Her problems faded out of sight in the rear-view mirror and she relished the roar of the highway wind. It carried with it the sunny smell of the cornfields and the biting aroma of potential rain. She pressed her foot down until she smelled gas.
Flatlands occasionally broke into crisscrossed grids of main streets, salt-ridden franchises, and dust-turned-mud parking lots. She wished for green lights and turned the concrete settlements to shrinking specks in the car’s mirrors.
The storm caught her after the state line, shoveling sheets of rain against her windshield and casting the road in kaleidoscopes of headlight, asphalt, and street sign. With sliding tires and a hollow stomach, she turned her little car towards the next glow of neon civilization. Leaning over the steering wheel, squinting into the storm, she found the buzzing lights of the diner at a crossroad.
The busgirl nodded at her to find a seat.
Night came on fast outside. From the window she watched the bleary horizon disappear in the dark and rain. The storm did not lessen. Impatient, she ordered food when the waiter asked if she wanted coffee. Amidst the plastic menus, the plastic seats, and the plastic cheese on her tuna melt, it was hard to imagine the wild crash and howl.
It still raged when she peeled herself off the booth. She walked towards the door keys in hand.
“You should wait out the storm.” Someone said when her fingers were on the doorknob. She twisted to look at the young-ish man in the booth near the door. He had a cup of coffee and a half-eaten veggie burger in front of him. He was the only one in the diner looking at her.
“With you?” She was too tired to properly sneer. The long clear highway was gone, replaced by a blind run through the night and her mood had soured. The last thing she wanted was trouble in a nowhere diner.
“Oh,” He frowned at her insinuation. She noticed his book now, open and propped to the side of his plate. “No. Please don’t, it’s a small table. I mean here, in the diner, like everyone else is. It’s dangerous out there, in that type of storm.”
“That type?” She said, not asking, as her brows knit together. She grimaced her lips into a polite smile. “Thank you, I’ll be fine.”
The man shrugged and shifted himself back to his book. He looked back up again when the bell above the door fell silent. Outside the blur that was her remained for a moment, visible in the diner’s exterior floodlights. As he watched, she faded, rubbed out by the highway storm.
A thief once, a thief always, I stole the first line of this piece as part of the Legal Theft Project.