I try to look away because the intensity in his eyes is overpowering, but his head follows mine and he shakes me once to force me to look at him.
“Yeah…I’m fine,” I finally say, “thanks to you.”
Andrew pulls me into his rock hard chest and wraps his arms around my back, practically squeezing the life out of me.
“We should call the cops,” he says, pulling away.
I nod and he takes me by the hand and pulls me with him out of the restroom and down the gloomy gray hallway.
By the time the cops get here, the man has disappeared.
Andrew and I agree that he probably slipped out right after we left. He must’ve gone out the back while Andrew was on the phone. Andrew and I give the cops a description of the man and our statements. The cops commend Andrew—sort of vacantly—for stepping in, but he really just seems to want to stop talking to them altogether.
My new bus to Texas left ten minutes ago and so once again I’m stuck in Wyoming.
“I thought you were going to Idaho?” Andrew says.
I had let it slip that my ‘bus to Texas’ just left without me.
I bite gently on the inside of my bottom lip and cross one leg over the other. We’re sitting near the front doors inside the bus station, watching passengers come and go from the tall windows.
“Well, now I’m going to Texas,” is all I say, even though I know I’m ‘caught’ and have a feeling I’ll be spilling some of the truth very soon. “I thought you left in the cab?” I say, trying to divert the subject.
“I did,” he says, “but don’t turn this around on me, Camryn. Why aren’t you going to Idaho anymore?”
I sigh. I know he won’t stop asking until he gets it out of me so I throw in the towel.
“I don’t really have a sister in Idaho,” I admit. “I’m just traveling. Nothing more to it, really.”
I hear him let out an irritated sigh next to me.
“There’s always something more to it—are you a runaway?”
I look over at him finally. “No, I’m not a runaway, at least not in the underage illegal sense.”
“Well then in what sense?”
“I just had to get away from home for a while.”
“So, you ran away from home?”
I let out a sharp breath and look right into his intense green eyes staring right through me. “I didn’t run away, I just had to get away.”
“So you jumped on a bus alone?”
“Yes.” I’m getting irritated at the drilling.
“You’re gonna have to give me more than that,” he says, relentless.
“Look, I’m more appreciative than you know for what you did. I really am. But I don’t think you saving me gives you the right to know my business.”
A small wave of insult subtly stuns his features.
I feel bad instantly, but it’s the truth: I’m not obligated to tell him anything.
He gives up and looks out ahead, propping an ankle on the other knee.
“I saw that piece of shit eyeing you since I got on the bus in Kansas,” he reveals and has all of my attention. “You didn’t see it, but I did so I started watching him.” He still hasn’t looked over at me again, but I’m staring right at him from the side as he explains. “I saw him get into a cab and leave here before I did and only then did I feel it was OK to leave you here by yourself. But on the way to the hospital, I just had this bad feeling. I told the cab driver to drop me off at a restaurant instead, and I ate. Still couldn’t get it out of my head though.”
“Wait,” I say, interrupting him, “you didn’t go to the hospital?”
He looks at me.
“No, I knew if I went that…,” he turns his eyes away again, “…I wouldn’t be enough in my right mind to pay attention to the bad feeling I was having if I was staring down at my dying father.”
I understand and I don’t say anything else.
“So, I went to my dad’s house and got his car, drove around for a while and when I couldn’t take it anymore, I came back here. I parked across the street and waited for a while and sure enough, a cab pulled in and dropped the guy back off.”
“Why didn’t you come inside instead of waiting in the car?”
He looks down in thought.
“I just didn’t want to freak you out.”
“How would that freak me out?” I realize I’m smiling a little.
Andrew looks right at me and I see that playful, smartass look start to crawl back into his features again.
He holds his hands open, palms up. “Ummm, strange guy you met on the bus coming back hours later to sit next to you?” His eyebrows crinkle in his forehead. “That’s almost as creepy as suck-my-dick-for-$500-guy, don’t you think?”
I laugh. “No, I don’t think it’s anything like that.”
He tries to bury his smile, but relents.
“What are you going to do, Camryn?” His face is serious again and my smile fades.
I shake my head. “I don’t know; I guess I’m going to wait here until the next bus to Texas comes and then I’m on my way to Texas.”
I slap my hands down against my thighs. “Because I’m not going home yet!”
He’s unfazed by my shouting at him.
“Why don’t you want to go home yet?” he asks calm and intently. “Might as well spill your f**king guts because I’m not leaving you alone in this bus station, especially not after what happened.”
I cross my arms tight over my chest and stare out in front of me. “Well then I guess you’ll be sitting here for a long time until I get on the bus.”
“No. That includes not letting you get on another bus alone to go anywhere. Texas. Idaf**kingho. Wherever. It’s dangerous and I can tell you’re an intelligent girl—so here’s what we’re going to do…,”
I blink a few times, stunned by his sudden authoritarian arrogance.
He goes on:
“I’ll wait here with you until morning. That’ll give you enough time to decide whether you’re going to let me pay for your plane ticket back home, or if you want to call someone to fly here to get you. It’s your choice.”
I look at him like he’s crazy.
His eyes say back at me: Yeah, I’m dead serious.
“I’m not going back to North Carolina.”
Andrew shoots up from the chair and stands in front of me. “OK, then I’m going with you.”
I blink, looking up at his intense eyes; his perfectly sculpted cheekbones seem more pronounced from this angle making his gaze even fiercer. A shiver moves through my stomach.
“That’s insane,” I laugh it off, but I know he’s serious and then I say with more severity, “What about your dad?”
His teeth grind together and the intensity in his eyes becomes more forlorn.
He starts to look away but a thought pulls him back. “Then come with me.”
What? No way….
He looks hopeful rather than determined now. He sits back down next to me on the plastic blue seat.
“We’ll stay right here until morning,” he goes on, “because surely you wouldn’t leave with some strange guy from a bus station after dark? Right?”
He turns his chin away from me, looking at me in a questioning sidelong glance.
“No, I wouldn’t,” I say, even though I really do feel like I can trust him—he saved me from being raped, for God’s sake! And nothing about him is giving me the same fears I had when Damon practically did the same thing. No, Damon had something darker in his eyes when he looked at me that night on the roof. All I see in Andrew’s eyes is concern.
But I still won’t leave with him like this.
“Good answer,” he says, apparently glad I’m as ‘intelligent’ as he hoped I was.
“We’ll wait until daylight and just to give you more peace of mind I’ll have a cab drive up straight to the hospital instead of expecting you to get in my car.”
I nod, glad he thought of that. I won’t say that I hadn’t exactly sorted that part out yet. I mean, I already trust him enough, but it’s like he wants to be sure that I don’t, like he’s teaching me a lesson in a quiet, roundabout way.
I’m ashamed to admit that he has to ‘teach me’ any of this at all.
“And then from the hospital, we’ll catch a cab back here and wherever you want to go, I’ll go with you.”
He holds out his hand to shake on it. “Deal?”
I think about it a moment, confused, yet at the same time utterly fascinated by him. I nod reluctantly at first and then again with more assurance.
“It’s a deal,” I say and place my hand into his.
Honestly, I’m not sure I agree with it entirely. Why would he even do that? Doesn’t he have a life elsewhere? Surely he’s not as miserable with home as I am.
This is crazy! Who is this guy?
We sit together for several hours right here in the station and talk about nothing important, yet I love every second of our conversations. About how I gave in and drank a soda and it was the soda’s fault I ended up in the restroom with the man—he laughs it off and tells me I just have a weak bladder. We quietly gossip about the passengers that come and go; the weird-looking ones and those who look dead, as if they’ve been riding a bus for the past week and haven’t been able to sleep. And we talk about classic rock some more, but the argument remains as much a stalemate as it was when we first discussed it on the bus.
He practically died when I said that I’d listen to Pink over The Rolling Stones, any day. I mean, I literally think I wounded him. He put his big hand over his heart and threw back his head in devastation and everything. It was very dramatic. And funny. I tried not to laugh, but it was hard not to when his hardened, over exaggerated face was practically smiling, too.
And just as we went to leave after the sun rose, I stopped to look at him for a moment. A slight breeze brushed through his stylish brown hair. He cocked his head to the side, smiling at me and waving me into the cab. “You’re still coming, right?”
I smiled warmly back at him and nodded. “Of course.” And I took his hand and slid into the backseat with him.
What I had been thinking about when I looked at him was that I realized I haven’t smiled or laughed this much since before Ian died. Not even Natalie could get a genuine elated emotion out of me and she tried really hard. She went out of her way to help snap me out of my depression, but nothing she ever did came close to what Andrew has managed to do in such a short time and without even trying.
MY THROAT CLOSES UP when we step foot inside the hospital, like a wall of blackness came out of nowhere and engulfed me. I stop for a second at the entrance and just stand here with my arms heavy at my sides. And then I feel Camryn’s hand touch my wrist.
I look over at her. She’s smiling so warmly that it melts me a little. Her blonde hair is pulled into a messy braid around to one side, lying freely over her right shoulder. A few strands that escaped the rubber band rest freely down the side of her face. I have this urge to reach up and brush them softly with my finger, but I don’t. I can’t be doing shit like that. I need to get rid of this attraction. But she’s different from other girls and I think that’s exactly why I’m having such a hard time with it. I don’t need this right now.