Two days before the beach camping trip, Rodney dials Bob’s number on his cell phone. He waits until he hears his friend’s voice.
“Hey, Bob! Listen! I know this is really short notice, but can I bring my girlfriend with me on the trip?”
“Well, hello to you too, Rodney. It’s been a while since we last talked.” Bob sounds annoyed.
“I know, man, I am so sorry that I’ve been MIA. I’ve been with Riley and getting to know her for the past several days. It’s not an excuse, I know. But she’s so special, Bob.”
“You said that about Tessa, too, and look what happened,” Bob says, staring out the window at his apartment.
Rodney lets out a slow sigh. “I know, Bob, and I was wrong. Riley… she’s… I don’t know how to explain it. But when you meet her at the beach, you’ll see what I mean,” Rodney says. He taps his finger on the table at his condo impatiently. “And hey, I haven’t been the only one busy. You and Theodore have been spending a lot of time these past weeks with Chelsea and Carrie.”
Bob nods. “Yea, that’s true, too. And yea you can bring Riley with you. Theodore and I were actually planning to call you to ask if we could bring our girls, too.”
“This is great! I get to meet Chelsea and Carrie. You two get to meet Riley and then the girls could be friends.” Rodney grins when Riley joins him at the table, giving her a thumbs up. “See you all in two days then at the campsite.” He says a hurried goodbye and hangs up. “We need to get you some more clothes and hiking boots for the trip.”
Rodney jumps up from the table, grabs the timer and gives it a good twist. Riley grins and walks over to him. He takes her by the hand, and they head out to his car. Rodney glances down at her hand for a second. It doesn’t feel as plastic as it did a week ago. It felt fleshier but still a bit plastic. Ignoring it, he helps her in the car, and drives them to the mall.
Brice and an older woman stand outside the camping store, laughing, and Bruce sips on his coffee. Bruce waves when he spots Rodney and Riley heading their way.
“Rodney, Riley, great seeing you two again.” Bruce shakes Rodney’s hand while Riley hugs Bruce’s wife.
“You, too, Bruce.” He hugs the woman. “Hey Barbara.”
“Hello, Rodney,” Barbara says with a cheery smile.
“Since you two are hitting it off so well, here.” Bruce hands Rodney a card. “This is the group we are with.”
Rodney reads the card. Living Mannequins and True Love. “Oh?”
“We make plans to do things together all the time. And since no one truly understands our kind of love, its best to have friends who love the same as we do,” Bruce says, hugging Barbara close. “Plus, they can answer all of your questions I know you still have about the whole situation.”
Riley hangs on Rodney’s arm, looking at the card. Her eyes light up and she looks at Bruce and Barbara. “Rodney is taking me camping in two days with his friends and their girlfriends.” She squeals excitedly.
Bruce and Barbara look at each other. Rodney sees worry in their eyes.
“Hey, don’t worry guys. My buddies are cool. It’ll be my first time meeting their girlfriends, but I am sure they are cool, too.” Rodney pats Bruce’s shoulder. “We need to get her clothes and stuff for the trip. I’ll call you when we get back though, tell you how it went and all that. And then maybe we all can go somewhere together. You can meet my friends and see they are cool.” He says goodbye and leads Riley into the store.
Riley waves back at their friends. For an hour, they shop. Riley tries on almost every clothing and shoes item the store has to offer. She picks a few pairs of jeans, shirts, two pairs of hiking boots, a light jacket, a heavy jacket, and a few other things. The last items they buy are luggage then grab a bite to eat.
As soon as they get home, Riley packs. She places her new luggage next to Rodney’s and joins him on the couch for a movie. She bounces a little, excited about the upcoming trip. Rodney slips an arm around her shoulders and laughs, kissing her forehead before flipping on the movie.