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Vacation from Hell
An R.L. Mathewson Chronicle
(A Vacation from Hell: Part I in case you forgot)
“You can sit on my lap if you want, Mikey,” Cole offered as Mikey moved to climb back into the van, carrying a bag white plastic bag filled with what he could only hope was junk food, and before she could take his cousin up on his offer, Sebastian reached over with a heavy sigh, grabbed her by the arm and with a quick yank, had her back on his lap where she belonged.
He ignored his cousin’s glare and Mikey’s mumbled, “I feel so used,” and shifted her on his lap so that he could see what lovely treats she was going to share with him. As he opened the bag and took a peak, he couldn’t help but wonder when she was going to learn. While the rest of them had quickly devoured their snacks seconds after purchasing them, Mikey had taken her time, checked out the sports magazines, and when she’d finished buying the snacks that he was going to have to help himself to, she’d sat on the stone wall that ran across the back of the gas station, rolling her baseball between her hands and-
“Where’s your baseball?” he asked when he realized that she wasn’t carrying it.
“It’s in the bag,” Mikey said, pulling the bag closer to take a look only to end up worrying her bottom lip and looking around the crowded van nervously, probably hoping that one of the other kids had grabbed it for her.
“Did you leave it outside?” he asked, already shifting her off his lap so that he could get up.
“What’s going on?” his father asked, pausing mid-buckle when Sebastian headed for the sliding side door.
“Mikey lost her ball,” he said, thankful that he didn’t have to explain, because they all knew how much baseball meant to Mikey.
She loved baseball and she was insanely good at it, which was probably why she never went anywhere without a baseball so that she could roll it between her hands. He still didn’t know why she did that. The only thing that he needed to know was that her ball was missing and they had four more hours left before they made it to the hotel. She would never survive that long without one.
“Cole, Jonathan, let’s go,” his father said as he got out and went to search for the ball.
Sebastian popped the door open and slid it aside just in time to see an SUV drive by with a boy in the back holding what he was really hoping wasn’t Mikey’s ball, but he had a bad feeling that it was. Biting back a curse that would have ended with him spending the week by his mother’s side, he jogged over to where he saw Mikey sitting earlier and-
“It’s not here,” Cole said as he joined him, and just in case they were wrong, and he was really hoping that he was wrong, they walked over to the stone wall and peered over only to find a freshly mowed lawn.
“Does she have another one in her bag?” Jonathan asked as he joined them.
“No,” Sebastian said, sighing as he jumped over the stonewall to take a better look only to end up ramming his fingers through his hair and really wishing that Mikey hadn’t given her extra ball to her baby brother, who couldn’t sleep these days unless he was cuddling one of his sister’s baseballs.
“Any luck?” his father asked as he finished walking the length of the stone wall.
“No,” Sebastian said, slowly exhaling as he looked up to find Mikey standing there, worrying her bottom lip before she forced a smile and said, “Thank you for looking, but it’s fine,” and he probably would have believed her if hadn’t seen the look on her face when she realized that it was gone.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” his father said, wrapping his arm around her and gave her small shoulders a gentle squeeze. “We’ll get you another one.”
“A better one,” Jonathan promised as he ran past her, giving one of the braids that she liked to wear her hair in a playful tug before heading for the van.
“I have to use the bathroom again,” Sebastian called after his father when Cole went to join them.
“Don’t be long,” his father said after a slight hesitation and a pointed look as Sebastian headed back towards the gas station with Cole by his side.
“I think I saw baseballs in the back,” Cole said, reading his mind.
“Good,” he said, sighing with relief as they headed inside and went straight towards the back where-
“Oh, god…” Cole said hollowly when they spotted them.
“Maybe they have more?” Sebastian said, trying not to panic as he searched desperately for another box of overpriced baseballs on the shelf only to end up releasing a shuttering sigh as his gaze landed back on the box that left him feeling sick to his stomach.
“Don’t,” Cole said, but they both knew that he didn’t have a choice.
Swallowing hard, he reached over and picked up the Red Sox souvenir baseball, knowing that Mikey wouldn’t care what team was on it, but the van full of Bradfords would never let him live it down. “It’s just a baseball,” he said weakly as he turned the baseball over in his hand and-
“And it’s twenty bucks,” Cole said, shaking his head in sympathy, because that was all the money that he had left for the trip since he’d spent the rest of his money on the birthday gift that he’d bought for his Dad.
“Let’s go,” he said, deciding to just get this over with.
“Man, you must really love her,” Cole said, chuckling as he followed him to the register.
Placing the baseball and the rest of his money on the counter, Sebastian shook his head and said, “It’s not that.”
“Then what is it?” Cole asked, sounding genuinely curious as the cashier handed Sabastian his receipt.
Grabbing the ball, he headed for the door and admitted with a shrug, “She makes everything better.”
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