Friday, September 5, 2008

Moondance by Selah March

Zoey leaned forward and splashed cold water on her face, doing her best not to come in contact with the scum-covered sink. She used the front of her black tee shirt to dry herself, then checked her reflection in the mirror. The fluorescent light above her head flickered non-stop.

"It's enough to give somebody a seizure." She glanced at the floor and shuddered, wishing she were wearing sneakers and jeans instead of flip-flops and a too-long cotton skirt that tended to brush the ground when she moved.

"Who're you talkin' to?" The girl--Zoey couldn't recall her name, or maybe she'd never shared it--sounded sleepy. Weird. She'd been a twitchy, jittery wreck when she'd entered the bathroom a few minutes earlier, clutching an almost-empty cola can like it contained the key to the universe.

"Nobody," Zoey said, and banged on the stall door. "You almost done? We need to get out there before those truckers take off. See if we can score a ride or maybe--"

There was a loud thud as the girl's body fell against the door, then another, more muffled one as she hit the floor. Her short downward slide pushed her denim mini-skirt up to her waist, revealing grayish bikini panties with 'Tuesday' printed in red script across the ass. The panties looked like maybe they'd once been white. And anyway, it was Saturday, for another three hours at least.

"Hey! Get up. The floor's gross. You might catch something." Zoey put a hand over the top of the door and rattled it, but the nameless girl just lay there, curled on her side around the base of the toilet, not moving or making a sound.

"Damn." Zoey stepped into the next stall and squatted, breathing through her mouth. From this angle, she could see the girl's face. Her eyes were open, but the pupils were as wide as the starless black sky, and there was a string of drool running from the corner of her mouth to the floor. Only the slow, regular rise and fall of her midsection indicated she was still among the living.

"Damn," she said again. This would end up no place good. A nine-one-one call would bring the cops along with an ambulance, and she'd have to answer questions. Even if they believed her when she said she didn't know what the girl had taken or where she'd gotten it, they'd still run her name through their computer, wouldn't they? And if that son-of-a-bitch motel manager back in Burlington had gone ahead and reported her for assault...

And if he hadn't? Vagrancy was still a crime in New York State. The local fuzz could lock her up till Monday--longer, if the town was podunky and they didn't hold court but once or twice a week. And from what she'd seen as she'd passed through on her way to this godforsaken highway rest area, the town was plenty podunky.

Or she could leave the girl where she was. Grab hold of the first trucker she saw outside, filling his rig up with diesel and sucking down high-octane coffee like it was mother's milk. Promise him anything to get a ride to the next little town down the line. Worry about coming through on the pledge later. Not like it would be the first time.

After all, it wasn't like she knew the girl. Just another vagabond, on her way from here to there. But there was safety in traveling as a pair--the cops hardly ever found two bodies out in the woods, half decomposed, with their clothes all torn and their throats cut, did they?

"Damn, damn, damn."