It kind of sucked that she wasn’t even one day into her road trip and Nari had lost all joy in traveling. Instead of glancing at the surroundings and enjoying the new and beautiful sights, Nari’s grip was tight on the wheel and she was staring straight at the horizon where the road grew small and vanished. She had even turned off the pop radio station in favor of the ambient noise of the truck rumbling down the road. The jerk back at the diner kept popping up in Nari’s mind every time she tried to think of something nice, so she just didn’t think.
Or at least she tried to.
It wasn’t going too well.
“Fuck him and everything he stands for!” With one of her hands, she slammed her fist down on the dashboard and swore when the impact made her hand throb in pain. “Shit!”
She groaned in frustration and tried to hold back tears. Why did everything have to go wrong for her? She just wanted to blow all her money on a road trip to help her get over a stupid break up. Why was the world hell bent on making that difficult for her?
Worst of all, that stop the diner had wasted $30. The book she had bought was 20 bucks and now it was sitting worthlessly in the backseat. And it wasn’t even a useful or interesting book! It was just some book that documented all the hoax ghosts and stupid urban legends around Route 66 about all the ghosts like it was some giant scientific marvel. Nari had flipped through it briefly before getting tired of all the bad photoshop edits of ghosts in tourist photos and quotes from locals that the writer had the nerve to transcribe with their local accents spelt out as if to mock them.
The chicken and mashed potatoes had been nearly ten bucks when she added on the soda. And while she had excused that at the time as a pick-me-up/congratulations for going out on her own, she had barely gotten to eat any of it before that asshole had made her drop it on the ground.
Her car beeped all of a sudden, interrupting her thoughts of her monetary predicament, and Nari groaned when she glanced down. Her gas light was on. Great. Just the thing she needed to top off such an expensive day.
A few miles down the road, Nari got off at the first exit that looked promising. The sun was starting to get low in the sky, but the small town she had found was bustling with people dressed like it was the 80’s. There seemed to be some kind of fair or something going on. Kids were running around clutching cotton candy and couples were using old polaroid cameras to take pictures together.
Nari carefully navigated the street, mindful of any children that might run out onto the street, and turned into the first gas station she saw. There weren’t any signs with gas prices on them, but she was so low at this point that it didn’t really matter, she just needed to fill up.
She parked and got out to fill up. She opened up her gas door and turned to grab the pump. But when she tugged on it, it barely budged. Brows furrowed, she yanked on it harder but it was seriously stuck.
Nari swore and kicked the pump, cursing her bad luck. Today just kept getting worse wasn’t it?
Running her fingers through her hair, she stared at the pump for a moment before slumping in defeat. Her truck was so old that sometimes the gas light didn’t turn on until it was almost running on vapor. If she turned it on now, there was a very good chance that it would sputter for a moment before dying completely. And Nari didn’t have the money to call for a tow truck.
There was a tinkling giggle behind her and Nari turned around.
Standing there was perhaps the most beautiful girl Nari had ever seen.
She was a tall and slender black girl with long hair that cascaded down in waves like a bed sheet being dried on a windy summer’s day. She wore a simple white dress that fluttered around her like a dream and her smile made Nari instantly feel calmer, as if she had come to fix everything.
The girl took a few steps toward her before speaking.
“That old pump has acting up for years. You need to know just the right way to pull it out. Let me help you.” She said before walking over and taking hold of the pump.
Just like she had said, as soon at she pulled it with her more practiced hands, it came right out like it was nothing. She then went ahead and started to pump the gas in for Nari. Once the gas was flowing and the numbers on the old pump began to flip, the girl turned toward her, keeping a hand on the pump as she spoke.
“And where are you headed, stranger?” She asked Nari, still with a kind smile on her face.
“Oh, I don’t know. Just where ever my truck takes me, I guess.” She said ambiguously. Heck she had no idea where she was going so it wasn’t a lie.
The girl nodded though, understanding what she meant even if she didn’t say it.
“Sometimes you just need to get out on the open road to get a different perspective on life.” Then she let out a little, “Oh!” as something occurred to her. “I never did tell you my name did I? I’m Dijonae. Dijonae Harris.”
“Kim Nari. Just call me Nari.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Nari.” Dijonae smiled at her and Nari could have sworn that she was an angel come down from heaven.
“It’s nice to meet you, too.” Nari nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. There was a silence between them for a moment. It was comfortable, though Nari felt awkward in a way that was not Dijonae’s fault at all.
“Hey, Nari,” She spoke up. “You seemed distressed when you were trying to fill up your car. Is everything alright? Are you in some kind of trouble?”
“Huh?” Nari quickly looked up at her in surprise before quickly shacking her head. “Oh no, I’m not. I just-Sigh- I’m kinda going through some stuff right now. And I just needed a change of pace, I guess.“
“Want to talk about it? It might make you feel better to let it all out with someone you don’t know.”
Nari hesitated, but Dijonae just had this area about her that was just so safe, so compelling, that Nari found the words tumbling from her lips before she could stop herself.
“My boyfriend broke up with me recently and I’m just having a hard time with it, I guess.” Nari felt a bit embraced about how pathetic that came out so she hastened to elaborate. “It wasn’t the break up the really upset me. It was just-”
Nari struggled to find the words for a moment but Dijonae waited for her patently. While Nari searched for what she was trying to say, Dijonae took out the pump from the car when it was full and hung it back in the station.
“I’ve had a lot of failed relationships.” Nari finally spoke back up. “And it feels like each o them were my fault. And they just keep getting messier and messier. It doesn’t matter if I date boys or girls or people who are non-binary. It always ends with a bad fight where they move on just fine and I’m the one left with scars.
“So I scrapped together as much money as I could so I can travel around a bit. It’s cheesier than hell but I kinda hope I’ll find myself along the way.
“It felt good, really good, to be on the road at first. But I’m only a few hours away from home and I’ve just had a bad day. I wasted some money I don’t really have just so I could use a bathroom and I almost got in a fight with some teenager because we bumped it to each other and all my food got spilt on him.”
Dijonae nodded in understanding and Nari felt a bit lighter. She had been right, it did feel better to talk it out.
“I’m just hungry and frustrated because I still feel just as trapped as I did back in Chicago.”
Dijonae reached out a lightly rubbed Nari’s shoulder. “Hold on a second. Let me go grab something.”
“Oh, okay?” Nari watched her run inside the gas station in confusion. After a few minutes, Dijonae came out with a duffel bag.
“Here,” She handed the bag to Nari with a grin. “I’m friends with the owners of the gas station so they don’t mind if I take some stuff. It’s not much but there’s some beef jerky and fresh fruit.”
Maybe Dijonae really was an angel.
“Oh my god, thank you so much!” Nari opened the bag and almost passed out right there. There was more than just some jerky and fruit. There were chips and cookies and canned goods and some energy drinks all crammed into the bag. “Are you sure this is alright? Theres a lot in here and I don’t want your friends to get angry with you.”
“It’s fine,” Dijonae waved off her concern with a kind expression. “It’s not the big of a deal. I figured you could use a bit of a pick me up after such a bad day.”
“…Can I give you a hug?” Nari was trying not to tear up. There was something especially touching about a stranger’s kindness. “This really means a lot to me.”
Dijonae wrapped her up in an embrace and Nari buried her face in her neck. It felt like she was home in Dijonae’s arms and the scent of a flower field was almost as calming as the girl herself.
“Now, come one,” Dijonae patted her back and pulled away. “It’s going to be dark soon and there aren’t any hotel’s in town. You should get back out on the road.”
“You’re right. I should hurry.” Nari tried to dab her eyes discreetly but she had a feeling Dijonae had seen and just said nothing out of tact. “Thanks again, Dijonae. I really can’t thank you enough.”
“It’s nothing, dear.” She gave her a warm smile and a pat on the back. “You know, I’m traveling too at the moment down Route 66. Maybe we’ll run into each other again.”
“Yeah,” Nari beamed at her. “I’d like that. I’d like that a lot. It was wonderful meeting you, Dijonae!”
“It was nice to meet you, too, Nari.” She turned serious for a moment. “Travel safely, alright.”
“Of course. You too, okay?”
The girls said good bye one last time with a big hug and Nari got in her truck. She turned on the truck and sighed with relief when it rumbled to life. Then she backed out and drove out of the parking lot.
When she turned on her blinker, she glanced back at the gas station to wave good back to Dijonae.
But in the light of the bloody sunset, the fair was over, the town’s occupants had all gone home, and Dijonae had vanished into the depths of the dark gas station with out a single trace.
A/N: I had way too much fun with chapter. Dijonae is one of my favorite characters in this story and she’s super important to me! I am a huge fan of strong female characters that aren’t physically strong. And in my other story, Silver Rose, there is another female character other than the OC but she isn’t introduced until later in the story and I haven’t gotten there yet. So I was really determined to have another female lead that was in the story from pretty much the get go. We’ll be seeing more of her in the future and I hope you’ll look forward to her involvement in the plot!