“Well, this isn't awkward,” I mumbled, feeling the heat of my blush in my cheeks.
I tried to find a way to get him off of me without waking him up. I finally managed to scoot out from under him, an inch at a time, listening to his snoring for any indication he might be waking up. It hitched once, and I quickly pretended to be asleep, but then he mumbled something and started snoring again. After I had managed to untangle us, I got up and moved to the chair, sitting on it heavily and looking back over at his sleeping form. He was still half covered by the sheet, and his face looked peaceful, entirely visible to me without the hair framing it. He had always said the ladies loved the crazy curls, but I liked being able to watch his expressions change as he dreamed. I rubbed a hand over my tired face, glancing at the clock by the bed. I had gotten five hours of sleep, but I knew I wouldn't be getting any more anytime soon.
“I'm so sorry, Jase,” I whispered, the sound drowning out by his breathing.
I got up and locked myself in the bathroom, forcing myself to go through my usual morning routine and not think about anything past that moment.
We were on the road by seven, Jason grumbling until I pulled over and got us some coffee and breakfast. He was munching on his bagel sandwich and looking over the maps, while I went through a pile of sausage patties and drove us in the general direction of the highway we wanted.
“Turn left up here,” he said, pointing to an upcoming intersection, “this should hit the highway, and then we stay on that for a while.”
I followed his directions, finishing my breakfast and downing some of my coffee, hoping the caffeine would kick in soon. The car was silent as I merged into the flow of traffic and got us pointed back toward Wyoming.
Jason was looking glum as he peered out of the passenger side window. I didn't know if he was missing his car, or thinking about the hundred other things that would put that look on his face, until he spoke.
“My mom's probably freaking out,” he said, dropping his forehead onto the glass.
“You can still go back,” I replied, while silently hoping he would never take me up on the offer.
I would give him an out any time he wanted it.
“Would you quit with that already?” he said in a raised voice.
“I'm just giving you an out, Jase.”
“I have told you repeatedly that I'm with you for the long haul. Quit thinking I'm gonna abandon you.”
I didn't have a reply to that. I was trying to do the right thing, but it was just pissing him off.
“I'm not your mom.”
This time, it was my turn to get angry. My hands clenched the wheel tighter.
“I'm trying to help you, Jason. Don't turn it around on me.”
“Stop trying to help. I made my decision all on my own, so you can stop second guessing it anytime you want.”
The conversation was turning ugly fast. I kept my cool long enough to pull off at the next exit and into a movie theater parking lot a block from the highway.
“Don't you get it?” I asked, turning to him after I shut off the engine, “this isn't your fight.”
“You made it my fight the second you called me for help!” he shouted right back at me.
“I'm ruining you!”
He looked at me long enough to force me to look away.
“I'm ruining you, and you're the only good thing I have left.”
“Oh, Trish,” he sighed from his seat.
I heard his seatbelt unbuckle, and he grabbed my face, forcing me to look at him.
“You couldn't ruin me if you tried.”
I was positive he was wrong, but I didn't want to fight anymore. I wanted this all to be over, and the end was nowhere in sight.
I didn't realize I had been crying until he wiped some tears from my cheek. God, I had cried in front of him more in the last few days than I had ever cried in my life. He was handling it better this time, looking at me with a sad grin on his face, not freaked out in the slightest.
“You don't get it,” he finally said, still watching me too closely for comfort.
“Don't get what?”
He just shook his head. I had an inkling of what he was getting at, but that would ruin it completely.
“I'm not going anywhere. So get over yourself,” he said with the smile still on his face.
I nodded, wiping my tears away with my arm and starting the car again.
“Buckle up,” I said, pulling us back toward the highway.
We drove in silence for a while longer, but it was less comfortable now.
“I wonder if my dad's worried,” I finally said, voicing what I had been thinking about for the last few miles.
“Of course he is,” Jason replied.
I hoped he was wrong, but a small part of me hoped he was right. I also hoped it was the last we would speak about it for a while. Time to focus on the future, the past was pretty much destroyed.
By late afternoon we were passing through St. Louis, and ready for our third food stop of the day. I took us to a burger place that we spotted from the highway. It didn't have a drive-thru, which made it look like heaven to me, but also meant we had to find a space to park on the street a few blocks down. The place was crowded for it being an odd hour, but it was the start of the weekend, and the start of summer vacation in a lot of places, so the tourists and college students were out in droves. Our burgers were huge and cheap, which was pretty much what I was going for when I pulled in. Jason happily dug into his, grease dripping out, which actually made it look even better.
They had let me order mine medium rare, which made me want to kiss the waitress, and I cut a piece of the patty off after getting rid of the bread and veggies. The inside was pink and raw. This was officially my new favorite restaurant.
“You know, I was thinking about going to college here,” Jason said as he took a drink of his soda.
“Oh yeah?” I asked him.
I didn't even know he was thinking about colleges. Probably a result of months of harassing from his parents.
“Yeah,” he replied, sitting back in his chair and taking a break from the half eaten burger still on the plate, “Washington University. It's supposed to be pretty decent.”
“Maybe we can stop and have a look on the way back,” I said, finishing my huge burger patty and feeling pretty good again.
Jason laughed, but it stopped abruptly, and he grabbed his burger, holding it up to his face but not taking a bite. He was looking over my shoulder, wide-eyed at something.
“Don't turn around,” he said just loud enough for me to hear.
I grabbed my soda and held it up to my face in a mirror of his pose, putting my head down a little. Jason took a bite of his burger and kept looking directly at me. He was freaking out, which was freaking me out in turn, since I had no idea what was going on. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walk by wearing what could only be a police uniform. He was turned away from our table, but he was walking slowly and obviously looking for someone. I tried not to stare as he turned toward us, his eyes glancing over our faces before moving on. He kept walking, but I didn't relax until he had moved out of sight, into a back room.
“Let's get out of here,” I said, throwing some money on top of the check that was sitting at the corner of the table.
Our waitress was going to be pleasantly surprised by the tip, since I didn't want to waste time getting change. Jason put his burger down, not even giving it a second glance, as we both got up from the table and left the restaurant as casually as possible. When we got outside, I saw another policeman sitting in a patrol car across the street. I quickly averted my eyes and led us through the crowd of people on the sidewalk back toward the car.
We didn't stop freaking out until we were safely back on the highway, heading out of St. Louis as fast as possible.
“I don't know why we're losing it,” Jason said with a laugh, “they wouldn't even be looking for us here.”
“I know,” I replied, finally breathing normally again, “but let's just stick to drive-thrus from now on.”
We kept driving until another seedy motel somewhere near Lawrence, Kansas. It looked even more rundown than the last, and Jason almost talked me into passing it up for something nicer, but we would just needed a place to sleep, anything beyond that was unnecessary.
The night manager at this place, which proudly declared itself “Celebrity Inn” in fading neon lights, was an old lady who looked like she might drop dead at any moment. I made Jason wait in the car again while I checked us in. This motel had a computer, but the woman didn't touch it once. Maybe it was broken, or maybe it was just for show. Whatever it was, I wasn't questioning it. I didn't have to sign in this time, but she did write my driver's license information down in a book on the counter, as well as the make and model of my car. If the cops managed to connect my real identity with my fake identity, the car was a goner. I'd have to trade it out again if this ended up being a lengthy ordeal. But that was something to think about after I got to Wyoming. For now I just thanked her and took the key, the last one left on a long row of empty key-hooks hanging behind the mysteriously useless computer.
As I walked back out of the brightly lit main office, I saw the vacancy sign flip to no vacancy. I did not want to know what other kinds of people would be willing to stay in this place. At least it was small. If it had been the size of a regular motel, I would have been scared for the future of humanity.
We hauled our bags into the room, this time near the middle of the building, and Jason groaned when he saw it was even worse than the room we had stayed in the night before. This room was just a bed and a TV on a stand, the carpet worn and stained. But it didn't smell like cat urine, which I considered a step up.
“I don't even know if I want to touch that comforter,” Jason said, dropping his bag on the least stained spot on the floor he could find.
The lights flickered as the a/c unit kicked to life, and he looked over at me, as if to prove a point.
“So sleep on the floor,” I replied, throwing my own bags by the bed and heading off to the bathroom before he could jump in front of me.
The tiny room just barely held a toilet, sink, and stand up shower, and everything had rust on it, but it looked clean enough. Catching some weird disease from a sleazy motel bathroom was not exactly high on my list of priorities.
Despite all of his protesting, when I got back in the room, he was laying on one side of the bed, flipping through channels on the TV.
“They don't even have free cable,” he whined, settling on a local news broadcast, “there's like 4 channels, and one of them is in Japanese.”
“Ooh, let's watch the Japanese one,” I replied, dropping myself down on the bed beside him and pushing his arm over to his own side.
He shoved me back and flipped back to the Japanese channel, which was showing some kind of soap opera.
“You are such a closet soap fan,” I said, laughing at him.
He glared at me, but I ignored it in favor of trying to figure out what the deal was with the guy in the dragon costume. I gave up and started making up conversations for the characters on-screen, and Jason soon joined in. I fell asleep just as a game show started.