Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.Rose and Thorne 6 #28 (6.3)
As we set out on our road trip, I wondered if traveling with a small child and a woman meant we’d have to make more frequent stops than usual. I didn’t have any experience with children—or women, for that matter, other than my mother, and we were never able to travel—but I had noticed during our brief time with Eva June that she tended to take time out for the ladies room on a fairly regular basis. No criticism, just an observation. We’d only been on the road for maybe an hour and a half when Sarah asked if we’d mind stopping. Ever the gentleman and good brother, Ethan pulled off the highway as soon as he was able and into a small rest area just outside of Atkins, Virginia. Smyth Safety Rest Area read the big blue sign on the small red brick building with arched doorways.
Sarah unbuckled Alex, said she’d be back in a minute, and headed up the steps to the building. Ethan, Benny, and I climbed out of the car and stretched our legs then tossed our trash into nearby receptacles. I couldn’t help but notice this place boasted of having vending machines.
“Think they might have coffee here?” I asked Ethan hopefully. My first cup of the morning was long gone. He gave me a knowing grin. “What’s that look for?” I asked.
“Oh nothing,” he replied nonchalantly. “Would you like to see if they have any coffee?”
“If it’s not too much of a problem,” I replied. Hey, I could give as good as I got. And, just for the record, this was our normal routine, nothing unusual, although an outsider might think we were sniping at one other. We weren’t.
“I’ll admit I could use some too,” Benny interjected, and that sealed it. The three of us headed up the stairs in search of caffeine. I noticed just outside of the building stood a large wooden map, presumably of Virginia. Inside there was a smaller version, as well as a few travel brochures, no doubt courtesy of the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
I’d taken note of the other cars in the lot when we arrived. There were only a few not surprising as it was a Saturday, and not a particularly warm day at that. Even so, we had Benny to consider. We were his bodyguards, after all. It wasn’t inconceivable that he was being targeted. How they would deduce we were here was a matter for conjecture, but better safe than sorry.
The vending machine selection was limited but adequate to our needs. Three machines stood in one corner of the building. One contained snacks, another one soft drinks and water, and one blessed machine held hot beverages… such as coffee. Actually, it held a surprisingly better selection than that, and I opted for a latte, generously sweetened with extra cream.
Sarah emerged from the ladies room as we stood there, Alex in her arms. He was squirming to get down and walk under his own power, but she seemed reluctant to let him do so. Maybe fear of getting dirty. Or running off. Or maybe it was because we weren’t sure what was going on, the reason for this impromptu road trip. I couldn’t exactly say I blamed her for being cautious.
“Down!” Alex insisted in a determined no-nonsense voice that failed to impress anyone.
“I’ll watch him,” Benny offered.
Sarah eased her son down to the floor and he shot off toward the machine holding the snacks, reaching toward the glass. “Chips!” he said. “I want chips!” He turned expectant eyes toward Benny, who chuckled.
“I think we can do that,” he said before glancing at Sarah, belatedly realizing he should have asked first. “If it’s all right with Mom, I mean.”
“Mama, want chips!” Alex insisted. “Pwease!” He batted his big blue eyes at his mother, and I couldn’t help but think this is what Ethan must have been like as a little boy, and I was instantly enchanted. Sarah obviously felt the same way because she quickly caved.
“Okay,” she said. “What do you say to Uncle Benny?”
Alex looked baffled for a moment. Benny laughed.
“He has nothing to be thankful for yet. What about this kind?” He pointed to something not too spicy and Alex nodded. Benny pulled out a few coins from his pocket, dropped them in and pressed the appropriate buttons. The machine whirred into life and dispensed the correct item without any problems. Benny pulled the bag out and handed it to Alex.
“Thank you, Unka Benny!” Alex cheerfully chirped.
“You’re very welcome, Alex,” Benny responded. He looked wistfully from mother to child. I wondered what was going through his mind. The wasted years when he was estranged from his family? His lack of progeny? Or maybe something entirely different.
“There’s more snacks in the car,” Ethan reminded us. “But we should get going.”
He didn’t say it, but I knew he didn’t want to stay in any one place too long, just in case.
On our way out, I noticed Sarah paused to pick up a couple of the brochures. Ethan stopped beside her. ‘You okay?” he asked in a concerned voice.
His twin looked up at him, shifting Alex on her hip a little. “I will be,” she said after a long moment. “I’m sorry about—”
“No need,” Ethan cut her off. “It’s a done deal. I just want you to be happy, that’s all.”
“I know, and I appreciate that.” Ethan gave her a quick hug, and all was well with the world again. At least for now
to be continued
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