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She drove east until she came to the next big city, passing a few small towns in between. When she saw signs for an airport and hospital she knew she was finally where she needed to be for the next part of her plan. She watched the businesses along the side of the highway and paid attention to billboards with information about what could be found at each exit. Finally she saw it, a coffee shop.
She took the exit, turned right, and turned right again into the parking lot. She exited the vehicle and nearly fell over, grabbing the car door for support. Her left leg had fallen asleep and she hadn’t even noticed. The pins and needles and shooting pains made her want to dance around tapping her foot on the ground to speed things along, but that would draw too much attention. As it was she was equal parts laughing and moaning at the pain and absurdity of it all.
When she could finally put some weight on the leg she began to gingerly walk into the shop. Thankfully there wasn’t a line and only one other person at a table enjoying what appeared to be a chocolate covered croissant. She realized she was incredibly hungry.
“What can I get you?” the young man behind the register asked with a smile.
“Just a plain coffee, largest one you got, and whatever that is they’re eating,” she said.
“Chocolate croissant? You want that heated?”
“Oh, yeah, I hadn’t even thought about that, but that sounds great!” she said, smiling and starting to relax into the idea of food and caffeine coming her way.
“Okey dokey, that’ll be eight dollars and thirty-three cents.”
“Here, and…” she dug around in her pockets for change, “I even have exact change. Hey, do you happen to know if there are any good thrift store around here?” she asked, not really expecting a guy to know too much about the shopping scene but hoping to save herself a trip to a gas station or a long drive around the city searching.
“Oh sure! We call it ‘thrift store row’ cause there’s about four of ’em on one block. You just go up here to the next light, turn left, then make a right at the stop sign and you’ll see them. I’ll bring your order out to you if you want to go sit down?” he offered.
“Thanks,” she said, smiling again, and walking over to a table that would give her a view out the window but that wasn’t too close to the other person in the shop. It always bothered her when people walked into a place that was nearly empty and sat right next to her, like when you went camping and had the entire park to yourself only to come back from a hike and find someone’d set up camp in the spot next door.
The coffee shop worker, Lee, his name tag said, brought her the croissant and coffee and asked if she needed anything else. She politely declined and he seemed a bit chagrined. She wanted to pick up the croissant and bite into it but also wanted to savor it. She decided to pull a layer off and eat it. She stopped herself from groaning as the first bit melted in her mouth. This was amazing, definitely home baked by somebody. She licked the chocolate off her finger and thumb and decided there was no need to continue at that pace. She picked the whole thing up and began shoving it into her mouth, chewing and swallowing and biting as fast as she could. She knew her eyes were rolled back in her head, she knew she probably looked ridiculous, but she couldn’t stop.
When the entire croissant was gone, ravaged, she took her finger and drug it across the plate, getting every last bit of chocolate she could, licking her finger and sighing. She then proceeded to take sips of her coffee, cooled enough to drink in swallows, but there was no rush. Each sip washed a little more of the chocolate away so she took her time. Enjoying the new flavor as much as the old. It was going to busy here over the next few hours, she would relish this down time as long as she could.
She turned her attention out the window and her eyes widened. How had she failed to notice when she pulled in? There across the street was the bus station, exactly another thing she’d be needing. She watched for awhile, sipping her coffee, as people came and went, as buses came and went. It was perfect, busy enough that she’d be just another person coming and going, but not so busy that she wouldn’t be able to find someone to help her.
She finished her coffee, waved to Lee, and walked out of the shop. Leaving her car for a moment she walked across the street to the bus station and up to the departures table. She needed somewhere big and she needed it in about five hours or maybe a bit more. And then she saw it: New York that evening. Plenty of time and plenty big. She went up to the cashier line and waited her turn. Purchasing her ticket, she smiled at the big sign saying “No Refunds,” and walked back across the street to her car.
Remembering Lee’s instructions she made her way to thrift store row and looked through two stores before she found the bag she needed. Big enough to hold what little clothing she’d brought with her, but not so big that she couldn’t tuck it under her feet, lift it up on her own, or carry it for a few miles if need be. As she was making her purchase she asked the cashier if they knew a place that bought cars nearby.
“My uncle has a place two streets over,” the cashier answered, “but I gotta tell you, he’s cheap. Will haggle with you over every little thing to give you as little as possible.”
“I just can’t keep it any more and don’t have time to try and sell it on my own,” she said.
“Well, here’s the thing, my uncle will haggle, but he’s also a big softy. You give him some kind of story and he’ll crumble a bit,” the cashier winked and gave her the name of the car lot and the directions. “Good luck!”
Thanking her again, she walked out to her car with her new bag and transferred her clothes into it. She then threw the trashbag in the garbage in front of the thrift store, got back in her car, and made her way to the car sales lot. As she pulled in she knew this would be just as hard and just as easy as she’d anticipated, all the cars had outrageous price tags on them and none were quite as beat up as hers. She parked and double checked that the only thing in the glovebox was the title and the manual, she also checked the center console and the pocket in the door, just in case, but everything was empty.
Sighing she exited the car and started walking to the office only to be met outside by a man with a mustache and a huge smile, “What brings you in today, little lady?” he asked.
“I’m looking to sell my car,” she said, giving him a small smile and then looking down as though she were sad about the situation.
“That’s just fine! I love buying cars! What are you looking to replace it with?” he asked.
“Oh, I can’t replace it with anything right now. I need to sell it cause I’m moving.”
“Those are out of state plates,” he said, squinting his eyes at her, “you in trouble?”
“No, sir,” she said firmly looking him right in the eyes, “not at all, it’s just that I realized I don’t belong here and I want to get back home. The only way I can afford to is if I sell this car to pay for my ticket back.”
“I see,” he said, softening a little. “Anything wrong with her?” he asked as he started walking towards the car, looking for dents and scrapes and damage.
“No, sir. She runs like a top.”
“Well, let’s take her for a little drive and then I’ll have my mechanic take a look at her while we discuss price,” he said.
“You go right ahead, mister,” she said, handing him the key, “I’ll wait right here if it’s all the same to you.”
Taking the key from her outstretched hand he looked her in the eyes again before nodding and getting in the car. She watched as he fiddled around with things and ran his hand over the inner liner making sure everything was as it should be before driving off the lot. She waited in a patch of sun, enjoying being outside for longer than five minutes for the first time in two days. She felt like she could sleep right there in the parking lot, but told herself to hang on just a few hours more.
She watched as her car returned to her, the man parking it and getting out, walking around the front and the passenger side, then popping the trunk and closing it again after a brief glance inside. He walked towards her, still smiling and said, “go on inside and take a seat, I’m going to give your key to my guy.”
She went in and was met with the smell of stale coffee and some kind of perfumed cleanser that made her crinkle her nose and tuck her face to the side for a moment. She sat down at the only desk inside choosing the chair on the left, closest to the window and furthest from the door. This chair put her head at the same level as the old computer monitor sitting on the desk, and she hoped made her appear smaller and younger, an angle she’d have to work with this man to get the money she needed.
“Okay,” the man said as he came back in, “while Chuey there goes over your car, I’m gonna run a quick report on it, make sure everything is legit, no accidents or anything. Can I get you some coffee?” he asked. She shook her head and he continued, “alright, well, assuming everything is on the up-and-up, I’m thinking we could offer you for about thirty-fivehundred for that old car. I’d like to give you more, but it’s pretty old and not exactly the kind of car that’ll be easy for me to re-sell,” he said, giving her a smile and a wink of apology.
“Well sir, I’m afraid that won’t get me where I need to go so I’m gonna thank you for your time but ask for my key back,” she replied.
His smile grew larger, it was obvious he loved to haggle and was glad she hadn’t turned out as meek as she’d looked, “I hear what you’re saying missy. Let’s just see what ole Chu finds and I’ll run that accident history and then we’ll talk. Maybe we can still work something out.” He turned to the computer and typed some stuff, clicking the mouse a couple times. “Okay, it says here there’s no history of accidents, which is good. And now let’s see,” he typed a bit more, a few more mouse clicks, “yep, it looks like the title is clean, that’s excellent.”
“Hey, boss?” a man asked, coming in from a backdoor she hadn’t noticed.
“Yes, Chuey?” he smiled and beckoned with his hand.
“Everything looks good, maybe needs some oil, but nothing big,” Chuey said.
“Great, buddy, thank you. You have everything you need to get back to that Lexus?”
“Yeah, man, we’re good,” Chuey replied before ducking back out.
“Okay. So, we’re good all around. Now it’s just a matter of what I can sell the car for. You see, I can’t pay you what I can get for it, cause then I don’t make any money. How would I pay Chuey or my rent? You see? So, here’s what I’ll do, I’ll give you fourthousand and you can head on home. Sound good?”
“Well sir, I hear you, and I understand you run a business. I can see that. But I gotta have enough to get back home and get back on my feet. I made a big mistake coming to the city, and I know that, but I gotta make it better, and going home without a car and nothing else to my name won’t cut it,” she said.
“You sure know how to get to a man’s sensitive side, don’t cha,” he said, wagging his forefinger at her as though she were an errant toddler. “Alright, here’s the deal, I’ll give you a check for forty-twohundred and that’s really the best I can do.”
“Mister, you and I both know you’re gonna put a sticker on that car that’s ten grand. Now you’ll probably end up taking eight for it, and that’s fine. I don’t expect to get eight. But I gotta have more than forty-two and I gotta have cash,” she replied.
He looked hard at her for a minute, the smile gone from his face, his mustache twitching a bit at the right corner. “You leaving today?” he asked. She nodded. “Okay, you look here, you leave today and don’t tell nobody the deal you got from me, you hear? I’ll give you fortyfive, cash, and a lift to the airport,” and there came that smile, only this smile was gentle and sincere.
“Sir, you gotta deal,” she said, sticking out her hand so they could shake on it. He laughed and shook her hand.
Still pumping her arm up and down he said, “give me thirty minutes to get all the paperwork in order, get your cash, and have Chuey clean up to drive you.”
“Thank you, truly,” she replied.
~~~That’s one hour~~~