I scramble to catch up with him as he trudges purposefully back to the gas pumps. To my only ticket out of nowhere.
"Why not?" I question, struggling to keep up with his tall frame.
"None of your business," he throws back, not looking at me. His steps are steady, like he's so uninterested now that he doesn't even have the energy to walk away from me faster.
I have to make him listen somehow.
"What do you need, my map? Take it, I just need you to take me with you!" My eyes are frantic, and my breathing just the same. How the hell else am I supposed to get out of here if he won't take me?
He halts, and turns to me, breathing hard through gritted teeth. "The map doesn't matter anymore, okay? So how about we drop this whole thing?" He turns sharply, and continues to walk.
Nice try, asshole. "Um, I don't think so," I demand, catching up with his long strides as he tries to lose me, "What's the problem, like 5 minutes ago you were practically trying to steal it from me?"
"Oh, so you're ignoring me now?"
His lips stay pursed.
"Oh okay, I think I get it now, so you can't take a couple seconds to hear me out cause your precious car is--"
He throws his hands in the air furiously, and spins around to face me. That vein in his neck is going again.
"Look," he starts, running a hand though his curls, "I need to get somewhere. And I need to get there fast. I can't have--"
He pauses. 1, 2, 3--
"--someone slowing me down. I know what needs to happen and I don't feel like fucking explaining all of that to someone else, okay? The only person getting in that car is me."
I look to the only car in the gas pump area, undoubtedly his. It's a rusty old thing, a 70's looking pickup. Maybe once it could've been a dark red, but now orange rust and iron poke out from under the chipped, faded bits of paint. It's ugly. It's practically falling apart. But it could get me there. I'm not giving that up, now.
I turn back to him, "Not if I get there first."
And my legs are moving faster than my head knows what's going on.
"Shit!," I hear him shout behind me and I try to stifle my laugh so I can keep breathing. I glance with a grin over my shoulder to see him sprinting like a maniac after me. The dust kicks up around our legs, like an orange storm charging through the desert. My backpack bounces off me repeatedly as I go. I reach the reassuring point of the gas pumps, and skitter like a scared mouse to the guys pickup truck, just as I think I'm about to choke on the dirt grating at my lungs.
"Fuck off!,"he barks as he runs, only a couple meters away. I yank violently at the metal handle.
"Agh!" Searing heat pricks all over my palm from the metal, and it's locked anyway. He's only a few feet away, the dust cloud with him. I look around the car frantically, my throat tightening with panic. Relief washes over me when I see a slightly rolled down window by the drivers seat through the film of dirt coating the passenger window. I run to the other side of the truck as he reaches my previous side, slamming into it with a thud. I plunge my hand through the small opening, and clasp my fingers around the black door lock yanking it upwards. My shaking hands jerk the door open, and I jump in. An irritated groan escapes him as he slides to a stop before me, just in time. My right hand goes to grip the headrest, my left in a fist, bracing myself against the steering wheel. He faces me and his large, knuckled hand contract into quaking fists, shaking with every labored breath he takes. A sharp intake of breath, and he slams his fists on the car above the door opening. It's taking all of my strength to not show how scared I am (and I don't think it's working).
"Get the fuck out of my car!"
He still won't listen to me. Is this what I have to do? Stage it like I'm high jacking someone's car to get them to glance my way? Anger rolls through me like a wave.
"Do you not understand that this is me trying to get you to hear me out? God, how thick is your skull?!"
He shakes his curly head, leaning on the car, hands resting where he'd slammed them.
"Maybe if you weren't trying to steal my car--"
"I'm not trying to steal your stupid car! I just--"
I sigh, bringing a hand to my head, and wait for him to yell or throw me out of the car. But nothing happens.
I bring my head up and see him staring at me. He's quiet. He isn't yelling at me. He isn't smirking, or making fun. He's listening.
I get my confidence back, "You didn't listen before. You heard my question and you walked away. You didn't listen to anything I would've said."
He groans in annoyance and shouts,"I didn't need to hear anything else!,"
"Well I can't live with that! I can't keep going here alone knowing if I'd just said something to you I could've convinced you to take me! So can you just let me get this out?"
He's staring daggers at me, trying to get me to cave. And I won't.
The daggers trail over me slowly, dragging against clothes. Tearing them open. He backs up a little, and licks his lips.
"30 seconds." He studies me quietly as I take a deep breath and gather myself.
She breathes in and out, brown eyes squeezed tight, trying to get all her thoughts together.
What the hell am I doing right now? I know I can't take her with me. Sure, I took a couple of girls in the car before, but that was just for sex. Just to take the tension off. Drunken fucks in the dark, hard and fast, with their hands all over me. Meaningless. But this girl wants to go somewhere. She wants to stick around, and look out the window, and curl up in a ball in the seat beside me. I can't have her blood on my hands, too. Especially now that I know the media here is on my trail. The magazines back in that general store confirmed that. I can't drag someone into all of this and everything that's on the way.
Not a girl like this.
"Okay, look," she starts in her funny American accent, "I'm not asking you to explain your life story to me, okay? You don't have to tell me anything. I know everything I need to know about you, which is that you can take me to LA. And it's not like I'm going to be a problem. I'll do whatever you want, I'll go by your rules. I'll stick to what you ask of me. If you want me to jump, I'll jump. You want me to be quiet for the entire trip, I will. I promise." She dismounts the truck, moving closer to me as she speaks.
"I will literally sit in the trunk the entire time, I don't care!," she shouts out. Her eyelids fall, trying to calm herself down. And when they open they lock to mine.
"I need you to take me. Please don't walk away." We're only a few inches apart.
I breathe out, hands running over my face. Maybe I can take her. I mean whats the likelihood that police will catch up to me now, of all times? And it's not that long of a drive, if we don't make too many stops.
But I can't. I can't be fucking stupid. She's looking up at me, pleading, searching for an answer. And the look in her eyes--it fucking kills me.
God, why do I even care? I shouldn't care. She's just some girl, I don't owe her anything. I have my own shit to deal with right now.
I've been staring at her biting my lip, a frown on my face. Her dark eyes are wide. Hopeful. Fuck this, I think. I look away to the red hued rocks in the distance, and shake my head.
"I can't," he state blankly. My eyes squeeze tightly shut as my chest tightens. My teeth grit together like magnets. I knew it I knew it I knew it, I scream in my head, Why did I hope, why did I wish. Everything is about to burst.
"It's too complicated," he says, and I open my eyes, startled by the sudden softness in his voice. He doesn't notice me, distracted by the colors staining horizon. The pink and orange glow of the sun and clouds pours over the silhouettes of the dark red rock formations, and colors the landscape, casts soft shadows, like spilled watercolors across the desert sky.
"Yeah, I know the feeling," I reply offhandedly, and he looks back immediately. He probes me with his green eyes, and I don't know if it's the heat of summer or the colors in the sky but despite everything, I feel so warm when he does.
He drops his head, "I'm sorry," he utters, after a while, and walks around me to the door. I hear the door slamming with a thud behind me. When I turn back he's revving the engine. His head lowers a bit, shifting gears as he pulls out from the gas station, and I push down the urge to run after. My eyes follow his worn tires through the lot out onto the raised charcoal asphalt running through the haphazard landscape of rocks and dust and dying plants. He speeds off, a cloud of dust trailing. Going west.
I tear my gaze away, the sound of his car and the dry wind ringing in my ears. It sounds too much like the end. So much like everything that went wrong this year. My head is in my hands as I pace back and forth, back and forth. I am so fucking stuck. I have never been this stuck before in my life. Not once. At home, when something went wrong I had the time to fix it. I'd have time to cry even; to take a walk, to clear my head. I'd run to Di, and she'd hold me close to her and brush the stands of hair from my eyes. Her bony arms would still my wracking sobs. She always knew what to do. That was the standard procedure. That was my users manual, my handbook for every problem I've ever had since I was 6. And now my handbook has been ripped to shreds and burned to black, chard pieces of nothing. They're stuffing up my head and itching at my eyes and coloring my skin the black color of ash and soot. My old life. The younger, Cadie. She was so small. She was such a child.
I have to grow up. I have to get out of this.
My hands fall from my eyes to my sides, and go to slide off my backpack. I try to keep my breath in check as I paw through it, going for the rolled up army green canvas jacket I'd stashed inside. My fathers. I thumb over it, small dots of his acrylic paint sometimes raising the fabric unevenly. Paint from his studio somehow managed to get on all of his clothes. I bundle myself in the huge coat, and re-zip my bag. I follow the guys car tracks, going west just the same. I keep up my pace, walking and walking, the general store moving farther and farther behind me until it's a just another memory I won't return to.
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