"Are you still going?" I texted my friend Tamera to double check for the fifth time that week. A mutual friend of ours, Kori, had invited us to spend the weekend at the beach as a celebration of her birthday but I was apprehensive. I wanted to go in support, but she was inviting people I didn't really know which made me nervous. I'd feel better if I had Tamera there with me. At least I'd have someone to talk to if I didn't hit it off with the other girls. I watched as the typing bubbles popped up and disappeared a few times on my phone screen. My stomach tightened. Could she be bailing on me?
"Yeah. I don't want to, but I'm coming. I'm actually getting ready to head to Kori's place right now." the message read. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least I wasn't alone in my apprehension, but both of us would go in support of our friend because that is just the type of people we were. I looked up from my phone when my husband entered the room. "Is she going?" he asked.
"Yes. Neither one of us really want to though." He shook his head and laughed a little bit. "That's because both of you are super introverted and antisocial. It'll be okay. Just go, support your girl and try to have a good time." He sounded just like my supervisor, who felt more like my work mom than anything else. She frequented the beach we were going too and kept telling me to just try and have a good time when I expressed my apprehension. I sighed and stood up to finish packing, for some reason, a feeling of unease settled deep in my gut. Something was telling me that this would be a disaster and I needed to get out of it while I still had time, but I did my best to shake off the feeling. Kori was my best friend so whenever she needed me, there was no doubt I would be there. No question.
After I finished packing, I checked my watch to see the time. Kori would be here in a few minutes to pick me up. I left my car here at the house just in case Jamal needed to use it while I was gone. After I was done packing, I hauled my luggage down the steps of our apartment to wait for Kori in the parking lot. I looked like I was packed for a week long trip, instead of just 2 days, but I wanted to make sure I had everything. Twenty minutes later, Kori pulled up with Tamera already in the backseat. I threw my luggage in the trunk and slid into the car next to Tamera. "What up, ladies?" I said cheerfully. Kori glanced up at me through the rearview mirror and offered a stiff smile.
"I'm waiting on Rachel to drop her kids off. It's pissing me off because she knew we had this trip planned but waited until the last minute to get these details situated." I could see the frustration on her face. I shook my head and laughed a little. Rachel and I weren't close, but from the few interactions we'd had, this was definitely on brand for her. As we took the drive across town to get Rachel, I filled Tamera in on the small details of their friendship. Kori chimed in with a few details of her own, recalling the trip the three of us had taken to Chicago a few years prior. It had been a disaster for the same reason. Rachel was unprepared which set everything back by a few hours. When we made it to Rachel's apartment, she was just locking up her door and coming down the stairs. She entered the car, the unmistakable smell of weed filling the small area, and smiled at Kori, completely ignoring the two of us in the backseat. I shot Tamera a look.
"I am so ready for this trip, girl." She said. Kori giggled and pulled out of the parking lot. I swallowed back my annoyance in the effort to keep the peace. It was bad enough she smelled like weed and most likely had more on her, but to get in this small car and not even speak to 50% of the people inside was starting off on the wrong foot already.
"Hey Rachel." I said. She glanced back at me, eyes red and glazed over. "Oh hey ladies." she responded lazily. I sighed inwardly and went back to looking at my phone. I didn't want to be a prude, but I had a job I needed to get back to, and if we were caught with weed it definitely wouldn't be a good look on my part. My anxiety skyrocketed at the thought, but in the effort to make sure Kori had a good time, I let it go. I just needed to make it through the weekend.
Okay who was this girl? She was dressed in dirty, ill fitting clothing and she reeked of weed. I did not appreciate the fact that she got in the car and spoke to Kori but didn't speak to Londyn or me. What was the point of being rude from the jump? I was already apprehensive about this trip to start with since I only knew Londyn and Kori but I didn't want Londyn to be by herself. I could tell she wasn't super excited about the group of girls that Kori picked to come with us, but she was being quiet about it to try and be a good friend. This was going to be an interesting trip.
It took us about two hours to reach the Airbnb Kori had picked. We'd all pitched in to help her pay for it, so I was hoping it would at least be nice enough for us to relax. Maybe once we got out of this car, that now smelled like we were at a Snoop concert, the fresh air would brighten my mood.
This Airbnb honestly looked like a haunted house. It was dark and uninviting, partially covered by the woods it was surrounded by. Vines and leaves covered the windows and the neighboring houses looked dark and abandoned. Would we even be safe here? I looked down at my phone, there was no service where I was standing. I glanced over at Londyn and the look of pure disgust on her face made me chuckle a little. At least I wasn't the only one that wasn't impressed. Kori put the code in to open the front door, and the smell that greeted us was revolting. Open food lay rotting on the small kitchenette. Flies buzzed around the room, landing on the open food every so often. The couch was covered in unidentifiable stains and crumbs. Whoever was here before didn't even bother to clean up after themselves and clearly the owners hadn't bothered to check behind them before booking us. I was irritated and ready to make the trip back home. I knew I should have brought my own car.
I went back outside with Londyn trailing behind me, on Facetime with her husband, showing him the disaster that this trip was turning into. I looked to my left as another car slowly pulled up in the driveway. This must be the other friends of Kori. Nina and Fatima I think their names were. I vaguely remembered Londyn telling me who they were and how Kori knew them when we were talking about the trip. They both stepped out of the car, the shorter one of the two of them introduced herself as Nina before entering the house to find Kori. Fatima stood awkwardly by the car, staring at Londyn and me. Something about her expression seemed off to me, but I couldn't quite place it. Londyn ended the call with her husband and motioned for me to join her inside with the rest of the girls. Rachel, Kori, and Nina stood in a half circle talking quietly, stopping abruptly when we came in. What was that about?
"Okay so here's what we're doing." Nina clapped her hands together and turned to us. "We are going to get some food, then we are going to figure out somewhere else to stay because we are not staying here. Cool?" I was fine with it, but I couldn't help but notice how quiet Kori had gotten once Nina started talking. It was creepy. Almost as if she was unable to come up with her own idea for her birthday trip.
"That seems like a good idea." Kori said shrugging. I noticed Rachel had slunk off to the corner of the room and sat down on the sofa with the stains and the food crumbs. She absentmindedly wiped the crumbs off the couch and picked at the fabric. I needed to get out of here. Maybe food would help.
We debated for hours over where to stay. My annoyance increasing with each Motel suggestion. Dinner had been unsuccessful. Nina demanded we do ice breaking exercises, which put me on edge and struggling to get everyone to talk had been painful to sit through. I almost felt bad for Kori because her birthday trip was turning into a disaster with each passing moment. When we pulled up at the motel, I could see the horror all over Londyn's face. We watched as a woman, who was obviously a prostitute, stumbled clumsily over to one of the doors and knocked. A man opened and ushered her inside before looking around to see if she had been followed.
Kori handed me the keys to the room I would share with Londyn and we all made the trek up the steps. I mentally kicked myself for not driving my own car with each step towards our room. The air was thick with smoke and stale food. As we reached our assigned door, the same girl we had seen earlier came running out of the room she had just gone into. She just barely made it to the railing before puking over the side of it. The smell was horrific. I tucked my nose in my shirt to keep from gagging. Londyn unlocked our room and flipped the light on. I caught a glimpse of a roach scampering under the bed. There were burn holes from someone's cigarette in the comforter and the room itself smelled heavily of pee. Londyn pulled back the covers on the bed near the door to see a stain of what was obviously pee covering the majority of the mattress. That explains the smell. It didn't even look completely dry. Small circles of red mixed with the pee stain, indicating that someone had bled on this bed and then wet themselves. Maybe not in that order. I turned to Londyn, as another roach crawled up the wall behind her head. "I'm not staying here." I said.
"Way ahead of you." She pulled out her phone, put it on speaker and dialed Kori from the next room over. It rang twice before she picked up. "Kori, this room has roaches and someone pissed in this bed. There is no way we are staying here."
"Nina, Fatima, and I actually stepped out really quick to go grab some snacks. We'll find somewhere else to stay. Tell Rachel to repack her stuff. She was laying on the bed smoking when I left." I wrinkled my nose at the thought. Was ole girl seriously unpacking her stuff in a filthy place like this? And why doesn't that surprise me? I shook my head.
This was an absolute nightmare.
It had been four hours since Kori and I had spoken on the phone. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but that uneasy feeling was settled in the pit of my stomach once again. I finally got tired of waiting and went next door to the room she was supposed to share with Rachel to see if she had heard from her. A man answered the door when I knocked. "Um...is Rachel in here?" I asked. Had she met someone that fast? The man shook his head and closed the door. "Nah ain't no Rachel here." Did she walk off? This was their room. I ran down the walk way to knock on Fatima and Nina's door. A small child answered.
"Who are you? What do you want?" A woman appeared from behind the door and wrapped her arms protectively around the child. I stepped back, even more confused. This couldn't be happening. I looked over the railing and into the parking lot. Nina's car was gone. So was Kori's.
Did they leave us here? I ran back to the room and threw the door open. Tamera flinched a little at the sound of my aggressive entrance. She had been standing in the middle of the floor, refusing to sit down anywhere in this filthy room. "They're gone." I breathed as I grabbed my phone. Tamera stared at me in disbelief. I dialed Kori's number. She picked up, sounding like she had been asleep.
"Where are you? Did you just leave us here?" I demanded. I heard her yawn in my ear and someone giggled in the background. Anger rose in my chest. Who does something like this?
"We found a room somewhere else. I tried to call you but no one picked up. Figured you went to sleep or something." There were no missed calls in my log. I knew she was lying, but why? What had we done to warrant this? Kori sensed my silence and perked up.
"We can come get you. But you'll have to just sleep in here with us. There's room on the floor." 6 grown women shoved into one room with only one bed and one bathroom seemed absolutely miserable, but it was better than this. I hung up the phone, fighting back tears. Kori was supposed to be my best friend, who leaves someone stranded like this?
By the time Kori had pulled up in the parking lot, I was so angry I couldn't speak. Tamera helped me load our stuff into Kori's trunk and silently slid back into her seat. I could tell she was ready to go too. Guilt made my cheeks hot. It was my fault she was even on this disaster of a trip in the first place. I had asked her to come. I prayed she wasn't angry with me. We made it to the room they had chosen in less than ten minutes. This hotel didn't look much better than the motel we had just left, but at this point I was too exhausted to protest. It was 4 in the morning. All I wanted was a shower and somewhere to sleep.
Rachel was smoking another joint on the only bed in the room when we entered. Fatima and Nina were on the air mattress together watching tv. Kori pointed to the spot on the floor next to the bed she was sharing with Rachel. Did she truly expect me to sleep on the floor like I was some type of pet? The room was hot and stuffy. I fanned myself and looked over at the air conditioning unit in the room. An error messaged blinked across it in red letters.
Six girls shoved in one room with a broken air conditioning. Everywhere I turned there was something else to piss me off. I just wanted to go home and get in the bed with my husband, but instead I was in this hotel room with these girls, still clinging to what last bit of positive energy I had.
Let's hope the beach would be better.
By the time we made it to the beach, later that day, all patience I had was gone. Londyn looked like she was still trying to hang in there for her best friend, but I was done with this entire trip and these girls. Fatima kept staring at me, throughout the morning until we all got up to get ready. I would look up from the chair I was slouched in trying to find some type of rest, to see her beady eyes fixed in my direction. I wasn't sure what was up with this girl, but I couldn't wait to get home. This is the absolute last time I'm going on any kind of "girl's trip" with this bunch. Roaches, pee stains, blood stains, cigarette holes, and prostitute puke. It was enough to drive anyone nuts. I was actually impressed that Londyn hadn't snapped yet. I felt close to it, so I kept quiet.
As we got settled on the beach, Nina and Fatima pulled out a few bottles of liquor and juices. I've never been much of a drinker, but I was glad to see she at least had some juice. As she poured drinks for all of us, I looked over at Londyn. Her positive expression had faltered for just a second, allowing me to see the stress she was actually feeling. Our eyes met and she shook her head slightly. I could tell there was a lot going on in her head. I myself was wondering how Kori was supposed to be her best friend but seemed to forget all about that in the presence of these other girls. That had to be confusing and upsetting. Kori looked over at Londyn and nudged her playfully.
"So. You've been married for a full six months. How does it feel?" Londyn smiled genuinely at the mention of her husband. I was so happy for her. She had been through so much in past relationships. It was so refreshing to see her with someone that treated her the way she deserved. "It feels great." she replied smiling even wider.
"So like...do you think he's the type to cheat?" I could tell Kori's question caught her off guard a little, but she recovered quickly. "I wouldn't have married him if I couldn't trust him, Kori." Good answer. Kori contemplated this for a minute. Something passed in her eyes, but I couldn't tell what it was. Anger maybe? Jealousy? Couldn't be sure.
"How long do you think it would take him to move on? You know, like if you died or something? Or like...disappeared?" What kind of question was that? Nina cleared her throat awkwardly and handed Londyn her drink. I stared at Kori, trying to figure out where her head was at in order to ask such a morbid question. She must have realized she overstepped, because she laughed quickly and waved her hand dismissively.
"I was just asking. Ignore me." Londyn took a swig of her drink and looked out at the water around us. I followed suit. It was a beautiful day out. Despite the fact that we were surrounded by these women who I wasn't entirely sure even liked us. Rachel sat next to me laughing quietly to herself. The girl needed to put the weed down and come up for air for second. I don't think I'd even seen her not high to some degree this entire time. Fatima and Nina watched me closely. It felt like there was secret that all of them were in on except Londyn and me. Something wasn't right. Londyn cleared her throat a few times and glanced down at her cup.
"What's in this?" she asked. Nina smiled knowingly and looked over at Kori, who kept her gaze on the waves. "Oh you know. A little this, a little that. Have some more." she poured more in Londyn's glass before she could respond. My own throat started to burn a little. I put my cup down, realizing my hand had started to tremble. A few minutes passed and Londyn had fallen back on her towel, her arms above her head in an awkward position. Fear mixed with confusion raced through me. I shook her but she wouldn't wake up. Just flopped under my touch. My vision began to cloud, my throat felt like it was closing.
"What-" words wouldn't come. My brain fogged over. I tried to reach for Kori but she shrugged out of my grip. What was going on? Did they drug us? I felt like I was in a tunnel, being pulled under the waves. Fatima smiled as she watched me struggle to hang on to my consciousness.
"This is exactly what you deserve." She whispered, a snarl on her lips. I heard Kori's voice next, it sounded as if she was smiling.
"Don't worry. I'll tell your parents bye for you."
That was the last thing I heard before it all went black.
You're wondering why we did it, right? Well, I have my reasons. Whether you think they were worth it or not. It was worth it to me, and that's what matters at the end of the day. Londyn had been so busy wrapped up in her married life that she had forgotten about our friendship. Even before they got married she was starting to forget about me. Coming out less and less. No longer available when I called. We had been friends for seven years. Seven! But as soon as Jamal came around she acted like she couldn't be bothered with me anymore. Let her tell it, work was what had been keeping her so busy but I knew that was a lie. Stressful job or not, you don't forget about your friends, even when you get married. You don't forget about ME period.
It had to be done.
Getting Nina and Fatima on board was the tricky part. Rachel wasn't a concern. I knew she would spend the majority of the trip high as a kite, just happy to be away from her kids and her bum of a boyfriend. Nina and Fatima needed more convincing. I had been planting seeds for a little while, as soon as I started to come up with this plan. A lie here. A twist of truth there. By the time we made it to the trip, Nina and Fatima hated Londyn so much I'm surprised they didn't try to run her over with their car when they got there. Leaving them at the motel had been Fatima's idea. We all saw how uncomfortable the two of them were when we first arrived. It was funny to mess with Londyn's head. I could tell that she was trying to figure out what was wrong with me, but wouldn't have the stones to ask.
Of course she thinks she did nothing wrong.
Getting the people on the beach to believe that we had nothing to do with it was another tricky part. We let them lay there for a bit, just to make sure they were completely gone, before becoming "frantic". Some guy that was sitting six feet away from us called the ambulance when I started to cry and shake them, begging them to wake up. As we stood there and watched the ambulance roll the two of them away, I couldn't deny the feeling of accomplishment that washed over me. The police didn't even suspect us.
I couldn't believe it worked.
I did feel bad for a split second when I had to call Jamal and let him know that his wife had died. He actually cried in my ear for a bit. I was shocked. He never struck me as the type to really show emotion. I guess he did actually love her. I did feel really bad for Tamera though. She was unfortunate collateral damage. She was the only one on the trip that actually liked Londyn and would absolutely try to pin us if we hadn't of taken her out too. She had to go. Sorry girl.
It had been a week since we had gotten back from the trip, two people short. We cried the fake tears in front of their family but would collapse into a fit of laughter whenever we had a moment to ourselves. We had thrown their stuff in the dumpster outside of the hotel before leaving, except Londyn's purse. I had given her that for her birthday two years ago and wanted to keep it for myself. I looked over at the purse, sitting on the floor in my closet, and smiled. You should never abandon your friends.
A quiet knock at the door interrupted my thoughts. "Just a minute!" I called. I finished getting dressed for work before grabbing the purse and exiting my bedroom. I grabbed my keys and my phone and tossed them in the purse as I headed to the door, whoever was here would have to come back later. I was running late. I opened the door with a smile that quickly dropped.
My mind couldn't process what I was seeing. I opened my mouth, trying to find the words to express what was racing through my mind. She saw the confusion on my face and grinned knowingly.