Why do people promised to love one another and then leave, after doing unspeakable damage. Of course, there may have never been any love between her parents, just a small flare of attraction mistaken for the real thing. How did a person know when they were in love? All she had to do was stand still for five seconds in the dorm to hear one of the girl announce her love for a current boyfriend. If she stood five seconds longer, she’d hear another girl plot revenge against someone she used to love. As words went, love got passed around more than a bottle of Jack. Women who barely tolerated one another kissed the air near each other while trilling their affection for one another, barely waiting for the other to leave before ridiculing her.
Trust was a much harder word to earn. Few people trusted one another. Her eyes cut to Cam. Nope, she didn’t trust him. Wished she could, but so far had no real reason to. If she could trust him, then maybe she could love him, but to do any of that she’d have to get to know him. It hadn’t happened yet. The fact she never knew about his journeys to the country for small town dining epitomized how little he shared.
A small diner with a neon sign with a burnout N announced it DI ER, which sounded rather unappetizing. Underneath the neon, a narrow strip of plywood declared Good Eats Inside in sloppy blue painted letters. An older pickup truck and a dated sedan covered with religious bumper stickers sat in front. Cam drove across the pitted, gravel parking lot slowly and parked alongside the truck.
“We’re here.” He grinned at her, similar to announcing a glorious event.
Now, she didn’t expect white tablecloths and tuxedoed waiters, but something more than this. Road Kill Café might serve as an alternate name or the 50/50 diner because you had a 50 percent chance of getting food poison. Stella sat in the car for a second, before she noticed Cam standing in front of the car. Oh yeah, she needed to get out. If Cam liked the restaurant so much, it must be good. Her forced smile stretched her lips upward, but no joy inhabited it
The low hum of insects greeted her as she opened the car door. Black flies swirled in some abstract landing pattern before swooping down into the bed of the truck. Curiosity pulled her feet closer to the truck bed. Inside lay a buck with molting antlers. Congealed blood covered the area around the bullet hole hosting dozens of flies. The glassy, dead eyes stared at her, importuning her, asking her why.
A small shriek and a jump backward served as her only response to the unvoiced question. Cam laughed at her, making her wonder if he parked by the truck deliberately. Perhaps, he’d already seen the deer inside. Her excitement about their date had fizzled when she realized they weren’t eating in town. Died a little more when she saw where they were, and she wasn’t too sure if any enthusiasm survived.
“C’mon, let’s go. I’m hungry.” Cam gestured to the diner, probably hoping to hurry her.
Her feet moved, but she left her appetite back in the truck with the deer. Once she reached Cam, he draped an arm around her shoulders, which improved her mood somewhat. His hand cupped her shoulder and brought her in for a squeeze. “You’re my girl, right?”
The words both cheered and puzzled her. Sure, last night, she had doubts if she wanted to be Cam’s girl, especially if he wanted her to do things that went against her personal code of ethics. Today, though, after hearing those girls doubt that Cam could be interested in her, she wanted to be his girl, but a keen desire to parade him in front of the doubting Thomasinas didn’t qualify as a reason for a relationship.
He squeezed her against his side, his fingers pressing down on her upper arm. “I didn’t hear your answer.”
It hurt. She’d probably have finger-shaped bruises tomorrow. “Yeah, I am.” She muttered the words while working her shoulder trying to shake off his grip. He relaxed his hand, allowing it to ride lightly against her upper arm. It must have been a mistake. Forgot his own strength, that’s all.
A cowbell clanged as the door opened. A tired, middle-aged woman attired in a garish orange smock paused in her discussion with the two camouflage-garbed hunters. “Hey, be with you in a minute.”
Half dozen booths comprised the seating. Cam chose one closest to the jukebox. The waitress bustled to their booth as soon as they sat, placing paper napkin wrapped utensils along with paper mat menus on the table.
The woman cracked her gum, before grinning at Cam. “Haven’t seen you in a while, last time you were with that pretty little…” She stuttered to a stop and glanced at Stella, before finishing. “…cousin.”
Yeah, cousin. Stella wasn’t buying. Apparently, she wasn’t the only girl he’d drove to the isolated diner. It made her wonder how long a while was. It could be two months, two weeks, or even two days if--she glanced at the server’s nametag--if Doreen was teasing. Not feeling any specialness. Wasn’t being someone’s girl supposed to feel different?