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The Hitchhiker Rule Book by J. M. Barber - HTML preview

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Two

He reached over and shook her gently. The Jeep traversed both street that was smooth and rough in areas. They were in Downtown Denver and it had started to sprinkle outside.

More rain, Dennis thought. That really sucks.

He thought of his warm hotel room and the provided desk where his laptop was perched. He thought of the glow of his laptop screen, the warm carpet and the fireplace. Once he made it back he’d have a light drink, get a slight buzz going and sit down and write.

“Wow,” Fiona said, sitting up and looking around. “That was fast.” She stretched, yawned and cracked her knuckles. She looked at Dennis. “Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it. You didn’t have to do this at all.”

“I wanted to do it,” Dennis said. “No thanks necessary.”

“You can just drop me off at this corner up here and I’ll find my way.”

“It’s raining outside.”

Fiona smiled at him. “I’m well aware of that. But it’s okay. I’ve been doing this for years.”

Dennis wanted to say something, but he had no words. Insisting that she shouldn’t get out of the car would make him seem like a creep or a guy that wanted to hurt her. She was an adult and free to live the kind of life she wanted. He wasn’t her father.

As he pulled up to the corner of an intersection he remembered what he had proposed.

“Do you still want to take me up on that offer for a late lunch, early dinner?”

She had her hand on the door handle when he asked this and pulled it back.

“Yeah,” Fiona said, looking at him. “I’d love you to treat me to lunch right now. My stomach’s doing its rumbling thing.”

“Perfectly understandable,” he said. “Tell me where you want to go.”

They ended up in the parking lot of a Taco Bell, scarfing down burritos and tacos and listening to old school songs on Dennis’s stereo. He was surprised by her choice, because he had made it clear that he would’ve taken her anywhere, but she’d been insistent. Dennis took a large bite of a supreme taco drenched with hot sauce and as he chewed Fiona reached over with a napkin and wiped his mouth for him.

“Got some remnants there,” she said, and chuckled.

“On the right day,” Dennis said, “Taco Bell hits the spot. On the right day that is.”

“I agree. Except for me Taco Bell always hits the spot.”

“Well, that just means you need some more variety in your life, girl.”

“How old are you, Dennis? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Why would I mind? Thirty.”

“You don’t look it.”

“Well thanks. Black don’t crack, as I’m sure you’ve heard.”

Outside the rain had picked up and like on the interstate it had turned into a downpour. As they ate Fiona began humming along with one of the songs on the radio.

“That’s Temptations,” Dennis said. “What you know about that?”

“My parents. Pieces of shit that they are, they did have some good taste in music. This was on all the time growing up, whatever the turmoil transpiring in their supposed humble abode.”

Dennis snickered, looking at her.

“What?” she said.

“Are you sure you’re not a poet?”

“What, anyone who uses words with more than one syllable is considered a poet now?”

Dennis shook his head. Took a bite of what was known as a double decker taco, which was a taco with both a hard and soft shell.

“I’m going to end up missing out on the shelter,” Fiona said. “But I know some parking lots that security doesn’t do much checking on. I’m pretty sure I can find a car to sleep in the back of. You think you could take me to—”

“Stop with all that,” Dennis said, waving a dismissive hand. “There’s no way I’m going to, in good conscience, let you sleep in the back of a freezing car when I have a luxury hotel room that I’m staying in. You’re coming with me.”

Fiona shook her head, her mouth full of food. “You don’t have to do that Dennis. Seriously.”

“I’m doing it and you’re going to let me, or this day’s going to end on a bad note.”

“What, are you going to get on your knees and beg?”

“Yeah,” Dennis said. “I actually will do that. Better than reading about your death in the paper.”

“Oh please, I’m a young, healthy woman. I’m not going to die from a night in the back of cold car.”

Dennis shook his head. “This isn’t up for debate. We’re heading back to my place as soon as we’re done eating.”

Fiona sighed. Sniffed. “Really, Dennis. You’ve been really generous already. You don’t need to do anymore.”

Dennis’s brow wrinkled and he looked at her, as if perplexed. “I’m sorry. Did you say something?”

Fiona smiled. Grabbed his hand and gave him a kiss on the knuckles.

“Thank you Dennis.”