“AM I?”-5

Nina did not comment, but just as she turned from Holland drive onto Highway 119, she saw a dark green car turn into the parking lot they’d just left. She had no idea if it was a Nissan Maxima or not but the car’s paint was faded; it certainly could be circa 1999.

Stephanie turned from the large picture window as the dark blue Charger turned onto Highway 119. With icy resolve, she marched to her station and sat in her stylist’s chair to begin her plan of action. No longer would she allow Nina Crowder to dictate her life for her. She would no longer allow herself to be a victim.

Stephanie decided that her first act would be to find a place to live; Stephanie had a steady source of income and, despite Glen’s best efforts, had an excellent credit rating. Her next step would be to extricate herself from Ronald’s filthy clutches.

Clarkston County Police Department,” the mechanical voice intoned before launching into the prompts.

Stephanie selected ‘non-emergency’ and determined, if she’d not heard back from them by four o’clock, their closing time, she would simply drive to the police department. She also determined to get her own cell phone; Ronald had magnanimously taken Stephanie to PC Nation and selected a new phone for her. Stephanie now realized, it was so that he could keep tabs on his property.

“Fuck you, Ronald James, and fuck you, Nina Crowder,” Stephanie growled, then pasted a smile on her face for her next customer.

While Stephanie listened as Connie Trussaud requested a miracle, requested that Stephanie somehow give Connie the thickness and volume of hair she’d had nearly forty years ago, Robbie Brundette marched around the shoe store looking for Robin. The girl at Zydeco’s Coffee had smiled and laughed and flirted with Robbie, and said that yes, she’d seen a girl fitting his description of Robin in there maybe twenty minutes ago, but hadn’t seen her since.

The manager of Burke’s Shoes politely asked Robbie, if he wasn’t in there to look at shoes, please leave. Robbie politely told the wrinkled up old hag to suck his dick; he was looking for his bitch wife.

Stepping outside, Robbie again looked inside the plate glass window of Salon Cimo; the receptionist had told him no girl bearing any resemblance to his description of Robin had entered the salon. He didn’t see Robin in the limited view the window afforded.

Robbie checked his ‘Find My Phone’ app and cursed; nothing was showing up for Robin’s phone number. He wandered down to the tire store, but Robin was not visible in the showroom or in the service bay.

“Aw bitch, that is your fucking ass, hear?” he snarled, punching number 8 on his phone.

Robin had asked him once why she was number 8 and not number 1. Robbie had smirked and told her maybe she needed work a little harder, maybe he might make her number 1. Then he grabbed his crotch and told Robin ‘ate me.’

“Aw shit,” Robin squeaked when ‘All My Life’ by Foo Fighters began to sound from her purse.

“Problem?” Nina asked, glancing in her rear view mirror, then at her companion.

“That, that’s Robbie,” Robin whispered, terrified.

“Give me the phone,” Nina ordered.

“Yeah, who this is?” Nina asked, adopting a thick sounding voice.

“What? Who is this?” Robbie demanded.

“Nuh uh, I axed you first,” Nina said. “Who you?”

“What are you doing with my wife’s phone?” Robbie demanded.

“Nuh uh, I was sitting in that zwy de cuh, coh, whatever it is and this girl leave her purse when she goes drop the kids off at the pool so it mine now,” Nina declared.

“Bitch, better bring that phone on back here,” Robbie barked.

“Bitch? You calling me bitch? Know what, bitch, I’m blocking your ass. That’s right, who the bitch now, mother fucker,” Nina yelled and hung up.

“Quick, block his number,” Nina ordered, tossing the phone to Robin.

“I, I can’t believe, I can’t believe you talked to him like that!” Robin laughed merrily as she rapidly punched in the ‘block’ command.

“Aw, your ignorant ass is one dead bitch I find you,” Robbie screamed.

“So, this Chrissie, Christine, she your sister or something?” Robin asked, dropping the phone into her purse.

“No, she uh, she was just this girl,” Nina said, staring straight ahead.

“I mean, you walked in, seen me and just kind of froze there,” Robin said, looking at Nina’s pinched face.

“She uh, she, I picked her up one night,” Nina admitted, face flaming hotly.

“Uh huh, and?” Robin asked when a long moment of silence followed.

“I, she was this drunk, standing outside of Burns groceries, looking for someone buy her a pint of gin,” Nina said.

“And you bought her a pint of gin and then…?” Robin prompted.

“We went back to my place and fucked,” Nina admitted, face bright red.

“I uh, oh,” Robin said, staring hard at the blushing Nina.

“And couple weeks later, picked her up again, and couple months go by and she died, out in the cold; I need get some gas,” Nina said, choking out the last words.

Nina pulled into a gas station and killed the engine. She nodded when Robin asked if she could go to the bathroom.

“Hey, how old are you?” Robin asked, returning to the car.

“Twenty seven, fixing be twenty eight; why?” Nina asked, starting the car.

“Ass hole won’t sell me a quart of Gratchley’s ’cause I’m only twenty,” Robin snapped.

“Gratchley’s? Jesus, that’s what, like fifty cents?” Nina scoffed.

“Hey! I like it,” Robin argued. “Come on; I got the money.”

“Whatever,” Nina said but killed the powerful engine.

She located the Gratchley’s Veer quart bottles and grabbed one. She then located the St. Elizabeth Lager and grabbed a six pack of the ice cold cans.

“Told that girl she ain’t old enough be buying that stuff,” the grizzled old man snapped.

“Uh huh, but I am,” Nina said and showed him her driver’s license.

“Whatever,” the man said and packed quart bottle and six pack into two separate bags.

“Here,” Nina said, getting into the car. “Before you take one sip of that nasty ass Gratchley’s, need to get a taste of what a good beer supposed taste like.”

Robin looked at the can and wrinkled her face. Then, with a shrug, she popped the tab and took a big sip of the beer.

“Better than Gratchley’s?” Nina asked, pulling onto the highway again.

“Robin just shrugged and drained the can of beer. Then, she unscrewed the cap from the Gratchley’s Beer and drank down nearly half of the bottle.

“So, uh, you, this uh, this Christine,” Robin asked. “She uh, she know you was gay? I mean, when she asked you to…”

“I’m Bisex…know what? I’m gay. I am gay,” Nina said aloud.

Nina was in a car, driving down a two lane blacktop because she’d driven nearly six hours in the hopes of persuading her female lover to return to Louisiana. Of all of her previous heterosexual relationships, Nina had never driven six minutes in the hopes of persuading any man to come back to her. She certainly never spent a dime on searching for any of them.

When she’d lain in bed with Freddie, or Greg, or Austin, Nina had enjoyed the intimacy, but felt no romantic connection to any of them. They had been a source of sperm and nothing more. She wouldn’t spend one penny ever looking for any of them.

“No, Christine didn’t know I was gay,” Nina said. “But when I got her in my car, she kind of figured she was going have give up the pussy.”

“I’m, I’m going have give up the pussy?” Robin asked.

“No. I, no. I mean, shit, yeah, look at you, big old boobs, pussy all hanging out them shorts? Yeah, I want to fuck you, but, no. I’m, I’m not into using people, shit, broke my heart one time and one time is too many. No, Robin, I’m, I’m not going use you like that,” Nina declared.

Robin guzzled the last of her Gratchley’s Beer. She then looked at the five cans of St. Elizabeth Lager. Nina waved with her hand.

“Go ahead; I’m driving,” Nina said.

Robin drained a second can of the beer and nodded. Nina saw a Newhart’s restaurant ahead and put on her blinker.

“I been driving since seven; I’m starving,” Nina declared. “Those beignets didn’t even start to fil me up.”

“Good; ’bout pee on myself,” Robin admitted.

“I bet,” Nina smiled. “That’s fifty six ounces of beer you got in you. Don’t know how much a bladder can hold, but…”

At the counter, Nina ordered a cheeseburger and thick cut French fries and chocolate malt. She specified pepper jack cheese, add grilled onions, grilled bell peppers and grilled jalapeno peppers. The blonde girl behind the counter gave a smile and giggle when Nina said she was in the mood to hate herself afterward.

Nina looked at the metallic glint of orthodontic braces the cute teenager sported and felt a shiver of desire ripple through her. She shook her head; the kid was just a teenager, and was more than likely heterosexual. She thanked the girl and stepped aside to wait for her order.

“Wow,” Robin commented as she looked at the peppers and onions dripping from the burger. “They’re not shy with that stuff, huh?”

“Yeah, being pregnant has really screwed with my taste buds,” Nina said.

“Being what?” Robin asked, almost knocking over her diet soda.

“I’m just at about two and a half months,” Nina said, swallowing her mouthful of burger. “Man! Jalapenos are…but then you grill them? Really wakes them up. Want a bite?”

“I uh, no, no thanks,” Robin said, dunking her chicken strip into the parmesan sauce. “I uh, I thought you said you’re gay.”

“I am. Kind of, no, it’s not really complicated. I wanted a baby, so I went out and had sex with a couple of guys,” Nina shrugged.

Sucking the last of her malt, Nina picked up her tray and carried it back to the counter. The cute girl gave Nina a wide, shiny smile.

“Thanks; be surprise how many people just leave their tray there,” the girl said. “So? Did it do the trick? Hate yourself?”

“Almost,” Nina smiled, feeling the crotch of her panties begin to moisten. “Maybe if I’d gotten a double patty.”

“Well, you know where we are,” the girl smiled. “See you again.”

“Doubt it,” Nina smiled, leaning on the counter to talk to the cute blonde. “I’m in Louisiana.”

“So? We’re not worth driving here?” the girl teased, moving a strand of hair behind her ear.

“When I got a Newhart’s five minutes from my office? Not really,” Nina smiled.

“What part of Louisiana? My cousin? April? She’s going to, to, oh, that university right there, um, decade, degrade, something like that,” the girl asked, leaning closer to Nina.

“DeGarde? University of Louisiana at DeGarde?” Nina guessed and the girl’s pretty blue eyes opened wide.

“Yes! That’s it,” the girl said. “Could have gone to Myndeee, but guess she wanted get out of Arkansas,” the girl shrugged and again moved her long blonde hair behind her ear.

“Well, my condo’s like twenty, maybe thirty minutes from the U.L.D. campus,” Nina smiled. “Listen, I uh, you ever get tired of working here? Give me a call; we’re always looking for good workers.”

Nina fished out a business card and prepared to hand it to the girl. Looking at the metal glint in the girl’s mouth, Nina hesitated.

“I, uh, so how old are you?” Nina asked.

“I’m going be nineteen to. MOR. Row!” the girl enthused. “Woo hoo!”

Nina flipped the card over and wrote her cell number on the back of the card and slid it to the girl. The girl quickly grabbed the card and looked at the phone number then at the front. She smiled, despite her light blush.

“I uh, okay Nina, thanks,” the girl said, voice low.

“Uh huh, so, uh, what’s your name?” Nina asked, hoping her jeans weren’t sodden with her excitement.

“Brooke,” Brooklyn March said, pointing to her left breast, where a nametag should have been.

Nina looked at Brooke’s cute breasts and shook her head. Brooke looked down at her chest then giggled. She slapped her forehead lightly.

“Shit, forgot it again,” Brooke admitted. “And knowing me, probably washed it. But it’s Brooke. Brooklyn really, but everyone here calls me ‘Metal’ because of the heavy metal in my mouth.”

“They should call you ‘Shiny’ instead,” Nina said. “Bye Shiny.”

“Bye, see you again,” Brooke said, blushing hotly now.

Robin drank the rest of the beers then slept as Nina drove. When Robin woke up, she desperately needed to pee. Nina pulled up to a convenience store and Robin ran in before Nina shut off the engine. Walking into the store, Nina grabbed a can of grape soda, she didn’t know why, but she had a sudden hankering for grape soda, even though she could not remember the last time she’d drank a grape soda.

“Good God, really? A dollar thirty two for a flipping can of soda?” Nina complained, but paid the hard faced Asian man.

“You get me another quart of Gratchley’s?” Robin begged, fishing out two worn dollar bills.

“Yeah, yeah,” Nina agreed and the Asian man rang up the beer and barked out the amount.

“Don’t ever lose that beautiful smile,” Nina quipped and the Asian man did let a hint of a smile escape.

Nina cleaned out the six cans and empty quart bottle before pulling back onto the highway. Robin drank the beer down, then looked down at her phone as it chimed.

“My momma,” Robin said and answered the phone.

“Ah ha! Knew you hadn’t lost your damned phone, bitch,” Robbie crowed triumphantly.

Robin cried out then ended the call. Nina shook her head; she did not know Robbie Brundette, but they were several miles away. They were safely in Louisiana, well out of reach of the Sheriff of Clarkston County, or Robbie’s cop cousins or brother. Robbie had no idea where they were, had no idea how to find his wife.

“In high school,” Nina started talking as Robin frantically fumbled with her phone. “I had a best friend. We’d, you know, kind of practice with each other, what we’d do if we ever got a boyfriend.”

“What?” Robin asked, sending the next call to voice mail.

“Nothing lezzie; it was always through our clothes,” Nina continued as she drove. “Then in college, shit, I went crazy. There was all these cocks, all these pussies, God! I loved college! Loved fucking!”

Robin turned off her phone. She drank the rest of her beer, holding her cell phone in her free hand. For a long moment, she debated whether or not to lower the car window and send the phone sailing out into the brackish waters she could see along the side of the blacktop.

“Then graduated; got a Bachelor’s in Business,” Nina continued. “Figured, ‘okay, you’re a college graduate now; time to get serious, time to settle down.’ Had, Jesus, I can’t even remember how many guys I been with, all of them saying they love me, we’re going get married, have a house and white picket fence and two point three kids and all that bullshit.”

Robin dropped the phone into her purse. She didn’t really hear Nina as Nina drove southeast on the endless stretch of asphalt.

“And of course, every time we break up? It’s all my fault. I’m walking around blaming myself,” Nina continued. “Then I move to Jack’s Creek, God, I hope that Brooke calls. Shit! Should have got her number. Oh well, hope she calls.”

“She probably will,” Robin encouraged. “We almost there?”

“Don’t you start that ‘are we there yet?’ shit, hear?” Nina smiled.

“Are we there yet?” Robin teased.

“And I’m busting my ass, I mean, really busting my ass, but it’s paying off; there’s light at the end of the tunnel and this really cute blonde with big boobs asks me get her a pint of gin,” Nina continued. “You know, at first I’m like ‘No’ but I’m looking at her and I just want to you know, do her so I go ahead and get her the damned gin.”

Several miles of total silence stretched out. Nina gave a sigh of relief when their turn onto Norman Road loomed ahead.

“Took her home, we fucked, God, it was, it was so good,” Nina started again as she turned from Highway 119 onto Norman Road. “Then, next time she comes over, little bitch drank all the vodka and gin in the house and then stole forty bucks out my wallet.”

“That, really?” Robin asked.

“It wasn’t the money, or the booze; shit, it was only forty bucks,” Nina said. “It was waking up and she was gone. That? That really hurt.”

Robin said nothing. Nina cut over onto Highway 52 and slowed considerably; Highway 52 was a notorious speed trap.

“Then I met Stephanie; you ever meet someone and it’s like ‘BOOM!’ That, that’s what I felt when I looked into her eyes and oh my God! That smile. I mean, I never thought I was gay; I can’t be gay, I like cock, right? But Jesus, Stephanie, Stephanie just filled my whole world. Then I saw on the news that Christine, Christine was dead and I just went crazy,” Nina said and turned onto Truesdale Road. “And when I said I wanted a baby; we’d call her Christine, Stephanie just, I guess she’d had enough of my crazy and left my insane ass.”

Robin looked at the beautiful rustic barns, then realized the clustered barns were actually condominiums. She looked as a barn door slowly slid up, stopped, slid up and stopped, then finally slid up fully.

“Damn it, keep forgetting to call someone about that,” Nina said and pulled into the garage. “But that, that’s why I was in Myndee. Trying get Stephanie come home.”

“What’d she say?” Robin asked as Nina turned off the engine.

“Told me she wished I was dead,” Nina shrugged heavily. “Guess, guess some cuts just can’t ever heal.”

Nina showed Robin where one bathroom was, then bustled upstairs and dashed into her own bathroom. Sitting on the commode, Nina felt the weariness of ten hours behind the wheel, felt the ‘thrum-thrum-thrum’ of the asphalt still niggling and jiggling her body. Then she felt the first wave of heartburn from her toxic lunch and greasy beignets.

“Like chocolate covered cherries?” Nina asked, seeing Robin wandering around the downstairs area. “I make this drink; kind of tastes like chocolate covered cherries.”

“You supposed to drink?” Robin asked, looking at Nina’s flat belly.

“One every now and then’s not going hurt,” Nina declared and quickly made two drinks.

Robin sniffed the whiskey drink, then sipped it and nodded her approval. Nina took a sip, then sat on her couch. Robin sat down next to Nina and took another sip of her drink.

Nina’s purse gave a ‘buzz’ and Nina fished out her phone. She did not recognize the number and was about to send it to voice mail. Then she thought it might be Stephanie and answered.

Hey, Nina? Hi! This is Shiny,” a breathless voice caressed Nina’s ear.

“Shiny! Hi! I, I uh, I wasn’t sure you’d…” Nina enthused.

“I can’t believe I’m, I mean, I hi. Y’all get home okay? Oh! You not still driving, huh?” Brooke asked.

“No, no, I’m home. We’re just sitting here, having a drink,” Nina bubbled.

“What you drinking?” Brooke asked.

“I, it’s this drink I made up,” Nina giggled, sipping her drink. “Of course, Robin’s telling me I’m not supposed be drinking, but you know, like one’s really going hurt?”

“Mm, that sounds sooo good,” Brooke enthused when Nina gave her the recipe.

Robin walked outside onto Nina’s back patio, to give Nina some privacy. She took her drink with her, sipping it, savoring the sweet and harsh flavors.

“So, what you doing right now?” Nina asked.

“Honestly?” Brooke giggled breathlessly. “I mean, minute I get home? Got to get right out of that uniform. Stinks so bad. And yeah, I did wash my stupid nametag.”

“Aw, it get broken?” Nina asked.

“Hmm, no, they’re about impossible to destroy,” Brooke said. “But anyway, got out of that stupid Newhart uniform and I’m just sitting on in my bed in just my undies.”

“Oh!” Nina let out a little moan, imagining the girl in bra and panties.

“What you doing for your birthday tomorrow?” Nina asked, unzipping her jeans and working her fee hand down the front of her panties.

“Shit! Joey’s coming in; hang on!” Brooke squeaked.

Nina heard fumbling. She didn’t know who Joey was, but felt an unreasonable dislike of Joey.

“Okay, I’m, I didn’t have my door locked,” Brooke giggled.

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