The short story Pit Stop is an excerpt from my novella Something’s Amiss.
Pit Stop By Yawatta Hosby
Silence lingered in the car even though it was packed with four people. Poe and Raven sat in the back. From the corner of her eye, Poe noticed Oliver looking at her in the mirror. She busied herself, fidgeting with the suitcase that lay near her feet. Raven told her about her favorite cartoons. Poe pretended to be interested.
She felt envy toward the little girl, who didn’t feel the tension in the car. It must be nice to be full of innocence and naivety. To not understand the emotional toll it took being near an ex and his new girlfriend, especially when the new girlfriend wanted to flaunt it in her face. How did Poe get in this predicament anyway? The plan was to stay in a hotel. Why had she let Oliver talk her out of that so easily?
She shook her head and looked out the window. Was it a good idea to leave Dominic alone in the house all by himself? Maybe she should have offered to stay at his place to look after his daughter. That way he would have someone to talk to.
Even though her stomach cramped from not eating all day, Poe was not motivated to enjoy a meal. All she wanted to do was curl up in the fetal position and cry herself to sleep. She had sobbed last night and then this morning in the shower, but she had plenty of tears left. Yet, she couldn’t cry in the car–not in front of Oliver and Kate. And what about Raven?
Poe sighed and looked at the little girl. She needed to snap out of her funk if she wanted to baby-sit her properly. She tried to clear her mind and absorb Raven’s descriptions of Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants, and Care Bears.
“Honey, you’re dropping them off right? Then we can go to dinner,” Kate said in an annoyed tone, as if she was tired of their company in the back seat.
“Who’s them? My name–my name is Raven.”
“Kate was using a pronoun,” Poe said.
Raven placed her index finger on her lip. “Pronoun?”
Poe patted her shoulder. “Yes, I’ll teach you all about it later if you want.”
Kate must be ex-phobic; that could be the only explanation why she didn’t speak civilly at Dominic’s place, and now Kate was trying her best to get Oliver away from her.
“Actually, I’m staying a little while. I want to see my mom.” He tapped the steering wheel. “Then we can go out to eat.”
Kate pouted, folding her arms across her chest. She stared out the window.
He sighed. “What’s the problem? I said we’ll go after I see my mom.”
“I’ve been waiting since last night for our date. Can’t you visit her tomorrow?”
“Please don’t throw that back in my face. It’s not like I stood you up on purpose.” Oliver gripped the steering wheel. “How can you sit there and ask me not to visit my mom after you know what happened?”
“Please. Like you really want to see her. You just want to be up under your ex, and I’m not allowing it!”
“You’re losing it, Kate. I’m not playing your game.”
If this was a game, Poe could only imagine when Kate was really angry. Jenna hadn’t been lying when she said Oliver had a handful. Raven perked up and stopped playing with her teddy bear. She must like witnessing drama as much as her mom did.
“If it makes you feel any better, Kate,” Poe said. “I have a boyfriend back home.”
“Like it matters.”
Raven hugged her teddy bear. “Leo is nice. He buyed–he buyed me a slice of pizza once, and we played Mario Kart.”
Like it matters. Kate must have heard the story of how Poe and Oliver ended up together. When they were twenty-two, Oliver was dating someone else and Poe had just moved in with Jenna after college graduation. She met Oliver through Jenna. Poe liked men who looked into her eyes and studied her. Oliver was like that. Many times, Poe had caught him staring at her. Eventually, they had their first date at Four Leaf Clover. Oliver was Poe’s first love, the one she lost her virginity to. The details were kind of blurry regarding whether or not he had broken up with the other girl first. They had followed their hearts. Poe could see why she’d be a girlfriend’s enemy. That one incident would forever brand her as the ‘relationship killer.’
Poe’s first time was in the back of Oliver’s Jetta; she observed the back seat and grinned. Reminiscing about that hot, passionate night made Poe forget her stomach cramps. She knew she shouldn’t be thinking about Oliver. It was wrong, yet it felt as if it was meant to be. Memories of him were a part of her life.
For a split second, Oliver peeked in the rearview mirror to look at his little cousin. He never knew Raven had met Leo; Jenna and Dominic had failed to mention that. Perhaps Leo and Poe were more romantically bonded than the impression he had. Images of his ex and her new man holding hands out in public rippled through his mind. He imagined them meeting with each others’ families as if they were in a serious relationship. Oliver gulped when he imagined Poe getting intimate with Leo. It had taken Poe a while to open up to him, to allow him to knock her wall down, so why did Leo get off easy? What was so special about him?
Oliver was tired of being the nice guy, the one who set his happiness aside for everyone else. Starting today, he would fight for what he wanted. The embrace at the airport and stolen glances of Poe wasn’t enough for him. Oliver needed to be close to her again–emotionally and physically. His stomach clenched. Why couldn’t Poe be his?
Oliver made a u-turn.
Raven gasped. “Ollie, this is the wrong way to Aunt Lily’s house.”
“I know. I have to make a pit stop first.” Oliver focused on the road, avoiding Kate’s icy glare. He stared at the taillights of the car in front of them. He swallowed a knot in his throat while looking the other way. He wanted to dodge the sidewalk at all costs. They passed the boutique where Jenna was killed. In his peripheral vision, he noticed the yellow caution tape, and frowned. His heart sank.
Did Poe see the scene of Jenna’s accident? What is she thinking about at this moment? She’s so quiet. I wish I had a paid subscription to read her mind all day.
Oliver’s destination was the Ruby Tuesday parking lot. Oliver parked the car and left the engine running. Everyone gave him a questioning look, yet Poe seemed the most curious. In the next minute, she would probably think he was an asshole, which he couldn’t bear, but hopefully Poe would let him show her that he was still the guy she had fallen in love with.
He pulled out his wallet from his back pocket. “You want a restaurant so badly, here you go.” He extended a hand filled with cash. “Here’s money for dinner, a tip, and cab fare.”
Kate’s hand was gripped on her knee. “Honey–“
“Here. Take it and get out of my car.” No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more Mr. Pushover.
“Honey–” Kate pouted, squeezing her eyes tightly. Fake crying wouldn’t work this time. She had fooled him when they first began dating, but once she revealed her dream was to win an Oscar, Oliver wised up, which wasn’t hard for him to do since Kate always went through the same routine before a tear fell from her eye.
“Take the money and get out. I want to grieve with people who cared about Jenna. I want to grieve with people who won’t make today about themselves.”
Like clockwork, tears fell down both sides of Kate’s cheeks. “I’m sorry, Honey.”
Oscar indeed. “It’s too late for half apologies. Bye, Kate.”
She caressed his cheek. “No, I’m not going anywhere.”
“If someone tells you to do something, you should do it so you don’t get a time out,” Raven lectured.
Kate snatched the bills out of Oliver’s hand, then got out of the passenger side, and slammed the door. He could see her in the rearview mirror as he drove off. Good thing she didn’t have a key to his apartment. Otherwise, all his clothes would be drenched in bleach. She had the audacity to do that to her ex. What did he see in her again? Maybe deep down, he was punishing himself for not fighting for Poe to stay in Rhode Island.