Gennifer was right. The kids who work at this mall are doing it for gas money or maybe saving for college. The boy at the cellphone kiosk can’t take his eyes off my legs until I show him fifty dollars, put my hand on his shoulder, and ask if I can borrow a smartphone. “Only for fifteen minutes.”
A perfectly reasonable question. “I need to use the internet and make a couple of calls. And” – I squeeze his shoulder and smile like an old friend sharing a confidence – “I can’t risk my father tracing it back to me.”
No chance of that since we buried his lordship several weeks ago, but Cellphone Boy doesn’t need to know. He returns my smile as if he understands and hands me his own phone.
“Help yourself, please. My name is Alex.”
“Hi Alex. I’m Sally. Nice to meet you.”
When I turn my back to browse, I can feel his eyes on my ass. He can’t be any older than nineteen. But hey, what’s a decade between friends?
After five minutes on Craigslist, I have two contenders. My first choice, a ’96 Audi has already been sold. The ’98 Jetta is still available.
“You’re asking twenty-three hundred?”
“Yes, ma’am, I am.” She sounds like a teenager. Maybe early twenties. Definitely cute. The perfect girl for Alex. The perfect car for me?
“And it drives well, I have your word?”
“Yes ma’am, you do.”
“If you can prove that by bringing it here to me at the mall, I’ll pay your full asking price, in cash. Plus an extra hundred for the inconvenience.”
That’s either a gasp or a choked-off giggle. “Yes, ma’am, I can do that. Which mall?”
“OK. Just tell me where and when.”
We agree to meet in two hours outside Nordstrom.
I give Alex another fifty and let him down as gently as I can. “Thank you for your kindness. I will remember it.” A gentle kiss on the cheek. “And if anyone should ever ask you about me?”
He’s blushing but he’s seen all those movies and he knows his line. “I never saw you.”
I believe he means it but I know it isn’t true. The people hunting me are not the type to ask nicely or take no for an answer. Luckily for Alex, their paths are unlikely to cross.
The next ninety minutes go by in a blur. I buy – Sally buys – a beautiful leather cabin bag at Coach and fill it with all the immediate essentials. Comfortable clothes for driving in, toiletries, and a couple of likely books.
Jetta Girl finished college recently and her proud father is buying a brand new car for her, a BMW if they can get a deal. I know because they tell me while I’m checking out her old VW.
“I’ve had it six years,” she says, “and it’s never let me down.”
I believe her. Her father would never let his beautiful baby girl drive around in something that wasn’t safe. It’s a five speed stick shift in white with one hundred and eighteen thousand miles on the clock and almost immaculate seats. “You’ve taken care of it.”
“Yes.” She looks nearly sad. I bet there were times Jetta Girl loved her car.
“We replaced the whole transmission ten thousand miles ago,” her father reassures me. “More recently, the oil cooler gasket and the struts. No reason this baby shouldn’t run and run.”
This baby got the two of them to the mall. That’s good enough for me. All I need are wheels that can’t be traced to me and can handle the ride to Atlanta. Eight hundred miles, give or take.
They don’t ask to see my license or insurance documents. Why would they care? The only thing they need is the green. I empty one hip pocket and they smile, Gennifer-wide.
Her father counts the money while Jetta Girl and I fill out the paperwork. She gets the transfer papers and I get her signed title and thirty days to register the sale.
Formerly Jetta Girl hugs me before her father takes her to their local BMW dealership.
Top speed of the Jetta is pushing sixty-five. It’ll keep me out of trouble, I suppose. Ten minutes after the unexpected hug, I cross the Mason-Dixon Line into Maryland. This Jetta will never see Delaware again.