Finding a Princess(2)By: Amy Richie
Jaw set, I made my way inside the gas station. An old man sat behind the counter, trying not to make it obvious that he was watching me. The coolers were located in the back of the tiny store, causing a momentary hesitation.
It would probably be better to just pay for the gas and get back out on the road, but we had already agreed. A bunch of teens out this late would buy drinks and probably chips too. I barely managed to get the bottles of pop onto the counter without tripping over myself though – forget the chips.
“Thirty on pump three,” I stuttered. Pump three had been an overkill – we were the only ones out there. The old man didn't look like he had much left in his own tank so I wasn't too worried.
My biggest worry was that he would think we were drunk and decide to call his best friend-the only cop in America with nothing to do on the night shift. “You kids are out late,” he commented in a slow draw.
“Yep,” I muttered, unwilling to make eye contact.
He grunted his disapproval but proceeded to run the bar codes on the pop across the register. It took all I had to not bounce on my toes and tell him just to keep the change. Could he possibly go any slower?
It was unfortunate for me that the television behind him decided that right then was the perfect time to flash a breaking story across it's screen. It was also unfortunate for me that the man was smarter than I first gave him credit for. He turned to watch the pictures scrolling across the screen, his eyes widening with recognition.
“Hey, isn't that...” he turned back to me, then back to the screen. “That's you.”
“Who is?” My hand tightened on the bottle in my hand.
“The TV,” his eyes found mine.
“The TV isn't even on,” I said firmly, not breaking eye contact.
His mouth instantly went slack; he was easier than most. “I'm sorry, my mistake,” his voice went flat along with his eyes. “Thirty on three?”
“Yeah.” I pressed the bills in his hand and waited while he rang me up.
“You have a nice night,” he called after me. I didn't bother turning around, he wouldn't be able to tell the difference now anyways.
“We good?” Luke asked quietly, already pumping the gas.
“Yep.” I dove into the front seat without looking at anyone. Shane leaned across the seat to take the bag of drinks from my lap.
No one asked what happened. They didn't need to, it was written plain enough on my face. I hated doing that to people. It had started out as an act of desperation. I was in fifth grade and Ellen Ray had told on me for cheating on a math test. I knew that another strike against me and I would be transferred – again – so I did the only thing I could think of. I lied.
“It wasn't me, Mr. Tave, I would never cheat.” Mr. Tave always required eye contact so I saw the moment his eyes glazed over.
“Of course you wouldn't dear,” he said flatly, “you've clearly been paying more attention in class. Mrs. Frist will be pleased.”
The three amigos and their damsels got away with a lot in that school. Impossible things. But just like that first A I clutched in my white fist, it didn't feel right – it was all fake.
I swore I would never use it again after I bailed Cody out of some trouble that he never should have been involved in. Then I swore it again after we got the car we really needed; as long as I didn't think of how they got it. Over and over again, it became my burden.
I was the evil villain in my own story. Oh well, I sighed as I let my head lean back against the seat, we couldn't all be princess's.
“Stay on this road?” Luke asked softly.
Cody's loud response brought me back to the reality of the car. We were moving again. “Let's turn off at the first exit, in case that guy recognized us,” he called up at us.
“No,” I jerked my head in small movements. “He doesn't even remember we were there. We stick to the plan. Turn on the 101.”
The car lurched forward onto the highway, gaining speed quickly as we slinked away through the night. We were the bad guys now, we'd always danced just on the line but now it was official.
My eyes turned on their own accord to the sky. I had always been amazed at the vastness of the sky, especially at night. Only under the cover of darkness could you really appreciate how big the universe was. It was a comfort to know that I was so small, that I didn't affect everyone the way I was afraid I did.