His: Friday

Rufus called Penn and asked, “Dude! Got any plans for today?”

The truth? I’m thinking about just sitting here in my underwear and playing video games,” Penn admitted.

“Hey, me too!” 

“You know, This is the last day of spring break. We should do something fun and interesting. I mean, Monday it’s back to the books,” Penn pointed out.

Rufus suggested, “It’s close to noon, so let’s get some burritos, go to one of the climbing gyms, and get a pizza afterwards.”

“And then play videogames in our underwear?”

Rufus laughed. “Only if we can play Batman: Arkham Knight!”

“Great idea!” Penn exclaimed. “We started spring break with Batman and we will end it with Batman.”

“My best friend has gone batty,” Rufus said dramatically.

“Smart ass,” Penn retorted. “I’ll pick you up in fifteen minutes.”

Predictably, the lads demolished their burritos. They thought about having more, but the climbing wall awaited them. Thursday’s gastric debacle with raw onions and roller coasters was fresh in their minds and they didn’t want a repeat.

Penn cocked an eyebrow and proposed a different activity. “We can go climbing anytime. Let’s scope out the Cartoon Art Museum instead and…”

“Get more burritos now?” Rufus asked. 

“Of course!”

It took a little longer for the guys to scarf down their second burritos, but when they did, they were satiated and ready to hit the museum. Ironically, there was a special Robin exhibit that featured every Robin from Dick Grayson to Damian Wayne, including the two female Robins. Rufus and Penn verbally sparred a little about whether or not Batman really needed Robin, with Penn playing devil’s advocate and taking the stance that no superhero needed a sidekick. 

“You, my friend, are as stubborn as Batman,” Rufus proclaimed. 

“And you are full of guano,” Penn retorted. 

They were laughing so hard that other museum visitors turned to shush and gawk at them. 

“Dude, we probably should find another exhibit,” Rufus whispered. So then they wandered over to look at the art of Disney villains and eventually they looked at Edward Gorey’s work and some vintage anime. 

Rufus asked, “Did you watch anime when you were a kid?”

Penn exclaimed, “I did! Dragon Ball ZDragon Ball Super, and Dragon Ball GT.  Pokémon. Tenchi Muyo.  All the various Gundham series and movies. Except for the Gundam shows that are still current,  they’re kind of old. My dad liked anime. He got into it when he served with the Army in Japan. He was thrilled when the Cartoon Network ran these series in the 1990s and bought all of these series and their movies when they came out on DVD. And get this–Dad got Mom hooked on Sailor Moon.”

“I’m jealous,” Rufus confessed. “You were raised right!” He looked at some other anime cells and pointed out, “Here’s an old series. Astro Boy. My mom said she caught a little bit of the cartoon when she was a girl, and it creeped her out that he had jets instead of feet. Then she was scared by the opening credits of The Outer Limits. So, other than the funny cartoons and The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, I didn’t get to watch a lot of TV. But she let me watch reruns of Batman.”

The lads walked around a little, then decided to go to Rufus’ place to play videogames and order pizza. Not only did Rufus have Arkham Knight, he also had Return to Arkham and all three of the Lego Batman video games. Pants were left on because playing video games while wearing only underwear was weird, even with the best of friends. 

Their large extra cheese triple pepperoni pizza arrived, so they took a break from their games to eat, drink beer, and talk. “You know, even though we didn’t go to the Bahamas with the girls, it was still a fun break,” Penn declared.

Rufus agreed. “We got stuff done and still had time for fun. This past week we both got out of our comfort zones.”

“Yeah,” Penn said. “You challenged yourself by riding roller coasters and thrill rides. And bungee jumping.”

“I thought I was going to have a heart attack when we went bungee jumping,” Rufus admitted. “But you know, the adrenaline rush from that and the thrill rides was amazing.”

Penn exclaimed, “It’s addictive! That’s one reason I enjoyed being an army medic and I want to work in the ER. Always something going on. Always a rush!” He went silent so he could collect his thoughts. “That’s why I procrastinate on assignments so much. Pulling an all-nighter, running on fumes and coffee, is a thrill, but I’m not sure it’s so healthy for me and my career. We aren’t allowed to get more than two Cs in our nursing courses or we get kicked out of the program. So far, I haven’t gotten anything below a B, and I don’t want to take the chance of getting bad grades. Besides, procrastinating is stressful, and I don’t need more stress in my life.”

“I hear you,” Rufus replied. “When I started college, I thought it would be easy peasy. High school was a breeze, at least academically, and I figured college wouldn’t be so tough. The statistical analysis software project was draining, and it made me aware of the stress I face now as well as what I’d face in graduate school. I need more fun in my life or I’m going to burn out fast. Thankfully, I have you to drag me out to the student fitness center, a movie, or a theme park.”

“And I have you to help me stay on track and get stuff done. Work done, I can really relax or do something to get that adrenaline surge. I’m definitely going to quit procrastinating. Tomorrow!”

“Speaking of tomorrow, the girls will be arriving home around noon,” Rufus said. “I can hardly wait until I see Ellowyne.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing Amber,” Penn added. “I’ve really missed her.”

Rufus suggested, “Maybe you need to tell her how you feel. Maybe not right away, like, wait until after finals, so neither of you have that stress hanging over your heads.”

“Good idea! Speaking about something hanging over your head, let’s get back to Batman and watch as he crushes his enemies!”

“To the Batcave!” Rufus retorted.

Hers: Friday

It was the last full day of vacation, and Ellowyne and her friends just wanted to relax. The Stanhopes arranged for them to spend the day at a full-service spa, and after breakfast, they scurried off to get pampered! 

The day began with facials. Ellowyne, Amber, and Lizette chose a collagen facial for skin brightening and hydration, while Prudence opted for an oxygen facial. The women were amazed at how refreshed their skin was and how bright their skin appeared. 

Next up was beer bath hydrotherapy. Prudence remarked, “Rufus and Penn would love this treatment!”

Amber pointed out, “But you can’t drink it. There are some of the ingredients of beer in the bath, like hops and barley. But the bath also contains herbs like chamomile, peppermint, and lavender.”

Ellowyne wrinkled her nose and said, “Even Rufus and Penn wouldn’t drink that.”

The ladies were given glasses of a high-end microbrew and agreed that the guys would like that!

The beer baths continued in silence. The women were so relaxed and mellow that conversation wasn’t necessary.  

After that, they went into a jasmine-scented room painted a seafoam green, the same color as the ocean. Pictures of lotus blossoms and other plants decorated the walls. Each friend sat on a soft pillow on a thick mat while an instructor with a melodious voice told them to close their eyes and breathe in, hold it, and then breathe out. Then she directed them to breathe naturally and envision the colors of the chakra as she guided them through meditation. They started with the root chakra at the end of the spine, which would ground them, and went upwards along the spine, ending with the crown chakra, which represented spirituality. The women felt calm, refreshed, and clear-headed. Even Prudence, who regularly practiced yoga, tai chi, and meditation, was impressed. Because she was so proficient, she was often critical of leaders of classes and guided meditation, thought it was one of the best experiences she’d ever had. 

Next, the four women entered an infrared sauna. The difference between that and a traditional sauna was that the former purported to penetrate the cells of the body and heat the body’s core. Ellowyne wasn’t sure about the sauna but the spa attendants assured her that there was no damaging UV radiation in the treatment, so she joined her friends. When the sauna was finished, they all dressed and went to the juice bar for some smoothies. Again, words were nonessential as they were communicating without saying a thing.

Then it was time to get massaged. First, they got hot stone massage. The flat, warm stones were put along their spines and the massage therapists used a few of the stones to rub their backs and shoulders using classic Swedish techniques. Lizette described the experience as being melted like soft caramel, and her friends agreed. 

After their massages, the women went to get mud baths and seaweed wraps. Ellowyne felt so blissful and relaxed that she fell asleep. Amber and Prudence were fighting sleep but Lizette gave in and dozed off as well. Once the wraps were off and the ladies were awake, they were given aromatherapy massages with essential oils. Prudence chose rosemary for energizing. Lizette opted for bergamot which was calming and rejuvenating.  Ellowyne decided on lavender for stress relief along with increasing one’s energy and stamina. Amber decided on geranium, for relaxation and rejuvenation.

The day ended with hand and foot massages, followed by mani-pedis. When they were done, the girls were so relaxed and rejuvenated that they decided to sit on the beach until it was time to eat. They talked about how they would miss conch, johnnycakes, souse, and guava duff. 

After they ate, Ellowyne, Prudence, and Lizette gave Mr. and Mrs. Stanhope the painting they’d purchased as a thank you gift. Amber’s parents received the gift graciously and excitedly talked about how good it would look in their mansion. “It has to go in a place where it will be seen,” Amber’s mother said. “Perhaps the sun room.”

Lizette was going to see Keanu one more time before they left. They promised to email and catch up with each other on social media, but deep down they knew it probably wouldn’t happen. They were busy with their own lives. And with Lizette applying to veterinary schools, she needed to work hard and maintain good grades. A once-in-a-lifetime love was not meant to be, but Lizette would treasure memories of her Bahamian fling always.

Amber asked Ellowyne and Prudence, “Do either of you really want to go to the club tonight?”

Ellowyne declined, as Amber expected, and Prudence begged off as well. She was so mellow that she didn’t want to deal with the raucous nightclub crowd. Also, Pru picked up on Amber’s half-hearted invitation to the club. There was a time for crazy, frenzied fun but the evening after a spa day was not it. Instead, they gathered and packed the treasures they purchased, then went to bed early because Saturday would be a long, busy day.

Hers: Thursday

When the women gathered for breakfast, Amber asked, “Who’s up for another adventure?”

Lizette replied, “Sure! What do you have in mind?”

Amber’s eyes sparkled as she said, “You’re going to love this, Liz. We have an appointment to visit the Ardastra Gardens, Zoo, and Conservation center. We’ll get a guided tour, listen to a presentation about the animals, and participate in the flamingo show! Caribbean Flamingos are the highlight of the zoo. Apparently, this is the breeding ground for these birds.”

“Flamingo show?” Lizette asked almost incredulously. “I can hardly wait!”

Amber commented, “I knew you would love it, girlfriend! Our tour starts at 1:00 PM.”

“Do we have the morning free to spend time on the beach?” Pru asked. “I think there’s another volleyball game today.”

Ellowyne stifled a yawn. “I’m going to take a nap until lunch.”

Her friends laughed. They were all surprised when Ellowyne was willing and able to keep up with them. Usually she would bow out of most activities, begging off because of her ennui and fatigue. But the only activity in which she did not participate was nightclubbing, and that was because she was in love with Rufus and didn’t see the point of meeting other men. 

After a leisurely lunch of baked crab and conch salad, the four friends headed for the Ardastra Gardens. They were early for their tour, so they wandered around to look at the birds. Lizette was immediately enchanted by the birds. She had her binoculars and shared them with her friends. Prudence wrote down the characteristics of the birds, and Ellowyne and Amber took pictures. They saw yellow-breasted bananaquits,  yellow-headed blackbirds, and common yellowthroats that had not migrated back to places with northern climates. There were aptly named painted buntings who boasted a kaleidoscope of colors on their bodies and equally colorful parrots. The women were surprised to see birds that were common in the US, like pigeons, doves, and even robins. They saw different types of hummingbirds, several that were endemic to the Bahamas. Ellowyne noted that there was a rare hummingbird called the rufous hummingbird, or Selasphorus rufus, and she snapped a picture to send to her sweetheart. All of the women giggled over the brown boobies, but they didn’t laugh when they saw a booby dive for some fish. They watched cockatoos and Cuban parrots, and listened to the songs of the mockingbirds. And then it was time for their tour to begin!

The attendant giving the tour was a little surprised that four adults rather than a classroom of children were taking the field trip. Amber explained that they wanted to learn more about the animals and the gardens, and Prudence piped up and said, “Our friend Lizette is planning to go to veterinary school to be an avian vet.” Of course Lizette blushed. But the tour guide was intrigued, and told Lizette that they always needed vets with that and skill set, so perhaps she could think about them when she finished school. Ellowyne, Amber, and Pru thought the guide might be flirting with her, but Lizette seemed oblivious.

The guided tour took the women through the lush gardens of the facility. They deeply inhaled the fragrance of Chinese hibiscus, lignum vitae, allamanda, and frangipani. Ellowyne especially loved the orchids, since they were her favorite flower. There were hanging vines, coconut palm trees, bromeliads, mango and papaya trees, and bougainvillea. The guide told Lizette that frangipani was most fragrant at night. Animals—many of them rescued–lived in the rich vegetation. The women were delighted with the lemurs and monkeys, pot-belly pigs, and the so-ugly-they’re-cute hutia, also known as stout rodents. They shuddered at the reptiles, especially at the rock iguanas and snakes. And then they saw more birds—macaws, swans, and peafowl. They got to hand-feed the lory parrots! Before they knew it, it was time to watch the march of the Caribbean flamingos. The majestic birds, who were wandering in a central location, actually began marching in a large circle. 

All too soon, the adventure in Ardastra Gardens was finished. Before the women went back to their hotel, the guide pulled Lizette aside to ask her something. She was beaming when she returned to her friends. “Keanu asked me out tonight! He’s taking me to dinner and, afterwards, we’ll meet you all at the nightclub.”

Naturally, Ellowyne, Amber, and Prudence were excited for Lizette. Ellowyne suggested, “Hey, let’s get you ready for tonight. I’ll help you with your clothes and jewelry, Amber can do your makeup, and Pru will do your hair.”

“Better yet,” Pru replied. “Let’s take you to get your hair professionally braided. If we go now, you’ll easily be ready for your date!”

And so they went. By the time Keanu picked up Lizette, she was beautifully clad and  gorgeously coiffed, and her makeup was subtle but made her face glow. They dined on stewed fish, which was reminiscent of the gumbo Lizette loved when she lived in New Orleans. 

Once Amber, Prudence, and Ellowyne were finished getting Lizette ready for her date, they decided to have dinner themselves. They had deep-fried fish, grits, a papaya salad, and rum punch. Afterwards, they strolled along the beach, taking in the smell of the ocean, the warmth of the sand, and the pink, peach, and purple of the evening sky. 

Then it was time to join Lizette and Keanu at the nightclub. Amber and Pru applied makeup and perfume, and dressed in their flashiest clothes. Ellowyne said she felt fatigued and declined their invitation to go to the club, preferring to read poetry written by people who lived in the Bahamas. And, of course, to text Rufus.

Amber and Prudence were having a marvelous time at the nightclub. They looked downright gorgeous and danced most of the night. They sipped Mai Tais, rum swizzles, and piña coladas. They also met up with Lizette and Keanu, who was utterly charming and sweet. 

Finally, it was time to go back to the hotel. Pru and Amber were exhausted and a little woozy after their drinks, and their feet hurt. Keanu walked Liz back to the hotel and they stayed on the beach for some serious snogging.