Road Movie: Conclusion

Road Movie was my first story based almost entirely off of events that had nothing to do with my personal life. Fun fact, I have never even been to Chicago, nor have I ever been in a long-term relationship, experienced the loss of a significant other, or worked in a marketing firm. That being said, I had to do a ton of research on the Greater Chicago area, reference a lot of the emotions of feeling love and loss, and luckily, I have taken multiple marketing classes, worked as a marketing coordinator, and spoken to enough marketing executives to gain a vague idea of what it means to work in marketing, albeit for hospitality and engineering, not medicine. That being said, as challenging of a story it was to write, Road Movie was one of my favorites to do for that very same reason. Having to push myself beyond my own limitations and life experiences and pull from others, it was a real eye-opener. I greatly enjoyed the message of this story, which was to make life a constant pursuit of moving forward and finding happiness.

I literally conceptualized the story based on the Maaya Sakamoto song “Road Movie”, which spoke a lot about being lost, finding happiness, and remembering the love in your heart. From there, I had to think about different cities. I considered several, but ultimately wanted to do Chicago, mostly because I had never been to Chicago before, and it would be a much more interesting challenge to do something like that as opposed to a more familiar city. I originally wanted the story to be set in the 1980s, or just an earlier time when drive-in movies were more popular, since the title of the story was “Road Movie” and drive-in movie theaters fit that bill perfectly. But then I realized it would be too difficult writing both in a real life location and in a time period that I have never experienced, and cross-referencing Chicago locations in the 1980s would be difficult and hard to keep consistent in my story.

Hillary Jenkins is a fictional marketing company, and I decided to do a marketing company mostly because I was currently taking a marketing course, and I figured I could easily cross over what I was being taught in class with Dakota’s career, just because it would not be completely inaccurate.

Dakota Logan was originally going to be named Vivian Logan. I wanted her nickname to be Viv, so a pun on viva or vie, which means to live in Spanish or life in French. I ultimately changed her name to Dakota for one sole reason: her entire character, I took inspiration from Dakota Johnson. I had this idea for a timid, seemingly helpless, and easy-to-victimize female brunette character in mind, and Dakota Johnson tends to play those roles in her movies, so subconsciously, I kept typing Dakota instead of Vivian, and decided to just roll with it. The nickname Ducky, unfortunately, there really was not much meaning behind it. It became more of a cute nickname than anything with deep symbolic meaning. I made her from Naperville mostly because I have a friend from there, and it was the first suburb that came to mind: coincidentally, it was close to the Cascade Drive-In, so that worked out in a lot of ways for me. Dakota never leaving Illinois became a focal plot point when I was almost done writing the story, because I wanted to focus on that being the driving reason for her wanting to leave Chicago: I knew that no matter what, she was going to watch a movie in the drive-in, and then leave for somewhere new by the end of the story. I just needed to figure out what drove her to that conclusion.

Phillip Hopkins, I wanted him to be this sort of reliable, smart, do-it-all, very mature figure. Somebody who, when you pair anyone with him, would feel like they are being nurtured and watched over. That’s the main rationale behind making him want to be a pediatrician. I wanted to develop his character a lot because I knew once he gets killed off, there would be no other opportunities to really get to know him, since the remainder of the story, I wanted it to focus solely on Dakota’s moving forward. I wanted the reader to relate to Phillip’s growth, because I am almost positive that everyone can relate to doing silly things during puberty. Phillip becomes much more relatable during those chapters, and I wanted him to narrate them in a first person perspective, just for the reader to gain more closeness with him.

Out of Dakota’s coworkers, only Maria and Frida were based on people I knew in real life. They were both actually sales managers and directors at a one of my old workplaces, and I kept them pretty similar to their real life counterparts, not even changing their first names, personalities, or ethnic backgrounds. Maria was always this open-minded, hardworking, and kind person, somebody who I felt Dakota could come to trust and grow from. Frida was this ridiculous, over the top old lady who would indeed do crazy things despite her age: fun fact, the heart attack and drinking story was actually something she did do in real life. Overall, I felt like those two personalities would help bring more characterization to the workplace.

Virginia and Justin were completely fictional. I wanted Virginia to be this stone-cold Betty type of character, very cool and aloof to Frida’s antics. Making her come from Hawaii made sense in that she worked closely with the hospitality industry, and it helped give her character purpose when it came time for Dakota to talk about leaving Illinois. Justin, I just wanted somebody there for Frida’s crazy to be directed towards, so that was more of what his role was expanded into. A motif I subconsciously created was the idea of father-figures being more muted, something that is noticeable with both Justin and Mr. Hopkins.

For the parents, we had Peter Logan, Marisa Ellis-Logan, Jessica Hopkins, and Matthew Hopkins. I knew that I wanted to expand upon the parents’ backstories in this one, similarly to how I did with Sky Bird, but in this case, not because of any internal conflict, but so that Mr. and Mrs. Logan can provide full understanding and insight to Dakota’s situation. I did not want them to completely mirror their daughter and Phillip’s lives, so I made them meet in completely different circumstances and focus on different career goals. Mrs. Hopkins was only ever formally introduced via dream sequence, so by no means is that what she really is like. The dream sequence version simply represented Dakota’s own fears of inadequacy and reluctance with continuing her relationship with Phillip. Originally, Mrs. Hopkins was killed off the same way as her son, but I changed it from a truck crashing into her car to just her crashing into the DuPage River and freezing to death, just because I did not want everyone who died to die via trucker. Mr. Hopkins, I regret not developing his character more, because it would have been great to see his reactions to the loss of his wife and the loss of his son, but for me, I always felt like father figures tend to hide their pain, so that was the sort of route I took with him.

Pamela, Dakota’s therapist, was loosely based on Pam Poovey from the show Archer. Mostly in appearances though. I wanted Pamela to be this insufferable personality that was aggravate Dakota to no end, just to show how frustrated she was at her then-current situation. She was originally going to make more appearances, but then I decided to push up the chapter when Dakota decides to quit work, and Pamela became obsolete to the plot at that point, so I wrote her out of the remainder of the story.

Lastly, there’s Monique. I wanted Monique to be a complete foil to Phillip’s personality. Rather than being incredibly career oriented and busy, Monique was more free-spirited, young, and unburdened by her past. She has a different outlook than Phillip entirely on her life, but she does have her doubts on whether or not the life she is living is the one she wants to have. I did at one point consider having her end up with Dakota, but ultimately decided against it because I felt like Dakota did not need to come out as bisexual for the story to really progress or end on a strong note: coming out and the ending message may potentially eclipse one another, so I stuck with the ending instead and was happy with that. As for Monique’s grandma, originally, all four of her grandparents were going to die in a plane accident, but again, too many deaths via motor vehicles, so I just wrote off a grandma in a corn fire instead. Overall, Monique’s character was a huge surprise to me. I did not write her in until much later in the writing process, and decided that her character was much needed if Dakota had to go through therapy and could not return to work first.

Overall, I am happy with the fact that Road Movie wound up being a story based off of experiences that were not my own. I do want to visit Chicago, now that I have done so much research on it. The idea of Road Movie was moving forward and remembering the happiness we gained from love, while not constantly dwelling on or missing the love itself. We can find new things to fill the void left behind from the old, new things that can maintain that happiness. I hope that the story was able to perfectly emulate that message

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Road Movie: Chapter 21

“What’s so important?” Dakota walked outside of her apartment building. Her parents had visited her apartment and insisted that she come outside. “I know you might be hesitant, but we wanted to get you this so that when you leave the city, you’ll be ready for whatever is ahead of you.” Mrs. Logan smiled as she led her daughter outside. It was a brand new car. “Oh my god!” Dakota gasped. She started to feel a little uneasy about the idea of driving it, but her parents insisted that she get in and drive with them in it. “Uh, okay.” She was hesitant, but knew it was time to face this fear. Stepping into the driver’s seat, she buckled in, and turned on the engine. It was a while since she actually drove, but it was like riding a bicycle to speak. “Alright, where are we going?” She turned around to her mom who was sitting in the back of the car. “Ooh, let’s drive along the Lake!” She suggested excitedly. “Alright, a trip along the Lake it is!”

Driving with her parents in the car, Dakota started to feel a lot more calm. Yeah, motor accidents have happened to both Phillip and his mother, and it does suck, but it happens. That sounded insensitive, but it was the blunt truth. There was no point in being fearful of the car accidents. She just had to be careful. Knowing that her parents and her own life were being placed in her hands, she had to prioritize her parents’ lives first, obviously, and she was making sure to drive knowing that. She made sure to watch traffic on all intersections and lanes like a hawk, making sure that nobody was trying to merge onto her lane or cut her off, causing a potential accident. She had that much control over her life, anyways.

Dropping off her parents at her apartment garage, she gave them a large hug. “Thank you guys for this. I really needed to get over everything.” She grinned graciously. “No problem, honey. We just wanted to help you overcome some of those fears. Besides, you’ll need a car where you’re going.” Mrs. Logan smiled. “Thanks, mom. Thanks, dad.” She could not stop smiling. She was genuinely touched that her parents would go out of their way to buy her a brand new car, and then on top of that, help her confront her fears of driving. Coping with the trauma, it’s a step by step process. Some steps will take longer, but a step like this, it takes just one good experience and a strong reminder of who is in control and what they are in control of.

“Also, another thing, Mr. Hopkins finally got back to us about a date for Phillip’s funeral. Do you think you’re ready for this?” Mrs. Logan looked at her daughter, gravely concerned. “It’s something that I know I need to do if I can ever cope with the loss and move on.” She assured her mother. “The reason why it’s been a while was that he was going to therapy. Suicide prevention. It’s understandable, given what he had been through.” Mr. Logan sighed. Losing your wife is tough, but then your only child, it massively reduces ones will to live. “But he’s better now. We make sure to visit often and I know he wants to set up a fund in Phillip’s honor.” They smiled at her. “That’s incredible to hear. I’m glad he’s doing a lot better now.” Dakota nodded in relief.

Later that day, Dakota’s phone started ringing. It was none other than Mr. Hopkins. “Hi, Mr. Hopkins, how are you?” The brunette answered nervously. She was still a bit afraid to see him after the incident. She still felt some survivors guilt for not being the one who drove that night. But she knew it was unhealthy and wrong to dwell on those hypotheticals. The what-if’s needed to be shafted. “I just wanted to know how you were doing. I think out of everyone, the two of us were definitely the most affected by Phillip’s passing.” “I’m still trying to get over it. It’s tough for both of us, absolutely. But I know that Phillip would have wanted us to be happy with our lives. Even if he was not a part of them, he wanted that for us.” Dakota rationalized. “He was so fortunate to have a girlfriend like you. You kept him grounded and focused. For that, I’ll always be grateful. You’ll always be like a daughter to me, Dakota.” Mr. Logan admitted. “Thank you, Mr. Logan. That means a lot to me, coming from you!”

“Monique, what was the meaning of this?!” Dakota was with Monique, Virginia, and Maria, getting dinner together. It was the first tine they had a girl’s night out since Phillip’s death, and Monique’s first time overall. The brunette was referring to the email she got last night. “I never entered the Capture My Chicago Photo Contest! And you’re the only one who had access to my photos!” The two had shared a mutual dropbox for their photography. “I wanted to boost your confidence, and I took your best shots and entered them. And you won!” Monique snickered mischievously. “I mean, I’m honored that I won, but why did you do that behind my back?” The brunette frowned. “Because if I tried to get you to enter, you’d probably be too modest or nervous about your photography. Plus, since I entered you behind your back, you didn’t know, and if you lost, you’d never have to know!” Monique laughed. “The rejection email, you’d probably think it was spam or something.”

As odd as it was, Dakota was grateful for what Monique did. She helped her do something she never thought was possible, and because of it, Dakota was able to get her name out there as a photographer. “Honestly, your pictures are really good. You’ve learned quickly, and I think you should consider making this your career when you move.” Monique encouraged. “Hold on, I want to see these photos.” Maria frowned, grabbing Dakota’s phone. “Where’s this DropBox?” “Here, here.” Monique gestured, taking the phone and logging into the site. She tapped on the image file to bring it up for Virginia and Maria. “Wow! These are really nice! Can you take my wedding photos?” Maria smiled. “I mean, if I’m still in Chicago, sure!” “Oh, no, Maria will probably make you come back just to take them.” Virginia laughed. “Hey… that’s true, actually. I’ll cover your expenses and everything, since my parents have to pay for the wedding.” Maria smiled. “Thanks!” Dakota grinned. It was reassuring to know that people enjoyed her photography as much as she enjoying doing it. Lining up the angle, waiting for the lighting to be perfect, and capturing that moment at just the right time, it was a thrilling sensation for her. She enjoyed being able to land on that perfect picture.

Road Movie: Chapter 9

“Where am I?” Dakota tried to open her eyes in the brightly lit room, which proved to be a challenge. Blinking and wiping away the tears that formed, she finally saw the outline of someone wearing what appeared to be a surgical mask. After adjusting her sight to the fluorescent shine in her face, Dakota realized that she was in a hospital, specifically in a hospital bed. “You’re in Northwestern Memorial Hospital.” The brunette was puzzled by the response. She was in the hospital? And the one she had recently helped? “What happened?” Her voice croaked weakly, much to her own shock. All she could remember was driving with Phillip to the movies. “You were in a car accident.” The figure standing above her stated. “Accident? Is Phillip okay?” She looked over at him, beginning to panic. The man went silent. His silence just made it clear that Phillip was far from fine.

Dakota heard the full details of what just happened when she got discharged from the hospital. Waiting in the lobby, she came across a distraught Mr. Hopkins who was accompanied by her parents. “Dakota.” Her father paused, looking at her. There was a look of complete hopelessness in his eyes as tears streamed down his gaunt expression. Mr. Hopkins stood next to them, looking equally despaired. Until now, the brunette was just hoping that the worst that happened was Phillip lost a limb but would survive. Even a terminal illness, she would be okay with. “I’m so sorry.” Her mother sobbed, pulling her into a tight hug. “You guys did not deserve this. You guys should have had a long, happy future together, not what had happened.” “Mom?” She was still unsure of how to react. Denial was at play here. She refused to believe he was dead, even after seeing how their parents were.

According to her dad, the couple were in an accident. A truck hit their car, turning too quickly and not realizing that there was somebody next to them. Their vehicle flipped over, and landed on its right side. Phillip was crushed upon impact as the car rolled back to being upside down. Dakota passed out from lack of air, but at that point, Phillip was already dead. The ambulance found both of them, and excavated the two from the car. They found a pulse on Dakota, and put her in the bed first. She was in a coma for the entire month. There were two cars to carry each body, so they sent her off to the nearest hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital. Eventually, after treating the minor injuries on Dakota’s body, she was transferred to Northwestern Memorial, where she remained past Christmas, New Years, and eventually, woke up in late January. In that time, Dakota’s parents contacted her workplace, explaining what had happened.

Phillip, the EMTs and paramedics tried to save him, but his neck was already snapped. They were able to save Dakota with minor injuries, but Phillip, between being on the side impacted by the truck and snapping his neck as the car tumbled, he was beyond saving. The body remained in one piece, but by the time they had wheeled his body to Adventist, he had been dead for almost two hours. There was nothing the doctors were able to do either. A broken neck meant that he was gone for good. When Mr. Hopkins heard the news, it destroyed him. First his wife, then his son. And both of them to motor accidents? It would have been hilarious, if it was not the people in his life. People who he loved the most. What did he do to deserve having everything he worked so hard for taken away from him?

Mr. and Mrs. Logan had to comfort Mr. Hopkins through the entire ordeal. Upon being told that their daughter survived, but Phillip died, they drove over to his apartment almost immediately; they knew he would be taking the news the worst. And they were fortunate to arrive when they did; Mr. Hopkins was about to go for a drive; he intended to drive into the DuPage River and drown in his car, but Dakota’s parents did not know that at the time. After a long talk and assuring him that he will always be family to them, Mr. Hopkins was able to calm down. It was painful to live in this reality, but if he were to die now, what would happen? The entire Logan household would be gone. Especially now that he was the only one in his family left, he had to live. Live for Jessica and Phillip. They would not want him to suffer. They would want him to be happy. Even though happiness seemed far away, he needed to start looking for it. He needed to find a new purpose for his life.

Phillip’s body was being stored in a Cryonics Institute in Chicago for the time being. Mr. Hopkins was deciding whether or not if they wanted to bury the body in a casket or cremate the remains and bury the urn. Like with choosing to stay alive, this was not an easy decision. Mr. Hopkins decided that he needed to wait for Dakota to awaken from her coma before he decided; she has as much say in this situation as he did. Thinking about the funeral was still too much for him. How many fathers have had to plan their own son’s funerals? It was uncomfortable to think about, but it needed to be done, out of respect to Phillip’s memory. Sighing to himself, Mr. Hopkins walked out of his apartment, holding a lighter in one hand, and a box of cigarettes in another. Normally, he did not smoke, but in this case, he needed the comfort of that warmth spreading in his lungs to calm himself down.

Dakota did not know what to feel. It had not fully sunken in that Phillip was gone. She could not believe it. Not until she saw him for herself. There was a small part of her, clinging onto the hope that this was a bad dream, that seeing her parents mourn was a figment of her imagination. She convinced herself that he was still alive. Even when she told Mr. Hopkins to bury the body as is, she still denied Phillip’s death. But that night, going home to her apartment, it started to settle in. The space was empty and dark. Everything was exactly like they left it before they went to the movies. That first night alone, it was hard. She was used to sleeping, knowing that Phillip was a hug away if she needed it. But instead, it was just her in an empty bed. She tried to comfort herself, but it was hard. He was not there. She could not trick herself into thinking he was away on a trip of something. She knew the truth. It crept up on her. Unable to fight the urge the cry, Dakota gave in and found herself sobbing into a pillow.

Road Movie: Chapter 8

“Hi, you must be Dakota. I’m Jessica. Phillip’s mother.” A woman with round, brown eyes and long dark hair smiled softly at her. “Huh?” The brunette looked around. The two of them were sitting in a cafe, overlooking the lake. “So, Dakota, I hear you were going out with my little Philly.” She rested her chin on her hands as she continued to look at the girl. Dakota shuddered, feeling her gaze. It was as if Mrs. Hopkins examining her every movement, judging her decisions, reactions, personality. As somebody who disliked being marginalized, Dakota felt incredibly uncomfortable and vulnerable. “Oh. Uh, yeah, I am. We’ve been dating for quite a while now.” She began. She felt strange about this entire situation. The last thing she remembered was that she was in a car with Phillip. So this had to be a dream, right? But the woman sitting across from her, she definitely resembled Phillip; Dakota had never seen what Phillip’s mother looked like, because Phillip refused to show any pictures to her. For Dakota, this was the first time interacting or meeting Mrs. Hopkins ever crossed her mind.

Dakota recalled what meeting Mr. Matthew Hopkins was like. Since Phillip had met Dakota and her parents at their house, they decided to have a huge family dinner with the five of them. Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Logan immediately got along with each other. Both of them were blue collar workers, the former working in a power plant as an engineer and the latter working as a plumber. Mr. Hopkins took a liking to Dakota, mostly because of how polite yet openminded Dakota was; she was able to talk to Mr. Hopkins about football and athletics, much to his delight. Since Phillip was so busy in academics, he never really did sports beyond the two year minimum, where he did football, but had no intentions of making a full career out of it. It was that dinner, during their senior year of high school, where Dakota and Phillip truly felt as if they could one day have a happy family like this of their very own.

It started to dawn on her that this entire interaction should not even be possible. “Wait, who are you?” The woman sitting in front of her could not actually be Phillip’s mom. “I am Jessica Hopkins. The mother of your girlfriend. I died when Phillip was in middle school.” She answered, not even breaking her stare. “Wait, there’s no way that this could be real. This has to be a dream.” Dakota got up in disbelief. Mrs. Hopkins was long since dead. She should not be alive, interacting with the brunette. Dakota had never even met Mrs. Hopkins. She was conflicted. Either this was a dream, and the women before her was Dakota’s image of Mrs. Hopkins, or the woman was pretending to be Mrs. Hopkins. It was overwhelming and difficult to keep track of. Trying to back away, Dakota felt her legs freeze in fear. What was going on? She was paralyzed, shaking helplessly. “A coward like you is unworthy of my son. You are not the kindhearted girl he deserves to be dating.” She spat, glaring at her. “I will be taking him back from you. Your time with him is over.” Dakota’s heart sank at that statement. It was too much to hear for her. She could not believe the words she was hearing.

“Dakota? Dakota!” Phillip shouted. The brunette groggily opened her eyes. “10 minutes left!” He smiled at her. “Oh really?” She smiled at him. “Yup.” She started to recall her dream and felt worried. “Phillip, what was your mom’s name again?” “Jessica. Jessica Hopkins. Why are you asking?” He raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “I had a dream. I met your mom in it. She was beautiful. She had your eyes.” She began. “Oh, wow. That’s what a lot of people said to me.” He froze hesitantly. “Where did you see her? Wait, did you snoop through those old pictures?!” There was definitely a sound of panic in his voice. “No, I swear! I said it was a dream! I met her in a cafe by the lake. It was beautiful. But I got freaked out. I wasn’t sure if it was actually her, or if I was being trolled, since she was supposed to be dead. And she did not take well to how I reacted.” She admitted, trying to make sense of what just happened while also attempting to calm down the wound up Phillip. “What did she do?” It seemed to be working. “She said that I was not worthy of being your girlfriend.” Dakota sighed nervously. “Not worthy of being my girlfriend? Well, everything up until that sounded like my mother, but I’m not sure about that last bit you just said about being unworthy.” He chuckled.

“My mom wouldn’t have made a comment like that to my girlfriend, and I know for a fact she would have loved you. You’re a really caring, selfless, and kind person, Ducky. And if she saw how much you meant to me, she would not even care if you were a Satanist or serial killer. She would accept you for who you are.” He grinned reassuringly. “Thanks, Philly cheesesteak. But I have another question.” The brunette looked at him, half nervously. She was not sure what sort or response to anticipate. “What’s up?” “Why did you not want to show me pictures of your mom, or even really mention so much as her name or what she was like to me?” “Dakota, my mom represented my past. Being with you, it represented my present and my future. Hearing you say it now, yeah, you definitely deserve to know about my mother, but I was so caught up in growing up with you that I guess I forgot.” He admitted sheepishly. It was embarrassing to realize that he never really considered Dakota’s feelings or thoughts in the manner, even after all of those years.

“Okay, so I’m going to get off here.” Phillip signaled his right turn light. He needed to get off the  highway so that he could turn into the theatre. “Wait, Phillip! Look out!” Dakota screamed. A blinding white light flooded the car and the blaring sound of a truck’s horn filled the highway. Everything went silent. There was a flashing red, and then a blackness. “Phillip?” Dakota weakly groaned. She could not really move her head; the car chair had come unhinged and toppled over her. The car had flipped upside down from the collision. The brunette’s body suddenly seized up. She could feel herself gaining that same freezing sensation she had earlier in her dream. Her heart felt like it was going to stop beating. A dizziness took over, and her eyes slowly closed, as a blackness clouded her vision. A sound siren could be heard from a distance as people were gathered around the turned over car, nervously watching.

Road Movie: Chapter 7

“Hey, are you ready?” Phillip looked at the brunette. It was around 4PM, and the two were getting ready to head off to the Cascade Drive-In. “Yeah! What’s the movie playing tonight?” She looked at him excitedly. “Chloe and Theo.” He read off of his phone. “Oh, it’s supposed to be a comedy about a homeless chick in New York.” He was referring to the movie’s online summary. “Well, that’ll be interesting. At least now we’ll know what to do if we lose our jobs.” Dakota giggled. “True that!” The two were laughing together as they got into the car. Because it was the winter, the sun was setting pretty early. “It’s weird to think that the theatre is open during this season. Normally, they’re closed, right?” Dakota frowned. As excited as she was, something felt off. The Cascade Drive-In normally was closed between late fall until about March. “Yeah, it’s weird that they’re open during the winter, but I’m not questioning it.” Phillip laughed. “I even called ahead, and they said that they were!” He assured her.

The trip to the drive-in was a very stoic one. They were driving down the I-290 West, passing all of the parks, suburbs, and woods on their way to the movie theatre. The loop and Sears Tower were sinking into the distance as they were getting closer to their final destination. The sun was also beginning to set and the sky was turning purple. It was definitely winter in Chicago. But Dakota loved the experience. This was what it was like to drive home for her. Naperville was just 30 minutes south of where the Drive-In was, so a lot of the route was the same. Out in the suburbs, the city felt so big. She could still remember what it was like, being a high schooler and getting told that she got accepted into UChicago. At first, it was a bit terrifying. The idea of moving out into the city, being quite a ways from home, but as time moved on, she started to fall in love with the city and everything it had to offer. That became her new home. Whereas, Naperville felt a lot more slow-paced to her now. That sort of lifestyle, it appealed more to little kids, and working parents, neither of which categories Dakota falls into.

“Damn it, there’s traffic.” Phillip groaned. “We should have realized that. People are driving home from work now.” Dakota rationalized. “But at least we can see the sun set over the different forests. I think that’s Danada right there!” He pointed out. “Haha, Danada! If Canada got a downgrade.” The brunette chuckled. Back in high school, they had a field trip to the different forest preserves nearby for their AP Biology class. One of them was to the Danada Forest Preserve. One of Dakota and Phillip’s classmates, Megan, was not terribly bright; she only took AP Biology hoping that is was going to be an easy class to get an A in, a low-hanging fruit amongst the science courses. While Megan was not the best biologist, as her getting two D’s in the class would show, her commentary on that trip was nothing short of hysterical.

“Wow, it’s so pretty here!” The class of high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors were standing in a field of sunflowers on a warm April afternoon. “Class, this is Danada Forest Preserve.” Their teacher explained. “Since we’re learning about ecosystems now, I want you guys to observe different plant and animal life in the area and then write about how they interact.” That was their field trip assignment. “Danada? So like if Canada got a D and failed Biology AP?” Megan snorted. At that point, it was not even a secret that she was failing the course. Everyone laughed, but not with her. Instead, at her, for making such an unintelligent remark. Though Megan never went on to be a fantastic biologist or scientist for that manner, she did become a famous comedian. In the end, the joke was on the entire class; Megan had the last laugh when she was featured on Saturday Night Live. Though at the time, the entire class was too busy taking amusement in her stepping into horse poop and getting peed on by a toad.

Seeing the sky turn from yellow and blue to purple was mystifying. The outlines of the trees were getting less and less pronounced as they began to sink into the darkness of the night. It was funny to think that to their left was Naperville. It almost made Dakota feel a little homesick. She was wondering how her parents were doing. Her mother was a florist while her father worked as a plumber. You would think that a plumber would make a modest salary, but Mr. Logan was able to provide generously for his family. Dakota made sure to call them every weekend when she was not busy, or at least give them a text to update them on her life. It was funny when she first introduced the two of them to Phillip. Mr. Logan immediately sat down and interrogated the boy, demanding to know what his intentions with his daughter were. Mrs. Logan on the other hand, tried to hush her husband so that they could have a normal conversation. It almost felt like a scene from a sitcom because of how almost cliche it looked.

“Philly cheesesteak, how much longer until we get there?” Dakota yawned. At that point, she was tired from reminiscing so much. Being on the road, beyond just playing music, there really was only so much one could do. She wanted to talk more with Phillip, but she didn’t want him to get too distracted; even though traffic was bad, it could lighten up any second, and she did not want him to be too sidetracked with their conversation to drive properly on the highway. “Ducky, there’s a GPS. Just look at that.” He sighed, trying to focus on the dimming road. Phillip was exhausted from dealing with the traffic. Driving out of the city was stressful enough, but dealing with these cars and having to wait was agonizingly slow. The brunette frowned. She was not particularly fond of being treated like a child or being told the obvious. “Well, I guess we have 45 more minutes to burn.” She rolled her eyes at him, referring to the estimated time until they arrived. She rested her head on the window and closed her eyes. Half an hour was plenty of time for her to doze off and take a nap.

Snow Prince

A boy, a prince whose heart was as cold as ice. His knight, whose will had melted that ice. Together, they lived, deep in the mountains. The snow polluted the air with its soft white touch. Leaving the mountains, it felt impossible. But the knight attempted it. He wanted to escape. The boy waited in the citadel, yearning for his knight’s return. The knight, the only person who could break through that ice which weighed down the snow prince’s heart. The prince would cry, feeling the sadness overcome his heart. He missed his knight. He needed his warm embrace to extinguish the cold. His knight had left to find a cure to the boy’s cold heart. But the prince only needed his knight to thaw that sorrow. His knight was his medicine, he convinced himself. No, that was the frost talking, lying to the boy. Forcing himself to believe that his knight would return and that his knight was all he needed. He shook off these idiotic urges, thoughts, and feelings. It was becoming increasingly clear to the boy. His knight was terrified and scared off. The cold had driven the boy past the brink of madness and despair. Running out of the citadel, the boy never looked back. He ran into the distance, through the snow and mountains. He was determined to find his knight. Determined to make right what he did and said wrong. His only cure, what he needed to thaw this cold, was forgiveness for his delusion. Redemption from his own mistakes.