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He had no intention of stopping anytime soon, despite what Emily said. Matthew turned to her as she spoke, nodded at her words as a part of him agreed, agreed with her logic. But when she stopped, a childish shrug in her shoulders and curl in her lip, he didn’t say anything. Matthew turned back to the road and watched it unroll before them, old music made some noise on the radio and that seemed to be the end of it.
About six songs and two commercials later, Emily spoke again. She shifted in her seat the moment before the words left her. “We have to stop soon, Matt. You can’t keep driving and I don’t feel like it.”
His left hand fell away from the corner of the wheel and tapped a button on his door, his window sunk down and he tossed saliva from his mouth before he looked back at her. A dull gaze on his face, one that seemed to say he wasn’t really noticing her worn, tight jeans or even tighter white tank-top that shrank in the right places. But he noticed all of that, took it all in the way a man convicted to death would take in a stroll beyond the barbed-wire. He smiled at her, right there in the seat next to his. The only canvas being the rolling hills of the country and the stretch of sky. Her hair, dark and long, twisted in the wind if she decided to lower the window, letting out a loud wave-like moan. He saw all that when he looked at her, and took every part of it with him when he turned back to look at the road. But for whatever reason, one he didn’t even think about actually thinking about, he simply stared at her when she talked. She was beautiful, young and right where he wanted her to be – but for some reason Matthew couldn’t compute – he couldn’t give two s***s about talking to her.
“Just so you know, this isn’t a very appealing mood for a guy.” She tucked her legs up against her chest and looked out the window. That could have been the end of it, it had been now seven songs and two and a half commercials ago. But now she looked back at him, knees falling away and bare feet thudding on the car floor. “I have to pee.”
Matthew almost told her that wasn’t a very appealing thing for a girl to say, but he only let his lips rise into a grin. Then he nodded at her. He’d seen the same green sign wipe past them a ways back, one with the word ‘exit’ and ‘gas’ like all the others. Neither of them spoke as he changed lanes on the nearly bare stretch of highway and glided down another path of pavement, foot on the break. He flipped on the blinker and then the tires made a cracking noise as they rolled over chewed, scatters of rock. The thunderbird, it had been his grandfather’s, stopped in a parking place before the florescent lit gas station. That was when Matthew finally spoke.
“I think we can do 40 more miles tonight.”
“I don’t want to do 10 more miles tonight, Matthew. F***, I’m bored as hell in this car. I thought we were gonna make some stops at least.” She turned in her seat, looking right at him. Both her hands pushed the hair on either side of her face behind her ears. She’d been ready for this conversation since last night.
“I told you what we were doing.” He turned and looked out his window, back at the highway as a faint motor hummed in passing.
“I didn’t think you’d take it so f***ing serious,” she held her hands out before her like she had nothing else to offer, no more miles to sit through. “I’m bored, Matt.” Her voice cracked and her eyes fell away, no part of him, despite the part that knew she looked less beautiful when she cried, seemed to muster up enough emotion to care.
“Then we can stop for the night. Go some place, hang out.”
“That’s gotten a little boring too.” He wanted to laugh, looking at her as she spat out the words in a pale comparison of a woman who wanted very much, to look scorned. Matthew knew no part of her statement was true and only put both his hand back on the still wheel and closed his eyes. There he saw the road. The sun bright against it.
“I’m sorry,” was all that left him after a few moments. Emily threw open her door and then slammed it. He opened his eyes and saw her walk past the front of the car and then into the gas station as a bell chimed above the door. He closed his eyes and the road came back to him. They’d been on the road for six days now, driving fast and never looking back. That had been the initial plan, never looking back, not at where they’d came from and where they went. That had been the idea in the beginning, as well as his – the idea of never seeing the moon again. He and Emily had known it was a statement painted in nothing resembeling logic, but like he had said when he told her about it in April of that year – in the seat he was in right now, with a grin full of s*** – it was a pretty f***ing poetic idea to have. So they graduated, spent a few days mapping out a route they’d both agreed to throw away the night before, and then got into the car. Always towards the sun, every few days they slipped through another time-zone and on one day, a day when the sun had been bright and the road had been clear, they’d gotten an extra two hours of sun. Matthew knew then as he knew now, that that had been the peak of the drive. They would never again get an extra two hours of sun, they would never again both smile bigger than God when the free-will worked in his favor. And he knew they would never again finally retire, once dusk had faded, to a motel where only one light worked and only two channels. There they f***ed for nearly two hours, going once on the bed, even a few thrusts on the floor till they got over that fantasy and found themselves against the bathroom mirror. It had been lurid and the kind of things all great stories are built on, Matthew figured.
He came to that conclusion when the chime of the bell above the gas station door sounded and Emily made her way back. Her shadow stretched long behind her and she squinted at the dark blue car, making her way past the front of it with her head down.
“Do you wanna eat here or somewhere else?” She shut the door softer than she’d left it and looked at him with her straight, thin hair slightly clouting one part of her face. Matthew looked at her and shrugged.
“Any where’s fine, babe. Whatever you want.”
“How much do we have left,” she asked as he messed with the gears and the car started rolling in rotation. “Money, I mean.”
“Enough for fast. But not enough for tomorrow morning, we’ll have to get some more.” He looked at her and saw her face dip like it had when she walked in front of the car. A small part of him felt sorry for her, the part of him that knew, logically, it was completely ignorant to try and chase the sun. But the other part of him, the part that repeated the idea that in order to chase something, you had to run – didn’t really care.
“Nobody old, this time. Alright?”
“Alright. Got a minority preference?” He smiled at her and she smiled back. She shook her head and pulled a strand of hair into her hand. Her breasts still faintly bounced with a now silent chuckle.
“I’ll take that as a ‘no’ on blacks and ‘okay’ on jews.” They both laughed and she swung a hand out at him, giving his shoulder a faint tap that made his smile fester for a little longer.
“You’re terrible,” she said through a gasp of air from a final giggle. He nodded his head to agree and then stretched an arm into the seat behind him. Blindly his fingers crawled over a duffle bag, pillow and the edges of a few paperbacks. It took him awhile before he clasped them around what he was looking for.
He bent his elbow and brought it up to their section of the car, tossing it into Emily’s lap.
“Load it for me.” He didn’t look away from the road as he spoke those words, no part of him – not the part built on logic nor the part built on a chase – wanted to. He saw all signs of laughter seem to leave Emily’s face through the corner of his eye. And after a moment she got to work, reaching into the glove compartment and shifting her legs down before her. The .22 handgun, obviously, wasn’t going to load itself.