She didn't sleep that night, staring at the ceiling as Silver purred beside her, her full tail tickling Reese's face occasionally. She stayed in bed until five minutes before opening before she rose and threw on last night's jeans. Seeing the phone on the bed she stuffed it in her jean pocket and left the room, tossing a cup of food in Silver's dish on the way out.
She didn't see him at breakfast. Julie gave Reese a knowing look when she came in but didn't ask questions. She only commented that Kili's truck was already gone. Reese hadn't realized Julie was keeping tabs on which truck was Kili's.
Ten minutes after opening, Reese heard the bell jingle and glanced up quickly, realizing with annoyance that she was hoping it was him. It wasn't. It was a woman she'd never seen before. Tall. Curvy. Curly brown hair piled messily on her head. Worn leather boots with equally worn jeans stuffed into them. Suitcase and guitar in hand. She came up to the counter and settled next to the truckers as though she was one of them, and Reese felt as though she was looking in the mirror.
Going up to her she put a cutlery roll, coffee, and glass of water in front of the girl. Reese knew she didn't need to offer the girl the menu but did anyway. They always ordered the same thing, what they knew they would find in any truck stop along the way. Eggs, scrambled, toast, brown, hasbrowns. Classic. Reese put the order in and watched the girl from behind the counter as she chatted about nothing with the trucker beside her, sipping coffee. Suddenly Reese surprised herself as she walked up to the girl.
"Hey, you looking for a job?" Reese asked. The girl paused and glanced around.
"I could be. Why? You lookin'?" She gave Reese an appraising look. It wasn't usually the case that more than one of them were at the same place at the same time.
"I'm looking to move on," Reese said. She held the girls eyes as the girl considered her for a second and shrugged.
"Suits me fine. When do I start?"
"Now," Reese said as she pulled her apron strings. The girl shrugged again and hopped up, putting her suitcase and guitar by the coat rack, walking behind the counter as though nothing were more natural. Reese handed her the apron.
"Float's two hundred. Bathroom key is under the till. Coke machine sticks so you have to jiggle the line a bit." The girl nodded and grabbed a pot of coffee to top up the mugs on the counter.
"Order up!" Julie called, slamming the girl's order in the service window.
"Hey Julie," Reese called. "I'm leaving."
"Are you now?" Julie asked, pausing and resting a hand on her hip. She didn't seem surprised at all. Reese noticed Julie was starting to grin.
"Ya, I am," Reese said, unable to stop grinning as well. "This here is the new me, and I give her my highest recommendation. You won't even know I'm gone." Even though she didn't know the girl's name, Reese knew she was right. They were all the same in the end, blending into each other seamlessly.
Julie nodded once in approval as though this were the most natural thing in the world, before turning back to the stove. Reese dug her phone out of her pocket. There were three numbers in it. Julie, Adam, and the number Kili had added the night before. She swallowed as she dialed the number, not even waiting for him to answer as she jogged to her room and let herself in. Even if things didn't go according to plan, it was time for her to go, and she'd be on the next ride out of town regardless.
She tossed Silver into her padded cat carrier. She dumped and washed Silver's travelling littler box and was snapping to the bottom of the carrier when he answered. "Hello?" He sounded confused. She could hear the noise of the truck in the background. He probably didn't know who it was. She hadn't given him her number, and she didn't bother with caller ID.
"Hey," she said. He didn't respond at first. Her heart clenched slightly and she wondered if maybe he'd changed his mind, maybe he was angry with her and didn't want her anymore. She could handle if that happened, but it wasn't what she wanted. "It's Reese," she added.
"I know," he finally said, sounding surprised. She swallowed before continuing.
"How far out are you?" He paused again.
"Thirty clicks," he said. "Just passed Carry the Kettle."
"Wanna come get me?" she asked. Her words hung in the air and time slowed as she waited for his answer. She had the feeling he must have answered quickly, but it seemed like an eternity before she heard the words.
"I'm on my way."
"'K," she said and hung up. He had a schedule to keep, and she had about fifteen minutes. She yanked her backpack from under the bed and rolled it to the bathroom where she scooped her stuff into it, then going to the dresser and emptying the contents of each drawer messily on top. Dropping to her knees, she retrieved anything that had fallen under the bed and crammed it in on top of her clothes and shoes. Then she quickly stripped the bed and jogged out of the room to drop the towels, sheets, and garbage at the laundry. The maid raised her eyebrows, but Reese knew she wasn 't doing anything the maid hadn't seen before. Reese went back to her room and threw her backpack over her shoulder, cat carrier in hand, walked to the office where she quickly without fuss turned in her key and paid her remaining room bill, in cash, returning her money in a thick roll to her bag.
She knew she was running out of time and jogged with a yowling Silver, who'd clearly gotten overly comfortable in their prolonged stay and was protesting her carrier. She rounded the corner and staggered slightly to see Julie, Adam, and all nine of their boys standing at the front of the restaurant. She was confused at first when she realized they were there to say goodbye.
Feeling awkward and not knowing what to do, having never been in this situation before, she walked up to them slowly, staring wide eyed at Adam's face as he grinned at her.
"Thought you were going to get away without saying good bye, Swizzlesticks?" He didn't waste time pulling her into a bone crushing hug. She was then passed from kid to kid, some of whom were the size of ogres and picked her up and jiggled her slightly before passing her to a brother. She wasn't sure if her ribs were going to ever be the same when she finally reached Julie. Then her eyes began to prick with tears, and she'd never been more surprised in her life.
She swallowed and stared at Julie, at a loss for words. She didn't know what to say. Julie smiled pulled her into a hug, whispering in her ear. "You keep in touch now, you hear?" Reese nodded silently and hugged her dear friend firmly. "And you make sure you vist, you hear? And don't go thinking you can make excuses. I know that boys' schedule." Reese laughed, a tense sound from a tight throat, and nodded. She heard the Mack truck pulling up and didn't have to look up to see that Kili had arrived. She heard the door to the truck open and Adam's and Kili's shouted conversation over the noise of the engine as Adam passed a still yowling Silver and Reese's bag to Kili.
"Time to go," Adam said behind her. Reese nodded, squeezing Julie once more, before turning and letting Adam hand her up into the high seat. She stared at Kili, her golden brown eyes meeting his shining liquid gaze, and saw insecurity there. Always a bit insecure. She hoped she wasn't going to be too hard on him with her skittish ways. She grinned, and saw the insecurity melt away as he grinned suddenly back at her. Reaching over her shoulder, she grabbed her seat belt and pulled it confidently over her chest, surprising even herself, and felt excited as she snapped it into place. She'd been travelling by bus for years and hadn't been strapped into a vehicle for as long as she could remember. She didn't feel constrained the way she thought she would.
"Reese," Julie said beside her and Reese turned. "Here." Julie pushed a warm tin foil parcel into her hands.
"Cinnamon buns?" Reese asked.
"I know you love them, and you'll get hungry." Reese didn't know what to do. No one had ever tried to take care of her this way, although really Adam and Julie had been feeding her for months. Julie was mothering her, and Reese had never known what that felt like. But mothers fed their children.
"Thank you," Reese said. She took the warm package and placed it gently on the dash of the truck. Clearing her throat she looked back at Julie. "See you in a week?" Julie nodded and Reese couldn't believe it. For the first time in years she had a plan with a friend, someone looking forward to seeing her, that wasn't made the day of the event.
"Okay," Reese smiled. Julie nodded and pushed the cab door shut, stepping back to be surrounded by her brood. Taking a breath Reese turned and looked at Kili again. He was watching her as though he could hardly believe she was there.
"Ready?" he asked finally. She nodded, and he threw the transmission into gear. The truck shuddered as it began to creep forward, picking up speed as they turned to the approach to the highway. Reese settled back into the seat and glanced around the cab. Looking over her shoulder, she saw the sleeper that held Kili's small bed, covered with several clean worn blankets, the top a red plaid. He'd let Silver out, must have been when she was saying her goodbyes, and Silver was curled on his pillow, leaving black hair everywhere already
"I need to tell you something," he said. She looked at him in surprise, wondering if he was going to tell her he was actually married or something.
"I love you." He didn't take his eyes off the road as he said the words. She smiled and turned her own eyes to the road in front of them.
"I love you too." She could still see him, and she saw that he smiled. Sighing she glanced out her side window. "So where to?" she asked, feeling calm and safe.
"Edmonton. Should be there tonight."
"Edmonton," she repeated. "And then after that?" She looked over at him and caught his eye.
"We keep moving," he grinned. She grinned back at him and settled in her seat more comfortably.
"Perfect," she sighed, eyes on the horizon ahead of them. "That sounds just perfect."