I took a deep breath before I pushed open the doors to Rocky's and walked to my truck. As I was approaching it, I noticed a girl leaning against the driver's side with her arms crossed over her chest. She had tight black jeans on with a plain white shirt and black, Converse high-tops. Strands of her dark brown hair were getting caught in the slight warm breeze. She looked distant and was staring off into the street, not bothering or caring about anything at all. I stopped about five feet away when I realized who this girl was. Immediately, I returned to walking but at a much faster pace.
"Emily?" I asked, not convinced it was her even though I was looking right at her.
"Hey!" She turned to face me and smiled as soon as she heard my voice. I had this weird but nice feeling in the pit of my stomach that quickly branched out to every part of my body. It felt amazing knowing and seeing her waiting for me when I finished work.
"How was work? I expected you to be walking with Hailee and Ben."
"Work was the same as always and Hailee and Ben have different shifts now. School is apparently starting next week." Emily nodded, still showing off her smile.
"So, is there a particular reason why I found you leaning against my truck?" I managed to ask.
"Hmm? Oh, um, I just wanted to..." Emily struggled to answer as she lowered her head and let her smile warp into a frown. I smiled to myself and leaned against my truck with my arms crossed over my chest as I waited for her answer. I noticed a small blush rise in her cheeks, and felt happy knowing that I wasn't the only one who can become embarrassed.
"You wanted to do what?"
"I just... you know, I came to... wait for you." She finally answered while playing with the loose gravel below her shoes.
"You always wait at the apartments."
"I know, but this time I was... I wanted to... We should go now." Emily said and lifted her head as she walked past me and to the opposite side of the truck. I chuckled to myself at her nervousness and stubbornness.
After we both were sitting in the truck ready to go, Emily put her hand on my arm and stopped me from putting my key into the ignition. I turned to face her and frowned when I noticed she was frowning at me. Her brown eyes held something I've never seen before and my patience was thinning as I waited for her to say something. Her hand had moved up from my forearm to just below my shoulder, and I felt her loose grip tighten. It took me a minute to realize that I had to be the first one to say something.
"Is there something wrong?" I asked the obvious question, hoping she would tell me why she wouldn't let me start the truck.
"I don't want to go to the apartments." She said flatly. I licked my lips and took a deep breath, trying to figure out if she was hinting at something.
"Okay, then we can... go grab something to eat?" I asked, knowing that it was after five and close to dinner time for some people. I had no idea when she eats, so maybe that's what she wanted.
"I don't want anything and I don't want to go anywhere." I let out a deep breath and my whole body relaxed into my seat. I turned away from her and stared at the steering wheel.
"Do you want to sit in my truck then?"
"No, just drive."
"Nowhere, just drive."
Emily's hand slipped from my arm, and I nervously brought the key back up to the ignition and started the truck. She didn't object to any of my actions, and within seconds we were on the main road driving aimlessly. I didn't mind taking Emily for a drive because I loved her presence in my passenger's seat, but what bothered me was that I did not know my way around Arcade and knew that it would only take minutes for me to get lost. A few minutes passed and I found myself on Interstate-80 heading west to Interstate-5. It was like some sort of reflex and I never once exited to turn back.
"You can turn on the radio if you want. I don't have any music you're into." I finally said after almost 45 minutes passed. Emily had been resting her head against the glass of the window and staring outside the entire time in silence. I didn't know if she was pissed off, distressed, or what was going on.
"Are you hungry?" I asked when she didn't reply. I noticed the sun was slowly starting to set. I wondered if she would ever ask where we're going or if I was going to turn around anytime soon. She still remained silent.
"Emily, I honestly don't know where I'm going and we may end up in some other city that's miles from Arcade. You can tell me to turn back at anytime."
"Just keep driving." Emily said softly as if she were talking to herself out loud. I sighed, and merged into the right lane and continued down the interstate.
For the next three hours, I kept asking myself how we ended up in wherever we were on the interstate. A couple of landmarks looked vaguely familiar to me, but I would push it aside and keep driving as Emily asked. I wondered why she wanted me to drive in the first place, but never tried to talk to her. She didn't seem like she wanted to talk.
The sky was already dark and as we drove through hills, I could see the faint sparkles of faraway stars shining in the almost-black sky. Emily was still quiet, but she did turn on the radio. It was only briefly because after she changed nearly every station, she shut it off and sank back into her seat. I still didn't try to talk to her. I watched as signs passed by and noticed one of them say we were so many miles from Highway-113. My body became tense as I finally realized where the hell I was driving to.
"Um, Emily, we can get off at the next exit and turn around. We have about five hours of driving to do, but I'll get you home." Yes, we had driven for five and half hours, stopped once for gas, and I knew we had approximately two and a half more hours until we reached my dads' house. But I did not feel comfortable driving home.
"No, just keep driving."
"Seriously, we should take the next exit." I said just as I merged into the left lane. A sign had passed saying we had three miles until the next exit to some road.
"Just keep driving." Emily repeated the same thing.
"No, it's late and we should head home."
"I don't want to."
"I don't even know where the hell we are!" I yelled out of frustration. It was a complete lie, but I couldn't drive back to Oregon.
"I'm not an idiot. I know you're driving home, and I don't care. Just keep driving."
"I don't want to go home." I said flatly.
"Tough luck, just keep driving."
"Okay, so let's say we get to Gaylord. What are we going to do? We haven't planned to stay the-"
"Yes, we have. Just keep driving."
We just passed the exit and I groaned. Not caring if it was illegal or not, I turned on my hazards and safely swerved to the side of the road. I turned off the engine, keeping the car on so the hazards flashed, and faced Emily who wasn't glaring or smiling at me.
"What do you mean we have planned to stay the night? I don't have an overnight bag with all my things and I haven't made any arrangments to stay somewhere for the night. Hell, my dads don't even know I'm on my way."
"It only takes one short call to your dads to let them know we're not far from their house. And I am almost positive you have a few things at their house that you can use. Also, I have enough of my own money to help us get through the next two days. I planned this. I knew you would end up driving home without the thought crossing your mind."
"If you wanted me to take you to Gaylord, why didn't you just say so? You know how unplanned this is? What if I didn't drive there? What if I went south and wound up driving towards the border?"
"You wouldn't have because you don't know the freeways or highways. You probably would have driven us to Nevada or the coast if anything."
I noticed Emily trying to hide a smile and as much as I wanted to keep up this scolding and lash out about how annoyed I was, I let it go once the smile finally appeared on her face. For some reason, I didn't care anymore.
"So we're actually doing this?" I asked as I turned off the hazards and started the truck again. Emily laughed.
"Yes, we really are."
"This is stupid and insane."
"No, it's not. Before you get back on the road again, give me your phone."
"Just do it." I didn't question her, and took out my phone from my pocket. While she did something I would later regret, I returned to the seemingly endless road and continued down the interstate.
Not even five minutes had passed when I heard Emily say, "Hello," to someone. I quickly glanced to see her with my phone pressed to her ear and a wide smile on her face.
"Yes, this is Niall's phone." She said and paused for the other person. I wondered who she had called, but stopped after she spoke again.
"He's driving right now. I'm sorry for this unexpected call. My name is Emily and we met when you visited a while ago."
I cursed in my head for Emily calling my dads. They're probably freaking out because it's after ten at night and they are talking to her instead of me because I'm driving.
"Yes, sir, everything is alright. I am calling because Niall is driving us to your house." Great, I could imagine my dad flipping out right now. This is why I didn't want to go home and wanted to turn around.
"I'm so sorry for this spontaneous decision, but we left right after Niall finished working."
"Yes, it is late, but I can assure you we have-" Emily stopped and I quickly turned to face her and mouthed, "two" for how many hours we were away.
"We are approximately two hours away. I'm sorry for it being late, sir. It was, like I had said, a spontaneous idea that we didn't give much thought to. We weren't expecting to drive all the way to Oregon tonight."
I frowned and half agreed with her statement, because I was not expecting to go home and still find it all unbelievable. But I liked the way she was talking to my dad over the phone; it was very respectful and proper. She didn't sound irritated and wasn't sarcastic like how she talks to me sometimes. I knew she had changed a little, but this was a bit drastic. She's going to be around my dads for two days and she can't even stand our landlord or her old foster family or anybody for that matter.
"Thank you so much, Mr. Horan. I look forward to seeing you later, too." She started to giggle and I bit my lip because the sound sounded sweeter in a silent truck.
"I will not call you Aaron, because that isn't right. Goodbye, Mr. Horan."
Never did I think she could keep up her Ps and Qs. With another giggle leaving her mouth, she hung up the call and placed my phone in the cupholder between us. I waited for her to say something to me, but she just sat there quietly.
"Are you going to talk about what just happened?" I asked after a few moments.
"About the call? I talked to your dad. He's so funny. You should have heard how worried he was. I heard him calling to your other dad."
"Yeah, sounds a lot like him." I muttered.
"I like him, well, I like them both."
"You talked to both of them?"
"I was put on speaker, so yes."
"Wow, okay, promise you will behave when you see them."
"Why, do you not trust me?"
"No, because you will get annoyed by them or at least one of them. They will ask you a hundred questions and... they may judge you because of how you look. So please, be nice."
"Niall, I basically signed up for this and know what I'm getting into. You need to have more faith in me."
I didn't bother glancing at Emily and kept my eyes focused on the road. Her last words kept swirling around in my head, repeating itself over and over like a broken record. I have faith in her. I've always had faith in her. The Emily who was sitting next to me really wasn't the Emily I had the opportunity to see my very first day in Arcade. She still had all the same quirks, but something vanished like this gloomy, dark cloud that wavered above her disappeared. I still believed she could slip up her act at any moment, but she was definitely trying- harder than I would ever know.
"I have faith in you, Emily." I said out loud, not sure if she heard me or not.
My eyes stayed focused on the road as our drive continued on. The closer I drove to my dads' house, the more my anxiety grew. I don't know why I was so nervous or why I was internally freaking out. I had unconsciously driven to Gaylord and as it registered in my brain, I wanted to turn the car around and head back to Arcade. Something was egging me on and coaxing me to go the extra mile, but I had a hard time figuring out what it was.
When the silence became to much and my eyes were getting heavy, I glanced to my right to see Emily staring out the window. I could see her reflection in the glass and noticed the faintest smile brightening her face. I quickly adverted my eyes back to the road and let my mind clear away every single thought I had. I glanced one more time at Emily and decided it would be the last for a while. She was extremely quiet, but she seemed happy for a reason I'm not going to bother to find out. I found myself smiling for the simple, yet very complex, reason that Emily was smiling. If she's happy, I'm happy. Why should anything, as obscure as it is, matter? ++++++
I have the next like, two/three chapters planned, I hope! I see the end coming... dun dun dun. (there's more than three chapters left)