Nic paused and turned around, heading in the direction of Fred’s car, “Actually, I think I will join you, thanks,” she said crossing in front of yellowed headlights illuminating her way to the passenger side.
Nic pulled the door handle and waited a moment for Fred to unlock it before sliding onto the crackling leather seats. Fred’s car was almost antique-like in appearance, but without the maintenance— Nic wondered how reliable it was.
The gravel displaced itself under the tires as he started back on the path to the gas station. As they started down the road, it seemed as though all of Fred’s affability had been spent convincing Nic to join him, and while not brash like Aman had been, Nic felt just as uneasy.
“So how do you and Aman know each other? You don’t seem to run in the same circles,” Nic inquired.
“Small town. There’s only so many people to know.”
“Makes sense,’ Nic responded, desperately trying to fill the space that Fred's missing radio had left. “You paint, right? How’d you get into that, are you in art school or something?” Nic asked, keeping her eyes fixed on the few street lights in the distance. Fred turned and looked at Nic, briefly acknowledging the question and ignoring it none the less. In a matter of minutes, Nic had become a novice reporter questioning an unwilling participant. As Nic grew more uneasy with Fred’s failure to engage, they continued on in silence for the duration of the ride.
“Here you are,” he said as he unlocked the doors and pulled into the driveway of the gas station. Nic had to admit to herself, she felt more relieved than she believed she should upon getting to the gas station safely.
“Thanks again for the ride. Want anything while I’m here?”
“No, you’re fine, I’m gonna head back to Aman’s. I just wanted to make sure you were okay after that whole blow up. I’ll see you around.”
“Well, probably not. I’m headed pretty far away, but again, thanks for your help,” Nic clarified.
Fred looked at Nic for a moment, just one second longer than what she was comfortable with, and the awkwardness she’d felt while in his car returned, “…See you around, Nic.” Fred pulled off swiftly before Nic could respond correcting him with her alias.
Standing underneath the convenience store threshold, Nic’s eyes followed the tail lights on Fred’s long, rusted pickup as they disappeared into the evening.