For about half an hour we rode in silence and I almost forgot Char was with me until she cleared her throat and spoke.
"I'm sorry I threatened you, I was just scared," she admitted.
I shrugged and kept my eyes on the road. "I've had worse threats. You should work on sounding more forceful next time."
Char chuckled, startling me. "Next time? I take it this sort of thing is your day job."
"I don't consider any of this to be funny." I scowled angrily, speeding up to pass the semi in front of me.
"Hey...I didn't mean to make light of your situation, obviously you're in some trouble," she said hurriedly. "It's just that you're kind of a bad ass and I'm a little jealous. If I had even half of your nerve I wouldn't have been hiding in this car. I would have been in that room confronting Angel instead of hanging back like a chicken."
It was hard not to feel flattered but I had to stay focused. "What exactly were you going to do when she got in the car? Clearly you brought the knife for a reason."
Char's face flushed bright red. "Uh, well, she's cheating on me with a guy so I thought I'd...you know..."
I cracked a huge smile before I could stop myself. "What, scare him away from your woman with a toothpick?"
I glanced over when she didn't respond and noticed she had taken down her hood. Her hair was short, cut like a boy's, and a soft red color that looked like it should have been accompanied by a gaggle of freckles. The skin on her face was blemish free, though, and lovely but pale.
She looked up at me, her expression one I'd seen in the mirror countless times before. "I'm an idiot," she muttered. "I've been on my own for so long and I didn't have anything before I met Sophie. I let her become my everything, and now I'm paying the price. Being alone just hurts so badly after a while, I put up with all the pain it brought me just to have someone by side. I just can't take it anymore."
I had to put an end to this immediately. I stopped the car at a gas station that hardly looked open, tossed a hundred bucks into her lap and unlocked the door.
"Use that money to get yourself back home."
"I thought you said I could come with you as long as I told you what was up," she said, caught off guard.
"That was stupid of me," I snapped, refusing to look at her. "It was a moment of weakness -- maybe a little of that loneliness that seems to have bitten us both. But however messed up your situation is, it's nothing compared to mine, so get out."
"Get out and go where?" Char said hysterically. "I've built a life with this girl and she tore it apart with her bare hands! I literally have nowhere else to go. I know you're a complete stranger, but I thought maybe you were my guardian angel or something, sent to give me an out. At this point I really don't care where it takes me, just please, let me come with you."
Hardly an hour before she was threatening me with calling the cops and now she was treating me like a lifeline. I refused to be responsible for what might happen to her if Abe thought she might be a confidant of mine. With all the resolve I could muster I forced myself to look at her and face the storm in her eyes. "Angels aren't real, darlin', and your life isn't my responsibility. Now get out of the car before I make you."
Char's features hardened as she unbuckled her seatbelt. On an impulse I grabbed her arm before she had a chance to leave. "If things get really bad, go to Vegas and find the China doll...she can help."
She snatched her arm away. "Yeah, thanks for nothing." Before slamming the door she tossed the wad of bills at my face. "Take your money, I don't need you."
As I drove away I risked a glance to the rearview mirror and caught the image of Char standing by the empty highway with her thumb up hoping to hitch a ride. I really hoped I wouldn't come to regret telling her where I was going.
The truth was, I would have given anything to keep Char with me. I didn't even know her but I was so desperate for companionship. I just couldn't risk the lives of anyone else, and everyone close to me risked Abraham's wrath.
Part of me hoped she went home, dumbed her girlfriend, and got to live a beautiful life -- but another part of me hoped she ended up in Vegas, right in the middle of everything, with me.
I pushed my foot down hard on the gas pedal and the accelerator shot up to 80. The sooner I got out of this state and into a more heavily populated area, the better.
"City of lights, here I come," I mumbled to myself and pushed the gas even harder.