I rested my head against the window, quietly staring at the moving landscape and hearing the soft roar of the engine, the classical music coming from the radio and his loud angry stare at the road, only audible to me as I appeared to be the cause of his irritation. He kept his chin up, fearing to give off the illusion of weakness if only he tilted down the tiniest bit. I mocked him on the outside, deeply saddened on the inside.

It took me 50 miles of driving in silence to finally speak up. Last time I did worked so well, except it didn't; that the sound of my voice seemed to make the hair stand up on the back of his neck.

"Would you like me to drive for a while so you can rest in the backseats?"

His expression softened even though he gave me a negative. I knew it'd take only a few caring words for him to let go of the annoyance.

"I didn't mean to react so harshly back at the gas station. The hunger is starting to work its way up my head."

"I understand, wouldn't wish that to anybody. We will solve that next town."

He finally looked at me, for a split second before returning his gaze to the road, but his dark pupils and frown lingered on my skin for a few more seconds, a fiery touch tightening my gut. I tried to cool my mind thinking about finances. A few towns back, we had to make the trip's hardest choice: food or gas. It seemed obvious to me that food could be found or stolen anywhere, even charmed out of a nice couple sitting next to us at the dinner; while gas was to be exclusively paid with money. Ethan seemed to disagree and decided to stop acknowledging my existence next to him inside the small vehicle, but went along with the call. Getting to the final destination had to be our priority.

"What's the name of the place we're heading next?" He asked, slightly glancing at the compartment as if opening it and checking the map himself with the sole power of his mind.

"We're 30 miles from Atlanta if we stay on the I-20 E and about 50 from Marietta if we switch in Atlanta to the I-75 N."

"Feel like spending the night? It's getting late, I'm not tired but..."

"I know, we should."

"Plus, didn't that friend of yours move to Atlanta a few months ago? We could crash at her place."

"I don't know, we haven't talked in a while. We could also drive to Marietta and stay somewhere..." He raised his eyebrows without sparing me a glance. "I guess it wouldn't hurt to call." The corner of his mouth perked in what seemed a held back smile as I conceded. 

I curled on my seat, scrolling down my contact list searching for her name, uneasiness building up inside my chest and half-moons appearing on my palm. I couldn't deal with another night sleeping inside the car almost freezing to death. The thing I wished for the most right now, was for Rebecca to answer.

"Maya? So good to hear from you!" And she did.

She shared a small apartment with other two twenty-something-year-olds that were still in college and couldn't take us in for more than one night. 

"I'll spend the night at my girlfriend's place and you two can share my bed. But I expect you tonight at the club with us to celebrate this get-together, it's been so long since the last time someone from town visited!"

"I, well, we really appreciate this, Becca. Thank you so much."

"What brought you here, exactly?" She rested her chin on her hand and paid close attention to Ethan's mesmerizing lips moving as he spoke.

"We eloped." Ethan joked, chuckling. But Rebecca's face reddened as she smiled. 

"This road trip was kind of a long time planned thing, it was simply a matter of time until we finally saved up enough to be able to do it."

"Now we starve to death and are miles away from home, but it's all good!" Ethan added, happy to engage in conversation with someone that wasn't I, after weeks of only having each other as company. 

With few hours left before Rebecca's girlfriend picked us up, Ethan and I got to rest for a while and relax in a much more comfortable space than a car. Even with my back facing him, I could tell by memory how his chest moved with every breath he let out, his heart beating at a calmed pace and his bangs slightly falling to each side of his face. I couldn't sleep now, as I knew I wouldn't sleep tonight either. His presence there, lying next to me driving me crazy.

I don't want to describe him, seeing as I'm in a slightly biased position. The only needed mention of Ethan's look that night was that it screamed hold my hand and love me forever. And I wouldn't risk. 

The lights flickered above our heads as we constantly drank, danced and spoke, music too loud to understand each other except for the fact that he kept getting too close. Closer than he ever dared. And so did I. I crept my hand up to his shoulder at once, holding him as I whispered to his ear. Feeling the heat growing inside, empowering every bad decision that crossed my mind. I wanted to drag him out to the other room, quieter and emptier, and smack my mouth against his. Let go of all the wordy sentences and excuses that I came up with and simply follow where my heart led.

“If I don’t do this, I fear I won’t be able to stand another second trapped next to you inside that car.” He stared at me in disbelief, before leaning and answering:

"Are you brave enough?" His lips brushed my cheek while moving back, provoking me as he had never done. 

My fingers hesitated at the nape of his neck, caressing and sneaking lightly into his hair, pulling him closer until we were less than a breath apart. "I think I am not," I muttered with a shaky tone, "could you forgive me?"

"Oh, no. I won't forgive you." And he pressed his lips against mine in a wet, sloppy kiss. Burning softness with a taste of rum and coke that made my knees weaken. His hand on my back, pushing our bodies together, so close that we could actually merge into one. I ran my fingers through his hair until we exhausted our lungs and had to step back for air, and let my head rest against his shoulder.

"Let's go back, I don't want to stay another second at this party." I held his face with both hands, his arms wrapped around my waist. "I will sleep with you under one condition, let's leave early in the morning and not say goodbye to Becca. I'm dying to go back on the road."

"Not knowing which type of sleep you're referring to is risky, but let me just agree."

I didn't take his hand when he offered it to me leaving the club, didn't hug him while falling asleep sharing the same bed and didn't kiss him again for what was left of the night. Because I knew what would mean if it all turned into just a fling. 

I woke up in the morning and felt a slight tightness in my chest as soon as I saw Ethan's soft sleepy face.

"Hey," I carefully shook his shoulder "wake up. We need to leave."

"What time is it? Can I just die?"

"If you die who will drive when I'm tired?"

"Sell my corpse and get a chauffeur."

"Won't do that. Get up already." I walked towards the drawers Rebecca lent us for the day and took out my duffle bag, in search for clean clothes and started changing. It took a few more tries to get Ethan up and a long half hour until we were back at the car. I found the grocery bag on the backseats, about two hours on the road and I felt bad for not saying goodbye to Rebecca. The way she looked at Ethan pissed me off to the point of being an ungrateful brat. I had to apologize sooner than later.

Ethan turned on the radio and we silently let us be immersed in the melody brought to life by a piano, coming from every speaker inside the car. I rested my head against the window, quietly staring at the moving landscape and hearing the soft roar of the engine, thinking about Ethan’s lips, his warmth and the undying promise of another two weeks on the road, sitting beside him as life consumed our growing future together.

September 13, 2019 19:26

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.