Thirty Four.

Several Hours Later

It was late when Sadie and Jane pulled into Bulls Gap, a truck stop town in Tennessee. Sadie had been driving her Harley for hours. Gas-Food-Lodging was all she needed to see. Cold and tired, she reached back and touched Jane’s leg, then pointed to the sign. Jane leaned forward and nodded. They merged onto Main Street, turned left at the light and parked under the yellow neon sign, next to a small palm tree.

The motel was new, generic, and clean. Sadie and Jane stretched while looking around: tractor trailers at the diner up the road, pickups and muscle cars too. The motel lot was full of cars with out-of-state plates. Unlike Sadie, most travelers chose motels, over pitching tents on the roadside. Jane, however, was a princess. She liked hot showers and clean sheets. Sadie sensed it. That’s why she stopped at the motel instead of camping along the interstate.

The lobby was dim. Sadie wasn’t sure of the time, but it was definitely late. The clock in the corner read twelve thirty. Jane rang the bell and a man appeared instantly, smoothing his paisley vest. They weren’t sure where he came from, but there he was, smiling and asking if he could be of service. His name tag said “Elvis: Assistant Manager.” He was skinny, dark-skinned, Middle Eastern, with black hair and pearl-white teeth. Sadie heard Duran Duran in the background. When she asked for a room, Elvis asked for how long, then, with a slight smirk, whether they wanted one bed or two. Sadie looked at Jane. They both felt like shit. After fighting, then driving for hours in the night air, stopping only once to pee and change clothes, they were tired, hungry, hurt, and grimy. The last thing on their minds was whether they needed separate beds. Sadie reached into her bag and pulled a handful of cash, “Here. We’ll take what you got.”

Jane put her hand over Sadie’s to cover the cash, then stepped up to the counter. “Elvis,” she said, squaring her shoulders and smiling, “We’d like to know what you can do for two tired girls who’ve been traveling so long.” She winked at Elvis.

“Let me see what I can do.” He looked down at his ledger, flipped the pages back and forth a few times. “Will you be staying a few nights?” he asked without looking up.

“Yes.”

“Would you like one bed or two?”

Jane looked at Sadie, then back at Elvis, “Just one…, Sweetie.”

Sadie thought about the ride they just took, with Jane’s arms wrapped around her. She noticed Jane caressing her stomach as they rode. She was too tired to do anything tonight, but there was always tomorrow.

Sadie had learned to trust instincts. When you live on the road and on the run, you need to. So she trusted her feelings for Jane. She didn’t quite understand them, but they felt good. So she wasn’t surprised they ended up in a motel in Tennessee in the middle of the night, deciding whether to sleep together.

“Do you have room service?” Jane asked.

“I’m sorry to say, we don’t.”

Jane smiled and squinted, “Then don’t, Sweetie.”

“Then don’t what?”

Jane sighed, took a deep breath, and pulled her shoulders back for emphasis. “Then don’t say it.”

“Then don’t say what?”

Jane looked at Sadie and rolled her eyes. She leaned over the counter so her breasts swelled from her tank top. She stared into Elvis’ eyes, pouted her lips, then slowly over-enunciated, “Then…, don’t say… you don’t have…room service.” She blew him a slight kiss.

“Huh?” Elvis glanced from Jane’s breasts to her mouth, then back again, “Um…, Oh. Uhm…, uhm…, OH!” He said, standing up straight and brushing a hand down his vest. “But of course.” And, as easy as that, they had room service. The assistant manager said with a proud Middle-Eastern accent, while slapping his scrawny chest for emphasis, that he, Elvis, would take care of it himself. He put them in the honeymoon suite, which in a chain motel in a truck stop town meant a jetted tub and a king sized bed with Magic Fingers.

“Not bad,” Sadie called from the bathroom after checking out the tub. When she walked back into the room, Jane was undressed and looking through her bag.

“Damn, girl. You got a hell of a bruise on your ribs.”

“I know,” Jane said. “I’m sure that jumping on a motorcycle and riding for hours didn’t help.” She walked over to the mirror and inspected her body. “It ain’t too bad.”

Sadie inspected her body, too. “Yeah, it ain’t too bad.” Jane smiled at Sadie through the mirror. Sadie got up and walked to the door, “I’m gonna get you some ice for that.”

“Oh great,” Jane laughed, “beat on me one minute, love me the next.” She rolled her eyes at Sadie. “Hey, I’m hungry. Are you? What did you do with those menus from Elvis?”

“In my bag,” Sadie answered as she walked out.

When Sadie returned, Jane had the stolen money spread over the bed. She looked up when Sadie walked in, “Sorry, wrong bag. Sorry, Sadie. I didn’t mean to…”

Sadie’s defenses shot up immediately like the hair on the haunch of a wild animal. Her heart pounded and her hands squeezed into fists. Her eyes turned cold and empty as she locked stares with Jane. Sadie quickly assessed the situation. She had dropped her guard. That was apparent. She relaxed and it could cost her. Emotions raced through her. She couldn’t believe that she had read Jane so wrong. Fuck. See? See? This is why you can’t let anyone in. Damn it. Damn it. Sadie was more pissed at herself than Jane. The two women stared at each other. Sadie’s anger was mixed with confusion and rejection. She thought she could read people better than that. She studied Jane’s eyes. The surprise hadn’t left them, nor the fear. Jane’s posture hadn’t changed. She hadn’t moved at all. Jane stood half-naked, half-leaning over the bed frozen watching Sadie. She didn’t make a move to defend herself or flee or anything, just stared at Sadie.

“I’m sorry, Sadie. I grabbed the wrong bag. The money spilled out. I didn’t mean to pry.” She stood and faced Sadie. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” Her apology was fast and full of emotion, but sounded sincere. If it was an attempt to warm Sadie, it worked. It melted her faster than the incident froze her. She wasn’t sure if it was something in Jane’s eyes, or the fact that Jane was in her underwear when she said it, but those few words shone straight through Sadie’s armor, straight to her cold warrior heart, clearing confusion and draining anger right out her feet.

Sadie studied Jane for a moment. She analyzed the scene, trying to decide which story to tell. She decided to tell the truth.

“Sit down, Sweetie” She told Jane about grabbing Travis’ bag of money.

“Cool,” Jane said. “I hate that prick.”

“But I thought you guys were scamming together?”

“Scamming? Oh, I don’t get involved in any of that. In fact, that’s what the commotion was about tonight. Travis said to throw the fight but I said I wouldn’t. I guess those guys didn’t like that. Travis told them they’d win or something, I don’t know. But I do know that as soon as Travis lined up our fight, he pushed me to lose.”

Sadie sat next to the pile of money. Jane continued, “He offered me five grand to dive and promised a re-match to fight for real. But I said no, and I kept saying no. That’s why you almost fought Celeste. She would’ve done it. But everyone knew that and they wouldn’t bet as heavy. Travis knew they’d bet on me. They always do. So he promoted it, you and me, I mean, and probably tried to scam those guys.”

Sadie and Jane stared at the pile of money on the bed. Then Sadie said, “Huh,” and looked back at Jane. “So, where’d you learn to fight like that?”

“Three older brothers,” Jane said sarcastically.

“Yeah? They teach you to mudwrestle, too?” She nudged Jane with her shoulder.

“Felt like it, sometimes.” Jane laughed, then hugged her ribs. She sucked in air and sat up straight, forcing a smile. They looked at each other, and short of the physical pain, the silence was comfortable. They laid back and stared at the ceiling fan until they fell asleep.