For the past two hours, we drove in silence. Every few minutes I would sneak a glimpse at Ellie and she stole of few glimpses at me. It almost felt like we were sizing each other up, seeing if we could take each other on in case everything went south. The radio played softly in the background, which only made the pregnant silence even more awkward.
“So…you've run like five red lights since you coerced me into running off with you. Did you give any thought about the possibility of cameras?” Shit. I didn't take that in consideration. Yeah, we’re gonna get arrested at some point. I gripped the steering wheeler tighter and went lead foot on the accelerator.
“Mark, you need to slow down,” Ellie said calmly.
“I, I can’t. I can’t slow down.” I was on the edge of losing it.
“Mark, just pull over onto the shoulder or you might lose circulation in your hands from how tight you’re gripping the wheel. Just calm down, we’re fine, alright?” I pressed the break and glided onto the shoulder. Everything that had happened in the last few hours hit me like a ton of bricks. I stole the money in the cash register. I walked out on my job. Now, I've dragged an innocent girl into the mess all because of the light touch of her hand. I’m one crazy son of a bitch.
“Feeling better now?” she turned in her seat to look at me.
“What have I done?” I whispered.
“It looks like we have a few things to talk about, but first I have a few questions to ask you. Why are we in my van in the middle of nowhere? Why did you take all of the cash from the register? Do you have any mental issues that I need to know about?”
“Honestly, I have no idea why I did that stuff back at the station. And no, I don’t have any mental issues. I just really needed to get away,”
“To get away from life?”
“To get away from a lot of things.”
“Do you wanna talk about those things? I’m not going anywhere and we have plenty of time to kill.”
“No, I really don’t want to right now. Besides, I don’t think you would like me if I told you.”
“Mark,” she laughed, “I don’t even know what to think of you right now.” Ellie had a point. So far, my first impression wasn't all that stellar. Just a few hours ago, I made her into an accessory to robbery. On the other hand, she came somewhat willingly. Fuck, not all of my actions made any sense. I’m not the kind of guy who does things spontaneously. I've learned to calculate everything I say and do. That way of thinking was part of being a lawyer. Hell, my calculating attitude helped keep Sabrina in my bed and my well-stocked bank account.
Why didn't I want to tell Ellie what had happened? She kept looking at me, waiting for me give a clear answer. I've given her more mixed signals than a kid off his Ritalin giving directions. Sometimes I swear that I have the brain of a five year old.
“I gotta take a piss.” I’m an idiot. Ellie gave me the most confused look. So much for being a smooth talker.
“Okay, I have to go too.” I opened the door fully intent on relieving myself until I felt Ellie grab my arm.
“Are you kidding me? Let’s find the nearest gas station. Believe it or not I don’t have a dick hanging between my legs like you do.” She laughed. Her laugh sounded like small, melodious bells. Okay, maybe not so much like that, but her laugh gave me an electric rush to my brain and made my stomach flip-flop.
I splashed cold water on my face, trying to wake up. Is this what I look like now? I thought to myself as I looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. My light brown hair sat limply on my head, barely touching my shoulders. What once was a well-groomed goatee was now unkempt and bushy. I even saw a few gray hairs in my goatee/wimpy beard too. I look like I’m ten years older than I actually am. The harsh light in the bathroom only made the lines and wrinkles on my face look worse. I need a haircut and a trim. I wanted to look like a decent human being. I wanted to look like how I did almost two years ago. More importantly, I wanted to look good for Ellie.
When I finished in the bathroom, I saw Ellie sitting inside the van with the passenger door open waiting for the van to finish filling up. It worried me some that she was out in the open at a back country gas station in the middle of nowhere. Well, I brought us here so that one’s on me.
“Hey,” she looked up from digging around in her bag.
“Hey, how much is it gonna cost for a full tank?” the final price dinged.
“It looks like it’s gonna cost eighty-two bucks.”
“How much cash do we have left?”
“I counted before filling up and we had around two hundred and fifty dollars and with a now full tank we’re left with a little over one and sixty-five left over. Your gas station doesn't make much money does it?”
“That place barely makes a profit and no one goes there to get gas after dark. I've only got fifty bucks in cash on me and I’m scared to use my credit card.”
“You’re smart not use it. I have fifteen in my wallet. Anyway, wherever we’re going we’re not gonna have much money to live off of.”
“What are we gonna do?”
“Apparently, you’re the mastermind of this operation Mark. What’s your plan of action?”
“I need a haircut.”
“I need a haircut.”
“Dude, it’s two in the morning and everything is closed.”
“Just forget it.”
“What were you before a gas station clerk?”
“A lawyer.” The word tasted bitter in my mouth. Ellie got up from the passenger and gave me a good look over. Is she checking me out? Before I could entertain that thought, further her eyes met mine and I was lost again. I’m turning into the male protagonist in a Nicholas Sparks novel.
“Are you being honest with me?”
“Yes,” I sputtered.
“Alright, I believe you. Since you were honest with me, I’ll be honest with you.”
“Okay?” Ellie turned and looked at the van and then looked back at me. A wry smile appeared on her face.
“That’s not my van.”
“That’s not my van. That piece of shit on wheels is my ex-boyfriend’s van.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? Not only am I adding robbery and kidnapping, I’m adding grand theft auto to my rap sheet!” I screamed at the pump. Not only am I getting arrested, I’m gonna be someone’s bitch when I get there! Before I could completely lose myself control, I felt a slap across my left cheek.
“Get yourself in check, Mark. First off, you didn't kidnap me, but you did steal the money in the register. More importantly, you didn't steal the van,” I rubbed my aching cheek while Ellie continued to explain.
“This is my ex’s band’s van. I took it because I caught him fucking a groupie in my car and to add insult to injury he drove off with it and crashed it into a stop sign, so I took his van. Not only did I take the van, his pot stash came along with it.” Ellie had a look of pure satisfaction. She’s just as crazy as I am. At least I wasn't alone on this crazy train. I’m pretty sure that I look dumbfounded at her confession and my realization of our equal craziness.
“I have a plan since you've lost your ability to speak,” said Ellie matter-of-factly. To be honest I didn't have a plan.
“I’ll drive until we come across a Walmart or something so we can get some supplies. You can sleep or drink a beer along the way. Does that sound good to you?” she continued.
“That’s it?” I questioned. It didn't sound like much of a plan to me.
“Can you think of anything better?”
“Mark, just get in the car. We’re now equal partners in this adventure. C’mon let’s go.” she grabbed the keys from my hand and skipped around to the driver’s side. I think I made a good choice for my partner in crime. I could easily fall for Ellie and I realized that I was and that realization scared the living shit out of me. I had this niggling feeling that once those feelings manifested, our time together would come to an abrupt end. She honked the horn, signaling me to stop zoning out. As soon as I hopped inside and buckled up my eyes shut closed.
“Mark. Mark it’s time to wake up.” As I slowly started to open my eyes, a halo of gold formed around Ellie’s head. Where did you come from, angel baby? As my senses began to wake up with me, I felt her hand cradling my left cheek.
“Hey, sorry I slapped you, but you needed it though. Look I got some things to help with your hair issues.” She dropped a plastic bag on my lap. I brought my seat upright and looked at the clock: 6:30 in the morning. I opened the bag and the first thing I pulled out was a pair scissors. Not barber scissors, plain old scissors.
“What am I gonna do with this?” I asked holding up the scissors.
“I’m gonna cut your hair. There’s also something inside the bag for that thing you call a beard.” She reached over and pulled out what appeared to be clippers. I know I shouldn't have, but her hand digging around the bag caused friction against my morning wood and a moan escaped my lips. I was worried that she had heard me, but Ellie acted like nothing had happened.
“Isn't there a barbershop in town? Where are we anyway?”
“Does it matter where we are? I have a feeling that you have expensive taste and seeing that our funds are limited, it’s better if we save what money is left and I promise not to fuck up your hair too badly.”
“I don’t have a choice do I?” I already knew the answer.
“No you don’t. Do you wanna get it over with quickly or do you wanna drag out the inevitable?” Ellie opened and closed the scissors in rapid repetition. I got up and moved to the back of the van and Ellie followed me.
“Sit on the floor and in front of me. I’ll try my best not to cut your ears.” For a minute, I thought she was joking. The look on her face said otherwise; she was dead serious. I did as she said and Ellie proceeded to cut random sections of my hair. It felt like hours, but in reality, it probably took maybe twenty minutes. I shoulder been petrified of the result, but oddly I trusted Ellie with my hair.
“Okay, everything looks good. Well, it looks even enough to be passable,” Ellie said as she put the scissors down.
“You gotta a mirror on you?” I asked. Ellie made a grab for her purse, pulled out a small mirror, and handed it to me. It didn't look half-bad. Ellie was right when she said it was passable. My hair didn't look like the profession style I sported during my career, but I was fine with that. Sometimes I swear that I’m a girl.
“No plug for the clippers?” I handed the mirror back to her.
“Nope, just go inside the men’s bathroom and clean up real quick.”
“I’ll be back.” I hopped out of the car and headed inside. She actually found a Walmart. Nice.
Before long, we were back in the van driving around. Neither one of us were ready to leave just yet.
“I have an idea for our money situation. Pull over into that shop.” I parked the car. The place looked like a second clothes store, but with more upscale clothing items.
“What do you have in mind?” I asked.
“Are you willing to add to your rap sheet?” I didn't like where this was going.
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