Even when she heard Aspen ringing the doorbell, Cass didn't want to get out of bed. She had admittedly been awake for the past few minutes, but she had also been trying to fall back asleep. She had a good sort of dream. She didn't remember much of it – just little flashes of colors and things – but she had liked it and wanted it to finish. Aspen rang the doorbell again, adding in a knock or two for good measure.
Cass groaned. “I'm coming!” she shouted.
Another loud knock.
“Aspen, I know you heard me!” she replied, pushing her covers back and hurriedly getting out of bed. Aspen was predictable like that, much in the same way that she was predictable to Aspen. Her best friend knew that the noise would be enough to rush her out of bed, and Cass knew that was exactly why she was ignoring her. Just as she had guessed, the knocking only stopped when she threw the front door open several minutes later.
It was only eight o'clock in the morning, but Aspen somehow managed to look perfect. She always did. Long reddish brown hair thrown up in a neat ponytail, just the right touch of makeup and a bright look to the eyes peering out behind her sunglasses. The sight made her heart flutter a little bit, but she quickly pushed the thought aside as she let Aspen in.
“Morning, Sleeping Beauty,” Aspen teased her, messing with her bedhead. Cass gently pushed her hand away, which only made Aspen do it again. She sighed and reluctantly let her continue. At times like these, it was just easier to let Aspen do what she wanted to. Cass didn't mind it. Most of the time, she liked it. But she had just gotten out of bed, and the last thing she wanted was for someone to mess with the hair that she was already feeling self-conscious about.
They stopped in front of the kitchen door.
“Have you had breakfast yet?” Aspen asked, blocking her way in. She wanted to go out, then. They had spent the past few mornings hanging out in her kitchen and raiding her refrigerator, and the only reason she wouldn't want to do that was if she had something special in mind. “I was thinking Dunkin.”
Cass yawned. “Why not eat here?” she asked.
“Well,” Aspen said, leaning against the door frame and grinning at her. “Today is a very special day, and I wanted to give it the best possible start.”
She wracked her brains for what the occasion was. Her birthday wasn't for another month, and Aspen's had been two months ago. Their AP test scores weren't coming out for another week. And, the last time she checked, neither one of them had entered a contest that would be announcing its winners soon. As she looked around the house while she thought, her gaze landed on the window in the front door.
“The weather's nice today,” she commented, turning back to Aspen. A smile began to spread across her lips. That was it, wasn't it? They had been planning this day for months, but the weather had never been just right for their outdoor expedition.
“Bingo!” Aspen confirmed. “We've got a beautiful shining sun, not a single cloud in the sky and the coolest temperature all summer! It's the perfect weather for the perfect day. We'll start the day with some delicious donuts, scour the flea market for some cool new finds, go on a hike and end it with a movie marathon!”
“Just like we planned.”
“Exactly,” her best friend said. She grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her around. “Now, go get ready! Meet me out in the jeep when you're done.”
It was on the rarest occasions that Cass got ready in a reasonable amount of time; on most mornings, she had to get up several hours in advance of whatever she was doing to make sure she arrived on time. But this day was special. She easily shook off the last remnants of sleep and hurried about her room, gathering what they would need on their outing. Her purse, her hiking bag, snacks, water bottles – it might have been excessive, but Cass had always told herself it was better to be prepared.
When she finally left the house, Aspen was sitting in the driver's seat with her feet on the dash. She was probably online, checking out the summer exploits of their classmates. But it wasn't the phone that her eyes lingered on. It was the sandals that Aspen was wearing. They were stylish, but they were also the exact opposite of what Cass would have worn if she knew she would be walking for awhile.
Hearing the sound of the door opening, Aspen looked over at the source of the noise. She thought for a moment, and then raised her phone.
Cass, startled by the sudden request, did an awkward half-smile. The flash went off, and Cass knew her fate had been sealed. Aspen was too impatient to take multiple shots. Confirming her suspicion, Aspen put the phone down next to her. That picture would undoubtedly end up online by the end of the day.
“You can put your backpack in the back,” Aspen suggested, gesturing at the empty seats behind her. “Although I still think you're not going to regret bringing that giant thing.”
She opened the backdoor and did as requested. After a few moments of surveying the area in front of her, she decided that it would be best to stick it behind her own seat. If it was wedged in, it was unlikely to slide around while they were driving and distract them. She went to go do exactly that. “It's an emergency bag. You bring it in case something goes horribly wrong, not because you're going to need it every time.”
“We're going hiking in the woods down the street.”
Cass gave a small shrug as she joined her in the front. “You need to be prepared for the worst when in the wild,” she simply said.
“And that's one of your survival shows talking right there,” Aspen teased her, giving her a poke as she put her legs down on the floor of the car. She turned the keys in the ignition. “What do you even have in there this time?”
“Food, water, a stove-”
“It's a portable one. There's some ponchos, emergency blankets, a spare pair of sneakers, a match kit, and some other things I can't think of off the top of my head.” She gave Aspen a shy little smile, sinking into her seat as she did so. Even though they were best friends, it was embarrassing sharing how much she knew about the topic. “It's everything you could possibly need in the wilderness.”
Aspen gave the bag an incredulous look. “You fit all of that in there?”
She replied to the confirmation with an impressed whistle. “I really need you to pack my bags the next time I go on a trip.” She turned her attention back to the road in front of them. “So you've got everything?”
“Then off to Dunkin we go!”