Nic decided her only option was to entice him. Bryant was gone, and her funds were next in line for departure. The man in the gas station seemed skittish, but not dangerous. Almost anxious as if he was anticipating some unlikely event.
Nic pretended to accidentally drop the items she was holding right in front of his feet.
“Ugh, I’m sorry. I’m so clumsy,” she smiled hoping to get one in return to keep the conversation going, but to no avail.
“Just watch yourself,” he shot back tersely. In another time, this would have ended the exchange, but except for the greasy, middle-aged cashier, he was the only other person at this nearly deserted truck stop.
Quickly looking at the items he held in his arms, Nic tried striking up a pleasant conversation against his clear rejections.
“Got big weekend plans?
“What?” he asked irritated.
“The sparklers… looks like you’re going to a party.”
He looked down at his arms, almost like he’d forgotten what he’d picked up,
“No, no party,” he responded before immediately turning around putting his back toward her to sort through magazines on the shelf. At which point, Nic retreated. This was not the type of guy who’d politely offer to buy your snacks for you, and from the looks of it, it was questionable whether he’d have enough to pay for his own.
Nic aborted her pursuit, instead resorting to pocketing a few items, and placing the remainder back neatly on the shelf — feigning indecision and confusion before hopping onto a fake phone call. The women’s room would have to work as a bedroom for the night.
Right before scouting out what would be her quarters for the evening, the young man who had previously dismissed her hissed to get her attention from the freezer.
“Hey, you want one?” He held up a six pack of cold beer. Forgetting about her imaginary phone conversation, Nic was back in.
“Sure, thanks! Where are you headed after this?” she asked realizing that underaged drinking in public may invite unwanted attention.
“I’m heading back to my house for a small gathering. That’s what the sparklers are for. It’s not a party, just a small gathering of a few close friends.”
Nic was leery of his offer. Going to an unknown place with a guy she’d just met seemed like a pretty textbook bad decision, but what other option was there? Bryant wasn’t coming back for her, and she needed to eat soon.
“It’s not too far. It’s this giant farm like a mile up the road, you can’t miss it. I can give you a ride back here to get your car or whatever — promise.”
Nic's free hand fumbled around the lining of her pocket for her hunting knife and the small tube of mace to its left.
“Yeah, yeah, sounds good. I can’t stay long though.”
“Of course not.”
They walked to the register together where he then offered to pay for her things.
“My name’s Aman by the way. What’s yours?”
“Patricia,” Nic responded so casually, she impressed herself with the fluency of her own lie.