Three hours on the road and Susan was already tired, tense, and almost giddy with fatigue, yet still more than an hour from the hotel and Joanne's big bachelorette weekend. She'd hoped to time her arrival so she'd get there sometime after eleven-- early enough to still make an appearance, but late enough that the girls would be too drunk to notice if she quietly slipped away to the hotel cocktail lounge in search of more interesting companionship--but her departure had been more rushed and harried than she'd counted on and the Friday rush hour traffic particularly bad, and now she was pushing it and tired. She really needed to get some coffee or splash some water on her face or just get out and stretch the cramps out of her body.
Around her was nothing but darkness, the interstate running like a corridor between two blocks of infinite emptiness, and the occasional light in the distance only increased her sense of aloneness. Joanne had given her fastidious and complicated directions on how to get to the hotel while avoiding the numerous construction sites that had popped up over the summer, and Susan glanced at them now as she drove, trying to memorize or at least make sense of them. There was a map included, but Susan wasn't that good with maps, especially when she was tooling along at 70 miles an hour trying to read them by the light of her dashboard, her mind already preoccupied with strongly mixed feelings about this whole affair.
Joanne was a good friend, or had been before she'd gotten engaged. Since then, she'd thrown herself into this whole marriage and wedding thing with alarming eagerness for someone who used to be as cynical and dismissive as Susan herself. They used to make fun of girls who'd get all hysterical about betting married, and now she'd become one herself, milking every party and shower and ritual for all it was worth. It made Susan uncomfortable, especially since she didn't think Joanne's fiancée was any great shakes. A nice guy, but dull. Joanne could have done better. Susan herself would do better, whenever and if ever she finally decided to, and assuming she found a man worthy of that kind of attention. Meanwhile she was content to look and sample occasionally, being every bit as picky and discriminating as she'd always been. She just found this new side of Joanne slightly annoying: her happiness and self-satisfaction came of a little too much as smugness and superiority.
She put down the written directions and picked up Joanne's map and held it against the wheel as she drove, her eyes flicking up and back from road to map, road to map. It was hopeless, though, and frustrating, not to mention dangerous, trying to read a map while driving, and she put it back on the seat to concentrate on driving. The road was surprisingly deserted, almost desolate. She hadn't seen another pair of headlights in a long time.
She wasn't worried though. There should be an oasis or truck stop somewhere not far up ahead, and when she found it she could get some coffee and unkink herself and study the map again, or maybe just ask for directions. People were always happy to give her directions or help her out, and she had no qualms about asking.
That made he think about the trucker she'd met earlier, and that made her smile. Maybe she'd run into him there, and she imagined his reaction if she were to just sidle up to him and ask him for directions --the way his jaw would drop as he looked up from his coffee, after what she'd done to him earlier. She'd been a perfect little bitch and she really did owe him an apology, and that would make a perfect excuse for her to approach him. She could put on her best little-girl-lost act and explain that she'd been upset and in a hurry and hadn't meant to appear so rude and ungrateful. After all, he'd only been trying to help and her behavior had been inexcusable.
She also wanted to see if she could get him to confess to what he's seen in the trunk of her car. That would be an awful thing to do, but it would be awfully interesting too.She felt her face grow warm as she thought of it, and she pulled her rear-view mirror around so she could see if she were blushing and take a look at just what kind of girl would do something like that.
Her face looked good, though, her makeup still perfect. She tried out her innocent face, then smiled and put the mirror back.
It had been kind of fun, and certainly the most interesting thing that had happened on this whole, deathly dull trip. Sometimes making men squirm was fun.No. Actually, making men squirm was always fun, and that was the problem. It was too tempting, and sometimes it caused trouble, like with this trucker.
She'd just been leaving an oasis shortly after starting out when she'd heard that sickening flop, flop, flop that could only mean a flat tire. Swearing and impatient, she'd immediately pulled over to the shoulder of the expressway entrance ramp and stopped the car, put on her blinkers and gotten out to look at it.
It was flat alright, almost all the way down to the rim, and all she could do was look at it. She was no mechanic, and she was already dressed for the party in her snug charcoal gray skirt and her femmey ivory silk blouse with the bow at the throat, so that all she'd have to do when she got to the party was slip on her stockings and change her driving sandals for heels and she'd be all set. And she certainly wasn't about to ruin her good clothes trying to change a filthy tire, an operation she had only the vaguest notion about anyhow. She'd stood there in the dark by her crippled Yaris, helpless and frustrated as the cars and trucks lucky enough to have intact tires sped past her without so much as a glance.
It was mostly dark before she finally decided she'd have to suck it up and make the hike back to the oasis service station for help, and that's when she heard the crunch of gravel and looked up to see the big, black, semi rolling to a stop on the shoulder behind her car, engine rumbling and air brakes hissing. She was already in a snit by now, having had ample time to feel ignored and resentful. It was about time, she thought, and she stood there impatiently as his air brakes huffed and squealed and he brought that big behemoth to a stop maybe ten feet away, leaving her standing in the glare of his headlights.
He turned off his brights and now she could see it better. The thing was huge, even overwhelming, and it dwarfed her little Yaris in a way that gave her a strange excited tingle. Except for instinctively pulling her skirt down when one passed her on the highway, she'd never really paid much attention to trucks before, but now one stood only a few steps away, rumbling and threatening, and she looked at the massive chrome grill and huge, dark windows with something like awe, or as much awe as she could muster in her irritation.
The cab was black and decorated with elaborate electric-green pin-striping and festooned with lights so it looked like the demon spawn of an angry whale and a carnival fun house. The escutcheon on the front said "Kenworth," and whatever wasn't painted and pin-striped was chromed and gleaming. Up and toward the back of the cab the roof jogged upwards, and Susan remembered that long-haul trucks often had actual beds in them so the drivers could spell each other without stopping. Apparently, this one had a queen-size.
The door had opened and a man had swung out, a very good-looking man, not too young, just about Susan's fantasy age, the age of natural authority. (Not the age of the men she actually dated, though, who tended to be much younger and easily biddable.) His jaw was dark with stubble and his eyes were hidden behind mirrored sunglasses, even though the sun had set and it was dark enough for headlights. He'd paused there leaning out of his cab looking at her, then jumped down and strolled over. He was wearing tight jeans and Western boots and a black tank top that showed off big shoulders, a tight waist, and smoothly muscled arms. His hands were covered by black leather fingerless gloves that looked like they'd seen some use, and Susan noticed them at once. She liked men's hands, and secretly she liked leather, and his hands in those gloves looked wonderfully wicked. He was what Joanne would have called U.S. Choice, Triple A Restaurant Grade back in her pre-engagement days, when they talked about men in such terms.
Susan crossed her arms over her breasts , having absolutely no faith in her gauzy bra's ability to protect her and well aware of her nipples' alarming propensity to stiffen at the most embarrassing times, and tried to strike the right pose between female strength and feminine helplessness. She needed someone's help, but she refused to be intimidated by this man or his truck and she certainly wasn't going to beg or grovel. She wished she hadn't left her jacket in the car.
"Trouble?" he asked, and Susan just nodded toward the tire.
" It went totally flat just like that, just as I was leaving the oasis. And of course it would be now, at the worst possible time, just when I need to be somewhere."
"On business," she added.
He leaned over and looked at the tire and Susan got a good look at his tight, male ass in those snug jeans. A red bandana hung from his back pocket, like a warning flag.
Susan checked herself. He might be U.S. Choice Triple A and great fantasy material, but he was a truck driver and hardly up to her standards. The right tone here was one of polite, professional detachment, as when dealing with an underling at work: pleasant, but not inviting.
"How's the spare?" he asked.
She was so distracted, she didn't understand the question at first.
"Oh!" She reached into the car and popped the trunk release, then hurriedly grabbed her jacket from the back seat and threw it on as he moved around to the back of the car. It was quite warm, but she wanted the protection just the same.
She heard him moving things in the trunk and suddenly froze in a horror of embarrassment as she remembered what was back there: all the gag gifts for Joanne's party--sex toys and vibrators, dildoes, cuffs and chains and whips--all the things she could find online to spice up the bachelorette weekend, and most of them still unwrapped. Of course she'd been put in charge of this part of the festivities, a role she'd rather prided herself on as the group's resident kink expert. But now... There was even an inflatable male love doll!
She held her breath, wondering if she should try to explain, but she couldn't move, and she knew instinctively that condescending to explain would only make things worse. Other trucks were rumbling by, grinding gears and up shifting as they merged onto the interstate, and she wondered if they could see into her trunk too and see all these dirty toys displayed.
He seemed to be back there an awfully long time, but finally she heard the thunk of the spare hitting the ground and he emerged holding the jack, his face blank as far as she could tell.
"Spare's good," he said matter-of-factly. "Full sized, too. You don't see that in these little cars. It should get you where you're going."
Susan smiled tightly but didn't know what else to say. She stood by the guardrail as the trucker got down and loosened the lugs and then jacked up the car and replaced the tire.
"I really appreciate this," she said weakly. "It's really good of you to help me out like this."
He worked without speaking, his expression blank behind the mirrored glasses, or did she detect a little smirk? She watched him, the way the muscles in his arms flexed as he worked, and she burned with embarrassment. He quickly had the lugs back on and finger-tight, then lowered the car and removed the jack. He stood up and torqued the nuts down till they squeaked, then popped the wheel cover back on and hammered it into place with the heel of his hand. So the gloves were for more than just show, she thought.
The whole thing had taken maybe five minutes. He picked up the flat in one hand and the jack in the other and carried them around to the trunk.
Again, he seemed to take a long time to stow the stuff away, and now she was sure he was going through the gifts and snickering, maybe making a mental list to share with his trucker buddies on his CB. Soon everyone would know about this hot brunette in her Yaris with a trunk full of fuck-toys, and they'd be flashing lights at her and honking for the rest of the trip.
He slammed the trunk and came around toward her, wiping his hands on his bandana and showing her the first real grin she'd seen. He'd taken his sunglasses off and they hung from the front of tank top. In the glow of the truck's headlights, his eyes were absurdly beautiful, a very pale brown and terribly deep. She hadn't expected that, and his eyes and the smile infuriated her. She knew why he was smiling.
"Well, thank you very much," she said with as much ice in her voice as she could muster. "Let me give you something for your trouble."
She reached into her wallet and found a twenty and held it out to him. "Is this enough?"
He waved her off with a smile, but Susan persisted.
"Thirty, then?" she asked. "Forty? Fifty?"
"No, lady, that's alright. It's just a courtesy of the road."
His smile angered her. At least to his credit he'd called her "lady." Had he called her "honey" or "baby" or shown the faintest sign of a smirk, there's no telling what she would have done.
"Just a courtesy of the road?" She added a ten to the twenty in her hand and thrust the bills at him. "Here. For your trouble. If I were you I'd take it, because that's really all you're going to get!"
He stared at her blankly, and she saw the double reflection of her angry face in his stupid mirrored sunglasses, and that so infuriated her that she just threw the money at him and turned and marched to her car and got in. She started it up and began to pull away, then stopped and put her head out the widow, craning her neck around to see him.
"I happen to be a salesperson!" she exclaimed. "Those are my samples. I'm a salesperson! That's all it is, so grow up!"
She threw the car into gear and stomped on the gas, hoping to squeal away in a screech of tires and a spray of gravel, but the polite little Yaris refused to cooperate, and instead she pulled away from him with frustrating and almost humiliating slowness. She never dared look back.
* * *
But that had been some hours ago, and as the initial anger and humiliation had faded and the tedium of the drive had grown, Susan first realized the humor of the situation, and then its erotic potential, like the set-up for some old dirty joke. Meanwhile no trucks had honked at her, or flashed their lights, or given any sign of having been tipped off about her, so she supposed her fears of the trucker spreading rumors had been unfounded, maybe even a kind of secret fantasy.
She remembered that handsome jaw and the strength in those arms and shoulders; the virility of his ass and the dark suggestiveness of those wicked leather gloves. She remembered how quiet he'd been and how inscrutable, a kind of Clint Eastwood masculinity she'd always found irresistible in fantasy, and threatening in real life. He'd been the kind of man who could be dangerous once he'd set his mind on something, who wouldn't take no for an answer.
And she'd made him angry! She'd been rude to him and pissed him off! What might he have done to her had he dragged her into his truck to teach her some manners? What kind of sensual revenge would he inflict on her? Would he make her unlock the trunk again and use those toys on her and call her dirty names? Or worse, make her use them on herself as he watched?
She drove on in the dark, playing one CD after another till she was bored with them, then searching the radio dial, then just turning it off and driving in silence. The music irritated her. So did the party. And the trucker. She'd been driving for too long and the cramped interior and the car's vibrations were getting to her, and so were the clothes she was wearing and her thin, seductive underwear. All those and the enclosing darkness conspired to keep her at a level of low, simmering desire. She couldn't stop thinking about his shoulders and his eyes; the strong hands in the leather, fingerless gloves, the big truck with the bed in the cab.
Why, she wondered, did she fantasize about one kind of man and yet always pursue another? It had never really occurred to her before, but in her sexual dreams it was always someone like the trucker, someone hard and passionate and implacable, who'd take her and use her and make her do things she'd never ordinarily do, quenching his lust in her body. And yet the men she went after--like the type of man she envisioned meeting tonight in the hotel bar--were all essentially nice guys: considerate, respectful, polite, and earnest in their honest but uncertain efforts to please her.
The answer was easy, she thought: fantasy was fantasy, and reality was a different matter altogether. In fantasy you walked fearlessly into the lions' den. In reality you looked for a small dog you could walk on a short leash.
She made herself stop thinking about all that. She sat up straight and deliberately focused her attention on the road. When at last she saw the GAS FOOD LODGING sign that signaled a truck stop ahead, she sighed with relief and put her turn signal on far in advance of the exit. Not that it mattered. She hadn't seen a car for miles.
She slowed down as soon as she hit the ramp and slid her window down. Warm, humid air filled the car, and she turned off the AC and leaned her head out the window, bathing her face in the breeze and letting it wash through her hair. She smelled fertile earth with a touch of fall and the more subtle scent of cooling concrete and tarmac and gasoline, the smells of the road.
The truck stop wasn't one of the big, national franchises she'd expected, but was instead an older and somewhat seedier place. The gas pumps and service station (closed at this time of night) still dominated one end of the huge, empty lot, but the restaurant-coffee shop off to the side had a worn and down-at-the-heels look. Behind the coffee shop and up a slight hill there was what appeared to be a motel, mostly dark, with an old "Welcome Truckers" sign.
The fresh air revived her, surprisingly so, so that by the time she pulled into the car park area, she'd changed her plans. Instead of heading immediately for the restaurant and some hot coffee, she drove toward the far end of the lot where she could park in the night shadows of some big trees. She needed to unkink her muscles and a good stretch and the walk to the restaurant should do it, but first she needed to turn off the car and just close her eyes and savor the silence for a moment.
She'd just turned the car off and was leaning back in her seat when she happened to notice the semi's parked and idling in the shadowy darkness at the far end of the lot, and there it was: the big black and green Kenworth: his truck. She knew it immediately.
Her tiredness was forgotten. She normally couldn't tell one truck from another, but she knew this was his, there was no mistaking it, and she sat there for a while just gazing at it, trying to understand how he could have beaten her here. She didn't remember him passing her, but he must have to have arrived here first.
But then, she really hadn't been paying much attention. She'd been lost in a fog, in day dream and fantasies, and it's entirely possible he'd passed her somewhere along the way.
But he hadn't honked. He hadn't flashed his lights or blown his air horn or come up and tailgated her or done anything to harass or even acknowledge her, and that bothered her. After the rude and unconscionable way she'd treated him, didn't he at least owe her the discourtesy of an insult? She'd been terrible and she admitted it and was ready to apologize, and here he'd just ignored her. Ignored the whole thing, like she didn't even matter or he couldn't be bothered.