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The Sea of Tranquility 2.0, Book Two
Monica, Harry, and Caitlion try to find a way to communicate with the Jamori nomads they left behind in the Safandel Desert. While working hard to finish their senior year of high school, they’re also working on details of their plan to gain funding for the Sea of Tranquility 2.0 project.
From Chapter Sixteen
Just past Coachella, Monica drove north into Joshua Tree National Park.
“This is beautiful country,” Sikandar said.
Monica turned off onto an unmarked side road. It was packed sand and lightly traveled. A mile from the paved highway, she stopped.
He glanced around at the scrub brush and sand. “Shall we stay here tonight? This looks really nice.”
“We could do that, or you can learn to drive.”
“Yes!” He was already shoving the door open to go around to the driver’s side.
Monica maneuvered herself over the center console into the passenger’s seat.
Sikandar slipped behind the wheel, eager to drive.
“Okay, calm down. We’re going to take it slow.”
“Yes, I’ve been watching. You step on this pedal to go fast, this one to stop. Turn the wheel to go left and right. I’m ready.”
“Sure you are.” She grinned, took his hand, and placed it on the ignition. “Turn this to start the engine. No! That’s enough, let it go when the motor starts.”
“Now, put your foot on the brake. Good. Move this gearshift to the ‘D.’ That means ‘Drive.’” She pointed with the flat of her hand. “That way.”
He shifted into ‘Drive.’
“Now, slowly take your foot from the brake and press down on the accelerator.”
“Okay.” He hit the gas pedal hard, throwing two rooster tails of sand out behind them as the Durango leapt forward.
“Whoa!” She slapped his knee. “Take your foot off the gas!”
He hit the brakes, and they skidded to a stop.
“Start out easy, Hot Shot, until you get the feel of it. Try again.”
This time, they rolled slowly for a hundred yards as Sikandar got a feel for the steering.
“Now go faster, but just a little.”
“This is not so hard to—” He jerked the wheel to the right. “What was that?”
“Jack rabbit. Watch where you’re going!”
He drove off the road and into the ditch.
“Oh, my God. Kandar, when a little animal runs out in front of you, hit the animal, not the ditch.”
“Put the gearshift in ‘R’ for ‘Reverse.’”
After he shifted, he hit the gas, digging the front wheels deep into the sand.
“All right. Put it in ‘P’ for ‘Park,’ and turn off the ignition. Let’s get out and see what you’ve done.”
They stood near the right front fender, staring at the wheel, half-buried in the sand.
“You’re mad, aren’t you?”
She exhaled. “No.”
“You are.” He turned her face up to him. “Mad at me for the first time.”
“I’m mad at myself.” Monica wrapped her hands around his biceps and leaned her head against his shoulder. “It was stupid of me to try to teach you to drive out here.”
“Can we dig it out?”
“Probably.” She looked around at the Joshua trees and cactus, then at the sun sinking below a low range of hills to the west. “But not tonight. I guess this is as good a place as any to camp.”
“Are you kidding me? This is a great place.”
She spread her arms and made a weak smile. “Surprise.”
“What a wonderful surprise. You brought me to sleep in the desert. You knew I would love it.”
“I hoped so.”
He grabbed her and spun her around. “This is the best surprise of my life.”
“I’ve been worried all day you’d think me silly.”
“For the past three months, my feet have been on the metal deck of a ship, the pavement of the city, wood floors of your home, and the hotel. This is what I’ve yearned for; sand, fresh air, no noise…it’s great to be alive again.”