Checking Out

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Chapter 19

We drove all day, stopping for food once, my stomach starting to bother me again. I was back to eating my usual insane amounts of food, which Jason chose not to comment on, even though it was obviously bothering both of us. I drove us around St. Louis, adding an hour to our trip, but avoiding any places we had stopped before, my paranoia still hanging around. We stopped for the night at a shady looking motel just past Nashville, Jason's grumbling back in full force. I doubted it would stop anytime soon, but I didn't let it bother me. I was trying to keep us safe, and sketchy motels may have posed the danger of equally as sketchy guests and a million diseases, but they would keep us off the radar as much as possible, short of sleeping in the car.
My ID was still holding up, and I used it to check us into a room, this one situated on the second floor of the motel, which looked like it hadn't been redecorated since sometime in the early 70s. We unloaded our bags and carried them up the concrete staircase at the end of the building and over to our room, using a good old-fashioned key on a faded keychain to let ourselves in.
The room was warm, the air conditioner not running, and the lights were dim. It was just like all of the other crappy rooms we had stayed in when Jason wasn't choosing, and they were starting to blur together in my mind. This one had a desk by the door, and a faded green shag carpet, which made me laugh a little. The décor was straight up 70s chic, the bedspreads patterned in green and orange swirls, which were faded now, but had probably been even uglier in all their bright glory years ago. I wondered how old the comforters could possibly be, surely not as old as the carpet. I also wondered who had decorated these rooms in the first place, and what kind of drugs they had been on.
There was a TV, though it too looked like it had seen better days, and the bathroom was the same setup as the last place, an outside counter with mirrors, and an open door through which I could just make out a toilet and shower, which meant it was even tinier than any of the rest we had used. Jason put his bag on the desk, picking up a notepad that featured the name and address of the motel.
“Slumber Inn, craphole Tennessee, wish we were there,” he said, dropping it back on the desk and walking over to the bed.
He looked at the comforter and laughed, a cynical sound, but still amused.
“This room is like somebody's acid flashback,” he said.
I peered around at the garish, yet faded colors, ”somebody's acid flashback years later,” I replied, agreeing with him.
“So tomorrow we go find where the Danae girl was killed,” he changed the subject, sitting down on the comforter, making quite the contrast with his normal clothes against the vomit swirl pattern.
He pronounced Danae with emphasis on the “ae” part, and I made a mental note. It was the little things that were going to push me over the edge.
“Yeah,” I replied, taking a seat next to him, dropping my bag by the bed, “maybe we'll get lucky and find some clue as to what happened.”
Jason snorted. I gave him a sour look, even though I agreed. It was far-fetched, barely even a lead, but it was all we had. If it didn't pan out, well, we'd think of something else to focus on. It was our way, after all.
“I'm gonna hit the sack,” I said, standing back up to dig through my bag for my sweatpants that had been serving as pajamas every night, “driving fried my brain.”
“Sounds like a plan,” he replied, “I would go out and do something, but I have a feeling this is pretty much all there is to do here.”
We were both starting to get restless. After days of simply surviving, basically just driving, eating, and sleeping, we were both going a little stir-crazy, our mood swings getting worse. Vermillion had almost been like a nice break, actually getting out and walking around, talking to people for more than 5 seconds, but now we were back to the routine.
“Look, Jase,” I said, keeping my own irritation as far below the surface as possible, “if you want to go do something, maybe take the car-”
“It's okay,” he interrupted, holding his hands up in defeat, “I get it, really. And besides, my picture was the one that's out there. If anything, someone is going to recognize me, not you.”
I shrugged. It was true, and it sucked, but there wasn't really any way to change it.
“Although, if we're still doing this when your birthday rolls around, then we'll really be screwed.”
If we were still doing this a month and a half from now, we'd be screwed in more ways than that. Our money was only going to last us for so long. I so did not want to think about that.
“Yeah,” I replied, my voice flat, “totally screwed.”
Jason laid back on the bed, shutting his eyes, and I grabbed my sweats, walking the short distance to the bathroom to change in privacy. It was a tight squeeze, but I managed to get out of my jeans and into my pajamas without permanently injuring myself on the toilet or side of the tub, which I practically had to stand in to get any maneuvering room. This room was the worst one, by far, but at least it didn't smell like cat piss.
When I came back out, Jason hadn't moved, but his eyes were open, staring at the ceiling. I went over to the air conditioning unit by the front window and turned the knob, but nothing happened. Wonderful. I turned it off and back on, hitting the side of it. It stayed stubbornly off. Hitting things never worked, but it did make me feel a little better.
“And you're shocked it doesn't work,” Jason muttered from his spot on the bed, “just open the window.”
“It's hotter outside,” I replied, and I was right.
The night was balmy, and the humidity actually made it feel hotter, especially when combined with the total lack of anything resembling a breeze.
“Whatever,” I said, even though I could already feel sweat forming on my back, dripping down to the waist of my pants.
I went around to the other side of the bed, laying down next to Jason. I could feel his body heat radiating next to me, and it made the stuffiness of the room even more unbearable. I had a feeling sleep would not be coming easy that night.
I laid in the oppressive heat for what felt like five hours, but was probably more like five minutes, before huffing and getting out of the bed. Jason looked over at me in amusement. He had just been laying there, not even bothering to turn on the TV, waiting for me to get frustrated.
“Turn around,” I said, motioning for him to spin his head.
He laughed and turned on his side, facing the door. I pulled my sweatpants off and got back in the bed. And then felt stupid for making him turn around, when I was obviously not going to get under the covers. That was just as bad as wearing pants.
“Can I corrupt your virtue now?” he asked, turning back over without waiting for an answer.
“Whatever, it's too hot in here to give a damn,” I replied, crossing my arms over my chest in a manner reminiscent of his little sister at four years old in full tantrum.
He took a long look down at my lower body, now covered only in dark blue boy short style undies, and gave an exaggerated eyebrow wriggle. I glared at him, but couldn't help laughing a little. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and the heat was killing me, but he still made me laugh.
“Fair's fair,” he said, and before I could ask him what he meant by that, he was unbuttoning his own jeans and pulling them off, along with his shoes.
I did my own exaggerated once over, but instead of an eyebrow wriggle, I said, “lose the socks, loverboy.”
He grinned and took the socks off, laying back with his arms behind his head, clad in his t-shirt and a pair of boxers with a picture of the monopoly guy on the front. The monocle was in a very suggestive place.
“Classy,” I said, grinning back.
“I aim to please,” he replied, as I thought about the unfairness of me feeling half naked and him basically wearing shorts.
I'd have to stop and buy some shorts for myself if our little excursion into insanity took much longer.
He reached an arm out to me, and I automatically curled up into his side, feeling his chest rise and fall beneath my head. I could hear his heart beating, and before I knew it, it had lulled me into sleep.
When I woke up, I was shivering. Apparently the air conditioner had decided to start working sometime in the night, and was now going full blast, at the setting I had accidentally left it on. I slipped under the covers, not awake enough yet to get up and turn it off, and I huddled closer to Jason, who had slipped under the covers himself sometime earlier. I fell asleep again curled up against his side, letting his body heat make me comfortable.

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