I got lucky again.
Not only did Darcy call out to me first, she offered me a ride before anything else came out of her mouth.
I could tell her friend wasn’t too happy about it, but I wasn’t going to be picky. There was a dynamic to their friendship I could tell always put Darcy in the lead. I was so tired by the time I crawled into the back seat, it was nice to hear someone else’s voice besides the one in my head.
The little Honda smelled like cigarette smoke and escape. I didn’t see anything that really showed me they were prepared for any kind of real trip. It was a sight I was completely familiar with.
Darcy filled me in on Karen’s recent misfortunes, which no doubt lead to the impromptu trip down the highway to nowhere in particular, filled with stories of times past and all kinds of open container violations. I nursed one vodka drink after another, watching the sun go down behind the horizon.
I thought of seeing that sun set over an ocean, and then set over land, and then rise over an ocean, and rise over land. I’ve seen that damn sun fly and fall all over the country lately, and yet, none of it ever felt right or wrong.
I missed Betty. I thought of James. I wondered what I’d done to run him off. Was I really that unbearable? Or was I that stupid? Was it his plan all along, or was it not?
I had finally formally introduced myself to Karen at the gas station at the last fill up. I felt like an asshole when I realized I just sort of crawled into the back of their car, and then was a mute for hours. It was nice to be driven for once, and not to have to worry about being raped. There was something about being in the company of girls my own age, who were experiencing their own crisis that put me at ease.
I figured Karen and I would talk more when she didn’t have a glazed over look in her eyes that said she was either about to cry, or turn homicidal. There was something on her mind so big right now, the car seemed to lean to the passenger’s side with the weight of the world on her shoulders.
Darcy was a good one to have in charge anyway. She kept the conversation lively. She was always good for a story. And it was also like the girl never got tired. It wouldn’ t have surprised me at all if she were on some sort of stimulant, be it crack, cocaine, or meth. I didn’t really care. I had no fear that she might fall asleep at the wheel.
Just as I slouched in the back seat and was about to fall asleep, Darcy screamed and smacked the dashboard.
“FUCK!” She said, rifling through the messy change tray, checking the glove compartment and the console.
“Well ladies,” she said, loudly, as if she didn’t notice both of us were nodding off with the sunset, despite the blasting butt rock. “We are out of cigarettes, and I think this is actually a crisis. I mean, I don’t require much, but I need a goddamn smoke.”
I saw her roll her eyes in the rear view mirror and make to check out the same places all over again.
“Hey. You,” she said, meeting my eyes in the rear view mirror.
“Uh, yeah?” I said, hoping she wouldn’t demand I buy her cigarettes for the trouble. I didn’t have any money at this point, as James officially had my credit cards, and anything I had left.
“That cigarette behind your ear, is it dire to you?”
“What?” I asked, sitting up straighter and running my hands through my loosely tied up hair.
“That smoke, tucked behind your left ear… up for grabs? I’m desperate.”
I reached up and felt in my mop of hair. Sure enough, there was a cigarette tucked in there, real good. Held in with a bobby pin, even. It took me a moment to loosen it up and hand it over. I hoped it was still ok to smoke, and not over-nastified by my hair and lack of hygiene lately.
Darcy pulled over and turned around. She snatched the cigarette out of my hand and dug through the mess she’d made up front to find a lighter.
“Lighter? LIGHTER?” she said ,rifling through the mess.
Karen took a deep breath and looked down. She bent over and produced one from the floor of her side and handed it over to her.
“I think we should get some air, girls,” she said, opening the door and stepping out onto the shoulder, cars flying past and blasting cool evening air into the warm, comfortable nest I’d made out of the back seat.
Karen stretched for a minute, then opened the door and followed suit, crossing her arms in front of her to keep herself warm and leaning on the front of the car. “So Darcy, are you really in need of a cigarette break, or are you just hoping to pick up another stray?”
“Fuck you, Karen,” she said smiling. “Whatever goes, right? We have another seat still. We don’t have a plan or a destination. So until we have either, I think it’s fair I call the shots.”
Karen shrugged and looked away, only mildly irritated. It seemed to be an irritation that was years old. Nothing new.
I stepped out and leaned against the driver’s door next to Darcy. She lit up the cigarette and took a long, savored drag. She closed her eyes and exaggerated her enjoyment of it.
When she opened her eyes, she exhaled and looked at the cigarette like it was a delicacy. She examined it for a moment and her eyes narrowed. She flicked the cherry and leaned down in front of the headlight with it.
“Hey Soph,” she said, still paying attention to the cigarette.
“Uh, yeah?” I asked.
“What?” I asked, wondering how she could possibly know who he was.
Darcy motioned me over to where she was holding the cigarette in the light and motioned me down.
“Looks like someone left you a message.”
I looked at the cigarette and read the tiny black letters aloud.
” Sophie. Meet me in Vegas. Look for Betty. -James.”
I grabbed the cigarette and twisted it in my fingers, bewildered and shocked. I thought about it for second and Darcy began to jump up and down like an excited child.
“Fuck,” I said.
Karen was now at full attention, her eyes wide and her face expressionless.
Darcy squealed and clapped, and snatched the cigarette back and lit it again.
“Looks like we’re going to Vegas, Ladies!”
I turned around slowly, beginning to digest what had just happened.
Darcy jumped into the driver’s seat and started the car again, excitedly flipping through her iPod to find just the right tune for this occasion.
“Yeah. And it looks like Sophie’s gonna tell us the story on the way,” Karen said, sauntering back to the passenger’s side. She made direct eye contact when she said it, and just before she ducked to get in the car, I swear I saw the first hint of a smile on her face since I’d met her.