No Sign of StoppingAlmasi Hines
“Nice place you got here,” the girl said. She laughed. He smiled. She looked at the three suitcases he had placed against the wall, holding everything he owned that was not in storage, and the Chinese takeout boxes stacked in a tower in the trash can.
“How long you been staying here?” the girl asked.
“Just a few days,” the man lied. “You?”
“Second night,” the girl said. The man couldn’t tell if she was lying. But he thought it best not to delve too deep into the girl’s story, which he could tell just by looking at her would be a sad one.
He saw now that her hair was dyed red. Her blonde roots peeking out. She looked to be about nineteen, but the purple bags under her eyes made it hard to judge. She wasn’t ugly or pretty, but somewhere in-between. And the way she carried herself, walking confidently into his room – she’d obviously walked into places she’d had no business of going before, and likely had the scars to show for it.
The girl sat down in the only chair in the room. She sat Indian-style. Brown scabs dotted her knees, like she’d recently taken a fall. Her hair was wet. It stuck to the sides of her head.
The phone rang. The man didn’t pick it up. The girl looked over at it, but didn’t mention it. It rang twice more and stopped.
“Guess you were already having a party,” the girl said, looking at the bottle beside the bed.
“Guess so,” the man said. He went to the bathroom and grabbed two plastic cups off the sink. When he reentered the room, the girl had already unscrewed the bottle top. He put ice into both cups. He held the cups, one in each hand, while the girl poured.
After she poured them both triple shots, the man sat down on the bed. He took a sip. He’d never had this brand of whisky before. It burned like hot coals down his throat.
“What brings you to Roanoke Rapids?” the man asked the girl. “You got people here?”
“No. Just passin’ through,” the girl said. She drank her whiskey in two sharp gulps, then poured herself another. “You?” she asked as she poured.
“I’m from around here,” the man said. He thought maybe he shouldn’t tell the girl too much about himself. Maybe she was a grifter. Then again, he thought, what do I have to fear from some skinny teenager?
“Where you passin’ through to?” the man asked. The girl paused. She stared at the man for a second, sizing him up.
“Miami,” she said. “I got people expecting me there.” The man could tell she was lying, maybe not about the first part, but definitely the last.
“I’m not aiming to do you any harm,” the man said. This seemed to relax the girl. God, the man thought, what’s this child doing out here on her own. They drank in silence.
The phone rang. The girl looked at it. The man made no move to pick it up.
“You gonna’ get that?” the girl asked.
The man sighed. He rolled over on his stomach and reached across the bed for the phone. He picked it up and placed it to his ear.
“Hello?” he said. His voice shook when he spoke.
“Hello,” a woman said on the other end.
“I’m sorry for calling,” the woman began. “This is management of the motel.” She spoke slowly, like she was bored by what she had to say.
“Okay,” the man said.
“We’re having some trouble with the electricity…due to the thunderstorm and all, so don’t be alarmed if the electricity goes out,” the woman said.
“Okay,” the man said. “I thought you were about to kick me out of the motel,” he joked. The woman hung up without responding.
“That was the motel,” the man told the girl after hanging up the phone. “They said the electricity might go out.”
“Figures,” the girl said. The girl stood. She walked to the mirror over the dresser. She looked at her reflection.
“I look a hot mess,” she said. She tried to tease her wet hair with her fingers, making matters worse.
“You look fine,” the man said. The girl locked eyes with him in the mirror.
“Thank you,” she said. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a pack of Virginia Slims and a box of matches. She put a cigarette between her lips. The cigarette hung limply like a sideways exclamation point.
“Mind if I smoke?” the girl mumbled through her clamped lips.
“Not if you blow it out the window,” the man said, “I got asthma.”
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