Road Trip Shenanigans
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Road Trip Shenanigans
Letting myself into my best friend's house, I questioned why I hadn't seen her car parked in the front. I dragged my heavy duffle bag inside before dropping it onto the chair by the front door. I slipped my shoes off and sprinted up the stairs like it's my own house.
"Val!" I called, reaching the landing. "How come your car isn't out fron-" I walked into her room without knocking and found Valerie and her brother Malcolm arguing. "Sorry." I muttered, re-shutting the door. Moving back to the top of the stairs, I sat on the step.
Val and I recently graduated, so we planned a camping trip. We're suppose to be leaving today, but something tells me that could be delayed. It's more of a road trip than anything as well because it'll take a few days to get to our campsite. Her brother is supposedly going camping at the same place, just not with us.
The front door creaked open below as I sat twisting my naturally red hair around one of my fingers. A seemingly familiar boy walked in, calling out for Malcolm as he did.
"Malc-" He was half way up the stairs before he noticed me. "Is Malcolm here?"
"He's in Val's room." I stuck my thumb in the direction of her bedroom. "But I wouldn't go in there because they're fighting." I knew it was already too late to tell him. The boy already sprinted past me and had opened the door by time I finished.
"Sorry..." Just like I had, he mumbled an apology before joining me. He sat in the hallway against the wall just behind me. I turned sideways on the step so that I could see him.
"You could've told me they were arguing." He grumbled while giving me a nasty look.
"I tried." I shrugged, ignoring it. "You didn't listen."
"You must be Valerie's friend." The boy now gave me a long look. "I'm Malcolm's friend."
"Does Malcolm's friend have a name?" I laughed, letting my hair fall back off my shoulders.
"Sorry," He chuckled, "I'm Marshall."
"Sydney," I nodded, "but Syd is okay too."
"I'm guessing that was your bag at the bottom of the stairs?" Marshall smirked, "So I'm also assuming you're going camping with Valerie?"
"Yup." I gave him a slow nod this time. "And you're the friend Malcolm's bringing?"
"That would be me." He laughed again, "Do you know what they're arguing about?"
"If I knew, I'd probably be in there breaking it up." I grinned as Marshall frowned, giving the bedroom door a glance. "It's Malcolm and Val though. They'll argue about anything."
"It better be good." He grumbled more. "We're gonna be leaving late now."
When the step began being uncomfortable for me and the silence that settled between us was fairly awkward, I decided to burst the siblings bubble and go in there again.
"Where are you going?" Marshall jumped up behind me. "Don't go in the-" Too late.
I whipped the door open to get Val and Malcolm's much needed attention. Standing with my hands on my hips, I felt more threatening. I stood up to my full 5'10 to tower over my much smaller best friend. At 5'5, almost everyone does. Malcolm was a bit of a problem being at least 6'2, but I pulled off my menacing act none the less.
"What is going on?" I glared at both of them. Valerie stood with a small smirk forming thanks to my grand entrance. Malcolm was gapping at me. "Hello?" I waved my hand in his face. A chuckle erupted behind me from Marshall. Apparently he had decided to watch this.
"We're having a tea party." Val spoke up, giving me her well known sarcasm.
"Not the time for sarcasm, Val." I shot her a mean look. "What is going on? You've had both Marshall and myself burst in and nothing has stopped you."
"We have a slight problem." Val's face switched from a smirk to a wince.
"It's more than slight." Malcolm decided to add. Val awarded him with a slap on the arm to shut him up.
"What do you mean?" I looked straight to my best friend. Everybody looked at her as she gulped. Although Val can be quite the sarcastic girl, she tends to freeze up now and then.
This is one of those times.
"Just hear me out." She stuck her hands in front of her body in case of an attack from anyone in the room. "My car is in the shop and it won't be fixed until Friday." Again she cringed.
"So?" Marshall came into the room instead of watching from the doorway. "It's Monday today."
"Exactly." She avoided eye contact with me. "Syd and I have reservations at the campsite for Thursday and we can't change."
"Which means?" Marshall kept asking all of the questions as my mind raced.
"That we're gonna have to-"
"Can't we use your car, Malcolm?" I already knew what was going on. Marshall might be totally clueless, but I caught onto why the brother and sister had been arguing.
"That's what we were fighting about!" Val threw her hands in the air. "The jerk won't let us. He says we spilt up or we don't go."
"Seriously?" I kept my hands on my hips to frown at her brother.
"Sorry, sweetheart." Malcolm is a shameless flirt. "Either one of you ride with me, or you don't go."
"Oh come on!" I nearly shouted. "You only have a two seater."
"Exactly." His eyes sparkled as he winked at me. He's been flirting with me for the last 10 years.
"I'm lost." Marshall cleared his throat. "What's happening?" Everyone looked at him. I took charge of explaining.
"Because Val's car is in the shop and we can't cancel our camping spot, she asked to borrow Malcolm's car. You guys are taking your car anyways, so it shouldn't be a problem." I turned to face Marshall. "Except it is a problem because Malcolm's an asshole and won't lend us his car. He wants one of us - meaning me - to ride in his car for the next three days while we drive to the campsite."
"I'm not an asshole." Malcolm muttered under his breath behind my back. I whipped back around to face him.
"You kinda are." I rolled my eyes as he shook his head no.
"Hey, Syd?" Val poked my arm, "I think we should go and talk about this. I mean, Malcolm wouldn't be so bad to ride with." I blinked hard a couple of times. Val knows her brother is always flirting with me. She must have an idea.
"Yeah, babe." Malcolm snaked his arm around my waist. "I'm not that bad."
"Jerk." I grumbled. I left the room with Val close behind. The last thing I heard before I hit the stairs was Marshall saying;
"She's feisty- just like her hair."
"Please tell me you have a plan." I whispered to Valerie as we stood in her kitchen. "Because I'm hoping you don't actually expect me to ride with your pig of a brother."
"Most people would take offence to that, you know?" She grinned, grabbing a small cooler bag from the freezer.
"To what?" I laughed. "Calling your brother names?" Val nodded. "You know what I call him is true though." We both grinned.
"Ain't that the truth." She laughed with me.
"What's the plan then?" I leaned against her counter. She loaded the bag with water, pop, and a few chocolate goodies that could melt otherwise. She threw the cooler onto the counter beside me with a plastic bag full of other food that didn't need to be frozen.
"Just help me move this stuff first."
Without an argument or questions, I grabbed a bag and headed to the front door behind Val. Her packed duffle bag was dug out from the closest and hung over her shoulder. Mine was over her shoulder as well.
"Now go back to the kitchen and pretend like you're talking to me." Val put the cooler bag on the ground and got me to drop my food bag. "I'll need three trips to grab everything. Put your shoes on now though." She whispered as she quietly snuck out the front door with our duffle bags.
I saw the tent bag sitting in the corner under a table, so I kicked it closer to the front door. Heading back to the kitchen, I started rambling.
"I am not riding with your brother!" I stood by the fridge. I acted as if Val was in the pantry. A few years ago we discovered that anything said in that closest couldn't be heard upstairs. I knew that Malcolm and Marshall were probably listening to me, thinking that Val really is in the pantry.
"It's not that easy though, Val!" I kept my shouting up, thankful that the adults of the house aren't home.
A faint creaking drifted into the kitchen. Val was moving fast to move our bags to wherever she was putting them.
I've known her for almost 11 years and I must say that I've seen all of her plans come to life. At this point I'm fairly good at guessing her ideas before she even speaks.
But this one is difficult.
"Seriously, Val! You can't expect me to do it." I softened my voice as I spoke. I could hear the boys moving around upstairs - probably leaving Val's bedroom.
"Sydney!" I couldn't tell which one was calling me. "Syd!"
"Yeah?" I didn't move.
"Can you ask Valerie if there's any snacks in the pantry?" It was definitely Marshall calling me. Malcolm must have listened to my fake conversation with his sister.
"Oh, sure." I released my grip from the counter to shuffle towards the pantry. "Any snacks in there for the beasts upstairs?" I laughed to myself.
"Hey! We can still hear you!" One of the boys yelled.
"You were suppose to!" I called back. "Do you want Oreos?" I could just see the unopened package through the crack of the pantry door. A few whispers were heard before a loud shout answered me - I also heard the front door creak open again.
"I'll bring them up!" I panicked and told the guys. Mumbling things better left unsaid, I slowly made my way up. At the top of the stairs, I heard noise coming from Malcolm's bedroom, so I left the package on the floor outside of the closed door.
Tiptoeing away, I prayed no one would open the door until I was back downstairs. After a few steps, I talked myself into sprinting the rest. When my feet hit the tile at the front door, Valerie came in.
"Good!" She spoke as loud as she dared. "We've gotta go." She waved me out the front door.
"Can you tell me what's happening now?" I let my voice come out without quieting it. Malcolm's room is on the backside of the house, so they won't hear us in the front.
"Don't freak." Val warned, stopping me on the driveway. As I looked around, I couldn't see any of our camping gear. Things were beginning to click inside of my head.
"Hang on..." My eyes lit up as I looked to Valerie. "Are we..."
"Taking Malcolm's car?" She wiggled her eyebrows. The key was waved in my face.
"Yeah." I stared, surprised. "That."
"I can't believe we're doing this." I laughed, shaking my head. My hair whipped around my face as the wind blew in through my window.
"There was no other way." Val had a point. "You weren't riding with my brother and I wasn't going with Marshall."
"True." I agreed, still feeling giddy from the whole thing. We took Malcolm's car. His car. When he finds out, we'll be lucky if we live longer than our camping trip. "We are dead though."
"Who cares?" She turned up the radio. "We're big girls. We're not gonna crash his car." Sometimes, Valerie just doesn't care - not a single care is given.
Driving along the highway, we laughed and sang along to music. I may be 'feisty' as Marshall put it, but I still worried about taking Malcolm's car. He's never been one to let something go. A prank or a bad scare was coming our way.
After a few hours of driving with no word from him, I began to relax. The boys had definitely left by now and would have noticed his car and us gone. He may be a giant jerk and a careless flirt, but Malcolm isn't all that dumb. The puzzle pieces would be put together in his head.
"I'm gonna pull off to get some gas." Val said, slowing down to come off the highway. In my side mirror, I noticed a car coming off behind us as well. "You can grab us some snacks." She added, glancing at our supply of food. We didn't want to eat all of it before the first day was up. We had two and a half days of driving to do still and snacks are a must.
Val got out to pump at the gas station while I hopped out and walked inside the building. I was immediately drawn towards the bags of chips and candy bags. Grabbing a few of each, I made my way to the counter to pay. The place was fairly busy and the line consisted of three people and me.
As I waited to get to the front, I looked out the window to see what Valerie was doing. I expected to see her finishing up pumping her gas and getting back in the car. Or even see her already in the car fixing her make-up.
What I wasn't expecting to see was a familiar car parked behind our's filling up on gas as well. A car so familiar, I couldn't believe it was actually his. But believe me, it really was.
Marshall stood pumping gas while Malcolm was leaning into his car's window, clearly yelling at his sister. How on earth they even caught up and found us is beyond me, but there they were.
I wanted to drop all of the snacks and run out there. Val needed back up and I needed to help her out. Instead though, I paid for my things and slowly exited the store.
"And what the hell! You bring Sydney along with you? Did you guys think I wouldn't notice my car missing from the driveway?" Malcolm continued to chew his sister out. By this point, Marshall had finished pumping his gas and was just watching it all.
Without a word, I marched to the passenger side of the car and dropped the goodies through my open window. Val and Malcolm both turned to me.
"Syd?" He frowned, forgetting his fight with his sister. "What is wrong with you guys?"
"Nothing." I shrugged, still angry with him for even suggesting that Valerie and I split up.
"You took my car!" He screamed again.
"Oh boo-hoo." Val pouted. "Your precious car is fine."
"You two are insane!" Malcolm threw his hands in the air. "Wait, let me rephrase. Val, you are insane!"
"Maybe it was my idea." I gave him the smuggest look I could muster up. I stood with my hands on my hips once again.
"I know it wasn't, princess." He sent a smirk back. "You may be pretty harsh with words, but my sister is the master mind behind all crazy ideas."
"It easily could have been my idea." I stepped around the car towards him. "I had all the reason to."
"Which was?" Malcolm looked ready to laugh in my face.
"You." I folded my arms across my chest. "Who would want to ride with you?" A wicked smirk spread across my face before I sauntered back to my side of the car.
"Your words sting, babe." He put a hand to his heart. "But you know I love you all the same." A wink was all it took to make his eyes sparkle again.
Rolling my eyes, I leaned into the car. Val's face had amusement written all over it. She winked at me before turning to her back to her brother.
"Look, I'm sure you'd love to stay all night and flirt with my best friend, but we're got places to go and people to see. We're out."
"Val," Malcolm's voice was no longer filled with glee, "I still need to talk to you. Marshall and Syd can go into the store."
Realizing that we were actually blocking the two gas pumps, Marshall and Val decided on moving the cars to the side of the store. Walking over to their new parking spots, I noticed a small stain on my shirt.
"I'm just gonna grab a shirt from the back first." I told the siblings. They both seemed ready to fight. I pulled out a new tank top, leaving the trunk open for when I return with my dirty shirt.
I went back into the store and found Marshall already wandering. He never seems interested in breaking the brother and sister up from their arguments. I turned my back to him and went towards the washroom. Seeing the door indicating somebody was using it, I waited by the ice cream cooler. I pretended to be looking as I stood with my extra shirt in hand.
Once in and out of the bathroom, I checked the time. Marshall and I have been waiting for 10 minutes. Deciding enough is enough, I left without him to help Val.
Except for I quickly realized that today my expectations are set too high.
Where Malcolm's car - the one we... borrowed... - had been parked, sat an empty parking spot. Marshall's car was in the exact spot we left it in.
Freaking out, I turned back to the store and collided with Marshall.
"I don't have a clue." I stared, wide-eyed. "No fricking clue."
"Are they gon-"
"They better not be!" My eyes actually widened more. All I could think was that Malcolm and Val took off. Either as a joke and would just spin around the block and come back or for real, I didn't know. But something deep down told me that Malcolm was getting his revenge on us for taking his car.
"Stay calm, Syd-"
"They have all of my stuff." I stomped back to his car. "Oh, wait. How considerate of Malcolm. He dumped my bag into your car." What can I say? Val's sarcasm rubs off on me sometimes.
"Does that mean-"
"Yup." I faced Marshall again. "They're gone."
"You can quit cussing Malcolm out now." Marshall seemed annoyed. "It's been over an hour."
"Yeah? Well, the idiot didn't need to take his car and my best friend away." I've been grumbling and muttering since Marshall and I realized no one was coming back. I sat with my arms folded across my chest. I've left Val a number of voicemails and just as many texts - still nothing.
"It's not his fault though." Marshall decided to play Mr.Know-it-all. "You guys took his car."
"So?" I caught sight of a pair of socks rolling out from under my seat. "He's still a jerk." I tossed my socks into the back seat where my unorganized duffle bag sat on the seat. When Malcolm had carelessly tossed my bag into Marshall's car, it had been unzipped, so everything inside dumped out. Between cursing and muttering, I've spent the last hour collecting my things.
"Mostly just to you." Marshall pointed out.
"Great." I rolled my eyes. "I'm glad he likes to pick on me." Valerie's sarcasm rubs off on me.
"He picks on you?" He burst out laughing. "I'm pretty sure you're capable of picking on him."
"I am not." I frowned, watching out the window at the passing cars. "Malcolm's an ass."
"And he could say worse about you." Marshall kept the car in the fast lane. We're trying to make up for any lost time. I think he's planning to get to the campsite asap. The more time we spend on the road, the quicker we'll be able to get away from each other.
"Fair enough." I shrugged, feeling tired after all of the nonsense today has brought.
"You really don't like Malcolm, do you?" Marshall asked. I nearly laughed in his face. What a dumb question.
"He's been flirting with me since we met." I let my head rest against the window. My eyes blinked double the normal rate to stay open. "I don't like that he doesn't get it when I say 'no.'"
"In his defence, you're a girl everyone wants." Marshall blurted out. His hand reached for the radio button.
"What do you mean?" I yawned. The only person to truly hit on me is Malcolm.
"Just forget it." He turned the radio off right away after seeing me falling asleep. "Hey, Sydney?"
"Hm?" My eyes were too heavy to reopen. I curled myself up against the door.
"You could've just rode with me from the beginning. You didn't have to ride with Malcolm... or take his car."
"Now you tell me." I murmured before drifting off to sleep. Marshall chuckled beside me. The last thing I thought of was how comfortable I feel around him.
And how Malcolm and Val have all of the snacks I bought.
"What time is it?" I moved away from the window. My neck is sore and my cheek feels weird from being pressed against the vibrating door.
"It's like 11." Marshall still seemed completely awake. I sent a little glare in his direction before adjusting how I sat.
"Shouldn't we pull off soon?" I brushed my fingers through my now frizzy hair. "I've got money for a motel."
"Don't worry about it." He looked over in my direction. "I was thinking maybe we could just take turns driving tonight."
"So that you're not stuck with me for so many days by yourself?" I laughed, braiding my hair down my shoulder. "Good idea."
"That's not it." He shook his head. I could tell he was frowning even in the darkness of the car. "I just figured we could save some money this way - and you'll see Val faster."
"Oh," I tied the end of my braid. "I guess that's okay." We sat in silence for some time before anyone said anything. "Do you want me to take over now?"
"If you're feeling up to it." His voice hinted that he was smiling. Marshall pulled over under one of the few lamp-posts along the highway. We waited for a car to go by before hopping out.
I felt way too comfortable driving Marshall's car. It was strange. After asking where we are, I made sure to check the signs. He told me we were suppose to get off the highway at some point. Malcolm had figured at 1am they'd be close to the exit, so Marshall and I stuck to that.
"I'm gonna try to sleep." Marshall curled up the way I had earlier. "But you can wake me up anytime if you need to switch or something."
I agreed even though I knew I wouldn't wake him up unless it was a real emergency. He had let me sleep for a couple of hours, so I was going to let him do the same.
He wouldn't stop fidgeting or moving around though. He didn't seem to be sleeping at all.
"I'm sorry." I had been thinking during the half an hour of silence.
"For waking me up?" He chuckled before sitting up away from the window.
"You were not sleeping." I laughed, checking the time - 12:32am.
"What are you sorry for then?"
"Just a bunch of stuff. I shouldn't have let Val take the car earlier. We ruined your holiday just as much as Malcolm has." It poured out of me. "And I'm sorry for saying some not so nice things about your friend - even if they're all true." I mumbled the last part.
"You guys didn't ruin anything." Marshall ran his hands through his hair. "Malcolm should have just lent you his car."
"Oh really?" I could feel a bit more sarcasm coming. "Because didn't you disagree with that earlier? You figured it was all our fault."
An intense blaring horn cut Marshall off before he could say anything. Jumping in my seat, I managed to keep the car going straight. Marshall turned around in his seat to see who honked behind us.
"You're kidding." He shook his head.
"What?" My eyes flashed to him and then back to the road.
"You are not going to believe this."
"What?" I repeated, not taking my eyes off the road this time. "Who is it?"
"It's-" Another loud, blaring sound interrupted him. "He does know it's almost 1 in the morning, right?"
"Who is it?" I asked for the second time. "I swear to god if it's-"
"You know it is." Marshall let me know.
"It's Malcolm, isn't it?" A third honk answered my question. "What the hell is wrong with him?" I screamed over the honking.
I sped up as much as I dared - Malcolm and Val close behind. Suddenly though, they backed off. Their headlights disappeared in my mirrors.
"Where'd they go?" I glanced over to Marshall who was frantically looking behind us. "What's wron-"
"You are really not going to believe this." His voice stayed calm, even though his movements told me he wasn't.
"Are they okay?"
"They're fine." Marshall's voice dripped with frustration. "But I know why he was honking."
"Wait a second," I almost slammed on the brakes. "We didn't miss the-"
"Yeah, we did." He shook his head up and down.
"We missed the-"
"And that's why he was honking at us?"
"Nope." Marshall seemed fed up. "He was honking so we would miss the exit."
"Where are we going to get off-"
"I don't have a single clue."
"So, we're screwed?" I slowed the car down and looked hard at Marshall.
"We're screwed." He agreed, sinking down in his seat.
"Just pull over!" I let out a frustrated groan. We drove all night long and the few hours of sleep is catching up with me. We ended up taking the next exit after we missed the proper one. It worked out in the end. We weren't quite as screwed as we originally thought. "I need out of this car, Marshall."
"There's a gas station up here." He pointed. "We can stop there."
Once we figured out which way to go on the new exit, Marshall and I didn't say much to each other. I'm sure he was thinking of how stupid I am to miss the exit. I was thinking for hours about how we could get Val and Malcolm back for that. I know it wasn't just Malcolm's idea to scare the crap out of us; Val was easily a part of that.
"Thank god!" As soon as the car stopped at the gas pump, I flung my door open. I needed to stretch. Badly. The last time I got out of the car was when Val and I stopped for gas yesterday afternoon.
"I'm starving." I looked at Marshall as I pumped his gas for him. "Can we get breakfast?"
"McDonalds?" He laughed, staring at the sign across the street.
"As long as I can get some coffee." We both grinned. "And bacon."
Finishing up at the gas station, we drove across the street to the McDonalds. Practically racing for the door, the two of us didn't pay attention to anyone else around us.
"Oh. my. god." I stopped, catching a glimpse of my appearance in the window. "I look like a hobo! Why didn't you tell me?" I used my signature move - my hands on my hips.
"I didn't notice." Marshall shrugged. I gave him a once over and realized he looked just fine. He definitely didn't look like he had just spent all night driving. His hair was a little messy, but that was only because he had run his fingers through it so many times. He clothes were barely even wrinkled.
I - on the other hand - looked like I just crawled out of a hole. The little bit of mascara I had been wearing was now under my eyes, making the dark bags look worse. Not getting any sleep is not something I can pull off well. My red hair stuck out in weird places from being in a braid and my clothes looked stale.
"Can I have the car keys?" I asked him as we stepped into the McDonalds.
"So you can leave me here?" He chuckled. "I don't think so, Syd."
"I need to change my clothes and clean up." I held my ground. I know how to get what I want. "Please? I'm seriously not going anywhere." I could see the amusement written all over his face. "Besides, you have my wallet. I wouldn't get very far."
Marshall's laugh filled the room. It was loud and happy. He hasn't laughed like that since we left. People stared at us from all around, making me feel more self conscious about my appearance.
"Here." He tossed me the keys. "I'll order you some food."
"Thank you." I gave him a genuine smile before going back out to the car.
While digging through my bag, I thought about how well the two of us have been getting along - for the most part anyways. Given the situation, I'm glad we're doing okay.
Thinking back, I remember Marshall from a lot of events at Val's house. When he first walked into the house yesterday he looked familiar because I've seen him around. Although we had never spoken to each other before this trip, we would give awkward smiles here and there if we ever ran into each other while visiting our friends.
Walking back inside with my purse filled with my necessary items, I cleaned myself up pretty well. I brushed and re-braided my hair - down my back this time - and brushed my teeth. Splashing water on my face, I instantly felt better. I removed the mascara and covered up the bags under my eyes with some light make-up. Changing my clothes felt amazing. I felt clean and much more awake.
I knew my cranky attitude had vanished and that I would be good to go after a coffee.
Marshall's back was to me as I came out of the washroom. Sneaking up behind him, I tried to scare him.
"Boo!" I whispered. Marshall didn't even flinch. I scrunched up my nose as he looked over at me.
"I don't know what to ord-" He stopped mid sentence. "Whoa."
"What?" I laughed, staring at him.
"You definitely don't look like a hobo anymore." Marshall's attention was taken from me as the lady called for the next person in line.
"What can I get for you two?" The woman smiled brightly at us. For 9 or so in the morning, she was happy to be at work.
"I'll get the breakfast sandwich, two hash browns, and.. I guess a milk." He ordered for himself. I smirked at his choice of drink.
"Okay, and for you, sweetie?" She looked to me.
"I'll get the same, but one hash brown and a coffee."
Marshall insisted on paying. I avoided an argument by mentally deciding to pay for lunch. The woman let us know that she would bring us our food, so we left the counter.
Finding a two person table, we both took a seat. Three older women smiled at us from across the restaurant before going back to chatting.
"I'm guessing you feel a lot better?" Marshall asked.
"If you're asking if I'm still cranky, the answer is no." I laughed, catching the attention of the women again.
To distract us from our growling stomachs, Marshall told me a story about when he and Malcolm were kids. I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face. The idiots were the exact same back then too.
"You realize what we have to do, right?" I asked him as the lady dropped off our tray of food.
"Eat?" He already started digging in.
"That." I smiled, taking a bite of my hash brown. "And make a plan."
"For what?" He chugged his milk.
"To get back at Val and Malcolm for last night." I stated. "They somehow ended up behind us and obviously planned to scare us and make us miss the exit."
"You want to get back at them?" Marshall gave me a questioning look.