The cake was made of waffles this year, with a thick layer of melted chocolate poured over it, a scoop of coffee ice cream and banana slices scattered artistically on top. Ashley hugged Lauren and Anneka, wiped tears from her eyes and blew out the candle. Anneka had noticed her face when she had eaten dinner with them, and asked her what was wrong. Ashley simply said it was memories, and Lauren had nodded, then changed the subject and asked for the salt. Now, they all took a slice of cake through to the living room on a paper plate and set up the films.
“What will it be this year, Tiger-Lily?” Lauren asked, switching on the TV.
“Reality Bites, Inception and Juno.”
“Coming right up.” Lauren tapped a couple buttons, and the opening scene for Reality Bites flashed up on the screen.
The next morning, Ashley woke up late, and looked around blearily before realising she hadn’t had any nightmares. Instead, she had dreamed that she found Santiago. She sat up, shaking her head, frowning. The idea was taking over. She got out of bed, opened the curtains up and flipped her laptop open. Dear Google, please tell me the pros and cons of hitchhiking. A page immediately came up with famous blogs and stories. Scrolling down, she found an article written by an experienced hitchhiker, listing the pros and cons. The advice at the end of the article was to take a bike, rather than walk. She tapped her fingers on the desk agitatedly. She mentally listed her own pros and cons.
She would be upsetting Anneka, and Lauren might not care about college, but she would worry so much.
She would be forsaking her qualifications by leaving college.
She would be leaving behind her country, all she had ever known…
She might find Santiago.
She would meet new people.
There was truth in all that finding yourself bullshit…
There was a knock at the door. “Tiger-Lily?”
“Come in,” Ashley called, and Lauren walked in the room. She sat down on the bed.
“I know what you’re thinking about, Tiger-Lily.” She looked Ashley squarely in the eye.
“I know you do. Does Anneka?”
“We’ve talked about it. She wasn’t happy, but I stuck up for you. I told her, it’s your life.”
“She hasn’t agreed?”
“She said she would think about it.”
“It scares you that we can’t stop you, doesn’t it?”
“Yes.” Ashley sighed and went to the window. “It really, really does.”