I hadn’t even heard the waitress walk over to me. Or sensed her. If I was going to take care of myself, I had to pay more attention. I forced a smile and turned away from the window. “Yeah. Just really hungry. And thinking too much.”
“It happens.” She set down a huge glass of cola and a wrapped straw. “I figured you’d probably want this while you’re waiting for your food. So you’re stopping off the bus. Where are you heading to?”
“East.” The word popped out without me even thinking about it, and right away I knew it was the right answer. I’d already come east from home to this place. West would either take me home or to California. I couldn’t go to the first and had no interest in the second.
“You have family back east?” she asked.
“Hey, Sadie, more coffee,” one of the guys at the counter called.
I bristled a little. He could have at least been polite to her.
Sadie didn’t seem to mind. “Be right there, Jimmy. Hold your grapefruit.”
The guy laughed, and so did most of the other people at the counter. Sadie shrugged at me. “Sorry. Have to go to work. God forbid these guys don’t get their caffeine. I’ll be back in a few with your food.”
“No problem.” I was glad she’d been distracted. It saved me from figuring out how to avoid answering her question.
My stomach growled so loudly everyone else must have heard it. The little packets of jam on the table looked pretty darn good, and I picked one up. It would have been better than no food at all.
Before I could open it, Sadie set a plate in front of me and smiled, then walked away. The burger smelled way better than jam, and I had to force myself not to wolf the whole thing down.
I took my time eating, partly because I didn’t want to make myself sick by chowing down too fast and partly because the sooner I finished, the sooner I’d have to go back to the motel. My stuff was there. I’d barely been able to get it out of my mother’s house, and I wasn’t about to lose it now because of some creep with grabby hands. Before I went back, though, I had to make sure I was calm enough not to burn the place to the ground.
Sadie started toward my table a couple of times. Each time, someone at the counter or one of the other booths called to her to bring them something before she had a chance to say anything to me. The constant interruptions would have been funny if I hadn’t wondered whether I made them happen somehow. I’d done it before. Wanted someone to do something, or not to do something, so bad I could almost taste it, and then it occurred. I hoped I hadn’t really made them do anything. I didn’t want to have power over anyone. Too many people with power abused it.
I finally finished eating. When I stood up, Sadie came over. “I’ll take care of the plates and stuff, hon. You should get out of here. Your food’s covered.”
“I have money.”
“You need to go.”
I looked into her eyes to argue again, and an invisible force shoved me into her head. Suddenly I saw what she saw. Someone was hunting for me. More than one person. They weren’t close yet, but the longer I stayed in town, the more likely they’d find me. And the longer I stayed in the diner, the more likely someone would remember me and be able to tell my pursuers where I was.
My heart pounded. The people’s faces weren’t visible in the image I picked up from Sadie. I had a pretty good idea, though. Gene and his buddies must have decided on the eye-for-an-eye option after all.
They wouldn’t give up until they found me. Which meant I wouldn’t be safe anywhere. The farther I went from home, the less chance they’d succeed, but I would never be completely safe.