I Can’t Stay

I haven’t slept. My hair feels like a burning bush on my head when I enter the gas station restroom. I purposefully don’t look at my reflection in the mirror when I wash my hands. No distractions. In and out, I remind myself. Only stop to use the bathroom, stock up on chips and bottled water.

I must be back on the road. I can’t stay, don’t want to linger, for someone to recognize me. I rely on quick pit-stops, avoid long lines and stick to the drive-thru windows, the gas stations where there is light traffic. I refuel, regroup, reassure myself this is the only way. I have to get as far away from the city as possible, before he realizes I’m gone, before he comes searching. When I am safe, across the state border, then I’ll find a hotel to rest.

I gather my sustenance for the next several hours: Doritos to eat now, and for later, two bags of Chex Mix, a family size bag of barbecue potato chips, several small packs of beef jerky and lightly salted peanuts, and a gallon jug of water. I spread everything out over the check-out counter.

“Someone has the munchies.”

I pretend not to hear the familiar voice. I can’t stay, I remind myself. The lens of the security camera hanging from the ceiling watches me closely. I’ve been documented. I must find another road to travel, wipe my trail and start over. He’ll be after me soon.

I lower my head to shield my face and quickly count out the cash to pay. “I have a long trip.”

Our fingers touch as he takes the money, sending a jolt through my body, reminiscent of a time before I was forced to run. “You don’t remember me?” he says, and I am captured by his warming smile, those firm lips that used to trail kisses down my neck.

I do remember, and it’s what frightens me, because I can’t stay.


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt from Sarah Cain is “Chance Encounter.

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