ELEVEN HOURS LATER, MY RAGE is at a simmer, not an all out boil anymore, and the sun is hot on our tail. It’s been chasing us all morning and into the afternoon. It’s one o’clock and my hands ache from how hard I’ve been clenching the wheel. I’m sweating so bad my jeans are in the grey area between wet and dry. And I smell. Eddie doesn’t seem to mind. He gets touchy-feely every time we stop for gas and chips and coke. Always the romantic.
“Babe.” I glance at Eddie. He’s got his puppy dog face on and I know he’s about to do some grade A begging. “I’m hungry and have eaten enough Doritos for the next ten years of my life.”
“What are you saying, Eddie? My culinary skills not living up to your expectations.”
“Can we please stop for real food?”
“Well, since you said please, Mr. Manners.”
Exit 72B is coming up. Eddie points at it, probably thinking I’m going to blow right past, and says, “Let’s go to the Coyote Bluff Cafe.”
I eye him. “A place near and dear to your heart, is it?”
He shrugs his big old shoulders. “My daddy took me there once. When we were visiting my grandmama.”
The mention of Eddie’s daddy strikes me dumb. He never talks about him. Loss ran rife through our families. It’s the southern way. His haunted tone makes me hit the blinker and steer us off towards the promise of real food and a rest. My eyes are sore from staring at the highway anyhow.
Gravel cries under Candy’s wheels as we pull up front of a dusty white building with wagon wheels leaning against the peeling slats. The shutters are drawn and have cutouts of coyotes howling at the sun. I’m not impressed, but my butt is numb from sitting and I need to stretch these legs of mine.
Eddie is out of the car before I have the chance to turn the ignition off and through the door and into the restaurant as I’m stepping out into the unforgiving afternoon sun. There isn’t even a dry breeze to ruffle my hair. As I tie the auburn mess into a ponytail, I push into the restaurant and pause. This has to be Eddie’s idea of a joke, except he’s settled in a wooden chair at a table with a red and white checkered cloth over it. Bottles line the back wall and boxes and junk are stored under the counter. I can see the cook in the kitchen through the French window, he looks hot and tired, and I wonder how much sweat falls off his chin onto the griddle. It’s all fine, though, I work in a dive diner and have no right to judge anyone. Enough people have eaten my own sweat for me to sympathize.
“Just missed the lunch rush,” a brown hair girl says and snaps her gum. “For here or to go?”
“I’m with him,” I gesture to Eddie.
The way he’s looking at the menu is almost adorable. Hunched over, arms crossed on the table, and the pleased as punch smirk on his kissable mouth. He’s happier than a bitch in heat being serviced.
The waitress eyes Eddie up real good. From his worn Converse sneakers to his thick arms and pock marked cheeks. For a second I think she’s going to tell me to be careful, then she catches the way I’m glaring at her and says, “Why don’t you take a seat?”
“Why don’t I.”
Sauntering over to my dreamboat in a white t-shirt, I lean over and plant a firm kiss on his mouth. After a couple seconds, I taste him. He’s cherry coke and Juicy Fruit gum, nacho cheese Doritos. There’s sweat on his upper lip and I lick it off. I don’t have to turn around to know the waitress is boring holes through us. Let her. She’s just another narrow minded bitch from another shit hole town that no one cares about.
When I pull away, Eddie smiles wide. “I’m gonna try the burger from hell.”
“You’re such a jackass.” But I slump down in the seat next to him and pull the menu from his hands. “That hell burger’s gonna set your ass on fire.”
“You have such a lovely way with words, don’t you doll?” He squeezes my chin and shoots me a hard look. Anyone watching might think he’s angry, but I know he’s debating whether or not he really needs to eat. Maybe a session in the backseat of Candy will be better than the promised burger.