Nari had the windows to her old truck rolled down and blasted her stereo as she thundered down the highway. She was halfway through Illinois now and was enjoying herself, even if there was nothing much to do while driving. The songs on the radio had looped so many times she could sing all the lyrics to the top 40 and all the talk shows were dead depressing. It seemed like all they wanted to talk about was the mounting debt of the US or the war in the Middle East or whatever politician made a fool of himself that week. This road trip was for her to forget about all of her troubles and lighten up a bit, not make it even worse.
So Nari had picked up some old cassette tapes she had found at a second had store that morning for dirt cheap to play in her truck since it was too old for anything else. The owner of the shop seemed happy to get rid of them and had even thrown in a couple extra cassettes and a box for her to keep them all in in her car. The classic rock she was currently listening to was a welcomed break from all the sugary pop and all the fucking Adele they kept playing over and over and over again on the radio.
Even though she had tied her bright blue hair back in a bun, the wind whipped it out of the tie and it fluttered around her face as she belted out the lyrics to song.
I’m on the highway to hell
No stop signs
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
After driving for a few hours through a lot of nothing in Illinois, Nari came across a road side attraction that advertised “Largest Cat on Route 66… And in the Whole World!” She had no idea what that meant but Nari loves cats. Like a lot. She always wanted one but never had the money to take care of one. And after the shit day she had yesterday, absolutely nothing sounded better than staring at a giant statue of a cat that was just plunked down on the side of the road and maybe taking a few pictures.
She turned on her blinker and turned off at the advertised exit. Luckily, she didn’t have to look very hard to find where the cat was from there. The very first thing she saw on the street was a giant arrow with old, faded neon lights pointing to the left saying, “Route 66’s Largest Cat this way!” in a large 50’s styled font.
Nari could see it before she had even parked. It was a cute tabby cat statue that had a paw raised as if to greet the people coming to visit it. It’s eyes were bright blue and it was massive. It easily towered over any of the short trees that were native to Illinois.
Nari got out of her car and ran grabbed her phone and wallet before practically running to the ticket booth.
A little old man was waiting for her there. He smiled at her in that sweet way that only old people who were still very young at heart were able to.
“Why, good morning, little lady!” He called out warmly to her and Nari instantly felt very welcomed. “Are you here to see the largest cat on route 66?”
“Of course!” Nari said cheerfully as she opened to wallet to pay for her ticket. “I saw a couple different signs around and I figured I should check it out. Besides, who doesn’t love cats!”
“Well, I’ve gotten a few choice words from dog people,” The old man joked. “But if they were expecting us to be a dog friendly place, then I worry what their parents taught them about how the world works.”
Nari laughed and handed him a fews bills. “Well, luckily there are plenty of cat people in the world who would love to stop by this place. ”
“Oh sure,” He handed her a ticket and her change. “We’ve been around for nearly 40 years now.”
“Really? That’s awesome!”
“Yes, we’ve been around so long that the kids that came here when we first opened are bringing back their kids to see the cat since they have so many memories of it as kids.” The old man seemed so proud of that, like that was what he really got out of this place rather than a profit.
“It’s must be really cool to see people like something you’ve done that much.”
“It really is.” The old old man sighed contently. “Well, I won’t keep you anymore, little lady. Go head on inside.”
She nodded and beamed at the old man. “Alright! It was wonderful talking to you.”
“It was nice talking to you too, little lady! It’s always nice to see young people such as yourself taking an interest in the world.”
With one last wave good bye, Nari walked past the ticket booth and beyond the gate that separated the cat from the rest of the world.
Within the gate was the most beautiful little garden Nari had ever set eyes on. There were stone paths lining flower beds filled with so many different colors that Nari wasn’t sure were to look first. Here and there, there were ornate white benches surrounding the main attraction in the garden. The Tabby cat statue was in the middle of everything, so that no matter where you went you could see it.
It was just her and a family with small kids in the little garden, so Nari felt youthful excitement bubble up inside her. She ran to the cat statue and pulled out her phone. Quickly tapping her thumb on the cracked screen, she pulled up the camera app to take pictures of from as many angles as she possibly could.
But when she went to take a selfie with it, she encountered a unique problem. The cat was too big to get into frame. When she held her phone below her to get it into frame, it gave her and the cat a double chin. When she went as far away from the cat as she could without walking in the flowerbeds, she could get everything in frame but the ears.
Nari crinkled her nose. She really wanted to get a picture with the cat. But she also really did not want to disturb that family while they were bonding together.
Right when she was about to give up and count her loses, a hand tapped her shoulder.
“Excuse me, young lady, I couldn’t help but notice you having a hard time taking a picture with the cat. Would you like me to take it for you?” A little old lady Nari hadn’t noticed asked her.
“Oh, yes please!” She handed her phone to the old lady and quickly taught her how to take a picture with the app.
The old lady squinted at the screen while Nari ran closer to the cat statue and posed.
“On three,” She called to Nari. “One… Two… Three…”
The phone let out the automated snap of a lens and Nari ran over to check out the picture.
“Thank you so much!” She smiled at the old lady. “I never would have gotten a good picture without your help!”
“You’re welcome,” The old lady smiled at her. “Now what’s a young girl like yourself doing at a place like this by yourself?”
“I’m just passing through. I’m traveling around and exploring the world.” Nari put it simple. “What about you?”
“Well, I haven’t traveled the world since I was about your age. I settled down here after getting married and adopted this ol’ thing.” She gestured to cat.
“Wait, are you the owner?” Nari asked in surprise.
“Yes, I have been for quite some time now. You’d think taking care of a cat statue would get boring after a few years but it’s been a few decades and something different happens everyday.”
Nari learned that the old lady (who’s name was Barbara) was a cat person herself and had been given the property with the giant cat when she and her husband got married. An old aunt of her husband was getting old and passed it down to them on the condition that they look after the statue. Ever since they, they had lived on the property and maintained the facilities every day.
While they were talking, the family had packed up their kids and gone on their merry way. The man from the ticket stand exited his booth and closed the gate to the garden behind him.
“It’s closing time, sweetheart.” He came up the Barbara and sweetly pecked her cheek. Then he noticed Nari and straightened up a bit, his cheeks tinged pink from her having seen them kiss. “Oh, little lady! What are you still doing here?”
“Are guys closing up?” She quickly pulled out her phone to see it was lunch time. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were closing so soon.”
“It’s fine, Nari,” Barbara took Nari’s hand in her own and gave it a quick, grandmotherly squeeze. “Say, we’re closing so we can have our lunch break. Would you care to join us? I’m afraid it won’t be anything special, we’re just having sandwiches, but I figure it’ll be a nice change from all the fast food junk on the road.”
“If you don’t mind, I would love to.” Nari grinned and put her phone back in her pocket.
“If I did, I wouldn’t have invited you!” Barbara turned away from her and started to slowly make her way to the tiny cottage at the edge of the garden. “Come on, you two, foods this way!”
Barbara seems to have taken an even bigger shine to Nari than she previously thought because she really went out of her way to make sure that the young girl was well fed. She refused to let her get anywhere near the kitchen, deterred to take care of everything herself. She asked Nari what kind of sandwiches she liked and whipped up what she could with the fixings they had on hand. While she was working on that, her husband, Frank, was preparing the tea for them and heating up the soup they had last night to eat with the sandwiches.
“It’s not much, but at least it’s good wholesome food.” Barbara told Nari when she set a plate and bowl in front of her piled high with lunch.
“I bet it’ll be great! I’m sick of not eating homemade food. Restaurants are nice for special occasions, but you just can’t beat homemade.”
“So, Nari,” Frank spoke up for the first time. “What’s got you on route 66? Are you on your way somewhere?”
Nari hastily swallowed the mouthful of food she had inhaled before responding.
“I’m kinda, finding myself I guess.” That was quickly becoming her fall back answer when people asked why she was traveling. It really wasn’t anyone’s business that she was going through a bad break up. Plus, it seemed kind of pathetic to take a great big road trip to find yourself after having your heartbroken by some snobby boy.
“Nothing quite like a road trip to help you with that.” Frank looked at Barbara, who nodded in agreement. “There’s something about discovering the rest of the world that helps you discover parts of yourself you didn’t know about.”
“Lots of kids come through here looking for the same thing.” Barbara poured herself another cup of tea. “It seems that technology still can’t beat some of the finer things in life, either it be road trips or meeting new people. But sometimes it’s reuniting with the people they left behind at home that really helps them figure themselves out.
“What about you, Nari,” Barbara asked. “Who do you call family?”
“… Just my mom and my little brother.” Nari took a sip of her tea to collect her thoughts. “We’re all very close to each other, but it can be hard to spend time together. We don’t have much money so my mom and I work a lot to make ends meet. I love my little brother a lot though. He always makes me so proud. He’s so smart. I really wanted him to go to college, but that’s not going to happen now. That’s just not going to happen.”
“You sound like a very loving big sister, little lady.” Frank smiled at her. “I’m sure your brother appreciates how much you love him.”
“Yeah…” Nari smiled slightly and looks down at the table.
After lunch, the elderly couple walked Nari out to her truck to say good bye before they opened up the garden again.
“Take this with you,” Barbara handed Nari a massive, thick blanket. “It gets cold at night and there really isn’t much on the way of hotels down the road.”
“Thank you so much,” Nari smiled and gave her a hug in thanks.
“Travel safely, little lady.” Frank patted her on the head. “There’s as much bad stuff on the open road as good stuff.”
“I will. Thank you so much for the food!”
Nari gives the elder couple one last hug before getting back on route 66.
A/N: This chapter is exactly 2,222 words and I feel like this is a sign. I’m not sure what it means but it means something. Sorry if their are any typos! This is completely unedited and it’s super late where I am but I have been cranking out words to try to catch up with Caden. She’s so far ahead of me because I got stuck with so much astronomy homework. *sobs* I swear that class will be the end of me!
Anyways! I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! I thought about splitting this up into two chapter and lengthening it a bit, but really feel like this is the best way to present this part of the story. I’m really excited about the next one though! Jungkook is finally coming back!! This story is a lot more fun to write when he’s in the scene. I just really love his chemistry with Nari!
(the song lyrics are from ACDC’s Highway to Hell by the way!)