My breath fogged the window. The guttering sound of the engine rolling over yet again sounded through the air.
The smell of pizza, gasoline, and burnt rubber filled the interior of the crowded sedan.
“Give it up, Jimmy,” I remarked, wedged in between the guitar case and keyboard. “Call a gas station.”
Jimmy didn’t want to admit defeat, turning the key in the ignition again and again; getting more frustrated with each second.
I leaned back. The cars rushing past were like a breath of air, trying to extinguish our puny existence on the shoulder of the road.
The click-click-click of the turn signal Jimmy left on echoed through the air as headlights suddenly lit up our car from behind.
A door opened and slammed shut.
“Finally!” Jimmy yanked the key out of the ignition, moving a hand to open the door. “Stay here, Rose.”
I squinted, trying to see what was happening outside the window as Jimmy shut the door after him. The car behind us was angled in such a way that I couldn’t see anything besides shadows.
A lot can hide in shadows.
Jimmy opened the back door with a smile on his face. “This man has offered to take us to the gas station up the road.” I looked past Jimmy at the man he was talking about.
He certainly wasn’t who I was expecting.
The man was handsome, looking as if he were one of the thoroughbreds of the human variety. His raised cheekbones and colored cheeks complimented his unnaturally blue eyes and blonde hair.
He was a better off person trying to fit in. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
“My name is Gredan,” He said with a grin. My hand grabbed his. My hand was cold. His hand was warm.
I introduced myself as Jimmy locked our car, following after us to get into this stranger’s. I knew Jimmy didn’t know him. I certainly didn’t.
At least this stranger appeared to be around our age.
“Your friend Jimmy here says you were on your way to a gig,” he remarked as we loaded into his car; a car that smelled strongly of cleaning detergents.
“We were,” I said. His car purred to life as he pulled away from the shoulder. We winked past the trees as he drove faster and faster.
“Dangerous life to live, isn’t it?” he remarked; glancing back at me in the rearview mirror.
Jimmy smirked at Gredan. Jimmy thought he knew better than Gredan. He thought he always knew better.
My parents disapproved of that. To them, Jimmy was a boy that had plucked me like a literal Rose, taking me away from the path I should have been on to live a fantasy.
My parents told me I would regret going cross-country with no career. A dream, they said, would only last for so long. Eventually the dream would die.
“I’m only warning you about where you’re heading,” said Gredan. “You’re barreling down a dangerous road.”
Flashes of yellow headlights flickered past us like shooting stars in the midnight blue night.
Everything seemed to be going by so fast, slipping through my fingers. I was only a bystander.
“Where is the gas station?” Jimmy asked as he remained somewhat pressed against me in the back. We were just two bystanders flashing past life.
Gredan merely chuckled. It was a chuckle that sent shivers down my already cold spine.
There was something wrong. Something terribly wrong. Gredan had avoided answering Jimmy’s question.
Panic took over as I tugged at the door handle. The door refused to budge at my touch.
“Child locks,” said Gredan. “Gotta love them. Keeps children from opening the door before they’re suppose to.”
“Stop the car.” My voice sounded frightened. It was almost as if it was a voice that was not my own anymore.
“We’re not there yet. I’ll stop when we arrive. I told you I’d take you there.”
TA-dunk. TA-dunk. The thrum of the wheels racing over manhole covers echoed in the car as I tugged again and again at the handle.
Still the door wouldn’t budge.
“Dangerous life to live, isn’t it?” asked Gredan again. I met his gaze in the rearview mirror as he added, “Dangerous to live a life that you’ve let get out of control.”
I turned away, throwing myself against the door. I looked towards Jimmy who was sitting stone-faced, facing forward.
“Jimmy, help me stop this car! Help me get out!” Jimmy turned to look at me. “He’s just taking us to the gas station,” Jimmy remarked, unafraid.
I threw myself at the hard door again and again. My vision blurred; tears stinging my cheeks. I made a mistake.
A terrible mistake.
I stood shivering in the phone booth when the police car slowly pulled up. I pushed the door open with throbbing hands as the officer got out.
The red and blue lights bounced off the phone booth as I sat with my feet dangling out the backseat. A blanket was wrapped about my shoulders as the ambulance arrived.
The officer wanted me to tell him what happened. All I could do was wrap the orange blanket tighter about me, watching paramedics wheel a gurney around the back of the deserted gas station.
I soon told him the story though. I told him about our car trouble, and how Gredan had offered us a ride. I felt something cold slide down my cheek. I hadn't realized I was crying.
“You’re lucky,” said the officer after I had told my story. “You could have died too.”
The officer was right. I could have died like Jimmy, but I didn’t.
I just wish it hadn't taken something so drastic to make me see all the warning signs I'd ignored.