Road Block

“Wanna try Mexican,” Rachel asked Bryan. 

“I guess,” Bryan answered lazily, his head resting on the passenger side window. He observed the Arizona desert as it passed him by. The two cruised over the charred pavement. The air conditioner on max could barely keep them cool as the sun baked them inside.

Rachel turned to him with her hands still on the steering wheel. “What do you mean you guess? There’s nothing to eat for another fifty miles,” she said, waiting for a reply. 

“So why’d you ask me,” he asked, still staring at the rolling desert.

Rachel scrunched up her nose in disgust and shook her head as her eyes returned to the road. 

“What,” Bryan taunted, finally sitting upright ready to go.

“No,” she said, shutting down any chance for an argument to catch legs. 

“Oh, now it’s no,” Bryan continued. Rachel turned over, her steely glare piercing Bryan. “Don’t give me that look,” he said, waving his hand in the air.

“Don’t start, Bryan,” Rachel began angrily. “We’ve been on the road for hours and whenever we converse, it’s always arguing.” And so it did. Their voices overlapping one another. The two became entangled within one each other, the other trying to top the other in volume. They’d argued a lot over the course of the trip, but Rachel found tears started to buildup in the corners of her eyes.

“You’re not even listening me,” Rachel said, gripping the wheel. Her knuckles lost color, she squeezed it so tight.

“Me,” Bryan asked even louder, mouth ajar with his hand on his chest. Rachel hung her head between her arms. The strands of her dark hair covered her face like a thick curtain. 

“Rachel. Rachel! Slow down! You’re going to hit him!”

Rachel peaked over the dashboard and saw a dark, macabre figure standing in the center of the road. Rachel slammed the brakes and swerved out of the way to avoid it. Rachel gasped and sucked in air. Bryan twisted in his seat and stared at black clothed person, standing still in the road.

“It’s a woman,” Bryan said to himself. He studied the out of era, black laced ball gown, complete with a black sheer veil and dark feathered headpiece.

“Did I hit her,” Rachel repeated anxiously.

“No,” Bryan said, his eyes still fixed on the shrinking figure. Rachel punched his shoulder. “What’s that for?”

“Why didn’t you tell me,” she screamed.

“I did!”

“Should we stop?”

Bryan looked back into the rear window with a frown. “She’s gone.”

Rachel neared the Mexican restaurant she saw advertised earlier and pulled into the dirt parking lot. 

“No,” Bryan said, placing his hand slightly on the steering wheel. 

“Bryan, I’m tired, hungry and thirsty,” she began with her eyes closed. “I almost hit a woman on the road. Let’s resume any concerns you have after I’ve had food. Then you can argue all you want.” she said, opening the door. Bryan took a deep breath and followed.

The sun beat down relentlessly on them causing the temperature to rise. The steam on the pavement warped the horizon in the distance. Rachel pushed her glasses on and shuffled her way towards the old restaurant. A black woman walked out with a big overcoat and approached her old 60s style teal car. Bryan studied it as he approached the restaurant.

Bryan identified it instantly. “1966 Ford Thunderbird,” he said to himself as he observed the convertible with the missing top. “Classic.”

The woman stopped at her car and hovered before she walked back. She picked up the pace in tandem with Rachel and Bryan. Bryan went ahead and opened the door for Rachel and she brushed by him without a word. Bryan shook his head again and waited for the woman to catch up. The woman smiled behind her cat framed specs. Bryan smiled at her and entered in behind her. Upon observing, he couldn’t understand why she would wear such a thick coat in this weather. And her hair. It was well done, but he couldn’t put a name to the bouffant flip she donned. Maybe she was attending a conference and she forgot her time machine he mused. 

“Thank you,” the woman said meekly as she tucked her head into her shoulders before she entered. 

Rachel waited by the entrance and the strange woman strode inside as she fished through her purse. 

The restaurant was empty aside from the greeter, bartender and waiters that were in the hallway catching a breeze from an old fan that spun lazily above them . There was another bearded man sitting in the far corner with a beer bottle resting in front of him.

“Be right there,” the greeter said from behind the bar. The restaurant was old and wooden. It appeared to Bryan to be a restaurant that had been in existence for more than half a century. And it had stories to tell. Rachel tapped her foot impatiently on the wooden floor. 

“Can’t we just sit,” Rachel said as she spun around on Bryan. Rachel and Bryan began arguing as the woman pulled out a revolver and fired at the bearded man in the corner. 

The gunfire continued and echoed through the narrow restaurant once. Twice. Five times in all. The stranger held her pistol in the air as smoke spewed from the barrel as she huffed. A deafening silence followed the shots that rang out. The staff peered out from behind the bar and saw the woman standing there triumphantly with her leg stance wide and secure. 

She broke her stare from the man she shot, who finally exhaled his last breath and looked around and resumed a meek, humble stance. 

“Sorry everyone,” she said quietly to the restaurant as she pushed her black glasses up the bridge of her nose and carefully placed the smoking gun back into her purse. She waved shyly and shuffled to the door. 

The stranger stopped at the exit and saw Rachel and Bryan embracing each other tightly. The woman paused and studied them carefully. She crouched down and waited to meet the fearful eyes of the couple. 

“You two have been together for a while. Haven’t you?” The woman’s voice was soft, nurturing, reminiscent of a mother.

Rachel squeezed her eyes shut and Bryan nodded wide eyed. Bryan locked eyes with the woman and the woman continued observing the features of Bryan’s face. 

The woman took her white gloved hand and placed it softly on Bryan’s shoulder. Rachel whimpered and squeezed Bryan’s hand tighter. The woman paused and kneeled in closer to Bryan’s ear and whispered, “memento mori.” 

The woman backed away and took one last good look at Bryan before she rose to her feet and strode towards the exit. The woman then got in her Cadillac and drove off into the horizon.

“Is she gone,” Rachel asked, still buried in Bryan’s arm.

“Yeah,” Bryan said with a gulp.

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