It was fun for five minutes
But I preferred it when I had less time
-- "We Want To," New Young Pony Club
He sells her on the idea almost immediately, and not because he says the word normal about six hundred times in a row. A normal summer, a normal, fun road trip, a long, hot drive, like normal people take. He shows her the tightly-wound bundle of cash he's been saving and she flips the edges, watching the numbers flutter past. She's been staring at the walls of this place for what feels like forever, and any change of scenery (even if it's just a blurred landscape) is welcome.
"But do you think the Professor will go for it?" He freezes a strand of her hair and she shrugs and half-smiles while the water drips down her cheek.
"Does it matter?" she asks, and he looks at her like is isn't sure about something. The little crease in his eyebrow deepening, the twitch in his upper lip. She ignores it (like always) and stretches back onto her bed, letting him mull over the possibilities.
The Professor smiles in the way she knows means affection and says "If you're not back in a week, I'll send Logan looking for you." It's enough, for Bobby at least, and the Professor knows it. His eyes flicker to her -- concern -- and the lines around his mouth get tighter, but he still lets them go. He slides the keys across his desk, and she tries not to stare when the metal scrapes at the wood.
They pack, hasty and laughing. She thinks about the heat and proximity and a pool and a tan. She thinks he thinks about the same things, but cleaner. Her thoughts are mud, sometimes, subjects and predicates slogging through upended earth. They'll be gone for a week. She packs ten pairs of gloves, in case of emergency. She packs a bikini, borrowed from one of the girls. She thinks positive.
They take turns at the wheel, "Driver gets to pick the soundtrack," and drive south and west in turns. They stop once, they stop a thousand times. She turns up the oldies station and he groans and shifts, dropping the seat back another inch. She rubs her bare hands across the leather steering wheel and never once forgets to slide her gloves back on when they pull up to a pump. They keep the windows rolled down and the air conditioner on low, her hair whipping into the hot-dirt air, her arms slowly turning brown and freckled.
In Fayetteville, he takes the gas and she rushes inside the Circle K, sighing at she empties her bladder in a restroom that has seen better -- and cleaner -- days. fuck me, the door reads, the words scratched out of the paint. Instead of another bag of Bugles, she picks out a disposable camera, ducking away from the men wandering the aisles, men in fatigues and the sharper lines of uniform, picking out beer, cigarettes. Rubbing their hands over their bad haircuts. She fidgets, waiting in line, can't help glaring at the back of the sergeant's head as he chats with the attendant.
"Can I help you?" someone asks, a heavy hand on her shoulder, and his eyes are kind but the buttons on his uniform glint under the florescent lighting and she feels the nausea start low and bubble up. She slaps a five onto the counter, mumbles fuck off, and ignores that she sounds more like she's begging.
"What happened?" he asks when she gets back to the car (crossing the parking lot in long strides, her boots crunching on the asphalt).
"Smile," she says, and blinks at the flash of light.
Outside of Savannah he finally finds an alt rock station he can listen to for more than a song and satisfied, pulls into the station. "Just to stretch our legs," he says, shooting her a glance and smiling. She thinks she understands, suddenly, why they're in this car, why they've spent the past fifteen hours driving down ribbons of road, passing signs she recognizes from another life.
She tugs her gloves up past her wrists and locks the door behind her. She shifts from left to right, makes a show of lifting her hands up over her head and sighing. "I'm gonna get a drink. Coming?"
The rush of icy air when she opens the doors makes her think of sex.
After a brief deliberation, she meets him at the counter with a bottle of lemonade and a bag of potato chips (greasy, salty. No gloves) where he ads a box of ice cream sandwiches and nods when the cashier quotes a price.
"Won't they melt?"
"Not if I can help it."
He slides his wallet into the back pocket of his shorts and hands her the food. She can feel his eyes exploring her, and she lets him, just for a moment. She shifts her weight to one foot, the other, focusing on the box in her hand, icing itself to her fingers. She thinks she knows, then, what it might be like to be a statue. Hundreds of years swimming around, frozen.
The bell over the door jingles, and still she doesn't move. "'Scuse me, doll," someone says, a quick hand at her side, pinching. She jumps, almost drops the juice and the chips and the ice cream. He's at her side in an instant.
"Hey," he whispers. His breath is cold.
"Hey," she shouts, ignoring him, "Fuck you!" She's hot all over. She's angry.
She likes it. She makes eye contact, staring at him like Bobby stared at her, dragging from toe to top. Like Bobby, whose hand is at her elbow, grip tightening. The guy (dark all over, not like Bobby) narrows his eyes, gives them the finger.
Bobby's fingers get bruise-tight and he tugs her towards the exit, "Go fuck yourself," he rumbles, the syllables drowned out by the cheerful clang of the bell. "Come on."
They step outside (his hand lingering at her elbow, looser, but insistent) and the air smells like tar and french fries and just a hint of cow shit. She stares through the glass, breathing a long exhale. "Okay," she says. "Okay." She shifts her weight to one foot, the other, and breathes deep until her shoulders settle, her muscles uncoil. They're on vacation. Okay.
He drives and she eats an ice cream sandwich. She watches him and he watches the road. She reaches for the radio and he lets her flip the dial. He stares straight ahead and she takes tiny licks at the melting ice cream, tiny, meaningful licks that he doesn't see, not even out of the corner of his eye.
"You okay?" she asks.
"Yeah," he says.
"Okay," she says. She takes another lick, long, coating her tongue. She closes her eyes to swallow. She kicks her feet up on the dashboard and he still doesn't look at her, just stares ahead and turns the radio up (her station) so the beat throbs through them. She feels it right in the middle, where the coldness of the ice cream stops.
They stop just over the state line, blinking at one another in the hazy near-dawn. She leans against the scalding hood of the car while he fills it up, and as soon as the nozzle is replaced, she grabs his hand. "What?" he says, but she just shakes her head, tugging him along. For his part, he follows.
Follows her into the restroom, despite the sleepy-eyed attendant and the blinking-out yellow lights. There's toilet paper on the floor and the room smells like piss, but she doesn't care. She hops up and sits on the front edge of the sink, balancing easier when she spreads her legs and slides down the zip of her jeans. She stares at him, at the white line of skin where his hand presses against his pocket edge. She watches the muscles in his neck jerk.
"I want you," she says, and tugs his hand from his pocket to her pants. His eyes narrow and refocus and he rubs her through her cotton underwear, sending quick jolts up her spine and tangled wires through her stomach. He stares somewhere to the left of her, but the pressure is perfect, his fingers cold. She arches her back and moves against him, gasping and whimpering and shutting her eyes for the light show.
(She doesn't know why she acts this way.)
She puts her hand on the front of his pants instead of making eye contact. Her gloves look strange against the denim, and he moves, stiff and sudden. He looks at her like he isn't sure about something. The little crease in his eyebrow deepening, the twitch in his upper lip. But he's jerking against her hand and groaning, his hand resting hard and heavy against her hip.
He comes and she smiles.
"Okay," she says, sliding off of the sink to press her whole body against his. He is hard and cold and she zips up her pants. He's sweating, and a little red in the face. He looks past her and presses his hand back into his pocket.
It's just me, she wants to tell him, but he won't look her in the eye.