The Consequences of Dissonance - Chapter Twenty-six
Losing his job, it turned out, put Jared in a rather foul mood. I spent rather more time with my mom out on walks or locked in my room than I did just hanging around the house. It was better to face the slings and arrows of the internet alone than to take up arms against an angry stepfather, I had decided, and now that I was back, I really was glad to have mountains around me. I no longer felt quite as exposed as I had when moving out to the decidedly flatter Fort Collins. The hills piled up around our sheltered little town were comforting, and it felt as though the world was smaller than it really was. Even if that world was inhabited by angry step-parents and skiing crowds.
My mom’s walks turned out to be a lot more fun than I had previously remembered, too. Despite it being winter, she would take the dogs out twice a day and each day pack the trail down a little more and walk a little further until the trail stretched out past our property and toward one of the hiking trails in the hills that was technically closed for the season. Of course, it would snow often and she would have to keep repacking the trail in order to make it useable once again, but the combined result was a semi-permanent trench that was visible even in fresh snow fall. The surroundings were beautiful, as always.
Mom and I caught up quickly until we were talking as we always had. We talked often of relationships. She asked about Kris quite a bit, and I did my best to dispell any of her remaining worries about us as a couple. I, meanwhile, started to gather that having Jared home all the time was doing little for their relationship. The edgier Jared got, the less my mom seemed to be able to deal with his presence.
My idea for computer help around town had mixed results. I had three clients in those first few days of working. One client paid sixty dollars for three hours of my time in order to have me wire part of his house for a new computer he had purchased as an entertainment station. After wrestling with the operating system that had come on the computer, I managed to talk him into slimming it way down, though I didn’t manage to get him to switch to a free system like I was using. One of the other two clients had some wireless conflicts with other devices in his house and the other’s whole network had been brought down by a some virus brought back from college by their daughter. I had made my hundred dollars, but after that, I hadn’t had any other hits.
The trip we planned had gone over well with Kris’ parents, with the caveat that it be in the second week of January after new years; she had family visiting for Christmas and her parents were throwing a party for new years. This worked fine for me as well, what with no real plans except for Christmas, but others were not so lucky. Erin was not able to make it that week, and Joseph was out of town for all of break. That left me and Kris as well as Jamen and Eric. For money’s sake, we had all agreed to try to come up with at least one more person that would be willing to join us for a night of mild partying. I had suggested Thomas and that had gone over well. Unfortunately, no one really had his contact information. I figured I would be able to look it up online. I supposed that CSU would have most of that information available somewhere. Least of all, I had one phone number of his from when I was sent information about my future roommate by the university.
Christmas eve had gone well enough at my mom’s. Taking all the cards from relatives into account, I had received about four hundred dollars. I had only asked for cash, but my mom had given me a pair of pajama bottoms — red plaid — in order to sate her desire to give me a more concrete gift. Jared gave me a pound of coffee, which, while appreciated, was given grudgingly, and I figured he had actually purchased it for himself in some of his off time. He spent most of Christmas brooding and sipping spiked coffee. By the time dinner came around, he was all drowsy eyes and tired smiles, which was an improvement, all things considered.
My tallying of my trip carried me halfway to Granby, and I spent the next hour simply listening to music and watching the snow covered scenery roll past. Once I made it into the rather small town, I pulled out my directions again and spent a few moments lost in unfamiliar streets before I wound up on Highway 34. If I stayed on that, I would wind up in Loveland, just a few miles south of Fort Collins. Part of the reason for following a new path was to see if 34 would be about as fast in getting me to Fort Collins. Of course, the real reason was that it would lead me, after Estes Park, to Boulder, where I could visit Kris. Despite being Christmas day, I figured I would stop by for a few minutes and say hi, drop off the small gift I had gotten her while I was at it. We hadn’t talked about gifts hardly at all, so I had tried to pick something that would be decorative at worst, useful at best, and picked up a small cast-iron tea-pot for her. I didn’t trust myself to buy jewelry yet.
Driving along unfamiliar roads, along with the falling snow, did plenty to slow me down, and it took me a few seconds to realize that I was heading toward a national park. I frowned and took another glance at the map, keeping an eye out for signs, or, and I crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t come across any, National Parks huts. Of course, half an hour later found me stopped at a gate in the road with a sign saying that the park was closed for the day and that Trail Ridge Road, the road that wound through the park, would likely only open when weather permitted.
“Fuck, goddamn, shit-ass…” I cuss at the sign, sitting in my parked car for a few minutes, trying to think of an alternate route that would take me around the park. When nothing came to mind, I decided, to hell with it, I’d just take Highway 40 down. it was my usual route and would drop me onto I-70, which I would usually take to I-25, which would lead me to my Dad’s.
As I got my car turned around and pointed back down towards Granby, I racked my brains to think of any other ways to get to Boulder that wouldn’t have me getting to my dad’s at midnight. I knew there was another state highway, 119, that ducked off I-70 before it made it to the eastern slope of the Rockies. That had the Peak to Peak Highway, I argued with myself. That would likely be slower than just leaving the mountains. There was bound to be a route north along the front range that didn’t involve me driving all the way to I-25 just so that I could drive back west. Pushing my way up towards Winter Park — one of our prospective party locations — I weighed the importance of my gift for Kris to that of getting off the roads by dark.
Eventually, logic won out. Despite how much I wanted to see Kris, I knew that driving that much on Christmas day only to get to my dad’s before Christmas day was technically over was not high on anyone’s list of priorities. As the road shifted from following valleys to very sharp switchbacks, I turned down the music and focused on driving. Once I topped Berthoud pass, I decided that it’d probably be better to just give my girlfriend a call when I got a signal on my phone rather than worrying so much. I could wish her a merry Christmas and all that, promise her the gift, and let her know what I’d seen of Winter park when I drove through it.
Of course, it was nearing two by the time I finally got a signal worth using that looked like it would stick around for a little bit, so I made my call then.
“Hey, merry Christmas,” I said, smiling.
“Aw, you too, Cor,” the voice on the other end said brightly.
“Hope I’m not interrupting anything big.”
“Nah,” she said breathlessly. “Well, we’re finishing up lunch, but when I said who was calling, they let me duck out to take it.”
“Nice, nice.” It was good to hear her voice again, if nothing else, I thought. “How’s the holiday treating you?”
“Oh, alright,” she said vaguely. “Grandparents are here. They’re pretty happy to hear that I seem to have found someone,” she added quietly.
I laughed, “Well, that’s good.”
“I told them you were a good, upstanding, chivalrous, well dressed guy. I’m going to have to ask you to not visit so you don’t prove me wrong.”
“Hey! I’m upstanding! I think,” I said, getting a laugh. “I was going to visit, actually, since I got you a little something, but it turns out to be pretty difficult to get to Boulder from Steamboat. There’s a big ass national park in the way.”
“Aw, well, it’s alright. What’d you get me?”
“Not telling, duh. Just a little thing.”
She laughed, “Good, ’cause I didn’t get you anything, dork.”
“Pff, thanks a lot.”
“Well, how’s this? My mom and dad told me I could invite you to the New Years party they’re having. They said you could stay over if you wanted.”
“Really? That’s awesome.” I thought for a bit, then added, “You sure that wouldn’t be weird at all, me staying over at your place?”
“Oh, it’ll be plenty weird. But we’re not in high school anymore, and besides, it will be good to see you, even though we’re doing the party thing less than a week after.”
“Well, alright. You a go on the party for sure?”
“Yeah, got some cash for Christmas which should be enough to cover my part of the deal.”
“I think I’m going to catch a ride with Eric, if that’s alright. He lives up in Loveland, and I’m on the way for him.”
“Aw, man… cheating on me with your roommate’s boyfriend,” I said in mock exasperation. “I knew it!”
She laughed, “Nah, Eric’s Erin’s toy. Got my own.”
I grinned, “Damn straight.”
“Cute. Anyway, I gotta get back to the table. Thanks for calling, Cor.”
“Of course. Enjoy the rest of Christmas.”
“You too, hon. Mwah,” she said.
“Mwah back atcha. See ya, Kris.”
She hung up, and I flipped my phone closed, tossing it into the passenger seat where it clunked against the box holding my gift to Kris. Well, I thought, at least I now had plans for New Years. I spent most of the rest of the trip down to my dad’s focusing on that, picturing how sleeping over at Kris’ place would be, about how limited by her parents’ presence we would be. Oh well, I countered, at least I wouldn’t be lonely this year.