“Oh, I do love this one old woman who came in though. She said it’s actually the 1800s and she’s talking to dead people. I like Sue a lot. She’s so sweet.”
“I wish I were at work.”
“I wish you were too,” she adds and pats my thigh. “You’d love Sue.”
“I’m sure I would.” It’s never a boring day at the Rockford Center. That’s a truth no one can deny.
“I can’t drive us home.” Laura’s statement makes me look at her and then at Seth. “You want to Uber?” she asks me and I shake my head no, getting out without thinking.
“What are you doing?” she calls out as I step out onto the asphalt and make my way to Seth’s car. I ignore her calls for me to get my ass back there. I’d smile at the way she whispers it and tries to keep me from knocking on Seth’s window if it weren’t for the anxiousness creeping up on me from what I’m about to do.
I don’t have to knock though; he rolls down his window but doesn’t say a word.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” Laura says and tries to pull me away again. “My friend is a little bit more drunk than I thought.” She tugs at my wrist and again I ignore her efforts.
“Will you give us a ride home?” I push out the question. Seth lets out a smile, a handsome smile with perfect teeth, all the while staring at Laura and her wide eyes.
“We don’t need a ride,” Laura’s quick to tell him. “I’m so sor-”
“I don’t mind,” Seth cuts her off and asks, “Where are you going?” I’m still staring at Laura and the way she’s looking at Seth that I don’t notice he asked me.
“Home,” is all I answer him and he nods once, the playfulness gone from his expression and tells us to get in the back.
I don’t know what came over me or why. Maybe it’s the piece of me that wants Seth to pay for watching me like a hawk. I can’t explain it, but it feels like a step forward. Not the literal step forward I take to get in the back of the car, but a step out of whatever place I was in just hours ago.
Laura snatches me when I open the door, and she immediately slams it shut instead. The thud is loud and nearly violent.
“What the fuck?” she hisses. “Do you even know him? Do you want to get us killed?”
“Yeah, I’ve met him a couple of times,” I tell her and shrug, feeling like the worst liar in the world. A heavy weight presses against my chest as I escape the harsh wind, opening the door again and scooting over to the other side so Laura will get in too.
She takes a little too long to decide so I tell her, “Hurry up, it’s cold out there and you’re letting all that cold in here!” My admonishment works.
“Let me get my bag.”
As she turns to walk away, Seth asks me all the while watching her, “Whose home?”
Whatever’s settled into my stomach feels thicker. “Can you drop her off first?”
“You think she’d be okay with that?” He finally turns in his seat to look at me. “Because I don’t.”
I watch her texting on her phone a few spaces over with her driver’s door open although she still stands on the street.
“I want to tell her,” I admit to him. “You can stop me if I say something I shouldn’t.”
“You shouldn’t say anything, Bethany.”
“Well, I’m going to say something. I have to tell her.” We both hear her car door shut and he says lowly, “You really shouldn’t.” The way his shoulders tense and he grips the wheel makes my chest feel hollow and I almost reconsider, but I have to tell her something.
She’s my best friend and she deserves to know. I can’t not tell her. I can’t let her cry for me like she’s doing.
Her car beeps from the alarm and then she’s seated beside me, thanking Seth and referring to him as the “handsome savior” of our night although I can still hear the hesitation and worry in her tone.
She gives Seth a tight smile and then he asks again, “Where are you guys headed?”
“Can you take me to Jase’s?” I dare to ask Seth, knowing Laura’s going to ask me about Jase, paving the way for it to happen.
Seth’s returning smile is tight, but he nods.
Ignoring Laura’s question and her stare of confusion, I ask Seth, “Can you take Laura home first?”
“No fucking way are you staying in this car, drunk and with a guy you don’t know.” She glances at Seth who puts the car in reverse to leave as she adds, “No offense.”
“He works for Jase,” I answer her, finally looking her in the eyes.