North to Alaska

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Hairy

“A sense of adventure is one thing. You could go scuba diving in the Keys or zip lining in Costa Rica. Moving to Alaska is…insane! Somewhere along the way you must have seen episodes from the ’90s TV show, Northern Exposure. You know, the Jewish doctor from New York who goes to Alaska to pay back the state for paying his medical school tuition and ends up in a one horse town above the Arctic Circle freezing his tushy off? No, make that a one-caribou town!”

“Yes, I saw the show and no, I’m not Joel Fleischman or even Maggie O’Connell. First of all, there was no Cicely, Alaska. It was all filmed in Washington State. Second, I’m not going to a one-horse town, I’m going to Fairbanks, the second largest city in Alaska. No, it’s not New York or Los Angeles, but it’s not exactly Booger Hollow, either. It’s…it’s an adventure.”

Her sister sighed then tried another angle. “Lindsay? Do you know how cold it gets up there? Do you? How about 75 degrees below zero cold! Are you listening?”

“Oh, stop! That’s an extreme example. It’s more like 15 to 25 below and it gets up into the 80s in the summer. Like I said, it’s an…”

“Don’t say the word ‘adventure’ one more time. Just don’t, okay? If you want to throw away two years of your life and live in darkness for months on end, you go right ahead and…”

“Agh! The shortest day of the year still has almost four hours of sunlight so stop exaggerating, would you?”

“Oh! Four whole hours? Well excuse me! I had no idea there was that much daylight!” her sister Maya said with complete exasperation. She sat there just staring at her sister who’d also been her best friend her whole life and said, “I’m not gonna talk you out of this, am I?”

“You could come with me,” she told her using a very different tone of voice. “They need teachers and you’re certified just like me.”

“Is this about Richard? If it is, you know you don’t have to fly to the North Pole to get over him, right? You can do that just fine right here in Denver, Lindsay.”

“No, it’s not about Richard. I’m over him. If you choose not to believe me, there’s nothing I can do about that. Obviously, if things had worked out, I wouldn’t even consider leaving. But they didn’t…and I am. Maya, why don’t you come with me? Come on, it’ll be fun. Let’s do this together. You and me. Me and you. What do you say?”

Maya made a face but deep down she already knew what she’d do. She wanted her older sister to be happy, and she couldn’t bear the thought of being without her. The only time they’d ever really been apart was when Lindsay went to college but she wasn’t very far from their home home just outside of Denver and they saw each other nearly every weekend. Two years later, Maya joined her and the dynamic duo was back together until Lindsay graduated and then again, they still saw each other quite often.

Except for when Richard was monopolizing her time. The 35-year old, stuffy, stick-in-the mud boyfriend Maya prayed wouldn’t become her brother in law. Lindsay was hurt when she finally realized that ‘comfortable’ was a death sentence if love wasn’t involved but to her credit, she’d done the right thing and called it off.

“Come on! What do you say?” Lindsay said keeping up the pressure. “It gets cold here in Denver so it’s not like you’re not used to it. A little less sunlight will be different, but this really is an…” She almost said the ‘A’ word and stopped. “An…opportunity. Alaska will pay off what student loans you have—and you didn’t have that many and it’ll give each of us our own apartment and a stipend on top of our salaries. Then we come home with a bunch of money in the bank and we can tell everyone we lived in freaking Alaska!”

“Well, at least you got one thing right,” Maya said before giving in. “Freaking Alaska.”

Lindsay’s excitement was infectious and Maya really had been thinking about. A lot. But then, it was…Alaska for crying out loud! Maya was a city girl. She loved to shop, party, and meet guys. Lots of guys. Lots of very cute, young guys. And that was the one area where she and her sister parted company.

No, they weren’t twins, but the resemblance was so strong they’d been mistaken for twins many times. Both of them were very attractive young women with their long, silky, raven hair and blue eyes and those amazing smiles. Both were 5’7″ and while Maya was 118 pounds, Lindsay weighed a whole two pounds more. As perfect size 6s with very nice-looking C-cup breasts, they were quite the package and more than a few guys had fantasized about the possibility of being with the two of them together. Maya might even be willing to give something like a whirl, but Lindsay? Never in a million years.

So as much as Lindsay was the one talking up the adventure aspect, she was the one who was the typical older sibling who was quiet to the point of being shy who rarely dated. It wasn’t for a lack of interested guys. She’d been hit on regularly in high school and hounded the entire four years she was in college. She was just very selective and when she did date, it tended to silivri escort be with guys who were either older or very mature for their age. Or from Maya’s perspective, Lindsay dated guys who were bor-ring!

“The deadline is next week. If you’re not approved by then…” Lindsay began.

“I know. I know. You’ll leave without me,” Maya said, her voice showing something between pouting and sadness.

Lindsay moved to over next to her and said, “Think how much fun it would be to have our own place and hang out together!”

“Yeah, but there’s like, what? Maybe ten people in Fairbanks?”

“Agh!! You and your exaggerations! There are over 30,000 people and that doesn’t include the Air Force Base. You know, with all those hot, young guys. Hot, young, lonely guys.” Lindsay was saying it in the way she knew drove her little sister crazy, but it was working.

“All those hours of darkness where you’ll need someone to hold and keep you warm and…”

“Okay. Okay! I’ll go with you!” she said.

Lindsay threw her hands over her mouth and said, “Oh, my God! Are you serious? You’re really coming with me?”

Maya looked at her and although she tried to make it sound like she was only doing this for Lindsay’s benefit, her sister knew she’d won her over.

“Yes, I’ll go with you,” Maya said. “But if I don’t meet a ton of these hot, young guys, Air Force or not, you are in SO much trouble!”

“I’ll set you up all the time!” Lindsay promised pulling Maya off the bed and doing a kind of silly, happy-dance with her. “Oh, we’re gonna have SO much fun!”

“Fun. Right. At 75 below zero during weeks of endless darkness with the other ten people dumb enough to live there. I won’t be surprised if they’re all fat, toothless Eskimos. So…oh, goody. I can’t wait,” she said as sarcastically as she could. Finally, she softened and said, “You know I’d die if you left me for two years.”

Maya saw tears in her sister’s eyes just before she hugged her. “Me too, Maya,” she told Maya. “Me, too.”

Maya electronically sent in her application the next day and within 48 hours she was approved. They had two weeks left to say goodbye to family and friends before flying first class from Denver to Anchorage and then on to Fairbanks where their sponsor would meet them.

“Hey! Look at these apartments,” Maya said as she did some on-line research. “Some of these are really nice!”

“What did I tell you?” Lindsay said as though this was old hat to her. She’d done a little looking, but her heart wasn’t into it until her sister had agreed to join her.

Both of them had guaranteed positions as elementary school teachers and they would both be working in the same school. Had that not worked out, it wouldn’t have been a show stopper, but both of them would have been very disappointed.

Not two minutes later, Maya had switched gears. “Hey! Check out our principal.” Maya flipped the screen of her laptop around and showed her sister. “He’s a little too old for me, but he’s kind of cute.”

“Mr. Phillips. Hmmm. He is cute. But he’s gotta be married, right?”

“Hey, we’re just looking, right? Window shopping never hurt anyone,” Maya said. “I wish they had pics of all of the faculty members. There has to be at least one hot guy teaching there, right?”

Lindsay laughed and said, “There are quite a few schools in town so even if our particular school is a dead end, there are plenty of others. Besides, how many men do you think teach elementary school anywhere let alone in Fairbanks, Alaska?”

“Um…you’re not helping, you know,” Maya said snidely but in a way Lindsay knew wasn’t mean.

“Sorry. Just keeping it real. I’ve taught your last two years of school and we had exactly five men on campus. The music teacher and four custodians. Oh, and the music teacher was gay, so…”

“Lindsay?” Maya said.

Her sister knew what was coming but still said, “Yes?”

“Shut up, okay?” Maya quipped. A minute later she was onto restaurants. “Check this out! Chinese food, Italian, even Thai! This might not be so bad after all.”

“Now that’s the spirit!” Lindsay told her.

The worst part of leaving was saying goodbye to their parents. They’d always encouraged their girls to follow their dreams knowing they could well move away for either career or marriage, but seeing them actually leaving was a tearful event for everyone.

Their mom had hovered over them for days, ‘just checking’ on them and seeing how things were going. They spent a wonderful last evening together going out to their favorite restaurant then coming home and talking about the past and the future.

No one slept much that night and the next morning they were all up early, packed and ready to head to the airport.

“So what’s the temperature up North today?” their father asked.

“High of 78,” Lindsay said. “That’s why we’re wearing shorts and tee-shirts.”

“When does it get cold?” their mother asked.

“Next month,” Maya said with attitude. “Then the snow şirinevler escort comes and it’s the winter from hell for the next eight months.”

That didn’t reassure their mom but their father said, “You girls were raised to be successful anywhere you go or whatever you do and you’ll do just fine in Alaska. We’re both just so proud of you.”

There were tearful hugs and then the girls headed through security, waved goodbye and began their most excellent adventure as they headed north. Way up north. North to Alaska, land of the midnight sun. Well, they wouldn’t technically be that close to the Arctic Circle, but it was close enough for government work, as the saying goes.

It took just over 12 hours to get to Fairbanks but with the two-hour time difference, it was a little after 7pm when they arrived.

When they walked inside Maya looked around and said, “This place is tiny! It’s like one small wing of the Denver airport.”

Lindsay ignored her and saw someone holding a sign that said “Rollings.”

“Hey, that’s us!” Maya said. Then Lindsay noticed it too, and grabbed her sister’s arm and headed toward the older woman.

Lindsay said pointing to herself and her sister. “We’re the Rollings sisters.”

“Wonderful!” the woman said. “Are you two twins, by any chance?”

The girls laughed and Maya said, “No, I’m the much younger, much prettier sister.”

“And I’m the older, smarter, boring sister. Well at least according to Maya.”

The woman laughed politely then introduced herself. “I’m Wanda Evans, your sponsor. I’ll be taking you your apartment and helping you get settled in. I love the apartment building you chose, by the way. It’s one of the nicest places in town,” she told them. “And it’s not far from Fisher Elementary School where you’ll be working.”

They headed to baggage claim and in less than thirty minutes, they were in this woman’s van and on their way into Fairbanks. “Is this your first time in Alaska?” Wanda asked.

“Yes, for both of us,” Lindsay said.

“Any first impressions?” she asked.

Maya was checking out everything during the ride and said, “It’s not as awful as I thought it would be.”

Wanda glanced back at her through the mirror and smiled. “This place isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure,” she replied.

“How long have you lived here, Mrs. Evans?” Lindsay asked.

“Almost 20 years,” she told her. “My husband retired from the Air Force in 2000 and after spending our last four years on active duty here, we decided to stay. He’s a civilian contractor at Eielson and I do this part-time.”

“How do you stand the winters?” Maya asked.

“Like anything else, it’s what you make of it. For me, it would hell living someplace like Miami where it’s hot, humid, and crowded. It can be pretty brutal at times, but we love the people and the community and we can’t imagine living anywhere else now.”

“Well, it certainly is beautiful during the summer,” Lindsay said admiring the mid-sized town as they drove through.

They’d taken the George Parks Highway from the airport and Wanda turned north onto Lathrop then said, “Make a mental note, the hospital is up here on our right and Fisher Elementary is just a block to the west. She saw Maya make a face and changed tact. “The hospital is straight ahead and the school is off to its right.”

“Oh, okay,” Maya said as Fairbanks Memorial Hospital came into view.

“And this is home, sweet home for the next two years,” Wanda told them as they pulled up to the Orion Apartment Complex.

Wanda gave them their keys and helped them with their luggage. They went into Maya’s apartment first and before Lindsay could say how cozy it looked, Maya said, “If this is one of the nicer places, I’d hate to see the slums! It looked a lot nicer on line.”

It was a basic, no-frills apartment. It was clean and everything worked and it looked to be freshly painted with what appeared to be some new curtains. Lindsay’s place looked exactly the same, but unlike Maya, she was thrilled with it and let Wanda know.

“I’m glad you like it, dear,” she told her. “Okay, one more thing. We also provide transportation for you which is essentially a leased vehicle for 24 months. You can drive up to 10,000 miles a year at no cost. Anything above that will cost 25 cents a mile. You pay for gas, we pay for maintenance. The schedule is on the front seat. Make sure you bring it in within two weeks or that date and all will be well.”

She handed them their car keys and Maya couldn’t wait to see what she’d be driving. When a little blue Toyota Corolla chirped after she hit the button on her key fob, Lindsay knew some kind of negative comment was coming. “Sheesh. Talk about spartan.”

“It’s free transportation—ingrate,” Lindsay said. Hers was silver and she couldn’t have been happier with it.

“They have snow tires but we’ll change them to studded for you during September when the snow comes. All of the maintenance is done at the same place so you won’t şişli escort need to shop around.” She asked them if they had any questions.

“Oh, where’s the nearest shopping mall?” Maya wanted to know.

“There are several shopping plazas around town, but there’s only one mall and that’s Bentley Mall on College Road. It’s on the northeast side of town.” She saw Maya giving her that look again and said, “If you look that way, it’s about two miles up Highway 2.”

“Come on, Lindsay! Let’s go check out. I’ll drive!”

They thanked Wanda who gave them each her card with her number on it. “Oh, before I forget. We’ve front-loaded five-thousand dollars of your yearly stipend onto these credit cards.” She handed one to each of them and said, “I’m glad you mentioned shopping or I’d have had to come all the way back up here to give them to you. You’ll get the other half once you’ve completed the school year.”

And with that, Wanda was gone and twenty minutes later, the girls were inside Bentley Mall walking around with a fully-loaded credit card but within seconds Maya said, “Oh, my God. There’s like five stores in here!”

Lindsay didn’t want to quibble about the number, but there were more than five; not many more than that, though. It wasn’t like anything either of them would ever call a mall. After walking to the other end in less than two minutes, Maya was whining and already talking about going home to Denver.

“This place sucks!” she said. “If this is the mall, and that dump we live in is one of the nicer places…this place…sucks!”

“Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?” Lindsay said trying to encourage her sister. “Let’s check out Maps on our phone and we’ll find out where the shops are we want to go to then check them out.”

The only trouble was everything was closing and they were going to have to wait until morning to try again. They went out for breakfast then did a kind of tour of the city. Six hours later, they’d seen pretty much every shop Fairbanks had to offer. Lindsay was more than satisfied as she’d found a place to get her hair cut, her nails done, several clothing stores where she bought a ton of winter things, and a fitness center not far from their apartment building.

Maya wasn’t quite so happy and complained almost the entire time. They also had lunch and dinner out then decided to go shopping for groceries so they could cook most of their meals at home from then on. Prices were higher than back home, but that made sense considering how far most of this stuff had to be shipped in from.

“Now what?” Maya said after they put everything away.

“I don’t know. You wanna watch a movie? We’re got a Blu-ray DVD player and a nice-sized flat screen.”

“Bor-ing!” she said. “I wanna party! Where to do you suppose people party in Fairbanks?”

Lindsay held up her phone and said, “One way to find out, right?”

“That sounds fun!” Maya said after reading the review of Kodiak Jack’s. They had a dance floor, served alcohol, and Maya was ready to roll. They changed clothes and headed over and once again, as soon as Little Sister saw it, she started complaining.

“O…M…G! There’s a freaking boxing ring in here! This is redneck central! Come on, Lindsay, we are SO out of here.”

She went to turn around when she almost ran into to a very good-looking guy about her age who was holding a beer and talking to a friend. “Sorry!” she said almost annoyed before the guy turned and smiled. The moment she saw his face, she grabbed Lindsay’s arm and said, “Um…maybe we can stay for a few minutes.”

The cute guy said to Maya, “No problem. You guys leaving already?”

“Um, no. My sister here wanted to leave, but I told her we should give it a chance, right Lindsay?”

“Uh-huh,” she said knowing better than to argue the point.

“I’m Maya,” she said with a big smile. “And this is my sister, Lindsay.”

They all shook hands and the young man said, “Nice to meet you both. I’m Aidan.”

“Well, it’s a real pleasure meeting you, Aidan,” Maya said horning in on his conversation with the friend he’d been talking to.

“Can I buy you ladies a drink?” he asked also looking at Lindsay.

“We’d love one, right Lindsay?” Maya said answering for both of them.

Aidan ordered two beers for them then said, “So are you guys twins?”

Rather than display the annoyance Maya always felt at being asked that question, she smiled and said, “No, we’re not twins, but I am the younger sister.”

“You forgot ‘prettier'”, Lindsay added trying not to sound too snarky.

“That goes without saying,” Maya replied without looking at her sister.

“So what brings two beautiful sisters to Fairbanks, Alaska?” he asked as their drinks arrived.

“We’re teachers,” Maya told him.

“Nice. What grade?” Aidan asked as they all touched bottles.

“I’ll be teaching 3rd grade and Lindsay will be teaching 1st.”

“Does Lindsay ever get to speak?” Aidan said with a smile that mitigated the sting to Maya.

“Occasionally,” Maya said. “When we want to hear something…bor-ing.”

“She doesn’t look boring to me,” Aidan said.

“Looks can be deceiving, Aidan,” Maya said taking his arm and pulling out onto the dance floor. She hated country music but knew how to two-step and moments later, Aidan was leading her around to the beat of the twangy music.

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