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Cigarettes, Coffee, and Gasoline
It reeked of cigarettes, coffee, and gasoline.
The cigarettes were probably littered around the very ground where she stood, flung from the dirt-encrusted fingers of emotionally tortured teenagers. But she could understand that; at the moment the only anchor that kept her from screaming her rage to the world—or the few nearby truck drivers—was her addiction to peppermint gum. Her orthodontically straightened teeth bit on it hard as she analyzed the rest of her surroundings.
The coffee seemed to be being brewed by the gallon by the quickly fading cashier/convenience store employee to keep himself awake on now free refills as much as it was to sell to the couple of drowsy customers who trickled in. As the teen took another gulp from an uncapped Styrofoam cup that would probably still have the Sheetz logo on it long after its disposal in the rarely emptied dumpster, he caught sight of her observing him through one of the small store’s large windows. She turned abruptly away, embarrassed. It wouldn’t matter, though; the chances that she’d return to that gas station at that hour let alone any gas station at any hour during her brief stay must have been ten billion to one. Besides, she wasn’t a customer. The only jolt of adrenaline she needed was produced by her $5 headphones and crummy mP3 player on a near deafening volume, not a barely functioning coffee maker and an even worse off employee on a caffeine high. No, the headphones had been working just fine.
While they had done wonders for her senses of alertness and sound, they did nothing for her sense of smell. She ripped off the headphones in disgust for the overwhelming odor of gasoline. Her flip-flops flipped and flopped vehemently between her pale feet and the crumbling pavement as she stomped around the car to the second of the gas station’s two pumps. “George,” she angrily spit at the back of the six-foot-five man in front of her.
He turned around, the surprise on his face illuminated by the lone black streetlamp above them. “Owen, I told you not to call me George and to stay in the car.” He didn’t sound angry, just matter-of-fact like a parent should sound and still a little surprised. But he wasn’t her parent—for all intensive purposes, he had forfeited the position of dad when he had walked out on her mom ten years ago—and he shouldn’t have been surprised. Owen rarely did what anyone wanted, let alone George. Besides, a seventeen-year-old girl sitting shotgun wouldn’t keep a thief from hotwiring and stealing his convertible, not that they’d want it now that it reeked of gas. Not even Owen wanted to get back in it, and it was her only ticket out of the middle of nowhere.
“You’re not supposed to top off the gas tank.” Owen pointed a finger flecked in peeling orange nail polish at the black and white lettering on the pump that nearly read word-for-word, except for the addition of the word please and the exclusion of Owen’s hostility. But that was only because no one as of yet had invented hostile font and because coffee-boy and friends still wanted to get paid.
George didn’t respond to her comment, as usual. “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” he asked instead.
“Not here.” Disgust and peppermint coated her tongue.
“You might want to rethink that,” George said unemotionally as he turned back to his navy blue baby.
“You said we were only fifteen minutes away,” Owen perplexedly informed his sailor nautica t-shirt and dark brown hair.
Owen huffed at his stupid riddles and the air of mystery that had attracted and repelled his second and third wives. Right now it was repelling her to the peeling white-paint and eerie artificial lighting of the claustrophobic looking store. Owen took a deep breath of the musty air, the odor of cigarettes, coffee, and gasoline burning her nostrils as she built up the courage to walk inside and face the coffee-boy.