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25 minutes to write something?

As the rental car rolled to a stop on the dark road, her fear increased by the moment. Valeria Ingram had been in the passenger seat of the rental for eight hours. She and her fiancé Eduardo Phillips had been driving home from a weekend with her family. They had decided that driving would Take be more interesting and way cheaper than buying a plain ticket.

And they were right.

They’d had an unusually uneventful weekend with her family. Uneventful meaning she didn’t walk away from the experience with regrets. Her family was loud and rowdy and opinionated. Her parents constantly asked why they weren’t married yet, her older brothers harassed Ed, attempting to involve him in shenanigans. And all the nieces and nephews could drain a persons energy pretty quickly.

But nothing happened that wasn’t typical of her family, no one was rushed to the emergency room this time, there were no Turkey-to-fireball situations like thanksgiving last year.

It was the ride home that was currently causing her distress.

It began fine, with them packing the truck with their luggage and all the nonsense that her mother sent them home with. Hugs and shoulder squeezes goodbye. Then they liked themselves into the car and drove off, waving out their windows as they did so.

When the got off her parents stewed and headed toward the highway entrance ramp the discussed plans for the next eight or so hours ahead. They had snacks in the car so they wouldn’t need to stop for food until lunchtime, when they’d also have a bathroom break. They’d agreed on a scenic route to see small town landmarks they missed on the way end. Typical road trip stuff.

It was a few hours in when things began to grow, strange. Ed, who’d made the executive decision that he should drive the whole way, began to stare blankly out the windshield. It took Val a minute to realize it wasn’t your typical, “I’ve been driving a while” stare. His demeanor would change, his shoulders would tense, his grip on the steering wheel would tighten, and she could see the muscles in his jaw tighten from clenching.

After a while, noticing these episodes come and go, she asked, “You okay, Ed?”

He seemed to immediately snap out if it when she spoke up. “What? Yeah, fine. Why?” He’d asked.

“You just looked a little tense there, you wanna switch out? I can drive a while.” She offered.

“No I’m fine!” He said cheerfully. “We’re not far from a rest stop. I’ll hope out, stretch my legs a bit, just getting a crap.”

“Oh, okay,” she sighed, relieved. “I could use a stretch myself.

He seemed fine the rest of the trip to the rest stop, where they both got out, stretched their legs. Valeria decided she’d step into the small building that held the restrooms. There was always brochures and fliers for local attractions and parks. She liked collecting them on trips.

She picked one up for a local fall festival, a giant rock that had a gift shop and a dinner named after it, and something called The Lion’s Den. It appeared to be an old youth camp. It was on their way home, and on what appeared to be a lovely lake.

They climbed back into the car and got buckled in. She showed Ed the brochures before they pulled out, The Lion’s Den was on top. “What’s this?” He asked, a muscle in his jaw clenching.

“Oh, just some brochures.” Val tapped a finger on the Lions Den. “That looks like it was an old camp! I think they rent out the cabins for vacationers now.” She shrugged. “Seemed neat.” She said. “It’s on a lake!”

“I didn’t realize we were so close.” He mumbled.

“What?” Val wasn’t sure she hear him right.

“I just said I didn’t realize there was anything like that near here.” He shifted the car into gear and pulled out a little faster than he should have.

“Oh.” She sensed something was off.

A few more hours in and she’d been trying to shrug off the bad vibe she was getting from her fiancé, when they stopped for lunch at an old fashioned drive-in diner. She became distracted by the old fashioned menu boards, speaker you could hang on your window for music, and the car hop’s on roller skates.

They both ordered a burger, but they each got different sides to share. She got a raspberry shake, and he got the car hop’s recommendation, a fresh squeezed strawberry lemonade. As they ate, Ed seemed to relax, he tension seemed to release and his was becoming closer to his old self.

Story Completed Here

Challenge failed? I’m dozing off sitting up. But I know where I wanna go and it’ll be finished tomorrow!! Goodnight!