Remember when I mentioned cheaty days? Welcome to the first! My father in law died earlier this year and the hospice who helped him and my mother in law is having their memorial for all those lost this year. So, I am not going to be writing today. Instead, I bring you a short story I wrote about a year ago. I've changed a few things, including a name, and redone bits of it. Because I cannot leave well enough alone and it nothing I do is ever well enough anyway! ENJOY!

PHOTOSYNTHESIS

Bonnie’s life sucked. She knew it sucked because she was sitting on a bus halfway between Houston and Seattle. Behind her were a couple of potheads talking about scoring when they stopped in the next big town. Bonnie thought they’d be getting off for good there as neither seemed smart enough not to avoid the cops who would surely be looking for guys like them. A part of her would be glad to be rid of them as there was a definite funk emanating from their seats. Of course, to be fair to the potheads, the whole bus smelled bad.

At least, during the last bus switch, she’d managed to avoid being stuck at the back of the bus. That had left her deciding any level of Dante’s hell would be preferable. Then she’d congratulated herself on the excellent link to her last English class before she’d left college. Which had left her digging in her bag for the last of her gummi worms; because the reminder she had not left so much as been asked to leave had been too depressing not to eat gummi worms.

The worst part of all had been the death of her phone sometime in the last two miles. Now she was forced to listen to the next generation of Capones, thank you early 20th Century History, plot their great heist. Bonnie had left her earbuds in because it kept the chatty old ladies from bothering her. The last had changed seats in a huff, muttering about kids these days, when Bonnie had ignored her entirely as she’d tried to share photos of her cat. She’d tweeted about it. How meta, she’d thought with a snort. She was sharing on the internet a story about someone sharing cat photos. In real life. Actual, printed photos.

Bonnie dug out the last gummi worm from her bag. The one she’d sworn she wouldn’t eat because it had fallen free and may have a small bit of lint on it. It was a red orange one. She couldn’t let it go to waste. She needed it. In Denver, she had four hours to wait. She planned on charging her phone and buying gummi worms and ignoring the emails and texts her mother continued to send.

Seattle was the last place she wanted to go. Her whole family had bought the story the college had spread around. Like they didn’t even know her. She was appalled to find herself crying. Worse, she was out of tissues and the thought of braving the bathroom was too much. Bonnie turned toward the window and wiped at her eyes.

“Hey, you ok?”

“I’m not holding.”

She’d been asked that too many times. As she turned to snap something she hoped would sound like snark, she stopped. Holy God! How had she missed him on the bus? Bonnie wiped the back of her hand across her eyes and hoped what little makeup she’d managed to put on wasn’t running.

He had a North Texas drawl that made her go weak and was actually wearing a cowboy hat. The hat was not as impressive as the tight jeans and cowboy boots. Neither of which was as impressive as his green eyes and reddish stubble.

“I didn’t ask that,” he said as he sat beside her. Bonnie leaned towards him like a plant to the sun. Thank you, Biology 1. Photosynthesis had never seemed so sexy as when she saw him as the sun.

“Oh, umm. Yea, I’m fine. The smell.” She wrinkled her nose and tipped her head backward.

He smiled. He was the sun gone supernova. Thank you, Greg, the adorable guy across the hall who wanted to work for NASA. Not so much thank you to Andrew, his boyfriend, because he’d dashed her hopes of Greg.

“It is pretty strong. I’m Kent.” He held out his hand.

Bonnie stared at it long enough he started to pull it back before she grabbed it. His smile came out again. It allowed her to find hers for the first time in six months.

“Bonnie.” She should have made up a name. What had Bonnie ever done? Except get expelled from college.

“Where are you going, Bonnie?” He still had her hand in his.

“Seattle,” she stammered. “What about you?”

“Getting off in Denver.”

“Phrasing,” she said.

“A woman of refinement,” he said with a wink. “Or, at least one with good taste in tv.”

Oh, good God! He knew her favorite tv show. She looked down at her hand, still in his.

“Should I let go?”

“No. I mean. Yes. I mean…” Bonnie blushed. Hopefully it wasn’t the blotchy sort that made her tan look uneven. How vain, her mother would point out. Only, it was her mother who’d made her that way and she’d tried to stop. She’d even dyed her hair white. Gone were her mother’s sable locks. Instead, in a fit of pique her freshman year, she’d gotten her roommate to help her strip her hair of color and dye it white. Peter had liked it. He’d said it gave her brown eyes more depth. Peter had been an art student and, as it turned out, a jerk.

“You there, Bonnie?”

She blushed again.

“I, uhh, sorry.”

“The smell?”

“No,” she admitted. “Just a shitty couple of months.”

Kent shifted closer to her and she didn’t stop him. He definitely smelled better than the rest of the people on the bus. Including herself, she was sure.

“Sorry,” he drawled and squeezed her hand.

It was all he said, but Bonnie was happy to sit in silence.

#

“Come on, charge.” Bonnie encouraged her phone as she sat on the floor after fighting her way to an empty outlet. Twenty percent taunted her as she dug into the bag of chips she’d bought. Six bottles of water sat in a plastic bag by her, slowing growing warm and unappealing. A few hours from now, as she sat on the bus in the middle of the night, she’d be thankful for them. Until she had to brave the bathroom.

“Is that all you’re eating?”

Bonnie looked up into Kent’s smile. Definitely the sexiest photosynthesis ever. Her stomach growled and she groaned.

“Here. I bought tacos.”

He sat beside her and placed a brown bag between them.

“What about your ride?”

“They’re not here yet. And you looked like a lady who needs a good taco.”

He opened the bag and Bonnie’s stomach growled again. She hadn’t eaten anything other than chips and gummi worms since she boarded the bus. Kent handed over two tacos and Bonnie unwrapped them to inhale the scent of spicy beef and fresh tomatoes.

“Oh, my God,” she moaned after her first bite. She couldn’t bother with embarrassment right now. Besides, she wouldn’t ever see him again. Which was why she licked her fingers when she was done as Kent watched with a grin.

“Why’re you headed to Seattle, Bonnie?”

Her phone chirped at the same time. A quick glance showed her mother’s text. Why was she going to Seattle?

“Because I have nowhere else to go.” It was a sad truth.

Kent reached across the remains of awesome tacos and touched her hair.

“You look like the kind of girl who wouldn’t feel trapped like that.”

“You don’t know me.” Another truth. One that almost made her sad.

“Maybe I’d like to.”

“Well, you’re staying here and I’m going to Seattle so…”

“I’m not staying here. I’m meeting some friends and we’re heading to Alaska by car.”

“Why?”

“To work at a friend’s lodge. It’s good money. And I’ve always wanted to see Alaska.”

“I thought you Texas boys didn’t like things bigger than home?” she teased.

“Come with me.”

Bonnie rolled her eyes right before her phone chirped again.

“I think I saw this movie on Lifetime.”

Kent laughed and it was loud and free and reminded her of a time when she’d been happy.

“I swear, darlin’ we’re good people. Half of us are girls like yourself. There’s room for you. We got a van that seats eight and you’d only make number seven.”

It was so tempting. Bonnie just didn’t know if it was tempting because she could avoid her mother’s disappoint and disapproval or because Kent was, by far, the hottest guy she’d ever seen walking around in cowboy boots. And she’d gone to school in Texas.

Bonnie looked at her phone, but didn’t read her mother’s message.

“Taco, taco, taco,” she said.

Kent looked surprised before he leaned closer and brushed his lips over hers.

“Come on, Jennifer,” he teased after so she knew he got the reference.

Bonnie laughed. When had she laughed last? It surprised her she couldn’t remember.

Her phone chirped.

“Fuck it.”

“Darlin’?”

“This doesn’t mean you can kiss me again,” Bonnie warned.

“Oh, I wouldn’t ever think that,” Kent said with a grin.

Screw photosynthesis, she thought as they gathered up her stuff. Mammal biology was surely more fun.

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