I tugged my sweat-dampened blue cap down lower over my eyes, sneaking another, furtive glance at the bare stretch of open road behind me. The afternoon sun was blisteringly hot on the back of my neck, and the glare from it would've blinded me had I not been wearing large, wraparound sunglasses.
Hazes of heat rolled from the lonely highway beside me in simmering waves, contorting the air on the horizon. There was not a sound to be heard, save for the soft whispering of the balmy desert breeze, and the quiet crunch of my sneakers on the black asphalt. The air was thick with still humidity, and it felt awkward in my throat, causing my breath to come in laborious pants.
The sudden roar surprised me so much that I jumped at least two feet in the air, heart beginning to gallop out of control in my chest. I whipped around frantically, trying to pinpoint the source of the sound, but found nothing.
And then it appeared on the shimmering horizon.
It was some kind of red sports car, with a modern-ish style. I couldn't tell you what model it was, or even what company had made it. I had been away from the world for far too long to know anything like that.
It powered towards me from behind, loud music thundering, barely audible under the rumble of the car's engine. I gaped at it mercilessly. That car could be my savior. Or, rather, whoever was driving it could be my savior. From the blistering heat, that is.
I hastily stepped closer to the road, and leant out over it.
I had never actually done this, or even seen it done, but I thought I had the general idea, at the time.
Clasping both of my hands together, I tilted both of my thumbs to the east, in the direction I was pretty sure I wanted to go, and thrust my arms out in front of me. The car skidded to a tire-screeching halt mere inches from my outstretched arms, fishtailing slightly. I drew my arms in close to my body with a speed I previously believed had been reserved only for cheetahs and birds of prey, but smiled widely, proud of myself for managing my goal.
The door on the driver's side flew open.
"What do you think you're doing?"
Well, someone was angry.
"Hitchhiking," I said defensively.
The driver of the car looked no older than seventeen, about my age, and he had curly black hair, and ears that stuck out from the side of his head. He was wearing a wrinkled blue tee shirt, and a faded pair of black jeans. Hmmm... Not to shifty. "Hitchhiking?" he sounded offended. "Wha - " he trailed off oddly as he caught sight of me, but then shook himself, and continued. "Why were your arms stuck out in the middle of the road? You were lucky I was looking out!"
I opened my mouth indignantly to retaliate, but -
"Where did you learn how to hitchhike? That was terrible!"
I stepped around the car towards him, tugging uneasily at a strand of curly, blonde hair. "I didn't learn anywhere," I admitted. Then, snappishly, "And I'd like to see you do better... you... you... whoever you are."
The young man looked at me for a long moment, and then smiled gently. "Sorry," he said, mellowing. "I'm Wylie Jones." He offered his hand for me to shake. I shook it. I had made a snap decision - I could trust him.
"Bev West. Nice to meet you."
"Do you need a ride, or something?"
I beamed at his sudden change of attitude. "Yeah. Hence the hitchhiking."
Wylie laughed. "Okay," he said, raising his hands in surrender. "Sorry, Bev. Hop in."