Read part 1 of Sarasota Mist Dugan’s story, The Trip, on The Other Side of Deanna here.
The Hitchhiker is rated PG-13, according to my standards.
The Hitchhiker, by Deanna Schrayer
Sara had been driving for six hours with the music blaring so loud she hadn’t heard her phone ring. When she pulled into a convenience store lot she saw there were several new voice mails. Her husband would still be at work another hour, he wouldn’t have even found her letter yet. Sara knew Michael would be calling when he saw all the lights on at home, never mind the letter.
She scanned through the missed calls and understood why there were so many messages – Alex had called seven times since noon. He’d been trying to get in touch with her all week. She’d ignored every ring and immediately deleted every message he left without even thinking of listening to them. Now, as she stroked the phone and stared at a scrawny man marching into the store, Sara turned the car off and punched in her code to retrieve voice mail.
Propping her head up with her hand, she placed the phone against her ear and listened.
“Sara, it’s Alex. Where are you? Are you all right? Please call me, I’m getting worried.”
She deleted the message and listened to the next.
“Sara, I really need to talk to you. Why aren’t you calling me back?” There was a moment of silence and then an excessive sigh. “Listen, I’m sorry about what I said. I just…I’m…will you please just call me?” Was that exasperation in his voice? Sara had never heard such from him before. She pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at it as if she might see Alex’s denim blue eyes coming through the screen. For a second she almost wished she could, but quickly she forced herself to forget about her lover; she never wanted to see him again. Her thumb hovered over the keypad, twirling a circle in the air as if unsure which button to land on. Finally she clicked end. “No more drama in your life Sarasota,” she told herself.
A rapping on the window of her car startled Sara into dropping the phone. It hit the console and bounced into the passenger floorboard. A young woman gawked at Sara through the glass, holding her hand salute-style across her forehead and squinting as if she were bird-watching on a blinding bright day.
“Are you all right ma’am?” the girl asked. She bobbed her head, causing her short blonde ponytail to jump about like an overexcited child. Sara thought maybe she should be the one asking the question. She reached for her phone as she rolled the window down a couple of inches.
The girl looked as sweet as she could be, but something told Sara to be careful. “Yes, yes, I’m fine, thank you,” she told the girl and started to roll the window back up.
The girl shot her hand through the crack, “Wait, wait, hold on,” she screeched. Sara backed away from the multi-colored, bitten fingernails nearly scratching her face. The girl glanced about nervously and Sara saw that what were likely beautiful green eyes were now puffy red and widening with fear.
“Listen,” the girl said, settling her gaze on Sara, “I know this seems weird and all, but I’m not a thief or anything, I just need a ride down the road a piece. Do you mind?”
Sara’s mouth hung open in astonishment. She’d never picked up a hitchhiker before, couldn’t even recall having the opportunity. The girl looked towards the store and began trembling. “Please,” she said, her wrist dangling in the car window like bait waiting for the big catch. She bounced in place as if unable to hold still.
Sara shook her head to dislodge the warning signals firing through her brain. What could it hurt to give the girl a ride a couple of miles? Obviously she was scared to death of whoever waited in that store for her, and she was no bigger than one leaf of a willow tree. “Okay,” Sara said, “come on, get in.” She rolled the window down for the girl to retrieve her hand and unlocked the door. The girl ran around the car and jumped into the passenger seat before Sara could even reach up to start the engine.
She studied the girl a moment, doing her best not to wrinkle her nose at the putrid stench of cigarette smoke mixed with something like…was it diesel? Maybe it was fear. How old was this girl anyway – sixteen, seventeen? Oh God, was Sara helping a runaway? What had she gotten herself into now?
The girl looked through the windshield and a tiny peep escaped her. She slid so far down in the seat she was almost on the floor. “Please,” she said, covering her head with both arms, “please hurry.”
As Sara pulled away she looked in her rear view mirror and saw the man this poor girl was afraid of. He was a lot smaller than she’d expected, scrawny in fact, in stained jeans and a dirty tee shirt. His dark hair looked to be stuck to his skull with grease. He scanned the parking lot and stopped mid-stride, looking around suspiciously.
“Hurry!” the girl screamed, beating the back of her seat with open palms. She was sitting up now, watching out the back window.
The man’s eyes lit upon Sara’s Camry and landed on her own in the mirror. When he saw the girl those sweet little boy blues changed to a blazing purple ringed by fiery orange. He rushed to an old scarred pick-up and jumped in fast. Sara reflexively gunned her engine making the tires screech as she pulled onto the road. She looked over to see the girl hugging the back of her seat, her eyes opening wide with fright. Sara had time to realize shattering glass was the loudest sound she’d ever heard before dark engulfed her.
NOTE: Comments are held for moderation until the first one is approved; after that you will be able to comment without awaiting moderation. I will get to each one as soon as possible and I appreciate your patience.
If you have a link to my site on your blog, thank you! Please remember to update the title and the link so that it points to This Side….Over Yonder .