The pervert seems to have stopped watching her when he saw us sitting together inside the last terminal. In the eyes of men, he probably sees her as my ‘territory’ now, my property. And that’s good thing because it means he’ll leave her alone as long as I’m around. The truth is though, we’ll only be together until Wyoming and this worries the f**k out of me. I hope the man changes busses before Camryn and I have to depart ways. Two more rest stops between here and Denver—I hope like hell Denver is his last stop and if not, I’ll be watching him the rest of the way to Wyoming.
He’s not going to Idaho. I’ll kill the son of a bitch first.
I gaze through the dark and stillness of the bus. The man is asleep, his head pressed back against the aisle seat. A woman sits beside him next to the window, but she’s way too old to catch this guy’s eye. He likes them young, probably really young. It makes me f**king sick to think of what he may have already done to some other young girl.
Despite the bus generally being loud, the whistling of the wind pushing against the metal, the fast crushing sound of rubber moving swiftly over the road, the large engine progressively humming as it compels the heap of metal across the freeway, it’s still quiet. It’s almost peaceful. As peaceful as a bus ride can be.
I finger my earbuds in and turn on the power on my MP3 player, setting it to shuffle. What will it be? What will it be? I always let the first song set the mood. I have over three hundred songs on this thing. Three hundred different mood-setters. I think my MP3 player is biased though because the first song is almost always between Kansas’ Dust in the Wind, Zeppelin’s Going to California or something by The Eagles.
I wait for it, not looking down at the information on the playlist as if it’s some kind of guessing game and I don’t want to cheat. Ah, good choice. Aerosmith’s Dream On. I lean my head back against the seat and shut my eyes, not realizing until after I’m in the middle of doing it that my finger is gently pressing the volume down. Because I don’t want to wake Camryn up.
I open my eyes and look over at her, how she clutches that bag of hers so tightly that she must still be completely conscious of it even in a deep sleep. I wonder about what might be inside, if there’s anything in it that could tell me more about her. If there’s anything in it that can tell me the truth about her.
But it doesn’t matter. I won’t know her after Wyoming and she’ll probably never even remember my name. But I know it’s better that way. I have too much baggage and even as a friend, she doesn’t need any of it in her lap. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
The low, melodious droning of Steven Tyler’s voice lulls me to partial-sleep. Except when he’s screaming that high-pitched scream, where I wait for him to let it all out and then I drift off the rest of the way.
“Dude, seriously,” I hear a voice say.
Something is pressing against my shoulder. I wake up to find Camryn pushing me off of her with her little arms. It’s actually kind of funny, that awry look on her morning face and how no matter how hard she pushes, the weight of my body is too heavy to move me completely.
“Sorry,” I say, still trying to wake up. I lift up disoriented and feel the back of my neck as stiff as wood. I really didn’t mean to end up with my head pressed against her arm, but I’m not as mortified about it as she’s pretending to be. At least I’m pretty sure she’s pretending. She’s trying really hard not to break a smile.
Let me help her a little with that.
I grin over at her.
“You think it’s funny?” she says, her mouth partly hanging open and her eyebrows rumpled in her cute little forehead.
“Yeah, actually I do think it’s funny.” My grin gets bigger and finally that smile of hers breaks softly in her face. “But I am sorry. Really.” And I mean it.
She narrows one eye and looks at me sideways, scrutinizing my sincerity, which is also kind of cute.
I look away and reach my arms above my head to stretch and that makes me need to yawn.
“Gross!” she says and that word doesn’t surprise me at all. “Your breath smells like ass.”
A single voluble laugh comes out through my words: “Damn, girl, how would you know what ass smells like anyway?”
That shuts her up. I laugh again and rummage through my bag after dropping my MP3 player inside of it. I pop the cap on my toothpaste and squirt a dab on the end of my tongue, move it around inside my mouth real good and then swallow. Of course, Camryn’s watching me do all of this with a look of revolt, but that’s what I was shooting for.
The rest of the bus seems to have woken up before me. I’m surprised I slept this long and without waking up at least three times to find another comfortable position, which always manages to elude me.
My watch says that it’s 9:02 a.m.
“Where are we anyway?” I ask, gazing out the large window next to Camryn, searching for any freeway signs.
“About four hours away from Denver,” she answers. “Driver just announced another rest stop in ten minutes.”
“Good,” I say, stretching one leg out into the aisle, “I need to walk around. I’m stiff as hell.”
I catch her grinning, but she turns to face the window. Stiff as hell. OK, so she also has a dirty mind. I just laugh thinking about it.
The next rest stop isn’t too much different from the last several, with a series of gas stations on either side of the freeway and two fast food restaurants. I can’t believe this girl has me actually debating whether or not to head inside one like I normally would without a thought otherwise. I just can’t really tell if it’s because I want to prove to her that I can choose to eat better stuff if given the choice, or because I know she’s going to yell at me.
Wait a damn second. Who’s the one in control of the situation here?
Clearly she is. Goddammit.
We file out of the bus, Camryn in front of me, and after walking around the front of the bus she stops and turns at the waist, crossing her arms and looking up at me, pursing her lips.
“Well, if you’re so smart,” I say, sounding sort of third grade and I admit it, “then see if you can find something healthy to eat—that doesn’t taste like rubber dipped in shit—in one of these places.”
A grin tugs one corner of her mouth.
“You’re on,” she accepts the challenge.
I follow her into the gigantic convenience store and she makes her way first to the drink coolers. Like that blonde chick on that game show (I don’t know which because I don’t watch game shows, but everybody knows about that blonde chick) Camryn waves her hands in front of the cooler doors, as if revealing the world of fruit juices and bottled water to me for the first time.
“We start off with a variety of juice, as you can see,” she says in her proper showcase voice. “Any of this is better than soda. Take your pick.”
“I hate juice.”
“Don’t be a baby. There’s plenty to choose from. I’m sure you can find something you can stomach.”
She moves back two steps to let me see the dozens of flavored bottled waters on display behind the next door.
“And there’s water,” she says, “but I just don’t see someone like you sipping on a fancy bottle of water.”
“No, that’s too douchy.” Really, I have no issue with drinking bottled water, but I like this game we’re playing.
She smiles, but tries to keep a straight face.
I wrinkle my nose at her, purse my lips and look back and forth between her and the juice cooler.
I sigh heavily and step up closer, scanning over the different brands and flavors and mixed flavors and I wonder why there’s so much with strawberry or kiwi, or strawberry and kiwi in it. I hate both.
Finally, I open one glass door and settle on plain OJ.
She sort of winces.
“What?” I ask, still holding the door open.
“Orange juice isn’t so good to wash stuff down with.”
I let out a spat of air and just look at her, unblinking.
“I pick something out and you tell me it’s not good enough.” I want to laugh, but I’m trying to lay a guilt trip on her here.
And I think it’s working.
She frowns. “Well, it’s just…well that’s more of grab-n-go vitamin C boost, really. It just makes you thirstier.”
She actually looks as though she’s worried that she offended me and this strikes me in the strangest way. I let myself smile just to see her smile again.
She grins at me like the Devil.
Oh, she’s good….
DENVER FINALLY FLIES BY and we’re drawing closer to Andrew’s final stop in Wyoming. I can’t lie and say it doesn’t bother me. Andrew was right in saying that it’s dangerous for me to be traveling alone. I’m just trying to understand why that fact didn’t faze me much before I met him. Maybe I just feel safer with him as my company because he does look like he can bust a few jaws without breaking a sweat. Damn, maybe I shouldn’t have ever talked to him in the first place; definitely shouldn’t have let him sit next to me because now I’m sort of used to him. Once we’re in Wyoming and we go our separate ways, I’ll be back to staring out the window watching the world fly by and not knowing where in it I’m going next.
“So, do you have a girlfriend?” I ask just to spark up conversation so I won’t think about being alone again in a few hours.
Andrew’s dimples appear. “Why do you want to know?”
I roll my eyes.
“Don’t flatter yourself; just a question. If you don’t—”
“No,” he answers, “I’m happily single.”
He just looks at me, smiling, waiting, and it takes me a second to understand what he’s waiting for.
I point at myself nervously, wishing I had come up with a less personal topic. “Me? No, not anymore.” Feeling more confident now, I add, “I’m happily single as well and want to stay that way. For about…forever.” I should’ve just left it at ‘happily single’ instead of rambling my way right out of the confident zone and making myself look obvious.
Of course, Andrew notices right away. I get the feeling he’s the type that never misses someone else’s foot-in-your-mouth moment. He thrives on them.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he says, grinning.
Thankfully he doesn’t probe.
He rests his head back against the seat and absently taps his thumbs and pinky fingers against his jeans for a moment. Secretly, I glimpse his muscular, tanned arms and try to see once and for all what the tattoos are of on his arms, but as usual they’re mostly hidden by the sleeves of his t-shirt. The one on the right side I saw a little more of earlier when he stretched down to tie his boot. I think it’s a tree of some sort. The arm facing me now, I can’t really tell but whatever it is, it has feathers. All of the tattoos I’ve seen so far are colorless.
“Curious?” he says and I flinch. I didn’t think he saw me checking them out.