“Oh come on! Really?” She tried to loosen the lug nuts on her flat but they wouldn’t budge. It shouldn’t be this friggin hard! “I know how to change a tire. I know how to change a tire.” She grunted in frustration as the lug nut barely moved an inch. At this rate, she’d get behind schedule and she still had hours to drive. She pulled into roadside diner hoping to grab a bite and change her tire without problem but as if.
“Hey… do you need some help?” A deep quiet voice asked from behind. She waved her hand behind her never breaking focus.
“Nope. I got it. Just loosening it up here. Thanks.” Definitely didn’t have to time to chase away curious predators or hitchhikers. She started as she saw dirty shoes come into view. Um, should she even bother looking up? She clutched the breaker bar tightly just in case she needed to use it for more than trying to change her tire.
“It’s really no problem. You look like you’re struggling.”
She finally chanced looking up and loosened her hold on her tool. He didn’t look so bad. His brown skin looked extremely dark on his face and hands, like he’d been walking in the sun for a long time, he had melancholy hazel eyes and his hair seemed to be growing out from what used to be a low cut. She stood to her feet making sure to keep enough space between them.
“I guess I could use the help, they’re not giving me any leeway at all.” He nodded and took the tool from her. She stepped away from her car as the stranger knelt in front of her back tire and with ease loosen the lug nuts. “Ugh really?” She looked at her car in betrayal. The stranger chuckled lightly before quickly making work of her flat tire.
“Do you mind?” She shook her head and watched as he stowed everything her trunk. “It looks like a nail. You can probably get that fixed at your destination. So I’m gonna put the tire back here alright?”
“Yeah that’s fine.” He nodded and started walking towards the diner. She wasn’t sure if she even say anything but before she could, he was already inside. “Oh well.” Now, time for a nice juicy burger.
She sat in her booth waiting for her food, she was so hungry. Okay, she’d already driven nine hours, there was still quite the ride before she get to North Carolina.
“Hey! I already told you punk to get out of here!” She saw the young guy who helped her earlier being shoved out his seat at the bar by the manager. She couldn’t hear what the guy was saying but he seemed as if he was trying to plead his case. He was wearing dark jeans, a black ratty hoodie and an old book bag.”I don’t care, get out!”
“Um excuse me, he’s with me.” She waved her hand at the man. The young man looked surprised but quickly hid it. The manager put his hands on his hips questioning her. “Well… we’re supposed to travel together after meeting here. I must have missed him.”
The manager looked skeptical but said nothing. She motioned for the guy to join her and he sheepishly slid into the booth.
“Dude, I thought I was hopeless with that tire today but you are the epitome of hopeless right now.”
“Yeah, well I’ve been hanging around the last two days so I guess he has the right to be irritated with me.”
“Do you want anything?” When her food arrived, she felt awkward to be eating in front of the guy. Besides, it would the least she could do after he changed her tire.
The two strangers sat in the booth, eating in silence. She had no idea what to say to him just as he didn’t really want to say anything to her.
“So, I’m Cymara.”
She nodded but continued to eat her fries awkwardly. “Well, I guess I should head out.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. At least not yet. He’s probably still watching us.” Her brown eyes glanced at the counter and sure enough the manager stood there talking to a customer but occasionally sneered in their direction.
“Okay you’re right. Well, this is messing with my plans to drive after lunch but I can… stay for maybe another thirty minutes.” She bit her lip wondering just where to start. “So, you said you’d been here for the past two days. Why? Where do you come from?”
His hazel eyes focused on her and she shifted uncomfortably. There was something about his sad eyes that made her want to know him, know his story. Why has he been drifting around this place for two days? Was he a hitchhiker? His clothes weren’t very nice so he may not come from a good place… she really wanted to know. Liam never responded to her questions though. He just sat back and watched her.
“Ahem. Well, I guess I can… well I’m a junior at Stanford. Music major and…”
“Kind of, I don’t really like to sing in front of people but I play the piano too.” She took her headscarf off and retwisted a loose twist. “I’m from North Carolina though. I know what you’re thinking: why so far from home right? Well, most of my family lives there and it was just me wanting to get away from it all. My older sister stayed in state when she went to school but I had to get out.”
“Why are you driving back then? At least in March, shouldn’t you be preparing for finals or something?”
“My father died.” If she was honest, being able to say it so easily didn’t bother her. She supposed it just hadn’t hit her yet.
She shrugged. “It’s fine I guess. I didn’t know him. I grew up with a stepfather who I of course know better so… I don’t know.”
Cymara was being awfully forthcoming, Liam thought but her voice was pleasant and she seemed… sad. Something he could identify with. Liam wanted to know but their time was coming to a close and he didn’t want to make her late.
“Well maybe the drive will give the chance to figure that out.”
“Yeah, t-that was my idea too.” She fell silent for a moment before placing her money on the table and standing to her feet. “I should probably go now. It was nice to meet you Liam, thanks for the tire.” Cymara moved towards the door. Yeah, that was her idea, to think about thinking about all of this while driving, but actually jam out to soundtracks from musicals and ignore her thoughts the entire time.
She glanced back to the young man still sitting in their booth. If she left him here, the manager might get him arrested. He seemed harmless enough. Cymara had no idea where he was headed but… if he was a drifter, maybe that didn’t matter? The young woman walked back to him.
“Liam, maybe you should come with me.”
He frowned and sat up in his seat looking at her like she grew a third head. She couldn’t possibly want to have a stranger in her car, traveling across the country. “Are you serious? I’m not even actually going to North Carolina.” He wasn’t going anywhere really… just trying to get further away from where he came from.
“Trust me, this is crazy but I think… it’s okay. What do you say?”