“You’ll be there for sure? I bought my ticket. You’re not going to bail on me, are you?”
“No.” In fact, she couldn’t think of anything better than driving 45 miles in the wee hours of a winter morning to meet a bus and bring home a person she’d never met to spend two nights. The whole idea made her feel, yes, gleeful, and goofy. She knew what she was doing. She’d arranged her rite of passage. It might have been dangerous, but she didn’t care.
At 3 a.m. she was in the car heading down the mountain to the city. It’d been a while since she’d navigated those streets, but she knew them, she knew the bus station. Her cell phone went off a time or two, but she let it go. She knew it was him and there was nothing she could do but arrive.
And there he was, standing on the corner, white mohawk and dark suit, a messenger bag that held his laptop and a small duffle with a change of clothes.
“Did you get my call? The bus was early. I was afraid you wouldn’t come.”
“It’s OK. I was on the road already. We have a little drive, I’m afraid.”
“Thirty or forty minutes. I live in the country.”
“I’m not a country person. That’ll be a good change from LA.”
“It’s definitely not LA.”
Half way up the mountain, he said, “It’s dark here. It’s never dark in LA. I think I’ve been out here before, back when I lived here. I wrote a story about some guy out in, I don’t remember exactly. Half Mule? Something like that. Is that out here?”
She laughed. That wasn’t the name of the town, but it sounded like it. “Yeah, kind of. It’s like straight south about, I dunno, 8 miles?”
“A lot of freaks out here in east county, as I recall.”
She smiled. It was true. She wasn’t one — or was she? “It’s cold up here,” she said. “I built a fire, but it only heats part of the house. I’m used to it but…”
“God it’s cold!” he said, getting out of the car.
“Front door’s open.”
“Good.” He walked into the house. “Fuck! You weren’t kidding! It’s cold in here!”
“Yeah, I know.” She shut the door behind her and looked around at a house that seemed suddenly completely different from the one she’d left an hour and half earlier.
“Where’s your bed?”