More than Exist(10)

By: Bethany Lopez



“It’s a little after five,” Ginger explained as she shook me. “You wanted me to wake you so we could get on the road.”

I groaned in response, the movement of my body causing the bottle and a half of wine I’d had last night to slosh around my stomach.

“Stop shaking me,” I managed to get out without spewing all over Ginger.

“Oh,” she said with a giggle. “Sorry.”

I’d given her an extra key card yesterday, and she must have come in from the club after I’d already gone to sleep. She still managed to look fresh as a daisy in Pink sweat pants and an oversized tee.

I stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom, turning on the shower to heat as I relieved myself in the bathroom. Once I was done, I washed my hands and prepared my toothbrush. Then I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

Hair a tangled mess, and dark smudges under my eyes from a combination of eyeliner and mascara, I looked a fright.

I gave myself a scowl as I brushed my teeth, my eyes never breaking contact with themselves in the mirror.

I stripped as I walked, kicking my panties across the floor before entering the shower and standing under the steaming stream of water.

I allowed myself a few minutes to shake the early-morning fog out of my head, before quickly showering and joining Ginger in the room to pack my things. She handed me a cup of hot coffee as I shoved my things in my bag, and I smiled at her gratefully.

“Thanks, Ginger.”

“Sure thing, honey,” she replied with a sunny grin. “I’ll do a last check around and make sure you didn’t forget anything.”

I nodded as I took my first sip of coffee.

“Charger,” she said, holding up my phone charger.

“Thanks,” I said again as I took it from her and stuffed it in my purse. I crumbled up the empty coffee cup and tossed it in the trash, then walked out of the room without looking back.

We stopped at a gas station to fill up the car and grab some coffee, water, and snacks to go.

As we were pulling onto the highway I said, “I looked it up yesterday, and we can make it just passed Albuquerque before we need to stop tonight, then drive the rest of the way to Dallas tomorrow. We’ll get in late, and they’ll be long days on the road, but I think we’ll be fine.”

“Sounds good,” Ginger replied as she reclined back in the seat, her feet up on the dash. “Just let me know when you need a break from driving, and I’ll take the wheel.” She sat there twirling a long red curl around her finger as she looked out the window. The air felt heavy, like she wanted to say something, but wasn’t sure what.

After a few minutes I felt her shift toward me.

“Belle?” she prompted softly.

“Yeah?”

“What happened?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, confused by her question.

“Well, you’re on this cross-country trip by yourself, and, sugar, I have to say, I think you’re a blast, but … There’s a sadness in you.”

I gulped at the lump that formed in my throat at her words, and I wondered if my despair was obvious to everyone, or to Ginger because we’d spent so much time together over the last few days.

“A little over a year ago, my husband, Ricky, died in a motorcycle accident,” I admitted, my voice low and rough from keeping back tears.

“Oh, Belle, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No, Ginger, of course you should … It’s fine.” I turned to smile at her briefly, hoping to convince her of my sincerity.

I told her about Ricky. About him being in the military, and how we met.

“I was working in a creole restaurant at the time, and my roommate and I loved to go out dancing whenever we had a night off. We were in this loud club, packed with people, when I felt hands on my waist.” My lips turned up at the memory, and I swear I could feel Ricky’s hands, just like I had that night. “He said he’d been watching me move and it had taken him all night to work up the courage to come up to me. We danced until the bar closed, and then he walked me home.” I caught Ginger’s eye and added, “He called me the next morning, not three hours after he dropped me off. And that was it. We were inseparable.”

“He sounds great,” Ginger said, her tone gentle.

“He really was,” I replied, then drifted off, caught up in my memories.

When we stopped for lunch, and to switch places, I told Ginger I needed to go to the restroom and would meet her outside. I don’t know if it was talking about Ricky, or being in the car for so long, but I really wanted a drink. It felt like there was a clawing need in my belly, and I needed to make it go away, so I hid in the stall and opened my purse.

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