The Road to Roswell
Paul: Yeah, well, you’re killin’ yourself. A friend can’t be worth that.
Hogy: Well now, how would you know? Did you ever have one?
Serena wasn’t in the airport waiting area when Francie got off the plane in Albuquerque, but a man carrying a sign reading FIRST CONTACT COMMITTEE—WELCOME TO THE UFO FESTIVAL was.
UFO Festival? Serena hadn’t said anything about a UFO festival going on at the same time as her wedding. Maybe it’s not in Roswell, Francie thought hopefully. But of course it was. Where else would a UFO festival be?
And as if to confirm that, here came two guys in Star Trek
uniforms and Spock ears, hurrying up to greet a third in a silver unitard and a gray alien mask with large black almond-shaped eyes and no nose.
Thank goodness I didn’t succeed in talking Ted into being my plus-one for this wedding, she thought. Or worse, Graham. She’d tried to talk somebody, anybody, from work into coming with her so Serena wouldn’t try to fix her up with someone, but when she’d told them where the wedding was, they’d all said no.
“Roswell?” Graham had said. “The place with all the UFO nut jobs?”
“Why is it in Roswell?” Ted had asked. “Does your friend live there?”
“No, she lives in Phoenix. They’re just having the wedding in Roswell.”
“Why?” Graham said. “Why would anyone in their right mind go to Roswell?” and she’d been forced to tell them that Serena was marrying one of those selfsame UFO nut jobs, at which point both of them had not only refused to be her plus-one but told her she was crazy for going herself.
“I have to,” she’d told them. “Serena asked me to be her maid of honor, and she’s one of my very best friends. She was my freshman roommate in college. We have a special bond.”
“A special bond?” Graham had said. “What are you, Sisters of the Traveling Pants
“No,” she’d said defensively, “but I owe her a lot. She saved my life when I was a freshman,” and tried to explain how, when she’d arrived at college in Tucson, knowing no one, homesick for New England, and shocked by the heat and barrenness of the Southwest, Serena had kept her from getting on the first plane home. She’d shown her around campus, introduced her to people, taught her what tumbleweeds and javelinas and saguaros were, and convinced her there weren’t any rattlesnakes on campus (which would definitely have sent Francie screaming back to Connecticut). And when Francie’s high school boyfriend had broken up with her two weeks later, Serena’d sat with her while she’d sobbed, told her “he wasn’t right for you at all,” and generally patched her back together.
“She’s been a terrific friend,” Francie said. “Sympathetic, funny, and—”
“And out of her mind if she believes all this aliens-from-outer-space garbage,” Graham had said. “I don’t know about you, but it’s my policy to avoid nut jobs, old roommates or not.”
Ted nodded. “I had a roommate my sophomore year who believed birds were spying on him. You don’t catch me going to his wedding.”
“She isn’t a nut job,” Francie protested. “She’s just a little . . . ditzy, and inclined to go along with what her boyfriends think.”
And she has terrible taste in men, Francie added silently. Worse than terrible. When Francie first met her, Serena had been dating a kamikaze BASE jumper who’d wanted her to dive headfirst into the Grand Canyon with him, and her taste hadn’t improved since then. She’d dated a gun-stockpiling survivalist and a breatharian, who believed you could survive on air and positive thinking, and been engaged to a soul shaman and a stormchaser.
“All the more reason not to go,” Graham had said. “You’ll just be condoning her marrying this guy.”
Ted had nodded. “Definitely complicit. Unless you’re going because you want to talk her out of it,” and Graham had pounced.
“That’s it, isn’t it? You’re going out there to pull one of those dramatic ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ numbers, aren’t you?”
She’d insisted she wasn’t, but they hadn’t believed her and had refused to listen when she’d tried to explain that she wouldn’t have to talk Serena out of it—that Serena always came to her senses and started having second thoughts herself. That’s what had happened with the stormchaser. “He thinks tornadoes are an adventure, like The Wizard of Oz
or something,” she’d told Francie, “but they’re dangerous! And he expects me to drive straight into them with him!”
All Francie’d had to do was stand there while Serena talked herself out of it and called the wedding off. But to have that happen, Francie had to be there to listen to her doubts and assure her she was doing the right thing. Serena counted on Francie to be her sounding board and her backup, to rescue her from making a terrible decision just like she’d rescued Francie so many times. “Friends are supposed to help each other, aren’t they?” Francie had asked Ted and Graham.
“Yeah, but there are limits,” Ted had said. “What if next time she decides to marry a serial killer and you talk her out of it and he comes after you?”
“She is not going to marry a serial killer.”
“My advice is to tell her something came up and you can’t come,” Graham said.
“Yeah, tell her you broke your leg or something,” Ted added.
“I can’t do that. I can’t just abandon her. She needs me.”
“Okay,” they’d said, “but don’t come crying to us if this turns out to be a complete disaster.”
Which it very well might, she thought, looking around the waiting area. Where was Serena? She’d specifically said she’d be at the airport to drive Francie down to Roswell. “That way we’ll have a chance to talk,” she’d said, and Francie had taken that as a sign Serena was already having second thoughts. So where is she?
Francie texted, Where R U?
No answer. Maybe she thinks we were supposed to meet at baggage claim, Francie thought, shouldered her carry-on, and went down the escalator to see if Serena was there.
She wasn’t, but a number of people going to the UFO Festival were, and yes, the festival was in Roswell, because their T-shirts all said so, and as if that wasn’t enough, they were all talking about a UFO sighting that had happened on Monday night.
“Where?” a woman in a silver minidress and green body makeup asked.
“West of Roswell. Just outside Hondo, near those big red-rock buttes,” one of the T-shirt guys said.
“I don’t remember any red-rock buttes near Hondo,” the green woman said.
“I don’t know, that’s just what they said. It was on UfosAreRealdotnet.”
Francie texted Serena again, checked the other luggage carousels, and then walked outside to see if she might be waiting in her car.
She wasn’t. Francie went back inside to the baggage carousel in case she’d missed her somehow, checked her texts, and then called Serena. “Where are you?” she said when Serena answered.
“In Roswell,” Serena said, sounding harried. “I’m so sorry about this. I intended to be there to meet you, but we’ve had all kinds of problems, and I still have to pick up your dress, and it’s a complete zoo here with the festival and the town getting ready for the Fourth of July and everything, so I asked Russell’s best man to pick you up. His name’s Larry. He’s perfect for you.”
I doubt that, Francie thought. Serena’s taste in guys for Francie was as bad as her own choices in boyfriends. At her almost-wedding to the stormchaser, she’d tried to fix Francie up with a ghosthunter who spent his time in ghost towns with an EMF detector, looking for the ghosts of outlaws and claiming he’d collected their ectoplasm. Which was why Francie had been so desperate to bring a plus-one with her.
“Larry’s totally hot,” Serena was saying. “He’s six foot two and really interesting to talk to. He’s had three close encounters and been abducted twice. He wrote a book about it—The Survivor’s Guide to Alien Abduction.
“So where’s he supposed to meet me?” Francie said, scanning the baggage claim for someone tall, dark, and handsome, but the only people waiting for their luggage were three teenagers in Star Trek
uniforms and Spock ears. “He wasn’t abducted again, was he?”
“No,” Serena said, “but there was a possible sighting two nights ago that he had to go check out.”
Oh my God, I am so glad Graham and Ted refused to come, Francie thought. I would never hear the end of it.