Cave Man (The First Mountain Man #1) by Frankie Love



"Oh no," she says.

Then her girlfriend Sarah walks in, wrapping an arm around her. "You look upset."

"I am," I moan, plopping down on the couch. "Do you ever have that moment where you imagine one way your life is going to go, and then it goes the completely opposite way?"

The women smile at each other, all lovey-dovey, heart eyes, and it makes me sick. I'm happy for them, sure. But being around that kind of love makes me want to barf. Mostly because I wish I had it myself. And I'm never going to find it here. Not in the middle of nowhere, America, in a dead-end job.

Wait. I don’t even have a job.

"Maybe this is the change you need," Tori says, sitting down on a cushion on the floor.

"I don't think I'm ready for a pep talk," I moan.

"Well, maybe you should do something for yourself for a change,” Sarah suggests. It is easy for her to say though, she has a very well-paying job at a tech start-up.

"I wanted to work at the smoothie shop," I clarify. And it's true. I've been working out at the CrossFit gym, working hard on getting strong. After years of diet culture, I got over it and decided what I really needed to do was take care of me.

So I decided to start working out. Not to have some hot girl summer – that isn't any interest to me. I wanted to be able to do a pushup, a single pushup. Now I can do a hundred.

And working at the smoothie shop seemed like a great opportunity to get a discount on my snack of choice. I somehow forgot that a lot of the guys who work out next door, are like, complete assholes.

"You're in amazing shape,” Tori says. “Why don't you go on a trek across the country?"

I lift my eyebrows. "A trek across the country? What does that even mean?"

Sarah smiles. "You know, I see these videos on TikTok all the time. Where people just sell all their possessions and hit the open road. Do you have a passport?"

"Sure," I say, thinking about the one time in college I decided to go with my roommates to Cabo. We drank a lot and sat in the sun. It wasn't a bad way to spend a week, but I haven't used it since. "I have a passport and I don't think it's expired, but what am I going to do with it?"

"I don't know," Sarah says, smiling, pouring herself a glass of wine. “I’m sure you could do something amazing. Something that will be a good story to tell your kids one day.” She's one of those people who is gregarious, bubbly, always with a new plan, a new idea, and full of sparkle. I understand why Tori fell in love with her. Not that I swing that way, but it's her zest for life that is appealing.

Maybe she's right. Maybe I am missing that. Missing that joie de vivre. I think that's the phrase. I need a zest for life… zest for something.

"So where do the people in these TikTok videos go to find themselves?" I ask her. I don't have the app myself.

"Anywhere and everywhere,” Sarah says. “They buy a van and drive to all the state parks or they go to Guatemala and join a hippie commune, or they get a backpack and hike across the Irish countryside. Any of that sound fun?"

"It all sounds expensive," I say.

She shakes her head. "No, they stay in hostels or actually, you know, there is a place in the Yucatan Peninsula where you can go with a backpack and a tent, and camp out at all these parks for free. You should do that."

I snort. "You think I should backpack across Mexico?"

Tori smiles. "It's not a bad idea. You're super fit. You could totally do it. Plus you love to hike. Plus you speak Spanish. Plus it could give you a chance to decide what you want long term. It's like a win-win-win."

"Are you trying to kick me out of the apartment or something?” I ask with a laugh. "Because you seem a little eager for me to go."

Tori and Sarah share a look. That look. The look that says I hit the nail on the head.

"Are you really kicking me off the couch?"

Tori shrugs. "Not like, any moment, but this place is so nice. And Sarah's apartment is next to a loud highway. We're so local, centralized. It'd be perfect if she moved in. But–"

I roll my eyes. "But this one-bedroom apartment is already a little crowded," I say. I sleep on the pullout couch. For two people sharing the one bedroom, I can see how this place could be really nice. Not to mention the rental market in this city is bananas.

"Fine," I say with a laugh, not wanting to overstay my welcome. Joking, I add, "I'll leave in exchange for a one-way ticket to Mexico."