Hitching for Adventure

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

On the way home from work, Ellen picks up a hitch-hiker. Did she make a mistake, especially after the woman's odd request?

Parents warn us when we first start driving, and gruesome horror movies press young drivers never to pick up hitch-hikers. So what was I thinking on that cold January evening? I was thinking about how much I hate my job; I wasn’t paid enough to unclog toilets when my official position was a personal secretary. I was thinking how I would never be paid enough to spend all day walking through the office, getting my ass pinched while I collected paperwork. And in the middle of all these thoughts, I saw her on the side of the road, and my immediate thought was, “but I’m so glad I’m not her”.

Usually it was easy to ignore the people standing on the side of the road with their cardboard signs and pity-me looks, but unfortunately for me, the light turned red and I was stuck waiting with her right next to me. Normally when this happened, I’d avoid eye contact, fiddle with my radio or adjust my mirror. This time though, something caught my eye. Her sign said “Hitching for Adventure” in loopy cursive with daisies drawn around it in rainbow colors. I only glanced at it, but it was enough for her to notice.

Before I could turn away she smiled at me, and her playful lips seemed to say “I dare you”. Her brown eyes sparkled in the setting sun, her hair was pulled back under a hat that couldn’t hide the wild mess of auburn curls, and every inch of her clothing, from her candy striped shirt, to the leggings under her ruffled skirt, and the long boots she wore, were loud and colorful. I felt dull in comparison with my brown shirt and black pants, my hair braided back and my plain black glasses framing my face.

In the few seconds where we maintained eye contact she twirled her finger around, a gesture meaning for me to roll down the window, and strangely enough, I complied. “Are you taking the freeway?” she asked. I nodded, and she pulled a roll of money from the top of her shirt. “I have gas money.”

“How far?” I asked timidly.

“You can take me how ever far you want,” she said with a smile to counter my frown. There was something mischievous behind the look she gave me. “I promise not to go all crazy Hitcher on you.”

After a moment’s deliberation, I unlocked the door, not at all sure why I suddenly decided to be so generous. She dumped a large duffle bag in my backseat before she sat in the car. “Alix,” she said with a copper colored hand held out.

“Ellen,” I said, shaking her hand. She closed the door as the light changed to green, and I hit the gas, turning onto the freeway. It was only a thirty minute drive for me, so I knew I’d be letting her out soon.

“Beautiful,” Alix said after a few moments of awkward silence. Something about my face must have let her know I was confused, because she added, “the sunset.”

“Oh,” I said, “I didn’t really notice.” What was left of the sun reflected off of the clouds, giving the impression of a fire lit sky. Beyond that where the light couldn’t reach were multiple shades of blue, until stars dotted the sky in between the clouds. “I guess it is.”

Another minute of silence passed, but Alix didn’t seem to mind. She was smiling as she nodded her head in time with the music on the radio. “Where are you headed?” I asked when the song ended.

“Anywhere,” Alix said. “Nowhere in particular. Away to the west coast, maybe.” She sounded airy, and I thought maybe she was high.

“That sounds nice,” I said. “Do you have family out there?” Alix shook her head. “Friends?” I asked.

“Potential friends,” she said happily.

“Why would you want to go somewhere where you’ll be alone?” I asked.

“It’s hard to be alone with so many people in this world,” she said. I stifled a laugh, but nodded. “Have you ever been surfing?” she asked.

I couldn’t stop myself from laughing that time; the closest body of water was a pond in the middle of the city. “Have you?” I asked skeptically.

“Twice,” she said, “In Florida, last summer. I wonder if surfing is different on the west coast.”

“I don’t think it would be,” I said, though I really had no idea. “I’ve never been to a beach.”

“Aw. You’re missing out,” she said.

“Maybe not. I don’t even own a bikini,” I said.

“Really? I bet you’d look good in one,” she said with a smile. A comment like that from a friend wouldn’t seem so out of place, but there was something different about the way she said it that made my cheeks glow red.

“I doubt it,” I said meekly, struggling to keep my eyes on the road while I tried to keep her from seeing me blush.

“You’re cute,” she said with a soft laugh. It was an impossible thought, but I wondered if she might be flirting with me.

I fiddled with the radio again, trying to get past that idea while I scanned for a station I liked. “So why are you hitch-hiking?” I asked, trying to change the subject.

“Adventure,” Alix said at once, an answer that certainly fit her. “Have you ever been on an adventure, Ellen?”

“Not unless you count my one and only ride on a roller coaster at the carnival,” I said with a smile.

“That’s not an adventure,” she said with another laugh. “I mean a real one. With excitement and fun, and maybe a little danger.”

“You just described the carnival perfectly,” I said. She made a tisking sound.

“Haven’t you ever wanted more than that?” she asked, sounding incredulous.

“Not really…” I said, although I knew I wasn’t being honest with myself when I said it.

“You’ve never wanted a vacation, a chance to escape from life?” Alix asked. She looked sad, though I could never begin to guess why that was.

“Well,” I said, thinking of my job, “A vacation wouldn’t hurt.”

“Great! Let’s go,” she said, giving me that daring smile again.

“What?” I asked, laughing.

“Come with me,” she said, and despite her smile, I could see no reason to believe she wasn’t serious.

“Alix, I met you fifteen minutes ago,” I said.

“My name is Alix Marie Chastin, I’m twenty-two and I was born in Mississippi. My dad owns a car lot, my mom died when I was eight. I bounced around different private school until I dropped out of high school, and I’ve been making my own way ever since,” she sounded really enthusiastic, but I shook my head. “What about you?”

“Ellen Burton, twenty-two. I’ve worked as a personal secretary for three years now, and I’m due for a promotion. A vacation would screw that up.” I said.

“Get a new job when you get back,” she said, as though it was simple to do. I just shook my head. “Let me guess: you were a straight A student, never out of line, no parties, no drinking, no fun. You get your work done ahead of schedule, stress out way too much, and get little respect for it.”

“I… no,” I said, but my burning cheeks probably contradicted me. We were both quiet for a minute before I said, “How is it so obvious?”

“I’m just good at reading people,” she said with a wink. I didn’t believe her. One look in the mirror and I could see it written all over me; premature frown lines, circles under my eyes, and everything about me screamed eternal boredom and loneliness.

“So what do you say? Care to join me on an adventure?” she asked.

The word no was on the tip of my tongue, all the excuses popping into my head: I had too much going on, my boss was depending on me, my family wouldn’t like it, my bank account wouldn’t like it. But would I like it? Behind those excuses, I started to imagine what it might be like. New experiences, no deadlines, no yelling bosses or nagging mothers, living for the moment, living for myself…

We passed a sign stating my exit was just a mile ahead. I looked down at my gas gauge as I thought. The tank was nearly full after I got gas that morning. I did have money in my savings account, and since I still lived with my parents I knew my stuff would be safe. What was there to really stop me?

I could see my exit ahead. I looked back at Alix, whose smile matched the excitement in her eyes. She could already see the answer on my face. Without another thought, I moved the car into the left lane, just as I was passing my exit.

Submitted: April 14, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Katy Black. All rights reserved.

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