Hot guys. Creepy Guys. Stoners. You know, the usual.Disclaimer:
Based on real people. Used with permission. Artistic license has been taken. No offense is intended.Note:
This one is kind of long and rambling and...odd. Hope you enjoy anyway.
Also, I want to donate this one to Yeliah. <3"Right. Except this is us, so it's going to very quickly become ridiculously complicated." ~StarsongChapter Thirty-Five
TnB Travel Journal
We are in beautiful Amsterdam! Where we will be for the next 24 hours.
"So what are we doing?" Yeliah asked as we sat at a table in the airport food court.
"Eating breakfast," Starsong said.
"That's not what I mean," Yeliah said. "We have a whole day to explore Amsterdam. What are we going to do?"
"Explore the airport and try to avoid trouble?" Megan suggested.
"No," Yeliah said. "But that was a valiant effort, darling. Where's the guidebook?"
Amberwood pulled the guidebook out of her bag and opened it on the table. I leaned in and read it over her shoulder.
"It looks like they have a pretty cool palace," she said. "And a national museum."
"We haven't seen enough of those yet," Spunky said.
"Oh, the Anne Frank House," I said excitedly.
"That'll be fun," Puddleduck said sarcastically, gaining her a few glares. "What? That seems like a feel-good field trip to you?"
"Well, I wanna go," I said. "I'm going."
"Me, too," Amberwood said. "Anyone else?"
"Sure," Megan said.
Starsong, Yeliah, Sam, and Spunky each agreed, and we turned to Puddleduck.
She sighed. "I don't like crying in public," she said.
"It'll be okay," I said. "You'll be in good company."
We finished our breakfast, made sure that we hadn't left anything important in our luggage, and walked out into the terminal.
"We should be able to get a taxi easily enough," Sam said.
"Why don't we take a bus instead?" Starsong suggested. "We can see more of the city that way."
"And we know how much Lady loves
buses," Amberwood said with a smile.
"I guarantee Amsterdam's bus system is better than Memphis," I said.
"Any idea where we can find the schedules?" Starsong asked.
Amberwood led us to a small newsstand near the front entrance and we collected approximately fifty different bus schedules from the rack. We stood there for five minutes, each studying our own handful of schedules, probably looking every bit the lost tourists that we were.
"Here it is!" Puddleduck said excitedly (and a bit too loud). "'Anne Frank House'. I think." We all gathered around to look over her shoulder. "It looks like we catch a Fifty here and go north."
It took half an hour of exploring, but we finally found a city bus stop on the edge of the airport property. We were waiting for only ten minutes before a bus approached with a number 50 on its sign.
"How much is the fare?" Megan asked, and I hoped that the driver spoke English, an issue I hadn't thought about until that moment.
"Three-twenty-five," the driver said.
"And there's eight of us," I said. "That's..."
"Twenty-six Euros," Starsong said.
We each dropped some coins into the fare box until it added up to twenty-six, and then we looked for seats. Megan and Starsong took a pair together right behind the driver, Amberwood, Puddleduck, and I found three a few rows behind them, and Sam, Spunky, and Yeliah went to the back.
We rode for about five minutes, watching the sights out the window and making casual conversation before the bus turned a corner and the driver's voice came over the P.A. announcing the next stop. In Dutch.
Amberwood and I shared a look.
"'Anne Frank' is still 'Anne Frank' in Dutch, isn't it?" Puddleduck asked from behind us.
"Probably," I said. "But he may call the street names instead of the landmarks." I grabbed a pole and got up from my seat. "I'll be right back."
I walked to the front and stopped just behind the driver's seat. "Hi," I said nervously.
"Hello," he said cheerfully.
"My friends and I have a small problem. We don't really speak Dutch," I said. "Annoying, I know, but there you go. So would you be so kind as to let us know when we get to the Anne Frank House?'
"I don't go there."
If this were a movie, this is where we would have the record-scratching sound effect.
"You don't go where?" I asked, hoping I had misunderstood.
"Anne Frank House," he said. "It's not my route."
"The schedule said 50," Starsong said.
The driver nodded. "50 Prinsengracht," he said. "It goes the other way."
Amberwood appeared at my side. "We're going the wrong way?"
"You are," he said. "I am going the correct way."
We turned and looked back at Puddleduck. She looked around nervously. "What?"
"Where can we catch the 50 Prinsengracht?" I asked the driver.
"At the airport," he said.
As Amberwood and I walked back to our seat, I hung my head and pinched the bridge of my nose, trying to ward off a headache. Amberwood put her arm around my shoulders.
"I hate buses," I whined.
"I know, Lady," she said sympathetically. "I know."
"What's the plan?" Puddleduck asked when we returned to our seats.
"The plan is to return to the airport and catch the correct
bus," Amberwood said.
"Where are you trying to go?" The question came from the young man with dark shaggy curls who was sitting next to Puddleduck.
"We're trying to find the Anne Frank House," Amberwood said.
"I can take you there," he said.
"You know where it is?" I asked.
"Yes," he said. He stood up and pulled the cord to request a stop.
He walked past Puddleduck and went to the doors as the three of us shared a confused look. It wasn't until the bus had pulled over to the curb that we jumped out of our seats and hurried to the door. As we stepped off, I heard Yeliah yelling for us to wait. We stepped onto the sidewalk and were quickly joined by the rest of the group, all looking appropriately confused. Our new guide didn't seem too bothered.
"More," he said. "Right, then. Hello."
"Are we there?" Yeliah asked.
"Not exactly," I said. "But this guy says he can get us there. What's your name?"
"I am Pieter," he said.
"This is Pieter."
We all introduced ourselves, and Megan pulled me aside.
"Are we sure about this?" she asked.
I paused. "No."
"Follow me," Pieter said. He turned away from us and began walking down the sidewalk. With no other choice, we followed him.
As we walked, Starsong came to my side and hooked her arm through mine. "He is cute in a shaggy, skinny kind of way, isn't he?" she said.
We both smiled and I elbowed her gently.
"Are you from here, Pieter?" Puddleduck asked.
"Yes," he said. "You don't need to worry. I know the city like my own backyard." He paused at the corner, looked to his left and right, and thought to himself for a moment before going to the left.
"Oh, good," Spunky said quietly. "I was almost worried there."
We followed Pieter in near silence for fifteen minutes, with only the occasional question, to which he would reassure us that he knew exactly what he was doing and we didn't need to worry. That worked fine until we ended up back at the bus stop where we had gotten off.
He looked around in confusion as we all watched him.
"Well," he said calmly. "I seem to have gotten us a bit turned around."
"You think?" Amberwood said.
"Okay," Megan said. "Let's all just stay calm. Pieter, is there anywhere nearby where we could get a map?"
"Or a drink?" Yeliah said quietly.
Pieter thought silently for a long moment, so long that I suspected he might have forgotten that we were there. Then he snapped out of it, and said, pointing to his right, "There's a library two blocks that way."
"Are you sure it's that way?" Megan asked.
"Okay." She looked at us and the group was silent. Until Spunky said:
"Well, what have we got to lose?"
We all laughed as we realized she was right. We had plenty of time. We might as well enjoy the ride.
"Okay," Puddleduck said. "Lead the way, Pieter!"
The library was actually four blocks down, but we did find it. It was an amazing, ultra-modern seven-story building, and after we stepped inside, we stood there and took a moment to just admire it.
"Pieter," Megan said after a minute. He didn't seem to hear her. He was quite busy walking along a curved bookcase. "Pieter."
He looked up suddenly. "Yes?"
"Where can we find the maps?" she asked, like an elementary school teacher trying to force a child to pay attention.
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe one of the librarians knows."
Sam put her head in her hands, possibly trying to hide laughter. Megan and Starsong shared an impatient look. I couldn't help but smile.
"Well," I said cheerfully. "It couldn't hurt to ask."
I followed Megan and Amberwood to the front desk, where a woman was sitting and speaking on the phone. She moved the receiver to greet us in Dutch.
"We do not speak Dutch," Amberwood said. "I apologize."
"Can I help you?" the librarian asked.
"Do you know where we can find a map of the city?" Megan asked.
Without a word, the librarian reached into a drawer, pulled out a folded-up map, and placed it on the desk for us.
The rest of the group had gathered at a table, where we joined them and spread out the map.
Sam pointed. "Here
is the Anne Frank House, and..." She looked for a moment before pointing with the other hand. "Here is where we are."
"That's not so bad," Spunky said.
"Why would we have to go all the way back to the airport for that?" Puddleduck asked.
"Because public transit executives are evil, heartless people," I said. Then I winced. "Did I say that out loud?"
"Yes," Sam said.
Pieter was staring at the map with his head resting on his folded arms. He sighed. "I'm hungry."
"Of course you are," Yeliah said.
"Me, too," Puddleduck said.
"We had breakfast, like, an hour ago," I said.
"It's been a very busy hour."
" We turned and saw an elderly lady librarian glaring at us from the new row. After she turned away, Spunky wobbled her head mockingly, forcing the rest of us to stifle giggles. Megan folded the map up and led us to the door.
Once we were outside, Megan took on the job of navigator, and we followed her, a silently obedient huddle, down the road and around a corner. Around another corner, and another. After about half an hour of walking with minimal conversation, we arrived at an intersection and stopped so suddenly that if we were a cartoon, we would've collided in a single-file chain reaction.
Megan stood there, looking back and forth between the map and the street signs.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"Just a little...snag," she said.
"Well, that doesn't sound good," Amberwood said.
"Snags rarely are," I said. "What is it?"
"The map and the street signs aren't matching up," Megan said. She pointed to the spot on the map where we supposedly were. "See, this street should be that long A name." She pointed to the street sign. "But instead, it's that long N name."
"We must have taken a wrong turn," Sam said.
"The last sign was right. We haven't made any turns since then."
I looked over my shoulder. "Pieter," I said. "Come here, please."
"Are you serious?" Starsong said quietly.
"He's from here."
"He's also stoned
out of his mind
"It can't hurt to ask."
"Hello," Pieter said, stepping up to our side.
Megan held the map up so he could see, and pointed. "Do you know where this street is?"
He took the map and stared at it for a minute. He stared at the street sign for a few seconds, then looked back to the map, and spent a moment in deep thought before saying, "No."
Starsong looked at me with a raised eyebrow. I smiled.
"See?" I said. "What did that hurt?"
Megan sighed. "Okay," she said. She motioned from her left to her right. "This street has the right name. So let's go down to the next intersection, and work from there."
We turned to the right and followed her down the sidewalk.
"From now on," Starsong said. "We are only using professional
tour guides." She gave Amberwood and me a dirty look as she said it.
The next intersection was only five buildings away, and we barely had time to stop before Megan announced, "All right, we're going back."
"Are you serious
?" Amberwood exclaimed.
"The names don't match," Megan said. "Neither of them."
Starsong grabbed the map from her and studied it as Sam and I looked over her shoulders. Sure enough, we now had two street signs that didn't seem to appear anywhere on the map.
She shook the map hard in frustration. "Who makes
Sam reached over her shoulder and helpfully pointed to the logo in the top right-hand corner: "Doolhof."
Starsong replied with a look that I couldn't see, but Sam backed away slowly. I turned away to cover my smile, and stepped over to Megan. "I think this would be a good time for lunch," I said. "We can all rest our feet, and Starsong can calm down before she hits somebody."
"That sounds good," she said. She looked around, and spotted a burger joint across the street. "Okay," she said to the group. "Who's ready for lunch?" Pieter and Puddleduck's hands shot up, and everyone else slowly joined, with an undercurrent of "Sure, why not?" "All right. Let's try the place across the street."
We followed her across the road and into the restaurant. We had beaten the lunch rush, and were able to walk right up to the counter, where a ridiculously cheerful young woman greeted us in Dutch.
"English?" I asked hopefully.
"No," she said.
"I will translate," Pieter said.
Megan and I shared a look, and she shrugged, as if to say, "What choice do we have?"
"Okay," I said. "Just keep it simple. Get a bunch of burgers, 9 orders of fries, and 9 drinks. Got it?"
"Yes," he said. "What will you be having?"
I heard Amberwood snicker beside me. I looked past Pieter to Megan. "We'll go find a table." I grabbed Amberwood's hand and led her away.
Since the restaurant was empty, it was easy enough to find a table, or rather make one by putting together two four-tops and stealing a couple of chairs. Soon we were all settled in with our drinks, and just waiting for Megan, Pieter, and Puddleduck, who joined us a few minutes later with three trays stacked high with burgers and fries, one of which Pieter set in front of himself.
He unwrapped his first burger, took a gigantic bite, and then noticed that we were all staring at him. "What?"
"Nothing," I said with a smile.
We ate in silence for a few minutes before the conversations started, and all of us carefully avoided discussing the course of action, or lack thereof. At some point, I turned to my right and noticed that Pieter's chair was empty, and on his other side, Spunky was looking under the table. I looked under and saw him crouching there.
"Pieter," I said. "Is there a reason you're hiding under the table?"
I waited for a few seconds, but he didn't continue.
"Do you want to tell me what it is?" I asked gently.
"That man who just walked in," he said. "He doesn't like me."
By now Puddleduck, Starsong, and Amberwood were also listening to the conversation, and we all looked up for the man in question. "You mean the man in the leather jacket standing at the counter?" I asked.
"Yes. His name is Boris."
"Boris?" Spunky repeated with a snicker. "Really?"
"Why doesn't Boris like you?" I asked.
"He thinks I stole his money," Pieter whispered.
"No." He paused. "I just haven't been able to pay him back yet."
"How much-" Puddleduck started.
"Don't," Starsong stopped her.
Pieter looked past me with wide eyes, and I barely had time to move before Boris reached under the table and yanked him out.
"Hello," Pieter said with a strange calmness.
"Do you have my money?" Boris asked.
"Not with me, no."
"Where is it?"
"Right now?" He carefully considered the question, so carefully that Boris grew visibly impatient.
Spunky jumped out of her chair. "We were just going to get it," she said.
Boris looked at her in confusion. Starsong and Yeliah were already out of their chairs, ready to pounce if need be.
"What?" Boris asked.
"We were just on the way to Pieter's place with him to get you your money," Spunky said with remarkable confidence, and a remarkable lack of her pants catching on fire.
"Who are these people?" Boris asked.
"These are my friends," Pieter said.
"I think 'acquaintances' might be more accurate," Starsong said.
"These are my acquaintances."
"Okay," Boris said, slowly and calmly. "Twenty-four hours, friend, and I better have my money. Do you understand?"
Boris walked calmly, even giving a flirty nod as he passed Megan that made her recoil. Spunky sat down, as did Starsong and Yeliah, and we all turned to Pieter, who had resumed his meal as if nothing had happened.
"Pieter," I said gently. "I think we should talk about what just happened."
"That was Boris," he said.
"Yes, I know that was-" I stopped to compose myself. Sam gave me a supportive pat on my back. "Okay. Where do you live, Pieter?"
"In my apartment."
"And where is your apartment?"
"Beursstraat," he said.
"How do we get there?" I asked.
"You can take the bus."
"Great. Is Boris' money there?"
"Most of it."
"And can we get the rest?" I asked.
"My friend can help," he said.
"Okay," I said. I turned back to the rest of the table. "New plan."
"I was afraid you were going to say that," Starsong said.
"Since we are clearly
not going to be able to make it to the Anne Frank House," I said. "I say we try to help Pieter out. We'll go to his place, get the money, and get it to Boris."
"I don't know if that's a good idea," Megan said.
"Why not? We get the money, we deliver it, and then head back to the airport. Simple."
"Right," Starsong said skeptically. "Except this is us, so it's going to very quickly become ridiculously complicated."
"You, of all people, should've figured that out by now," Sam said, giving me a smile.
"All right," I said. "Than you guys can go on back to the airport." I looked around the table, silently begging somebody to volunteer to come with Pieter and me.
"I'll go with you, Lady," Puddleduck said. "Safety in numbers and all that."
"Me, too," Spunky said.
"I'll come along," Amberwood said. "Why not?"
"All right," Megan said. "I guess the rest of us will head back to the airport, and meet you there. Do you want to take the map?"
"What for?" I asked.
"You never know."
"Can we finish eating first?" Pieter asked with a mouthful of cheeseburger.
Megan handed me the map as we stood outside the door of the restaurant.
"Our flight leaves at nine," she said. "Please don't miss it."
"I don't plan to," I said. She was clearly unamused. "We won't. I promise."
"We will. Don't worry."
"I'm sorry the day didn't turn out the way we hoped," she said quietly.
"Don't be," I said. "This is exciting. And much less emotionally devastating."
"True. The day is still young."
We parted ways outside the restaurant, with Puddleduck, Spunky, Amberwood, Pieter and I walking to the nearest bus stop, while the rest of the group went back the way we'd come. I expected to be waiting for a while, but it wasn't five minutes before Pieter pointed to an oncoming 35, and announced, "This is it."
We found five seats somewhat close together in the back of the bus, and settled in for the ride. After a while, I looked at my clock and saw that we'd been on for about twenty minutes. Then thirty. Then forty-four.
I walked two rows up to where Pieter was sitting. "Hey. Are we getting close?"
"To what?" he asked.
"Your apartment," I said shortly.
"We're almost getting close?"
I returned to my seat next to Spunky, and spent the next fifteen minutes staring out the window, occasionally glancing around at the other passengers, and trying to ignore the fact that I was spending part of my European dream vacation riding a bus. A European bus, yes, but a bus all the same.
Spunky hit me on the arm. When I looked over, she was already out of her seat and hurrying to follow Pieter off the bus. I hurried after them and once we were on the sidewalk, I looked behind me and was relieved to see that Amberwood and Puddleduck had followed us.
"Pieter," I said. "Please start warning us before you just get off the bus."
"Okay," he said. Without another word, he turned and began walking down the sidewalk.
I sighed. "Men."
"Cute men," Puddleduck said.
"Yes, but still."
We followed Pieter down the street and around the corner. Two doors down, we stopped outside an old and somewhat run-down apartment building. Pieter walked up to the front door and tried to pull it open, but it was locked. He stood there for a few seconds, holding the knob and staring at the door in confusion.
"Do you have a key?" Puddleduck asked.
"Yes," he said.
"Where is it?"
"I don't know."
"Maybe check your pocket?" Amberwood suggested.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a keychain with approximately 5,000 keys on it. He stared at Amberwood in amazement.
"How did you know that?" he asked.
"Lucky guess," she said.
He tried the first one, but it didn't work. Same with the second, and third, and then finally, the fourth time was a charm. We followed him into the lobby and then, silently, up to the fifth floor.
"Thank God he doesn't live in a penthouse," Spunky said.
In fact, he lived in apartment 512, and that door was unlocked. We walked into a messy living room and found a man Pieter's age with long blonde hair sitting on a leather couch with a skinny young brunette woman, both of them seemingly entranced by a Dutch-dubbed episode of Spongebob Squarepants.
The boys exchanged greetings in Dutch, and the girl looked at us.
"Hello," I said timidly.
"Who are your friends, Pieter?" she asked.
"You are," he said, distracted by the television.
"I'm Karen," I said. "This is Katie, Jem, and Spunky."
"Yes," Spunky said. "Tourists."
"Pieter," Amberwood said gently. "The money?"
Pieter tore his eyes away from the television. "What money?"
"Boris' money," she said firmly. "Go get it."
He turned and walked into a door just off the living room. We stood there for a few seconds, looking at each other, thinking the same thing: we were all insanely curious to see his room.
We walked over to the doorway and looked inside. Pieter's room was tiny and immaculate. The bed was made, the floor was clean, and everything seemed to have a place.
I looked at Amberwood, my eyes wide and my eyebrows raised. She smiled and shrugged.
Pieter was standing in front of a tidy desk, counting a stack of money. He finished and took a second to do some math in his head. He grabbed a manila envelope from the desk and put the money in it. He went back into the living room, and asked his roommate a question. The answer must have been yes, because Pieter picked up the wallet that was lying on the table, took some money out of it, and added it to the envelope. He turned to go, then changed his mind, and asked the roommate another question. He got another yes, and picked up the keys that were lying on the table.
"We're going to borrow his car," Pieter said.
"Thank you!" I said happily to the roommate.
He gave a short, casual reply without looking away from the screen. As we walked out the door, I heard him call after us in Dutch.
"What did he say?" I asked Pieter as we walked down the hall.
"So now we call Boris," Amberwood said as we made our way back down the stairs. "And find out where he is."
"I know where he is," Pieter said.
"He has an office?" Puddleduck repeated.
"Yes," Pieter said, with an "of course" implied.
"And you know where it is?"
"And you're okay to drive?" Spunky asked.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Pieter said.
The four of us stopped just long enough to share a panicked look before following him outside. He led us to the sidewalk, then stopped and hit a button on the keychain. A couple of short honks led us to a black compact car parked a few houses down. Pieter got in the driver's seat, Puddleduck in the front, and Amberwood, Spunky, and I squeezed into the back, immediately fastening our seatbelts and tightening them as much as possible.
Pieter's driving pleasantly surprised me. The ride was rather uneventful except for a few instances of screaming what I assume were Dutch swear words at other drivers, after which he would immediately return to his quiet, mellow self.
Our destination was a very average-looking office building. The lobby was nothing more than a directory and a few elevators. Pieter studied the directory for a moment, then pointed to the line that read simply 415- Boris
. Suite 415's door had nothing on it, not even a name, and when we stepped inside, we found Boris sitting alone, in a room with nothing but his desk. There weren't even chairs to sit in if we'd wanted to.
"I have your money," Pieter said.
"That's good news," Boris said.
Pieter handed him the envelope, and we stood there in tense silence as he counted it. When he was done, he put it back in the envelope, and put the envelope in a drawer.
"Don't take so long next time," he said. "Close the door on your way out."
Just like that, we were done, and we followed Pieter out. I was the last one, and gave Boris a quiet, "Nice to meet you," before I closed the door behind me.
Back in the parking lot, Pieter announced, "I'm hungry," he said.
"Me, too," Puddleduck said.
"We need to be getting to the airport," I said.
"Right," Pieter said. Was that a tone of sadness in his voice? "I will take you."
It was a short and quiet 30-minute drive to the airport. Pieter pulled into the drop-off lane and we all climbed out of the car.
"It was very nice to-" Before I could get out the "meet you", Pieter had pulled Amberwood and I into a tight hug. We looked at each other behind his back, smiled, and hugged him back.
He let go of us and stepped back to look at us. "Thank you for your help."
"Of course," Amberwood said. "Thank you for...well, thanks."
Spunky and Puddleduck excitedly stepped forward for their hug, and Puddleduck even gave Pieter a peck on the cheek before stepping away. He stared at us for a minute, then turned silently and went to the car. He opened his door, then caught himself and turned back to inform me, "I'm leaving now."
"I know," I said with a smile. "Bye."
We watched and waved as he got in and pulled away.
"Not a bad day," Spunky said.
"No, it wasn't," I said.TnB Travel Journal
Have I ever mentioned my deep and possibly unhealthy hatred of buses?
Yes. Yes, you have.
Love, Glomps, and Firewhiskey,