I walked through the rotating glass door with my hand on my purse, and sighed at the overcrowded station crawling with community college kids. All of the kids that went to my school had cars, or their parents picked them up. As a sophomore, students weren’t allowed to have a car on campus. My parents were usually too busy to come get me, but always offered for Christian Eriksson to drive me home.
Oh God, just the thought of Christian driving up to my school with his slicked back hair and his collared shirt, which he had to fasten every last button on, disturbed me. Sometimes I thought he’d choke himself. He had been working for my father’s company for over a year now. He’s fresh out of law school and ready to take his bar exam next month. Needless to say, my parents thought we were a match made in heaven ever since we were children. I would rather date the toothless construction worker who whistled at me every day on my way to Starbucks. Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t go that far out of my way to avoid Christian. He did have a perfect set of pearly whites, after all.
I searched through the crowd for the gate that read “Parksville”, which was in New Hampshire. From there I would take another bus to Bakersfield. I stepped in line for the bus and wrapped my arms around myself; a habit I had when I was uncomfortable in my surroundings. I wasn’t used to the smell of liquor and cheap cologne, the bums sleeping in the corners, and the sound of welfare families asking the snack stand cashiers if they accepted food stamps.
Suddenly, I felt a large bag hit me knocking me into the ropes that kept the rows for each gate in order. The golden metal poles, which were attached to the red velvet ropes, fell over causing a loud clatter. I fell to the floor, on my butt, and quickly got up out of embarrassment.
“Hey, I’m really sorry about that,” a young man’s voice said as he handed me my knapsack, which fell from my shoulder when I hit the ground.
I looked up at him, surprised to see such a handsome guy. Despite his army green button down shirt with a hole in the shoulder, his slight case of bed head, and his five o’clock shadow; there was an incredible sexual quality about him. I couldn’t place what made him most attractive. Maybe it was his bright green eyes with specks of gold all around the pupils. Or maybe it was the way his cinnamon brown hair flopped in those eyes before he pushed it back with his fingertips, which by the way had some dirt underneath his nails.
Wait, he was utterly repulsive, even more so as I saw his pack of Marlboro Lights hanging out of his pocket and the tattoo on his chest that stood out underneath his thin white tank top.
“It’s okay; just watch where you’re going,” I said, grabbing my bag away from him and turning away.
For all I know he could be one of those thieves that bang into innocent young girls just so they could steal their wallets.
“Typical,” he snickered.
I turned back around. I wasn’t in the mood to be messed with. Not today, the day I’m going back to Bakersfield.
“You’re excused,” he said, with a smirk.
I rolled my eyes, and turned away as I folded my arms across my chest once again.
“Rich bitches,” he muttered before walking away.
My mouth dropped and I wanted to say something, but he was already in the men’s room.
I sighed as I glanced at my watch. I decided I better go to the bathroom before the bus comes.
I walked into the ladies’ room, which had toilet paper and sanitary products scattered on the dirty tiled floor, as well as an unpleasant odor that hit me right in the throat as soon as I opened the door. I scrunched my nose before going into a stall. When I came out, I walked over to the sink to wash my hands. I looked up at my reflection in the dingy mirror.
My long, dirty blond hair, that was normally straight, now had a few waves through it from the humidity. It looked lifeless on my shoulders. My drowsy-looking hazel eyes were a grayish color today, and my lip gloss still had shine left. I straightened my short sleeved button down white shirt that loosely bunched around my waist. Have I gained weight? I turned to look at my behind when I caught sight of my pale legs sticking out from underneath my Bermuda shorts. I don’t think I’ll be getting much sun this summer, either.
Sometimes I have to wonder why I even fuss over my appearance at all. I never seem to look right, just uncomfortable. My initial thought was to go home in a pair of sweat pants, a tank top and some Nikes. No make up, no anything. The thought fluttered away as I wondered what my parents would say.
“Haley, you are a respectable young woman. Dress like it,” my mother would be sure to lecture me.
I sighed before sweeping my hair up into a bun. I checked my purse and knapsack, making sure nothing was stolen in the altercation with the gorgeous-eyed thug. I walked out of the bathroom to see the bus driver taking the last person on the line’s ticket. I quickly ran over.
“Wait!” I yelled holding my ticket out.
The driver who was a little old and rickety asked for the ticket as I held it in front of his face. He ripped off the end, not even looking at it. I stepped onto the bus and scanned the aisles for an empty seat. There was only one left in the back and it was next to him. He shook his hair out of his eyes and looked up at me with a smirk. I rolled my eyes and headed toward him.
“So we meet again,” he said, raising his eyebrows.
“Must be my lucky day.”
I turned to the old woman across from him and tapped her shoulder lightly.
“Excuse me, ma’am, would you mind switching seats with me?” I asked just as the bus driver closed the doors and started the engine. The vibration ran through my legs as I waited for her answer.
“No, I am sitting with my husband,” the woman replied with a “humph!”
The bus began to leave the terminal and I lost my balance. I fell forward and flung my knapsack down the aisle. Two strong arms grabbed onto me, and I fell back on the seat, looking up at those green eyes.
“You okay there, princess?” he asked with a laugh that he was trying to stifle.
I quickly sat up and straightened my shirt.
“Fine, thank you,” I said somewhat snippy.
I walked down the aisle and retrieved my bag before sitting down next to him again.
“Jordan Walsh,” he said putting out his hand.
I glanced at it, slightly disgusted.
“We don’t have to socialize.”
I looked from his hand to his face as I spoke. He quickly took his hand back.
“My mistake. I should have known better,” he said irritated before focusing on the scenery outside the window.
Ugh, don’t be a total snob, Haley.
“Haley Foster,” I replied, extending my hand for a shake.
Jordan turned toward me and shook my hand. We shared a brief smile before we both turned away again.
“You from Boston?” he asked.
“Didn’t think so,” he said with a short chuckle.
I looked at him curiously, “Why’s that?”
“Well, by the snide attitude and this getup, my guess would be some wealthy little town that your daddy owns,” his mouth smiled at his presumption, but my eyes narrowed at him.
My father didn’t own Bakersfield, but he might as well have.
“Maybe we should keep our thoughts to ourselves for the rest of the trip,” I said crossing my arms.
“Do you do that because you’re annoyed or uncomfortable?” he asked pointing toward my arms.
I quickly dropped my hands to my lap and huffed.
“I didn’t decide to ride a smelly Greyhound bus instead of a nice, air-conditioned car just so I could be psychoanalyzed by the likes of a worthless punk, who thinks he knows anything about me and where I come from.”
Jordan looked as if he got satisfaction out of my comment.
“Ouch,” he replied, “I guess I should thank my lucky stars that such high society was giving me the time of day.”
I rolled my eyes and turned toward him.
“Well, it was a mistake, so why don’t we just cut the chit chat now?”
“My kind of girl,” he said running his hand up my leg.
I pushed it off and he lifted his hand defensively. I turned on my side before pulling out my i-Pod and turning the volume up loudly.
Run away with me. Let’s get out of this place. We can take a ride and fly off into space. There’s a big wide world that’s waiting for you. If you want it, come and say “run away”.*
Isn’t it funny how you can relate a song to any moment in your life? Sometimes it doesn’t even have anything to really do with the situation you’re in, but somehow, you’ll make those lyrics fit you. I guess it makes you feel you’re not alone and things will somehow have a happy ending.
If only life were a song¾even a sad one lives on forever. If only I could say I actually lived once. As the lyrics played in my head, I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up extremely uncomfortable. I doubt I had more that ten minutes of actual sleep. The sun practically blinded me when I looked toward the window where Jordan slept. His head leaned against the window; fist balled up to his forehead and his other hand resting between his legs. He looked like a young boy at that moment. His lightly tanned skin was almost sun-kissed, with hints of rose and peach. I had this insane urge to reach over and brush his hair off his face, and I even imagined myself doing just that. I remembered our run in, though, and decided to just ignore his presence for the rest of the bus ride to Parksville. It would only be half an hour more.
I rested my head against the cushion of the seat. My neck was in knots and I began rubbing it to try and loosen it up. I groaned and realized my headphones were on my head, but no music was coming out. I took them off and rubbed my ears, as the bus driver announced a stop over the intercom.
Jordan stirred next to me. I liked that name. Tasha would probably accuse me of having a leftover crush on Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block, but she knows better. In fact, she would be surprised if I even knew who the group was, let alone think one of the guys were cute. I couldn’t tell you what any of them looked like.
I can hardly name any pop culture from the ’80s or early ’90s, which completely freaked Tasha out when we met. If new wave was even a style anymore, Tasha was it. According to her, I’m Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club¾the princess. We joked about it when she forced me to watch that movie, claiming it to be the ultimate guide to stereotypes.
Tasha and I are a bit infatuated with stereotypes. We, of course, don’t keep anyone to one, but it’s just a fun game we play while bored in economics classes, to decide who would be cast as the geek, the freak, or the slut. It didn’t necessarily mean anyone was actually like that; it was just the vibe they gave off. I glanced over at Jordan from the corner of my eye¾rebel without a cause. Definitely. If he were in The Breakfast Club, he’d be Bender¾though Judd Nelson could never have lips like Jordan’s. I smiled to myself, forgetting that this guy isn’t some movie character, he knows when he’s being stared at.
“What are you looking at?” he asked, after he opened his eyes.
“Nothing,” I said looking down, pretending to go through my bag.
“What was your name again?” Jordan asked.
I sat up and looked over at him. He had this cocky smile on his face. I could stereotype him in a heartbeat. I bet he’s the type that makes girls melt. He woos them and breaks their hearts in the same day.
“That’s okay. It should stay forgotten,” I said, sitting back in my seat once again.
“I understand, Haley,” he emphasized my name, proving his goal was just to irritate me. “Daddy taught you not to talk to strangers, didn’t he?”
I turned toward him. He obviously liked to stereotype me.
“Do you like judging me, Jordan?”
“Hey, it’s only fair.”
“And why’s that?”
Jordan came in closer and flashed a sexy smirk before whispering.
“Because it’s the truth and lying would be against my rules.”
“What makes you so sure you know me?”
“Now, I could ask you the same question.”
“Well, your appearance exudes rugged rebellion,” I said with confidence.
“Exudes? Nice word. Learn it in preppy college? Or did you learn it back in high school; you know that private school your father paid for? Only the best for his little girl, right?”
I was beyond frustrated at this point. He played this game better than I did. Worse yet was that I didn’t want his description of me to be true. Everything I said about him, he was proud to call the truth. I didn’t feel the same about his impression of me. I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Why am I even wasting my time on¾”
“Scum? White trash? You want to hurt me, honey? I did shit to you and all you wanna do is insult me,” Jordan said with some anger to his voice.
“Looks like you’re the one insulting me,” I sighed as I looked down at my fingernails.
“It’s kill or be killed, right?”
I looked up at him and laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“You think you’re so different than us?” I asked using my fingers for quotations.
“Yeah?” I asked. Jordan just looked at me. “That’s my dad’s motto.”
His jaw clenched as I stared him down. He laughed and so did I.
“Are you fucking serious?”
“Lying is against my rules,” I said quoting him.
He smiled and I returned it.
“All right then, I guess you won this round.”
Jordan gave in, and I’ll admit, I was proud. I couldn’t help but to think my father would somehow ruin this moment. I’m actually surprised he hasn’t called my cell phone yet, just proving to Jordan that I was Daddy’s pride and joy.
“Attention passengers, we’ll be making a stop in Pinkston. Feel free to exit the bus, stretch, grab some food or smoke a cigarette. We’ll be re-boarding the bus at three-fifteen. If you’re not on, that’s your problem,” the bus driver announced.
As soon as the bus parked, passengers scrambled to get off the vehicle. I searched through my purse for my cell phone. Where the hell was it? I then searched my knapsack before I got out of the seat. Jordan squeezed passed me, making sure to place his hand on my butt for support. I stood up straight and glared at him.
“Sorry, thought it was an armrest,” he smirked.
I gave him the dirtiest look I could muster before dumping out my bag onto the seat.
“Want anything?” he asked, grabbing his backpack and guitar out of the overhead compartment.
“Whatcha looking for?”
He was standing over me. I glared up at him.
“My cell phone.”
“Are you sure you brought it?” he asked, as I just kept looking through the contents of my bag, which were on the seat obviously displaying the phone wasn’t there.
“Yes!” I yelled.
“Look, cut the attitude and maybe I’ll help you find it,” Jordan gritted at me.
I sighed as he pushed me out of the way and began looking under the seats. I followed his lead and all we wound up finding was my lip gloss.
“Oh well. Come on, I’ll buy you a drink,” Jordan said, motioning me off the bus.
I stuffed everything back into my knapsack before I reluctantly followed behind him into the small, truck stop deli.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
“That’s gross. It’s the afternoon.”
He rolled his eyes, “It was a joke. Though you seriously need alcohol in your system.”
I angrily grabbed a bottle of water out of the refrigerator and followed Jordan up to the counter.
“All together?” the Russian man asked with a thick accent.
“No. This is separate,” I said.
“You think you’re hurting me? Ooh, you can pay for your own water,” Jordan said waving his hands in the air. “So I save $3.50, which by the way, sir, is very over-priced…” Jordan rambled as I looked through my knapsack for my wallet and he paid for his items.
“Shit,” I sighed.
“The bathroom’s in the back,” Jordan said, grabbing his bag of food and drinks.
“My wallet’s gone, too.”
“Today’s your lucky day. Don’t worry, it’s on me,” he said grabbing four dollars and putting it on the counter.
“I don’t care about the water! What am I going to do?” I about freaked.
“Maybe we should go with the beer after all,” Jordan smirked.
I could kill him. Of course, losing my wallet is meaningless to him, but I’ve never lost anything before. My life is in there. My ID, my money, my credit cards, my medial insurance card…my parents are going to flip.
I left the store and began walking toward the bus. Jordan followed me out with the bottle of water.
“Here you go,” he handed it to me.
I didn’t take it as I stared up at the bus. It read “Final Destination: Kingston”.
“What are you looking at?” he asked.
“This can’t be happening. Where’s Kingston?”
“New York. You don’t even know where you’re going? Fuck, what are your parents paying for?” Jordan asked.
Anger and frustration built up inside me and next thing I knew, I was swinging around with a balled up fist. It all seemed to happen so fast, but in slow motion at the same time. I hit Jordan right in the chin, hard. I never hit anyone before! My reaction might have been twenty years of suppressed aggression.
“Holy shit!” he screamed, and I covered my mouth quickly.
“Oh my God¾I’m sorry! Did I hurt you?” I asked, following him as he held his chin in pain and he slurred curses.
I took my bottle of water and grabbed his hand away. I placed the water against his chin. Jordan winced and tried to push me away, but I grabbed the back of his neck and held the water to his chin anyway.
“Shit…did you take some kind of self-defense class in college?”
“No, Tae Bo tapes,” I said, biting back a laugh.
“You think this is funny?” he asked.
“No,” I laughed. “Sorry.”
He laughed, too, and we both smiled, for once. I forgot about my wallet and my phone for a minute and he seemed to forget I punched him.
Suddenly, an engine roared and I quickly turned my head to see the doors on the bus pulling out of the parking lot.
“Oh shit…” Jordan said, starting to take off after it.
“No, wait!” I yelled as we both ran after the bus, but it was no use.
My legs were short and I couldn’t even catch up. Jordan was still trailing behind, but it was a lost cause. We were deserted…together.