Oceanside - Starfish Cove Wellness Center: 6 AM
I thought someone would try to stop us. The people who run around in the freaking dark before the sun comes up, a couple of them looked at us, watching the Toad throw suitcases in the truck bed, but nobody said anything. Jimmy strapped the Martin down like it was a baby, like he thought it might try to crawl out on its tuners and hurt itself. If my dad hauled it all over the place for years I doubt it's going to break just sitting in the back of a truck. Excited, this feels like an adventure, like I need more of those, but I'm glad to be leaving this place. I didn't even ask where we were going, and Toad was quiet and worked fast. It was chilly, goosebumps on my legs, dew on the grass so wet and shining and full of those spiders who only spread their grass webs in the dew and the dark. Why am I still writing in the journal? Maybe because it helps make sense of what really makes no sense. It's me making my web in the grass.
Bridgewater - 10 AM
Must have fallen asleep because then it was full daylight and hot and Jimmy was pulling into a gas station and telling me to run inside and get some drinks and something to eat. "We need gas, and me I could use something to eat. You got some money?”
The truck engine was ticking in the heat, waves of heat wiggling over the hood, and my legs were stuck to the plastic seat. Sweaty. I don't know why I hadn't thought about money, but of course I'd need money. I felt stupid and embarrassed, and groggy and strange. I didn't know where we were. I told him no, thinking about the credit cards, pretty sure they weren't working anymore; my dad would have cut them off. “Then you better get some while we’re here," Jimmy was going on. "They got a machine right there. I’ll get the gas; you pick up sodas and something to eat.”
So I get out of the truck, still sticking to the seat, watching Jimmy. He seemed really on edge and uncomfortable, serious, not joking or teasing me. Leaving with him might have been a mistake. He's got what, an old beat up truck and for all I know he lives in a trailer. And probably expects me to pay for him. Feeling down, I thought I might as well try the cards, maybe one of them still worked, when of all people in the world, well almost all people in the world - I can think of a couple who would be worse - Cruz walks out of the place and sees me. And he was with a girl. He was looking at me, and then looking past me at Jimmy, and Jimmy was standing next to the gas pump and looking back at him. “What are you doing here?” Cruz asks. “I thought you were, uh, in a place.”
I knew I was gross. I was sweating, greasy sweat on my face, makeup running, and I was hoping I didn't smell. Cruz wasn't sweating. He was just as buff and glossy and tan as he'd been the first time I ever saw him. The girl wasn't sweating either and she was pretty. I'd never seen her before, but she was sort of obviously with him since she was standing right behind him. It was annoying. She could see I was talking to him. I told him, “I’m taking a break.” He leaned back against his bike and took his time and finally said, "Is that guy giving you a ride to your break?” The Toad had quit pumping gas and was standing with his arms crossed now, staring at both of us. “It’s either him or I walk, and I might have to walk. I don’t have any cash.”
He flashed that long, white, deliberate smile at Jimmy, pulled out his wallet, peeled off a couple of hundred dollar bills and put them in my hand. He closed his hand around mine as he did it. “That would be a damned shame if you had to walk. Here you go.” That was strange and humiliating, but I took the cash, and then decided I'd better say something. He was still looking at Jimmy. The girl walked off. Cruz didn’t pay any attention to her, or to me either, doing the stare down with the Toad I guess, which was ridiculous. "Cruz,” and I was trying to be quiet, “don't tell anyone about seeing me here. Please don't do that. I just need a little time to think about things."
He sliced another long cool look at Jimmy and shrugged. "I won't, if that's what you want."
Jimmy flicked a cigarette in the direction of the gas pump despite about a hundred DO NOT SMOKE signs. He didn't say a thing, just looked at Cruz, and Cruz looked back and smiled again. "Be careful," Cruz said. "You know how to reach me if you need me."
Then he did that thing he does when he's getting on his bike, using it, mounting it, letting it idle between his legs while the engine rumbles and he controls the gas. Every move is sex. He did some business with the brake, slid one last glance at Jimmy before easing slowly out of the parking lot, disappearing down the road fast toward the city to the east. At least, I think that's where the road goes. The girl didn't go with him. Maybe he was fixing her car. Or something. Probably or and something and fixing both or and something at the same time.
"You done with him?" Jimmy jammed the key in the ignition and started the engine. It stalled. He stomped on the clutch and forced it hard enough to flood it, poor old truck, but it did start.
Judging from the way I felt, the way Cruz smiled, the girl with him, I wasn't sure. Did I want Cruz? Maybe. Why? Because he was with another girl? Because he reminds me of his father? Wasn’t that what I did to Ryan? And how do you get 'done'? When had I ever been done? Nothing was ever done. It just went on and on, tangling and knotting and strangling and tripping me up. So I told him, "Shut up, Toad. Shut up and drive."
Think I’m going to start hiding this journal.
NEXT CHAPTER: Rising Above Chapter 12