"That's what you said thirty minutes ago," Ryan argued, looking at the map that was opened in his lap.
"That's because we were not lost then, just like we're not lost now." I growled in response, my grip on the wheel tightening.
"You're being a baby."
"You're being unreasonable." I snapped.
"I'm being unreasonable?!" Ryan said in shock. "Look, I grew up here. I know this place like the back of my hand." I tried to calm him, while I glanced out of the side window at the towering corn fields, stretching beyond the horizon. Or so it seemed.
"You haven't been back here in five years." Ryan decided to remind me.
"Very good memory," I muttered. "How could I ever be expected to remember something like that?"
Ryan rolled his eyes and looked out the window again.
We drove along in silence. I was frantically looking for a familiar landmark, and he was no doubt thinking how much better it would have been if he's stayed at the residence instead of taking the trip to see my aunt.
Suddenly I squinted, noticing something on the way. "What?" asked Ryan, sitting up, noticing my squint.
"It's the tree," I replied excitedly, as the giant maple flashed by us.
"A tree?!" Ryan exclaimed.
"I'm not yelling."
"Yes you are."
"No, I'm not," Ryan said through clenched teeth. "Now, tell me exactly how you can tell where you are by a tree."
"That's the maple by the old Miller place. Me and my friend Jess used to take turns climbing it. It's on the way to the stream at the back of the Walker's farm." I explained. Ryan looked excited.
"Okay, okay, so we've got a point of reference," he said, diving into the map. "What road are we on then?"
"I don't know," I said with a shrug. I rolled down the driver's window and rested my arm on the door. Ryan regarded me with suspicion.
"How can you not know where we are?" he said slowly.
"I know where we are."
"By the old Miller place." I replied breezily. Ryan sighed, and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"How can you not know what road we're on?" he asked, plaintively, like a little kid. I regarded him with pity, a poor boy grown in the 'burbs, without the ability to navigate by trees, fence-posts and the occasional farmhouse.
I shrugged in response to his question, and went back to looking at the scenery. Suddenly I spotted something else, and slammed on the brakes.
"What? What?!" Ryan exclaimed, getting all wild-eyed. There was a rustling in the lilac bushes growing by the side of the road, and a little boy emerged. "Hello," I said cheerfully to him. He looked at me, and Ryan, suspiciously.
"Is this the Miller place?" I asked, still cheerful. The small boy nodded. "Are you Jason Miller?" I continued. He nodded again. I smiled wider. The last time I had seen Jason was when I baby-sat him as a toddler, before I left for Toronto. "Can I talk to your daddy?"
He nodded, and disappeared into the lilacs. Ryan stared at me. "Jason?" he asked.
I stared back at him, not understanding.
"I mean, I could see if he was named Johnny, or Billy, or something..." Ryan trailed off. I rolled my eyes.
"Omigod, it's not like we're in the land time forgot, or something." I scoffed.
"Can I help you?" An older man emerged out of the lilacs, followed by Jason, and a smaller girl.
"I'm looking for the old Braeburn place," I said cheerfully. The old man squinted.
"They moved 'bout five years ago," he said. "I think you're kinda late."
I smiled. "I'm Betty Braeburn's niece. Claire, remember?"
"Claire!" the man exclaimed. "I thought I recognised you. Good to see you again. How have you been?"
"It's good to see you too," I added. "But I'm actually late--can you tell me where they moved to?"
"Cherry Hill, up a ways," Mr. Miller said. "Past Wendy's, but not as far as the beaches."
"By the Sanders?"
"Yep," he said, nodding. "Around there. They painted the house blue, can't miss 'em."
"Thanks," I said, starting up the car again, waving as I drove away. Ryan stared at me open-mouthed.
"You poor, poor girl," he murmured. "Growing up here."
"Save it," I snapped, annoyed at the condescension.
"So you know where to go, now?" he asked, after a moment.
"Yep," I replied, with a bit of a smile.
"We are so lost," Ryan moaned.
"We are not lost," I snapped. I had a sudden feeling of deja vu.
"Then tell me where we are," he said, angrily.
"We are, uh, we're..."
"Exactly!" Ryan smirked triumphantly. "We're lost."
"No we aren't."
"Yes we are."
"No we aren't."
"No, no, no." I shook my head. "We're not lost."
"I'm not admitting to anything!" I snapped. "Stop being such a baby!"
"You started it!"
I sighed, and rolled up my window as the rain started to fall from the gray clouds overhead.
"Perfect," I muttered. Ryan pretended not to hear me. I rolled my eyes again.
"Hey!" Ryan suddenly exclaimed. "There's two people--you can ask them for directions."
I slowly pulled to a halt beside the two men, who were checking a broken fence and unhindered or bothered by the spitting rain.
"Excuse me," Ryan said, rolling his window down. "Can you help us?"
"You lost?" said the first elderly farmer.
"Yes," Ryan replied with a nod. "Very lost."
"Hmmm," said the the other, less elderly farmer. "Where you going?"
"Her aunt's house." Ryan pointed at me. I waved. The farmers did nothing in response but glance at each other.
"Where's her aunt live?" the first farmer asked. I mentally named him "Bill".
"Up past the Sanders." I said.
"Oh, on the lake road," the second said. I mentally named him "Bob." Ryan started tracing his finger along the map, trying to find the lake road.
"No, no, the Sander's on the Cherry Hill road," I corrected.
"You looking for Betty Braeburn?" "Bill" inquired.
"Oh, so you're Claire!" "Bob" exclaimed. "Mary saw Betty at church last week, said that you were coming down. You're a little far away, though."
"I know, it's been a while." I admitted. "Bill" scratched his chin.
"I know the feeling. I went away for a bit, moved back, and they'd changed everything around," "Bob" commiserated. "'Course that was back in '52, but luckily, the Jones' moved back the following spring."
"That's good to hear," I said.
"Now, young lady," "Bill" interrupted. "I think you need to take the number ten past the old Ames place, take a left turn at the Minnakers--"
"There's no number ten on this map!" Ryan exclaimed in despair, but he was drowned out by "Bob" interrupting:
"No, no, if she's gone past the Minnakers she's too far north. No, no, Claire, you listen to me. What you need is the number ten, past Ames, then take a left at the Walkers'."
"I thought the Walker's were back about half-an-hour," Ryan whispered.
"Not those Walker's," I whispered back. To "Bob" I added: "Go on."
"Yeah, so past the Walkers." "Bob" turned to look down the road as if he was mentally driving there himself. "That should put you on the Cherry Hill road, then you just drive for about fifteen minutes or so. I guess. I normally do it in about thirty, but I'm on the tractor."
"Oh." I nodded.
"So, you should get there in about twenty minutes, or so, from here. Got all that?"
"No," Ryan whimpered.
"Take the number ten past Ames's, take a left at the Walker's and it's about fifteen minutes up the Cherry Hill road."
"Yep." "Bob" seemed proud. After the thanks, we tore up the country road, waving behind us.
"I never want to do this again," Ryan said mournfully. I patted him on the shoulder.
"My, it did seem like a long time," Auntie Betty said, pouring the tea. "Did you get lost? I know I should have reminded you that we've moved, since you hadn't been down here since then--"
"Oh, don't worry about it," I said, cheerfully. "It was breeze getting down here, wasn't it, Ryan?"
Ryan made a gagging noise, nearly coughing up his tea cookie.
Auntie Betty looked at him strangely. "He's not from around here." I added as apology. She nodded in understanding.