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  • Kristan Higgins

Ride or Die

Updated: Apr 2

In March, my best friend from college and I went away for a few days. It was the fortieth anniversary of our friendship, and that deserved some celebrating. We’d go somewhere warm, I thought. Somewhere with not too long of a flight, since it would be just a few days. Near the ocean. Good food. Nice lodgings.


Rather than trawl the internet looking for places and deals and flights, I called a travel agency and listed our needs. “We’re middle-aged and want to recline and sip. Somewhere quiet.”


“I’ll send you where I send my mom,” he said immediately, which pleased me. It implied that A) he’s a generous lad, and B) he understands what we older chicks need. “All inclusive— food, alcohol, snacks, tipping, flight, transportation to and from the airport.”


“Sign us up,” I said. “Where is it?”




“Oooh!” I said. “I’ve never been! Sounds great.”


Immediately, advice and opinions started flowing. The Princess and the Firefighter had a less than stellar honeymoon there a couple of years ago, marked by monsoons and rotting seaweed, no air conditioning and a wee brush with a cartel. Don’t drink the water! my readers and relatives warned. Be careful! The cell service! The crime! The guns, drugs and feral dogs! Our mothers wondered if we’d be kidnapped. (Catherine and I didn’t worry about that one.) The Princess was concerned that I’d be eaten by a shark.


Well, let me tell you, readers. It was frickin’ paradise. The hotel was glam, immaculate and so comfortable, the ocean warm and turquoise and free from predators. The flowers! The lushness! The food was incredible, the drinks were definitely not watered down and the people! The people were so nice and welcoming. “It is my pleasure to serve you,” said every waiter we had. “Is there anything I can do to make your stay more pleasant? Please, just say the word.” Every staff member who spoke to us put their hand over their heart and gave a little bow. Cath and I were in awe. We felt like newborn babes, swaddled in love and comfort.


And you know how it is on vacation…time is different. We’re both early risers, so the first morning, we went to the incredible breakfast. Catherine was enamored with what she called “the wall of bread,” and I was equally dazzled by the fruits, so ripe and pretty. We then went to a beach cabana, slathered on our 70-factor sunscreen, donned our coverups, put on our wide-brimmed hats and drew the shades against any direct sunlight. We went into the ocean and bobbed around in delight, then went back and reapplied sunscreen.


Eventually, a waiter came over and asked if we senoritas wanted an adult beverage. We looked at each other in delight! Yes! Sure! That was what vacation was for, right? We each ordered—a spicy margarita for me, a restorative gin and tonic for Catherine. “So decadent!” we said. “It’s probably only 1:30 or 2:00, but we’re on vacation, right?” I checked the time. It was 10:45 a.m.


We swam in the pool, had lovely conversations, wandered through the open air courtyards and read our books. A coffee here, a cocktail there. Should we lunch, or just snack? There was a spa with all sorts of wonderful watery things…a steam room, an ice plunge, a sauna, a hot tub, an “experiential shower,” whatever that meant. It was heaven, I tell you.


At one point, Catherine and I just talked about how much we mean to each other, about all the things we’ve gone through over four decades…boyfriends and jobs, marriage, travel, pregnancy challenges, child-rearing, death of loved ones, heartbreak, family issues, money problems, frustrations. Over all these years, there has never been a second of doubt—we have each other’s back. We always will.


In Always the Last to Know, the character of Barb has had a pretty lackluster marriage. They drift apart, discontent, until John has a debilitating stroke. But Barb has a Catherine in her life—her friend from down the street, the one who always knew what to say, who always came through, who’d stick by Barb’s side no matter what. Toward the end of the book, Barb says to her, “Caro, you’re the love of my life.”  Not romantically, but the love of her life nonetheless. We should all be so lucky to have at least one of those.


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