worried that maybe once we got on the road, she’d start to feel the sadness.

“Do you want me to be sad?” Julia asked

“Of course not,” I said, stuffing a stack of shorts into my suitcase.

“Well there you go.”

“Stop haranguing your roommate,” Alyssa told me, then sidled over to Julia and gave her a kiss on the cheek, “Just be glad we’re escaping the snow.”

Well I couldn’t argue with that.

*

That night, Alyssa and I lay in bed, held awake by the anticipation of leaving for Florida the next morning. The heat was on full, we were wearing thick pajamas, and we were covered in blankets. Somehow, we were still shivering. We couldn’t even fool around, we were both trying so hard to stay warm.

“So you all just piled into Julia’s little Beetle?” Alyssa asked, staring up at the ceiling.

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