“You know, we should really go away for a weekend or something,” Chole said as she sipped her white chocolate Frappuccino and looked across the island countertop in the center of the large kitchen towards Nikki, who was skimming through a recently purchased book of dessert recipes involving chocolate.
Nikki glanced up from the book and gave her friend, and coworker of the Port Side B&B, a curious look. “You’re suggesting sometime soon?” the dark auburn haired woman inquired skeptically, to which Chole nodded, her long, blonde curls bouncing slightly with her movement.
“We haven’t had even a real weekend getaway in ages,” she continued. “Not since right before you and August got married, though that can’t exactly be considered a ‘vacation,’ with you moping about him for the whole two and a half days.”
Nikki bit her lip as she grinned at her best friend. Now that she could look back on it, she had to say that the days before her wedding had been quite an amusing time away. “True, but I doubt we could be gone for very long,” she pointed out. “Lynda might be a little reluctant to let us go off for a few days with all the yard renovations going on right now, but a weekend is conceivable…any ideas?”
Chole nodded eagerly. Clearly she’d had this conversation planned a little more than she let on. “What about that place down in Oregon?” she suggested. “The one that has that Shakespeare festival you told me about?”
“Ashland?” Nikki gave the name.
Chole nodded again. “Yes, Ashland!” she said excitedly. “Why not get tickets to a play or something and go down for a few days? It’s only eight-ish hours from here anyway, so a day to get down and a day to come back…plus two days actually in town?”
Nikki leaned her arms against the edge of the cold countertop as she thought. “Yeah, we could do that,” she said out loud as she thought. “Though I’ll have to talk to Augie about it. The hardest thing will be getting past his pleading puppy eyes and get him to be okay with it…though I doubt he’ll object on any rational level.”
Chole gave a soft laugh. “Your husband has you every night, but I only get you for a few hours each day, Lord willing,” she teased.
Nikki rolled her eyes. “And which one of you had me through most of college?” she teased back.
Chole closed her mouth quickly and gave a mock pout, her blue green eyes sparkling as an idea suddenly came to mind. “Oh!” she exclaimed excitedly, and so quickly that it nearly made Nikki jump. “Why don’t we all go away for the weekend?”
“All being who?” Nikki inquired cautiously. While she could often guess what Chole was thinking, the girl still had some pretty crazy and random ideas at times.
Chole grinned mischievously as the wheels continued turning. “You, me, August, and Alistair,” she answered gleefully. “It would be amazing!”
Nikki raised her eyebrows curiously. “It would be interesting…” she murmured, a slight smile playing at her lips as she thought about what would likely ensue with her, her husband, her brother-in-law, and her best friend all in one vehicle for hours.
Chole nodded as she leaned forwards slightly. “You know it would be good for them, actually,” she pointed out, her tone and appearance much calmer than the giddiness that was in her a moment before. “They both want to get to know each other better, but neither one wants to be overbearing about it…”
“Which leaves it up to us to provide opportunities?” Nikki surmised.
Chole nodded slightly. “Exactly,” she agreed.
Nikki sighed softly as she brushed a bit of her hair away from her eye. “Augie wouldn’t mind that, but I can’t quite see Alistair being as…willing, I guess.”
Chole gave a slightly chiding look, though she understood that Nikki didn’t know Alistair as well as she did. “Trust me, he would be more than willing,” she said resolutely. “August is the only family that Alistair has now, and after everything that happened…he will put in the work to keep his relationship with his brother good. He’s just too stubborn and proud to say that.”
Nikki gave a slight smile. “You know him really well don’t you?”
Chole nodded. “As well as you know August,” she replied with a grin. “Though honestly, it’s sort of easy because Alistair sometimes reminds me a lot of you.”
Nikki moaned exaggeratedly and closed her eyes, her hand over her eyes as she laughed softly. “Being compared with one of the world’s greatest, not to mention infamous, hackers? Just what I needed to hear…”
Chole laughed as she leaned back slightly. “Oh there are worse complements I could give,” she joked.
“I know,” Nikki replied as she opened her eyes and met her friend’s gaze. “And you remind me of August sometimes.”
Chole beamed. “See? It’s a good complement!” she laughed again as she took another sip of her coffee. “So…I’ll talk to Alistair tonight, and you talk to that magnificent husband of yours?”
Nikki nodded slowly. “Sounds fair,” she agreed. “Oh, and I’ll talk to Lynda this afternoon…I doubt she’ll object too much but you never know. Besides, if everyone is okay with this, we still have to get tickets and hotel reservations.”
“Which you can do tomorrow…or even tonight once everyone is all agreed,” Chole added on with a smile.
“Tonight might be better, actually,” Nikki said as she closed the recipe book that she had all but forgotten about at this point. “We’ll need two rooms right? A long weekend, two couples, and one room wouldn’t exactly go over well…”
Chole grinned cunningly as she took another long sip of her drink. “I do love how you plan things.”
“Ashland?” August asked from the couch as he glanced up from his laptop and looked to Nikki, who had finished the “quick version” of her conversation with Chole from earlier in the day.
Nikki, who was sitting in the recliner in the corner of the room with her legs draped over the side, nodded. “You remember Ashland right?”
August nodded. “I remember,” he replied, recalling the time that, over summer break from the university, he had taken her on a week road trip, and part of that trip had been going to the Shakespeare festival in Ashland. “So you and Chole want to go there, is that it?”
Nikki nodded as she twirled her phone between her fingers. “She’s never been, and I’ve been dying to go again since that time that you and I went,” she answered. “And we’ll need one or two charming men to drive us…”
August gave a slight laugh as closed his laptop and slid it to the coffee table in front of him. Loki, who was lying on the floor at his feet, had his chocolate eyes fixed on the computer with an eager gaze. August was wary of the dog’s eyes, scratching the black labs ears to keep it distracted enough. He looked back to Nikki and sighed softly. “I’d have to talk to Troy about some time off,” he said as he considered the possibility of a weekend away with his wife, brother, and his brother’s girlfriend who just happened to be his wife’s best friend as well.
“On a weekend?” Nikki inquired. “I doubt he’d have you working. Besides, isn’t he always saying how you have too much vacation time that needs to be used?”
August nodded slightly as he ran his fingers through his blonde curls. “I don’t doubt he’ll let me go, but I’ll call to make sure,” he replied. “And Lynda’s okay with this, too?"
Nikki nodded. “She agreed more willingly than I was expecting,” she answered plainly. “Getting the yard outside the café and around the carriage house redone has been top priority for her, and I was the one overseeing basically everything. Though having all the digging and heavy lifting part finished has apparently put her at ease, so she didn’t object to us being gone for a few days. There aren’t any guests there for us to oversee either.”
August nodded slowly as he began to think through the logistics of a weekend away. “Have you actually made any plans outside of talking this over with Chole and Lynda?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Nikki replied as she looked to her phone and when to the “notes” app, reading off everything that she’d found. “There’s a hotel just outside Ashland that’s got a few rooms available, and there are some tickets left for ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ on Sunday night. The tickets are pretty inexpensive, too, which is a plus.”
August gave a slight nod. “That sounds doable,” he murmured. “Though…the four of us in one car?”
“We could rent a mini-van if we don’t want to be packed into your car,” Nikki suggested with a slight smile. “Because I doubt that my car would even make it, and isn’t Alistair’s supra a little tight?”
August nodded in reply. “And does Alistair know about any of this?” He inquired curiously. With everything else within the plan forming nicely, the last major detail would be Alistair. It would be a gamble whether his semi-melancholy brother would be willing to go on a short road trip with them, or if he would refuse the whole idea.
Personally, August liked the idea of having the change for the four of them to go somewhere together. Alistair was relatively antisocial, but in the past few months, he had been working to get out of that habit, difficult at it was. He was usually willing to meet up with August if suggested, and sometimes made suggestions of his own, but with both having rather separate lives, there would be more extensive periods of time where the brothers had no contact whatsoever, save for Nikki and Chole intervening. August wouldn’t have minding seeing Alistair more, but he didn’t want to come across as overbearing or annoying. Alistair never took kindly to those sorts of people.
“Chole was mentioning it to him tonight,” Nikki replied, just as her phone vibrated quickly as she got a text. She unlocked the phone quickly and started at the notification, smiling as she read it. “And it would seem she got him to say yes…”
“Oh?” August raised his eyebrows curiously. “Impressive. I’ve never known Alistair to comply so readily, and I can’t imagine she didn’t have to persuade him.”
“Well,” Nikki said as she pulled herself up in the recliner and walked across the room towards the couch. “There are ways to persuade, and apparently he isn’t too different from you,” she said with a smile as she crawled into August’s lap and kissed his lips softly. “And I might have given Chole a suggestion or two on how to do it right.”
August smiled as he slipped his arms around Nikki’s slender waist and pulled her closer to him. “You can be pretty persuasive,” he murmured as he looked into her dark green eyes.
Nikki grinned slyly. “You’ve never complained before,” she pointed out.
August grinned again. “And I’m certainly not about to start,” he replied as he pulled her close and kissed her deeply.
“A Shakespeare festival?” Alistair inquired curiously as he rummaged through the fridge for one of the last remaining Rock Star drinks that was still cold. There was still half a bulk pack of energy drinks left in the corner of the pantry, and though he reminded himself of it enough, he had yet to actually supply the fridge with more.
“Yeah,” Chole replied as she leaned against the corner of the counter, her eyes lingering over his tall, lean body. “So what do you think?”
Alistair sighed as he close the fridge door quickly and looked back to the Scottish girl that had accompanied him back to his apartment after he’d stopped by Ian’s house earlier that day. “So the four of us take an eight hour drive to southern Oregon and stay there for three days for a Shakespeare festival?” he inquired with a dry tone that matched his blank expression.
“Well when you put it that way it sounds horribly boring,” Chole replied as she flipped a bit of her hair over her shoulder. “But you like Shakespeare!” she persisted.
Alistair nodded slowly. “I never said I disliked the idea of a Shakespeare festival, it’s just the festival part of it that makes me hesitant.”
“Oh?” Chole raised her eyebrows curiously. She knew that Alistair was still a loner in many ways, and some of the things that went along with festivals were among the things that Alistair greatly detested, but couldn’t even he be able to grin and cringe through it for sake of enjoying the time away?
Alistair nodded slowly as he walked past Chole and made his way back towards the living room, not wanting to leave the PS3 on pause for too long, and it had already been about twenty minutes since Chole had first begun to explain the weekend getaway idea. “Don’t hate me if I don’t want to go.”
Chole‘s eyes followed Alistair, and she turned and walked with him from the kitchen. “Oh come on, Alistair,” she pleaded sweetly after him as she reached for his hand. “It won’t be that bad, and you know you’d enjoy a weekend away.”
Alistair sighed again as he grabbed the PS3 controller, ready to unpause the RPG game. He looked up at Chole with a slightly impatient look, waiting for her to give her last word in hope of persuading him or to drop the matter and let him resume the game.
Chole sat on the arm of the couch and gave him a serious, though slightly pouting look. “I’m not going to beg you to come if you really don’t want to, but I think it might get a little awkward for it to just be August, Nikki, and myself,” she said with a sigh, and then wrinkled her nose as she stared blankly at the floor.
Alistair turned his head slightly. “What?” he asked.
Chole slid off the couch’s arm and onto the couch itself, the look of displeasure still on her face. “Well, it’d be more than a little awkward, if you think about it,” she continued as she looked back to Alistair. “Because if it’s just the three of us, then it would make more sense to only have one room in the hotel instead of two. But Nikki and August on a semi romantic weekend will lead to things, regardless of my being there, and I don’t have earplugs good enough to block out enough of that sound…” she gave Alistair a “you know what I mean” look as she continued. “And if we did get two rooms, then I would have a whole, lonely room all to myself…” She gave him one last pout as she let her voice trail off.
Alistair gave her a curious look as he tried to hide the smile playing on his lips. “Well, we shouldn’t dare leave either of those as your only options,” he said, slightly teasing as he slid a little closer to her. “I suppose the festival wouldn’t be that bad.”
Chole grinned, sliding her hand in his and leaning close. “You’re sure you’ll be okay with coming along?” she asked softly. “Because if you really don’t want to, Nikki and I could just go…”
Alistair shook his head as he gave a soft laugh. “Honestly I wouldn’t mind going to a Shakespeare festival, and I’ll do my best to behave around…those people,” he replied with a smile.
Chole continued grinning as she threw her arms around his neck. “Thank you, Alistair,” she said as she kissed his cheek quickly, before settling next to him as, with the decision about the festival settled, he turned his attention back to the PS3. She pulled out her phone to text Nikki, giving the go ahead to make reservations and get tickets. Though it would still be a few days before they could even go – assuming they could go this weekend – she was already giddy with excitement.
Though he hadn’t necessarily said it, Alistair was also greatly looking forward to the weekend. He’d always enjoyed Shakespeare, from finding his mother’s copies of Henry IV, Henry V, and Hamlet in a box in the attic when he was in high school. Reading, and rereading those plays, among others he found on his own at the library or a bookstore, had always been one of the few calming things that could soothe his anger. And while the rather…liberal sorts that were often found at any sort of festival or artistic gathering irked him to no end (and could put him in a sour mood in seconds), the thought of going to a Shakespeare festival was enticing. Especially going with Chole.
Aside from the enjoyment he found in the works of the Bard, Alistair was also looking forward to time with his brother and sister-in-law. Though he and August both worked in the same city, they still hardly saw each other. On occasion, one would suggest to the other about getting a drink or maybe meet for lunch or something similar, but that wasn’t exactly a regular thing. He was aware that he still saw August far more than most siblings saw each other, but given that the two hadn’t even known each other for two years, there was still a bit more of a longing to spend time with his brother. Alistair might have been accustomed to being on his own, but that wasn’t to say he liked it. But a long weekend with the three people that were family or as close as family to him was a good way to combat his loneliness.