What Happens in the Car, Stays in the Car

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


 

Max was autistic and not ashamed of it. In fact, he said autism was his superpower. 

 

“If it wasn’t for my butterfly obsession, I wouldn’t even be on this road trip,” he thought happily, as he careened down the freeway in his Subaru Crosstrek. “With the most beautiful woman in the world.”

 

He had met Zofia at an insect convention, and it was she who had hired him to drive her to Arizona. Presently she sat in the front passenger’s seat, next to Max. They were on the return journey now, back to California. A mask covered most of her face, thereby highlighting her clear blue eyes. With a calm, steady gaze, she took in the arid landscape as they drove through the Sonoran Desert. She wore a loose blouse and sporty skirt. Her tan legs, no longer young, were still healthy and fit. Her blond hair, freshly washed, was stylishly cropped. But Zofia was not the most beautiful woman in the world to him.

 

Gabby was. She sat in the backseat, along for the ride. Max glanced at her in the rearview mirror, as he did frequently. Gabby’s sunburnt face was easily visible in the backseat. After three days of camping, her t-shirt looked grimy and her messy bun was greasy. Max nicknamed her “Ursus,” for in his mind Gabby was the human version of ursus giant skipper, a rare desert butterfly that lived only in the hottest region in Arizona. It had white antennae and danced like no other butterfly.

 

Gabby chattered nonstop from the backseat. “…so I told Eduard, Babe that’s too expensive. He just said he wanted to get it, and that’s that. I asked him how much, and he said, Babe if I tell you, you won't like it. I said, Babe just tell me…”

 

As Gabby talked and talked, Max fervently twirled a bottle cap with the same hand with which he steadied the steering wheel. It was the self-stimulating motion that kept him on track. “Search Chick-fil-A near me” was on his map search, as always. The three travelers had made five stops there already. Zofia had gone from maiden voyage, to sampling every vegan thing on the menu. Max smiled as he drove, thinking about the last Chick-fil-A stop. His excitement over the chicken sandwich had been so extreme, that the ladies could not stop laughing. They even clucked with him like chickens. Zofia’s face (free of the mask while eating) had beamed with laughter. And when Max's jalapeño salsa packet accidentally squirted on Gabby’s already filthy shirt, it threw her over the edge with mirth; Zofia could not get air for a good long moment of absolute hysteria.

 

Max chuckled now as he thought about that fun grub stop, even as sweat poured down his face. His thick black hair was soaking wet; his brown skin was turning red. He could hike all day in the Arizona heat, but sitting for hours in a car without air conditioning was insane, especially with the windows rolled up. Gabby had said air conditioning would aggravate her sinuses, and Zofia said open windows hurt her ears. Even in the sweltering heat, Zofia wore a KN95 mask, to protect herself from potential COVID. If it was just Max in the car, she might have given herself a breather from the suffocating plastic, but since she barely knew Gabby, she decided to take precautions. Zofia was a retired doctor from the Czech Republic. Having grown up under communist oppression, she was used to deprivation and hardship.

 

Fortunately, the sun had gone down. Max usually did these trips alone, and it was just about him and the butterflies. This time it was about compromise and putting the ladies’ needs above his own. At age forty, he was finally expanding beyond himself. He felt himself becoming a man. He rather liked it, even if it meant closed windows. And no air conditioning.

 

Gabby looked out the back window at the darkening sky. She sighed. “Eduard does whatever he wants, without considering me. I was really mad… Oh! He just texted me!” 

 

Max clenched the bottle cap against the steering wheel. She sounded happy about Eduard’s text.

 

“Eduard says he can pick me up in Indio!” Gabby quickly entered text into her phone. “According to the GPS we should get there by midnight.” 

 

Max felt his heart pounding. “That’s without stops, Ursus. We’ll need gas and restroom breaks.”

 

“Yeah, I’ll just give him a loose ETA. I’m so excited!”

 

Max’s heart sank. Why was she so excited about Eduard? Eduard was not a nature lover like she was. Max was a true naturalist who could teach her all about plants and animals, especially insects, and most especially butterflies. He knew as much about butterflies as the leading entomologist of the day. Couldn’t she see all that?  

“What will you do in Indio, Gabbinka?” Zofia asked. “Gabbinka” was the Slavic way of saying “Gabby darling.” Any ordinary thing she said, sounded intelligent with her beautiful European accent.

 

“Eduard won Stagecoach tickets. He says I will love going barefoot in the dry grass polo field. But what will I wear? I only have my camping clothes.”

 

“He should accept you as you are,” Max said. “Why should you have to dress nice for him?”

 

Ignoring his question, Gabby mentally went through her duffel bag, which was packed in the trunk, on top of Max’s butterfly specimen cooler. There was her one-person tent, sleeping bag, and hiking boots. Besides the pajamas, there was only one outfit. It was the hiking outfit Max had given her: baggy white jeans and a dirty white denim shirt. The all-white garb looked garish, but Max strongly believed it was the best thing to wear on a desert hike. In Arizona, passing hikers had stared at them in their white uniforms, and with Max’s catching-net to boot, wondering what kind of beekeepers, biologists, or space cadets they might be. (Another thing that may have attracted attention was the way Max shouted at the top of his lungs, dropped to the ground and did three pushups every time he saw a big skipper butterfly.)

 

“He should accept you as you are,” Max continued. “You shouldn’t have to change for anybody.”

 

“He does accept me as I am.” Gabby was sick of hearing Max’s negative opinions of Eduard. “He’s just not into your scarecrow clothes.”

 

The extra-large men’s denim shirt that Max had given her was at one time bright white. He had bought it at a thrift store, worn it himself, and now gave it to her, soiled with sweat stains from years in the outback. Max never let bleach or any other whitening agent touch the denim, for fear it might weaken the material. Durability was key, he believed, to proper desert attire. Gabby shook her head. No, she could not wear that to Stagecoach. Her mom would not have approved either. “You’ll scare the hens,” she would have said. 

 

“He shouldn’t care how you dress,” Max persisted. 

 

Gabby looked down at her cotton top and joggers. The black joggers were covered in dust, and she had been wearing the top for three days straight, underneath the denim shirt, which she had kept unbuttoned while hiking in the heat. 


"These clothes just don’t fit in with the biggest country event of the year. Security might not let me in, for fear I might have a mental problem.”

 

“Hey,” said Max. “There’s nothing wrong with being neurodivergent.” 

 

“There's also nothing wrong with being normal.” Gabby looked at her phone. “Eduard says at the Monroe off-ramp there’s a Starbucks, and that’s where you can drop me off. We’ll take exit 142 on Monroe.” 

 

“As in President James Monroe, who wrote the Monroe Doctrine,” Max said.

 

“I was thinking as in Marilyn Monroe, but you’re probably right. I never even heard of that doctrine. Anyway back to my story, so Eduard paid a lot for it and I said, Babe, why couldn’t you get a better deal? And he said, Babe, that was a deal…” 

 

“Gabbinka, that doesn’t sound like deal.” In typical Slavic fashion, Zofia omitted articles.

 

Max, delighted that she was disagreeing with Eduard, reached his hand out in front of Zofia for a high-five. She looked at the hand, puzzled. His palm hovered in front of her for several awkward seconds. Without a word, he then withdrew his hand and brought it back to the steering wheel. Gabby giggled in the backseat. Her mom had been a foreigner too.

 

Zofia continued. “That doesn’t sound like good deal. If it was good deal, you would feel good about that.”

 

Again, Max reached his hand out to Zofia for a high-five. She reached her hand out to the vent to feel for air, thinking that was what he must be doing. He silently withdrew his hand. Gabby laughed harder.

 

“When it is good deal, it is for everybody win-win-win…” Zofia pronounced her w's as v’s, just like Gabby’s mom used to do.

 

Max slapped the steering wheel with the bottle cap. “Uhh!”

 

Zofia stopped her “vin-vin-vin” lesson. “Max, are you alright?”

 

“Uhh!” Max hit his window with the side of his fist.

 

“Max?”

 

“Ahhh!”

 

“What is happening with you?” 

 

“Ahhh!” Max gripped his thick hair. “I can’t say!”

 

“Max, you are safe with us. You can share.”  

 

“Promise not to judge?” Max squirmed in his seat.

 

“We are friends, Max.” Zofia put her hand on his shoulder. “What is happening with you?” 

 

“I have to fart, and I can’t do it in front of you ladies,” blurted Max. 

 

“I am doctor.” Zofia rolled her r strongly. “And Gabbinka works with kids. Right now, don’t consider us ladies, but medical professionals. Just go ahead.”

 

“Open your window and let her rip,” said Gabby. 

 

Max pounded his window again. “I can’t!” He gritted his teeth. “I need to pull over!”

 

He took the next freeway exit, parked in a gas station and turned off the engine, meticulous about saving fuel. He walked away to get the distance he needed.

 

Gabby checked out the convenience store a few yards away and found it closed, bolted shut with an iron gate. It was late and it was a ghetto area. She walked back to the car, where Zofia was stretching her legs. A young man holding a dirty teddy bear hobbled toward them. Zofia quickly got in the car and shut the door. Gabby stayed outside and waited as he slowly approached.

 

“Would you like to buy a teddy bear?” he asked. 

 

Gabby shook her head no. Lowering his face, the young man turned and walked away, limping to the closed shop. He lay down on the concrete in front of the bolted door, settling down for the night under the store lights, resting his head on the stuffed animal.

 

Max came jogging back to them. “That was a loud one! Did you ladies hear it?” he asked breathlessly.

 

“We didn’t hear anything,” said Gabby, who was pondering the personal worth of that teddy bear.

 

“It was bad!”

 

“Everything is in order,” said Zofia. “It was normal.”

 

“I’m so embarrassed!” Max turned his backside to Gabby. “Can you smell it?”

 

Gabby stepped away. “No.”

 

He stepped closer to her, lowering his voice. “I think I might have soiled my pants,” he whispered. “Do you see anything?” He stuck his behind closer to her. 

 

She quickly turned her face away. “No!”

 

“Uh! I have to check my pants!” Max ran off again.

 

Gabby looked at Zofia. “I can’t believe he asked me that!” She giggled. “Will you tell Radek about this?”

 

“No,” said Zofia. “I respect privacy of Max.” 

 

She empathized with his physiological needs, possessing a few of her own. Every forty-five minutes she needed a sip of home-brewed low-sugar gluten-free kombucha, preferably cold, for her rare stomach malady. Moreover, she also required a daily bowl of dried moth soup, of all strange things, at exactly four in the afternoon. This often caused great inconvenience, depending on what everyone was doing at the time. The soup had to include both male and female moth parts, to soothe her bowels. It was a recipe from her babichka who had the same ailment… which may have been triggered by the moth remedy. Which came first? The ailment or the remedy? It was hard to say.

 

Max enthusiastically harvested the moths for Zofia’s soup. In fact, that was how their friendship was born.

 

Presently he returned to the car and shouted at the top of his lungs, “MY PANTS ARE CLEAN!”

 

Gabby winced at his loud volume. “Good for you, Max. I’m glad that your pants are clean.” She patted him on the shoulder. “Let’s go.” 

 

They got in the car and resumed their journey westbound on the freeway. Air conditioning may have bothered Gabby’s sinuses, but so did a hot, stuffy car. Ribbons of snot streamed from her nose. At one point, she sneezed right on the back of Max’s hair. Odd as he was, he liked it. He didn’t normally think of beautiful people being caught with snot hanging out, especially not the prettiest lady of all time. He thought there was something phenomenal about such a gorgeous woman revealing such an inelegant discharge. Would she have let him, he would have wiped her face off with his sleeve. Max was contemplating this loving thought, when he suddenly remembered his fart.

 

He cried out, “I’m so embarrassed!”

 

“Don’t be.” Zofia assured him. “It was normal.”

 

“I feel guilty about my flatulence!” He glanced in the rearview mirror. Gabby was typing something in her phone.

 

“You should never feel guilty,” said Zofia. “It is good thing. In hospital we don’t discharge patient after surgery until they pass flatus.” Even that sounded elegant with her accent. 

 

“But I feel bad doing it in front of you ladies!” Again he peeked at the backseat. “Ursus, please don’t tell Mark Sherwin or the Joneses about this.”

 

Gabby continued typing, without consoling him.

 

“What happens in car, stays in car,” Zofia asserted. 

 

“I’M SO EMBARRASSED!” Max began rocking back and forth, hard, slamming his chest against the steering wheel, then backing hard into his seat. Back and forth, back and forth.

 

Understanding that this was turning into a crisis, Zofia quickly matched his nervous energy with positive pep. She began singing loudly, “FLATULENCE, FLATULENCE, WE ARE HAPPY ABOUT THAT!” If his own mother had failed to praise him for his potty chair achievements, Zofia made up for it now.

 

Yet he continued to repeat, “I’M SO EMBARRASSED! I’M SO EMBARRASSED! I’M SO EMBARRASSED!”

 

“Just relax. It’s normal.” Zofia’s tone was sincere. “It’s how bodies are created.”

 

These words appealed to Max's logical brain. He took a deep ragged breath. 

 

“I do believe in Intelligent Design,” he conceded. “You’re correct. I couldn’t help it.” 

 

“That’s right.” Zofia nodded.

 

“I can’t help my bodily functions.” His eyes relaxed.

 

“Right.”

 

“Be honest ladies, is there an anal aroma?”

 

“No.” 

 

“Our ETA is now 12:35,” Gabby piped up from the backseat. 

 

Max's shoulders slumped. "Please continue your girl talk, which I so crudely interrupted.”

 

“Anyway, so I decided to focus on Eduard’s good qualities,” Gabby said. “Which are many. I let go of the anger that he’s not doing the things I want him to. And then he proposed.”

 

“Proposal is too soon, Gabbinka,” said Zofia.

 

Max put his hand out to Zofia for a high-five, happy with her objection to Edward’s proposal. She put her hand to the vent again, feeling for air. Gabby broke down laughing in the backseat.

 

“I felt like I could handle the problems,” she said weakly. “So I said yes.”

 

Max went into a panic. Holy crap, how can pure, wholesome Gabby marry that man? He made a retching sound. 

 

“I have to get out! I have to get out!” His eyes were wild. He jerked the steering wheel unsteadily. 

 

Pulling off the road, Max came to a screeching halt. He shut off the engine, carefully saving gas, and ran to the nearest bush. The women waited in the car, on the shoulder of the road.

 

“Do you think he’s okay?” Gabby stared at Max's bent form in the bush.

 

“He has limitation,” Zofia explained.

 

After several minutes, Max came out of the bushes and staggered back to the car. He flopped into the driver's seat like a rag doll. 

 

“Just got a little stomach acid in my throat,” he said.

 

“Yes, I understand,” said Zofia.

 

“A little HCL in my throat.”

 

“Yes. I am doctor,” she said.

 

“From the vomit,” he clarified.

 

“Yes, I know.” 

 

“Phlegm from the esophagus.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Bile came into my throat.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“A little bit of tea and bile.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I don’t hold this against Ursus.” Max glanced in the rearview mirror. No reaction from Gabby.

 

“Of course not.” Zofia felt her stomach symptoms flaring up. 

 

“You do understand what just happened.” 

 

“Yes.” Zofia removed her mask and took a sip of warm kombucha. It was turning sour in the hot car. 

 

“It's not Ursus’s fault.” Max reached his fist to the backseat, hoping for a fist bump from Gabby. 

 

Gabby ignored the fist and asked, “Would you like me to drive?”

 

“Do you understand what just happened, Ursus? I had an autonomic response.” 

 

“Would you like me to drive?” Gabby repeated. 

 

“No.” Max started the car. “Please continue your girl talk.” He merged onto the freeway.

 

“I have to send Eduard a new ETA.” 

 

Max went from 0 to 100. “EDUARD IS GONNA KILL ME!” He pounded the steering wheel. The bottle cap flew out of his hand and across Zofia, banging her windowpane with a sharp clang. 

 

“Stop!” Zofia’s voice was stern. 

 

“EDUARD IS DONNA KILL ME!” Max yanked the steering wheel, swerving the car.

 

“You don’t know that! You are assuming!”

 

“I WAS SUPPOSED TO GET URSUS THERE AT MIDNIGHT!” He pounded the door window with his clenched fist.

 

“You are fine!”

 

“HE’S GONNA BE PISSED!” Max banged his forehead on the steering wheel.

 

“YOU ARE FINE!” 

 

He leaned forward. “My stomach doesn’t want to meet him now!”

 

“Eduard is very patient,” Gabby spoke up. “He’s emotionally stable.” 

 

Max began panting audibly. “Zofia…” he gasped, “do you think there is anywhere…I could get nausea tablets right now?”

 

“Max! You are fine! Have sip of kombucha.”

 

He gagged. “No thanks.”

 

Max was already struggling with the strong smell of the spoiling kombucha. The suggestion now, that he take a sip of it, was too much for his fragile condition. He had to pull over again. He took the nearest exit and parked on the side of an unlit road. He turned off the engine, faithfully saving gas, and ran into the darkness.

 

“He’s unstable,” Gabby said.

 

“He is stable. He is just… sensitive right now.” Zofia locked the doors and turned on the headlights, watching Max disappear into no man’s land. “He cares about you. Let’s stop talking about you and Edvard.”

 

Gabby gazed through her window at the Big Dipper. It shone bright and clear in the desert sky. A feeling of dread entered her chest, squeezing her heart. It was a familiar feeling that went beyond the present circumstances. Sure, she was trapped in a car for God only knows how much longer, but that was not the problem. It went deeper than that. Months prior, in combination with extreme COVID protocol, her mom died and her world was shattered in the blink of an eye. House, job, family and home had all been taken from her in one fell blow. Her familiar life had altogether vanished.

 

She lifted her chin. She wanted her sunny disposition back! ”Fear you’ve lost your grip on me,” she sang quietly. She willed it to be true, but all she felt was grief and sadness. When Max invited her to join him on a nature trip, she had jumped at the opportunity. Time in the desert would help her find answers, she thought. But she was still right where she started. Sure, she had enjoyed the insect hikes, with an occasional pushup here and there, but they were just momentary distractions. Now, in the silence, she felt a vast emptiness. She thought of Jesus’s words: “Remember Lot’s wife.” O God! her heart wailed. Help me stop looking at my old life! Show me what to do! Is Eduard the way to my future? Gabby would have gotten out of the car and knelt under the stars in prayer, if Zofia weren’t so safety concerned. 

 

Zofia was in her own thoughts, thinking about her son Radek and his wife Vicki, with whom she had spent the past three days in their villa in Arizona. She had richly enjoyed her time there, swimming in their salt pool, with an expansive view of the desert. Beyond their garden was a sea of sand and saguaro cacti that stretched as far as the eye could see. The blue skies, clean air and pool soothed her soul and aging bones. Living in Radek’s house for the rest of her days would be the best kind of retirement for Zofia.

 

It was a sad injustice that she had to return to California. She remembered how she was in the pool with the dogs, when Max and Gabby came to pick her up again. Oh how she had hated to leave the warm water. It was soft on her skin, unlike the hard water in California that dried her out. Floating in it had felt heavenly. Salt kept the pool clean, with no odor. What a beneficial ingredient salt was! The good teacher said she was the salt of the earth; but if salt loses its saltiness, it is no longer good for anything.

 

“Am I still good for something?” Zofia asked herself. “Am I influencing the world around me?” There was no one in the world she would rather spend time with than Rad and Vicki. She was proud of them. Their estate was impressive, and their business was doing well. But she worried about them too. Would their busyness keep them from having children? And why did they reject babichka’s medicine? It made no sense that they would pass on the matronly wisdom of the moth cure. They didn’t know what they were missing. Zofia contemplated these things in the stillness.

 

Meanwhile, Max wrestled with his own serpents in the night, as he vomited in a creosote bush. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and looked up at the stars, quickly finding the Ursa Major constellation. Was there more to life than butterflies? "Will I ever find a woman who accepts my limitations and quirks, who can deal with my butterfly obsession?" he whispered to the sky. Oh if only his dear grandmother would live long enough to see him walk down the aisle! The truth was, Max would do anything and everything, even sacrifice butterflies for the rest of his life, for that one special two-legged butterfly of his dreams; someone like Ursus. 

 

In reality, Gabby was not his perfect match, as he fatuously thought. His controlling protectiveness squeezed the life out of her. During the three days in Arizona, he had stayed close to her, like a mother hen to its chick, nervously fussing over her and thoroughly annoying her. Every five minutes he asked her, “Are you okay, Ursus?” She wanted to scream, “Leave me alone!” Besides, how could they ever live together when his heavy metal music, essential to him, was like putting needles in her eye?

 

Zofia rolled down her window, still thinking about Rad and Vicki. She removed her mask and took a sip of sour kombucha. Maybe they didn’t really need moth porridge, she reasoned. Maybe they didn’t need children either. They had their dogs after all. She smiled. She had her own little puppy, Dmitri, who was waiting for her at home.

 

Gabby felt the warm night air through the open window. Her old happy self may be gone, but something deeper was coming. Her eyes traced the two stars on the end of the Dipper’s cup. They pointed the way to the North Star. Lost as she was in her life, she needed a true north. Her free spirit wanted to always live and breathe in the great outdoors, and never have to worry about things of this world. Her blessed mom had nothing to worry about anymore. Her parting words were: "He took care of everything. He left nothing out." He was coming back any day now. Yes, he would come back and pick her up. Gabbys forehead relaxed. He would get her out of here.  

 

She imagined him on a white stallion that reared up mightily, pawing the wind. Riding his horse with ease, he set the animal back to the ground. Its hooves struck the earth with power, sending sparkling sand into the air. The rider looked straight at her, making Gabby’s heart jump. He smiled, showing beautiful teeth between his dark beard. The desert sky, ripe with scope for the imagination, suddenly unleashed a much welcomed rain. She lifted her face to it, letting the warm drops fall onto her closed eyelids, cheeks, neck… and into her mouth. Refreshment to a thirsty soul. Her chest swelled with joy. She opened her eyes and saw that he was trotting his horse closer to her. His hair had curled in the rain and his wet clothes now clung gorgeously to his body. He extended his hand to her.

 

“Do you trust me?” he asked.

 

Gabby was about to say “yes” when a rustling sound startled her out of her reverie. She was still in the dry desert with no rain, in the car with Zofia. She heard the sound again. Something was moving in the bushes next to their car.

 

Zofia watched in horror as a man emerged. She could see the silhouette of his tousled dreadlocks, even in the night. It wasn’t Max. 

 

The man walked up to their car, coughing. A reeking mix of body odor, urine and cannabis wafted through their open window.

 

“Can you ladies spare a joint?” he croaked.

 

Terrified, Zofia started the engine, quickly rolling up the windows without a word. Gabby would have talked with the down-and-out man. She wondered how he felt about life, and if he had hope. Understanding that Zofia was afraid though, she kept quiet.

 

Something struck the ground outside the car, shattering with a resounding echo. It was the man’s ceramic pipe.

 

“Dammit,” he muttered, and walked away.

 

Just like that, his most prized possession was one with the earth. Gabby empathized. The women sat in silence, with only the sound of the running motor.

 

“Max doesn’t like wasting gas,” Gabby said.

 

“I know.” Zofia winked at her.

 

Right on cue, Max came staggering into the headlights. His eyes looked vacant. He seemed more out of it than the stoner. 

 

Zofia opened her window a crack. “Max! Let's go!”

 

Max returned to his seat and sat down in a daze. “Ursus, I don’t hold this against you,” he said. “You do realize this is all out of my control. I have a weak stomach. Please continue your story.”

 

“No.” Zofia was firm. “Focus on road now. Priority is to get home safely.”

 

Her note of command got through to him. With a burst of energy, Max merged onto the freeway, skipping two lanes as though they didn't exist. At the same time, he reached his open hand toward Zofia’s face. 

 

“Be honest. Does it smell like vomit?”

 

Zofia pushed his hand away. "Please! Focus on road!"

 

He thrust his hand back in her face. “Be honest! Does it?”

 

She turned her head away. “No, you smell like… jasmine.”

 

“Like jasmine?” He pressed his fingers against his nose. “I didn’t collect any jasmine.”

 

“What I mean is, you smell nice and beautiful.” (Max had not showered in three days.)

 

“We’re just ten miles from exit Monroe,” Gabby said cheerfully from the backseat.

 

Max’s heart thumped. He didn’t want her to go. Driven to slow things down, he dropped anchor.

 

“I have to pee,” he said suddenly.

 

Now Gabby was getting agitated. Couldn’t he have peed at the last stop? 

 

“Can’t you wait till exit Monroe?” she pleaded. 

 

“Can’t I pee when I need to pee?” He wasn’t gentle with her now.

 

Gabby closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “It’s just that we are so close.” 

 

“I NEED TO PEE!”

 

“Then take next exit and handle business,” said Zofia. Her stomach ailment was bothering her again. The hot kombucha had not soothed her at all.

 

After fifteen minutes in a gas station restroom, Max leaned languidly against the dusty car. “I’m so exhausted.” 

 

“Can I drive?” Gabby asked. She could hardly wait to be in Eduard’s arms. 

 

Max sighed. “No. I can do it. I just need to rest for a bit.” He leaned his head back against his car and closed his eyes. “A nap will do.”

 

 

 

 

At this point, dear reader, each of our three travelers had substantial material to mortify the other two… but what happened in the car that night, stayed in the car, between friends. Gabby was eventually, at last, dropped off at the Monroe exit, at a nighttime empty Starbucks… and delivered into the arms of a highly caffeinated and patiently waiting Eduard. Zofia greeted him with a friendly handshake, but Max remained in the car, unable to face him. Once Gabby was gone, Max made a remarkably quick recovery from his nausea, and promptly took Zofia home with no further delays.

 

The next day at Stagecoach, Gabby fortuitously found herself in a Safe Zone, where she was given a clean rainbow shirt and free couples therapy with Eduard (who became defensive the moment they asked him his preferred pronoun). The counseling session took a surprise turn and went in a rather… unexpected direction. But that is another story for another day.


Submitted: September 25, 2022

© Copyright 2023 Netalie. All rights reserved.

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ButterflyB

Looking forward to your additions, Netalie!

Mon, November 28th, 2022 2:39am

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