[This story is based on a tweet by @writetoreach. You should definitely check it out first.]
It is one of those wee hours of the night, when there is no one on the road except for long-haul truckers and short-haul lovers.
Diana considers not using her blinker as she eases from one empty lane to another. But she has to. Her father drove for a living. He taught her how to drive. He taught her how to drive properly.
There’s a point for her, during the night, when she is just tired enough, and the lights are just bright enough, that the world takes on a dream-like state.
She flashes back to trips to the big city as a child. They’d always arrive around midnight. She’d be trying so hard to stay awake in the back seat.
Blink. Blink. Long blink.
She wanted to see all the lights.
Back home, back then, at night you saw headlights. And beyond that was unending darkness
Neon signs on bars and pawn shops seemed somehow magical. Then.
Even now. She speeds up a little. Hoping to make them blur together.
She turns the radio on. A late night DJ, who expected more of himself by now, tells the world, “Here’s a classic from Bonnie Raitt.”
“Hey, shut up.” Bonnie sings.
“You shut up,” the DJ cuts in.
Diana laughs out loud.
It must be late.
She slows down in front of the Comfort Inn. She waits for a big dog with a small limp to finish walking by before she pulls in.
She parks. She grabs her bag from the backseat and walks inside, enjoying finally being able to stretch her legs.
The girl at the front desk looks through her, as she hands her a key card without saying a word.
Diana keeps walking.
She stops at room # 194.
She opens the door.
Tracy is in bed, on her laptop. Working. Ponytail in full effect.
Tracy’s parents always worked nights. Before she was quite old enough, she was left alone over night. Frequently.
She still hates nights.
“Not a bad room.”
They’re having one of those fights that only old friends can have. Hard feelings can accrue over time and due to proximity.
Diana goes through her bedtime routine, as Tracy types.
Contacts out. Glasses on.
Glasses off. Face wash.
Diana makes her way over to the bed.
Maybe this room is kind of bad after all.
The carpet has more miles on it than Kim Kardashian, Diana thinks without sharing.
She pulls back the covers gently, touching the bedspread as little as possible.
The lamp flickers a little. It gets brighter or darker. She isn’t sure. And doesn’t care.
She stretches out. When her feet touch Tracy’s legs, Tracy recoils.
Her feet are cold, Diana tells herself.
They sit in silence, save for Tracy’s keystrokes, for four songs in Diana’s head.
Diana takes a piece of stationary from the bedside table. She grabs a pen, oddly enough from a different hotel chain.
She taps the pen a few times before writing a note.
She reads it over. And again.
She begins to hand it to Tracy, but hesitates.
A determined knock on the door shakes them both.
Tracy looks at her, before climbing out of bed and making her way to the peephole.
Diana quickly tucks the note into her library book, about teenagers in a dystopian future, and jumps out of bed too.