Elias reached over and touched me. His hand on my leg was warm, the heat radiating through my body. Even through the haze of tears, his touch was electric.
"I wasn't saying you were crazy or anything," Elias said, sounding confused.
"I'm not a crier," I said, sniffling. "I'm really not. I don't know what my problem is."
"It's all right," he said. "I have that effect on women."
"Making them cry?" I asked. I couldn't help but smile.
"Well, sometimes it's hard to be in the presence of someone this good looking," he said, gesturing to himself.
I couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah, I can see how that would make them cry."
"Hey," he said. "You know what you need?"
"What?" I wiped the corner of my eye. At least he didn't think I was a total baby. Or was polite enough not to say so to my face, anyway.
"You like drive ins?"
Shit. I stole a glance at her. At least she wasn't crying anymore. I couldn't help but get a little panicked at the sight of a girl crying - what guy didn't feel that way? But I guess she had just broken up with her fiancé and shit. Most girls would be wallowing in a pint of Ben and Jerry's and listening to sappy music - that's how they did it on the movies, right? At least this chick wasn't like most girls- shit, she'd beat her fiancé's collectibles into pieces with a baseball bat.
That was f**king cool.
I could respect shit like that, even if it was crazy.
So, if she was shedding a few tears in the car now, who was I to judge?
"Do I like drive ins?" she asked. "That's kind of random. But okay. You mean like a movie theater?”
“Nope,” I said. “Like a restaurant. Up ahead. I’m starving.”
“Oh,” she said. “You mean a Sonic.”
I rolled my eyes. “While I appreciate the fact that you even know what a Sonic is, being a big movie star and all, no. It’s not a chain. It’s an old place. It's been here since the fifties.” I squinted, watching for it to come into view. “At least, it used to be here. It’s been a few years.”
“Since you’ve been back home?”
“Why?” she asked.
“You’re awful nosy,” I said. I squinted as Linda’s Drive In came into view.
"What's West Bend like, anyway?" she asked, as we pulled into the parking lot.
I shrugged. “I don't know. Like any other small town.”
How the hell did I explain West Bend to an outsider? Real pretty on the outside but rotten to the core inside? Maybe it was just me and my brothers that were that way, all looks and no substance. It’s what my father used to say.
God rest his soul, my mother said when she’d called to tell me the news.
I’d laughed bitterly. Can’t rest what you don’t have, I’d told her.
"Are all small towns the same?" she asked.
I was going to formulate a smartass response, but I merely grunted, since we were already pulling into the parking space. And then River was practically scrambling over the top of me to get a look at the menu. “Excuse you,” I said, as she dug her hand into my thigh.
“Didn’t complain when I was this close to you before,” she said.
True. And I could see down her shirt, so that was a bonus. I felt the familiar stirring between my legs, and she looked down, then up at me. I shrugged. “Don’t put your hand down there if you don’t want it to get hard.”
She opened her mouth to say something, but we were interrupted by the car hop at the window. While the girl was taking our orders, I found myself actually wondering what River had been about to say.
We ate in silence for a while, until River spoke. "So," she said. "You grew up in West Bend?"
"Yup." I popped a French fry into my mouth, and didn't elaborate.
She let the silence linger for a minute before breaking it. "Anyone ever tell you you're amazing at small talk?"
I shot her a look.
"Thought so," she said, her voice light. "Well, there's this thing called conversation, where one person asks a question and the other one answers, but says some more stuff in response."
I shrugged. "I'm not much for talking about where I grew up." I got the hell out of West Bend as soon as I could, and I'd only gone back once. I wasn't exactly looking forward to going back now.
Especially considering the fact that now I had to think about what the hell I was going to do with a movie star in tow.
I sure as f**k couldn’t take her to my house. A girl like that would run screaming when she saw where the hell I came from. Hand to mouth living was probably the best way to describe my family's situation growing up - we had four walls and a piece of dirt, but not much more than that. My father- the ass**le, as my brothers and I called him- brought in our meager income mining on our land, until that went to shit when I was in high school.
I wasn’t about to bring a girl like her home with me to see my family’s clapboard house, that was for damn sure, even if the ass**le wasn't there anymore.