When I Look at You

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Chapter Eight

Three hours later, I found myself sitting at a Denny’s just outside of Suffolk, Virginia. The woman had been nice and had gone out of her way to bring me here. I promised her that my mom was meeting me here just so she’d leave. As soon as she pulled off, I felt like I was sinking. Finding a bus stop on the back of the building, I plopped on the bench and looked around. A couple of tractor trailers were parked in the far off parking lot near some gas pumps. Truck drivers walked in and out of the Denny’s as I watched. Pulling out my phone, I tried my mother’s cell phone again but it went to voicemail for the tenth time. It was like she had disappeared as soon as she dropped me off. Sighing, I slipped it back into my bag and looked up the bus schedule hanging on the wall. The next bus wasn’t until tomorrow morning.

“You waiting for a bus, sweetheart?” A voice said behind me. Turning, I saw a truck driver standing there. He was a burly man with greying brown hair under a baseball cap. He was dressed in jeans and flannel and he smiled me at in a way that made my mouth go dry.

“No my mother is picking me up. Thank you though.”

“Want some company? You can wait with me in my truck until she gets here if you want.”

“No thank you. She will be here shortly.” He stepped closer, blocking the exit of the bus stop.

“That’s funny. I coulda sworn ya just left your mom a message that you couldn’t find her. No one is coming, honey. Just come with me in my truck. I’ll take you anywhere you want. If you make it worth my time that is.”

“Please. I just want to wait for a bus.” I practically whimpered. He stepped even closer, running a finger down my cheek. Tears filled my eyes and one slipped out. He wiped it away with his greasy thumb.

“Oh baby girl. I’ll make you feel real good.” He reached his other hand around and gripped my butt in it.

“Let me go.” I said, pushing against his chest. He gripped tighter, walking towards the trucks. “Help me!” I called out. No one was looking though. It was just him and me in the darkness behind the diner. Thinking quickly, I started clawing at his eyes and face. Anything to make him drop me. I landed on the ground and stumbled a bit before catching my footing. I took off sprinting towards the front door, the mean looking prevert right on my tail. Inside, a waitress looked up and saw me running like a bat out of hell. She made her way to the door and pushed it open, letting me slip in behind her. The man slid to a stop, eyeing her and the steaming pot of coffee in her hand.
“Eddie, unless you want to spend the next six months icing your fellow parts, I suggest you turn around and head out for the night.” She said, her southern accent thick and full of attitude. Her chocolate colored skin looked soft and she smelt like cocoa butter as I panted behind her. She only stood about two inches taller than me but the look she was giving this guy made me feel like she was ten feet tall. He glared at both of us before stalking back to a tractor trailer in the far corner of the parking lot. The lights turned on and we both watched as he roared out of there as fast as he could. Closing the door, she turned and smiled at me.
“You okay, hun?” She asked, setting her coffee pot down on the counter. I nodded, wiping the sweat off my forehead and palms.
“Yes. Thank you. I thought he…” I trailed off, tears threatening to fall.
“Sit at the counter. I’ll get you some cocoa.” She nodded towards the counter, a beige colored marble place setting with swivel chairs that matched with brown leather covers. Slinging my bag over the back, I sat in one of the farther seats. Trying to get my hands to stop shaking, i fiddled with a spoon as she poured hot cocoa and whipped cream in a tall coffee mug. I despise whipped cream but I didn’t say anything. Setting it in front of me, she leaned against the table top and looked at me. “Can I call someone for you? You seem like you’re a far way from home.”
“No thank you. I’m actually heading back home to Maine. I just have to wait for the bus.”

“Maine? See I was right. That’s quite a ways away yet. Where you coming from?”
“North Carolina. I was court ordered to visit my sperm donor all summer but he told me to leave so I did.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Want something to eat before you hit the road?” I frowned.
“I only have enough money for the bus ticket.” I explained. She waved her hand.
“It’s on me. How about a burger and some fries?” Nodding at her, she smiled before disappearing to check on her other tables. She returned with my food a few minutes later and left me to eat in silence. Taking a bite, I felt my pocket vibrate and I reached into fish out my phone. It was a text message from Blaine.
Going my way? he wrote. Confused, I raised an eyebrow and set it on the counter. I didn’t know how I was going to handle whatever I had going on with Blaine. He’s such a sweet guy and honestly the only guy I’ve ever thought about like this. Back home, boys were a foreign concept for me because they were born to be fishermen or other types of marine workers. I knew that I could never stay in a place that smells like rotten fish ten seasons out of the year.

“How rude.” A voice whispered in my ear. I froze in my seat mid bite. Blaine slid into the seat next to me, stealing a fry from my plate and popping it in his month. I wiped my mouth with a napkin and swallowed what I was chewing.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, looking at him and around. He shrugged, leaning his elbows on the counter top. He wore a long sleeve fleece sweater with his blue jeans, looking like he was ready for a day of hiking rather than hunting my runaway ass down.
“I always travel three states away at three in the morning for some good greasy diner food.” I shot him a look and sighed. “There’s only one main highway from our neck of the woods to Maine so I took a chance and just drove till we found you.”
“We?” I asked, suddenly more anxious. Biting his lip, he glanced at me quickly.
“Don’t get mad. He felt horrible and said he wanted to come with me if I went looking for you. I made him wait outside.” His eyes shifted to look outside towards the bus stop where I had my run in with Eddie. Chris was pacing back and forth, looking distressed and talking to himself it seemed. “He did that the entire way here. Quite irritating really.”
“Did he tell you what he said to me?” I asked, shoving my food away from me. He nodded.
“Yeah he did. Kerri, I know that you have some stuff to work out with your dad but running back to Maine won’t solve anything. For starters, your mom will get nabbed for defying a court order so you’ll end up right back here any way. And your dad wouldn’t be trying this hard if he honestly didn’t love you. You’ve got nothing to lose but a summer really. And I will spend every day with you and help you feel like you are at home.”
“Ignoring me would feel more at home.” I said, chuckling. “Oh I’ve been mean to him too. I guess I could stop being such a bitch about it and give him a shot.” Sighing, I picked up my bag which Blaine took from me and hoisted over his own shoulder. The waitress waved at me from her station in the back as I walked with Blaine outside. Chris looked up when he heard our footsteps on the gravel coming towards him. He took three giant steps before engulfing me in a bone crushing hug.

The ride home was silent. Not in an awkward way but more in a ‘please don’t tell my mother’ way. I squeezed in the back seat of Blaine’s truck while him and Chris rode up front. The back window was open a crack, letting a soft and warm breeze in. It felt amazing on my face. So much that I must have fallen asleep because I was awoken by Chris carrying me into my bedroom and setting me on the bed. I laid there pretending to be asleep as he took my sandals off, tucked me in and gave me a kiss on the forehead. As he shut the door quietly, I rolled over and felt a tear trickle down on cheek.

After my father left us, I often laid in bed at night wondering what he was doing and if it was as important as my mom told me that he couldn’t be there to read to me at night or tuck me in like he had just done. As I grew older, I started caring less about what he was missing and replaced it with getting angry about what he was doing while we struggled. When I found out about Tammy, the anger increased and I was enraged to think that someone else’s kids were now getting to call the man who left his daddy duties their step father. I never told my mom any of this because I always felt she knew. I’m 17. We get angry a lot.

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