I sat there quietly in the passenger seat watching the rain drizzle down Prime's passenger side window. Shortly after leaving Medbrook, a large cloud bank had formed and lightning had streaked across the sky; lighting our way in the darkness. The thunder boomed and what was a soft drizzle turned into a heavy down pour. Though it sounds terrible of me to say, outside Prime's cab, it was like a cow pissing on a flat rock. Or at least…that's what my dad would say.
I couldn't help but wonder as I sat there staring off into the darkness whether or not my Aunt or dad knew I was gone yet. But knowing them, if I was able to get out of the house without waking anybody up, then more than likely they won't find out until morning. And by then…I'll be long gone.
Looking over I could easily see Optimus' windshield wipers working overtime and his headlights blaring brightly against the storm. Looking ahead out the glass, we couldn't even see a good half a mile in front of us, and yet Prime remained steady and unchanged.
Sighing I carefully readjusted myself in my position against the seatbelt's restraint and rested my head against Optimus' passenger side seat.
Through his radio I could hear Optimus speak with concern.
"Grace, is something wrong?"
Looking out the window I merely shrugged.
Sighing Prime spoke again, slow and steady.
"Grace, I understand if you have ill feeling towards me at the moment… with all things considered, what with my having taken you away from your family."
Looking away from the window I scoffed and even laughed a little.
"Prime, I don't hate you for what you did… and I never will. You did what you thought was right and you were just trying to protect me. What more could I ask of a friend?"
Then I heard Optimus laugh softly. "Then what seems to be troubling you?"
I just shrugged and again looked back out the window. "I was just thinking about my dad and aunt and Medbrook and everything else I'm leaving behind."
Again sighing Optimus slowed his pace.
"Grace, sometimes in life, things happen that we sometimes don't always count on happening. But we make do with what we have and make the best of it. And you should just think of this as a new door opening, a new adventure waiting."
I really thought about those words. I ran them through my head over and over again as Optimus continued steadily through the night.
The rain continued on.
Just then, for a funny reason, I suddenly burst out laughing.
Looking at Prime's dashboard I smiled. "I just thought of one more upside to leaving Medbrook."
I heard Optimus quietly chuckle. "Oh? And what would that be exactly?"
Leaning back in my seat, I could feel my cheeks starting to hurt from smiling. "NO MORE LILA!"
Optimus' laugh boomed louder through his cab then what the thunder outside could have ever done. But that didn't bother me. In a way it actually made me laugh a little too.
As the minutes ticked by and the night wore on, I listened quietly to the mix of rain hitting Prime's cab, thunder booming and Prime's engine humming triumphantly against the storm. But all those noises combined could not merit my attention long enough to draw me away from the radio. As I listened intently to the boring songs that stations would play this late at night, periodically a weather alert would come on. It was the usual:
"The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the following counties until 6 o clock am—."
I listened quietly as the counties were listed. Then I turned to Prime.
"Hey big guy, what county are we in?"
He must have sensed my uneasiness because he spoke softly and reassuringly. "Do not fear Grace, you are out of danger."
Slipping farther down into my seat I grumbled. "That's not too reassuring Prime."
I heard him chuckle softly as her pulled off of the busy intersection onto a highway
heading into a small town in Nebraska. We were close to the Nebraska/Kansas border. Yep, that's right…we were basically in Tornado Alley.
As we worked our way up the highway, Optimus slowly pulled into a 24 hour Casey's Gas station.
Looking at the dash board I spoke. "Why are we stopping? Is something wrong?"
Through his radio he spoke calmly and almost cheerful like. "No Grace, nothing is wrong.
I merely thought that you might need a break and could use some sustenance."
Looking out the window I could easily see that it was still pouring cats and dogs outside. "Okaaay…how am I going to get a snack if I don't have any money?"
I heard Optimus scoff and almost laugh playfully. "Look within my dash board compartment. You will find what you need in a small leather bag."
Unbuckling my seatbelt and leaning forward to open the dash board to find a small black leather bag. Taking it out I opened it and froze, and I just couldn't help myself. "HOLY SHIT PRIME! JUST HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU HAVE?"
I heard him chuckle. "Five hundred and fifty dollars and sixty seven cents."
Sinking slightly I shook my head. "Why do you have money anyway? What use do you have for it; if you don't mind my asking?"
I heard him put it as simply as he could. "Government funded emergency money."
Raising my eye brows I answered as simply as I could. "Oh."
Releasing air from his air brakes Prime spoke. "Take ten dollars and get what you think you might need."
As I took ten bucks out of the bag and put the rest back in the dash, I turned around smiling with a smirk on my face. "Okay DAD."
Opening the door and jumping out into the cold rain was a little bit of a shock. But I ran up to the sidewalk and got inside as quickly as possible, the whole time, Optimus watching me. But for some funny reason I felt like he was watching me in a much different way than he ever has before.
I hadn't realized it before, but once the restrooms were within my sights I really, really, REALLY had to pee! One lesson learned from tonight, semi trucks plus lots of mountain dew plus long drive equals stressed bladder. I guess Optimus stopping when he did was good for me. But also in a same sense…bad.
After…um…eh-em 'taking care of business' and washing my hands, I walked out and slowly started to rummage through the shelves of goodies that most gas stations have to offer to the weary traveler. Chips, candy, soda, everything you would expect.
Standing behind the shelf, which was in sight of the cash register, I turned and reached in the freezer for a Cherry Coke. Then turned back around to grab a small bag of Cheese Puffs and a Beef Jerky Stick. Walking up to the cash register, the man standing there slowly looked me over and then asked.
"Is this everything for ya?"
I simply nodded.
He nodded in return as he checked the items out and punched them up on the cash register.
"That will be five dollars and fifty seven cents please."
I handed him the ten and waited as he put it through the till.
Just then I heard the bell from the door ring as someone was coming inside. I didn't think to turn around until I heard THOSE voices.
"Oh my freakin God, I hope it's not like this in Arizona!"
"Yeah tell me about it, if it's raining there too then I'm going straight to California!"
"Relax girls, I already checked my Droid, forecast is calling for nothin' but blue skies."
"EEEEEE! I really hope there are some hot guys there! Kyle is really starting to drive me nuts."
Having heard that I just COULD NOT help myself.
"I bet that THAT is a short drive, isn't it."
It was LILA and her lackeys. And I guess as they turned to face the voice that spoke they were a little taken back to see me. But we all know Lila… she'll take any chance she can get to take a stab at me.
"Well, well, well…looky here girls! It Graaace! So what are you doing here? Finally decided you were going to do Medbrook a favor and leave town? Although I can't say that were ever you're going that the people there will like you."
Looking away I took the change from the clerk.
"Oh go bite the big weenie Lila. While you go swoon over guys pumped up on steroids, I'm going to California."
I nodded appreciatively to the clerk and quietly said thank you and good bye. He returned the gesture and turned away, obviously trying to stay out of me and Lila's quarrel.
Stopping at the door, I knew that this was probably going to be the last time I might ever get to see her…so…it stood to reason that if I had something I wanted to say, I needed to say it now or forever hold my peace.
"You know Lila, you walk on God's green earth acting like you are higher than everyone else JUST because your daddy happens to own a big business that makes money. Well let me tell you something, there will come a day that you will find yourself in a position where you will be staring up at those that you once looked down upon and you will be asking THEM for their help…and all they'll do is look down on you and walk the other way. Lila you act like your shit doesn't stink. You act like 'oh look at me! Look at me! I'm sooo pretty! Every boy wants me! My daddy is rich! Well I've got news for you LILA…there is a storm brewing…much bigger than this and there is going to come a day were you realize that you're pretty fucking small compared to some of the things going on in this world."
I turned away from the door and pointed directly at her frozen frame staring at me…not knowing what to say.
"You will regret the day that you put others down, because when the day comes that you need someone to lift you…there will be NO ONE to lend a hand."
Turning away I stared out into the rain and chose my last words for Lila very carefully. "You may think you're beautiful Lila…but on the inside…I see nothing but blackness."
I pushed the door open and ventured out into the rain walking around the building. Optimus was in view, his lights still on and his engine still blaring.
I turned around as the thunder rolled through the sky.
Lila was standing there soaked and puzzled. "Who do you think you are to preach to me in front of my friends like that?"
I pointed to the building yelling to be heard over the rain. "You call those friends? They just stay with you because you're popular and have money! You're nothing Lila! You will always be nothing unless you change your ways and treat people differently! Starting with me!"
I could see Lila clench her fist before pointing to me.
"I'm not nothing Grace. YOU ARE! You're a nobody and you will always be a nobody!"
I pointed to her yelling. "I'm not a nobody Lila! Though my purpose in this life may be unclear, I know for a fact that I'm important! I've been proven that fact!"
Lightning flashed as Lila turned away slightly. "Really? By who?"
I turned away and started walking toward Optimus and mumbled under my breath. "By Optimus…"
"GRACE ANSWER ME!"
I whipped around and screamed. I didn't even try to control the words that came out of my mouth.
"By a being that if far beyond both yours and my understanding! By a male that knows what it means to be unique and different from everyone else. By someone that truly understands the feeling of being in a place and world that honestly is so ALIEN that he doesn't quite know where he fits in! By HIM!"
Just then I pointed to Optimus who was sitting quietly in vehicle mode.
I clenched my fists and felt my jaw tightened as I spoke what I thought would be my last words, and I spoke them carefully. "Lila. All you are…and all you ever will be…is a BITCH."
As I turned away to go to Optimus, I just remember being knocked down and hit in the back of the head several times. I rolled and fought until I was able to get away. Lila came running at me screaming with her fist ready to hit me again. I ducked and hit her low in the gut and then hit her again and again in her face and sides. My rage was flowing free now. My adrenalin pumping beyond control. The words 'KILL HER' 'KILL HER' 'KILL HER' running through my head over and over again. Even after she hit the ground I fell into the puddle she landed in and continued hitting her. Burning tears streamed down my face as one fist after another planted itself against her flesh. She had rolled into a fetal position trying to deflect the blows, but I kept going even after being pulled up and away.
My feet lost contact with the ground as metal wrapped around my waist and stomach. I kept throwing punches and crying until Optimus' loud voice boomed.
"GRACE THAT'S ENOUGH."
I froze as a bolt of lightning flashed through the sky casting light over Prime's ominous frame.
His dark sapphire blue optics staring down at me through the rain.
The thunder boomed and echoed off of the building.
His optics weren't watching me with a feeling that of anger and disappointment, but instead of understanding and compassion. He knew what I was feeling…and I think he knew how much it hurt. Don't ask me how I knew…I just…did.
Carefully putting me down Optimus spoke slowly watching me pick up my soda and treats off of the ground.
"Come along Grace, let's go."
Turning around I saw Lila sitting up in the puddle I had left her in staring at Optimus with horror written on her face.
"What. Is. THAT?"
Looking at Optimus and then back at Lila, I managed to smile. "That is what you referred to as my 40 year old boyfriend. Although I'm pretty sure he's MUCH older than 40 years."
Looking over my shoulder I managed to laugh when I saw the expression Optimus made.
I smiled looking back at Lila. "Oh, and he is NOT my boyfriend. He's my guardian. And if you know what's good for you…will say you never saw him."
Transforming Optimus again retook his truck form and opened his passenger side door. I walked over to him and was about to climb in when I saw Lila struggling to get up out of the puddle only to fall over again and this time stay down.
Something just then stirred in me. I don't know why but I just couldn't find it in my heart to leave her there. Not like that. A bitch or not she was still human. And so am I.
Leaving my goodies on Optimus' seat I climbed back out and stood over the puddle Lila now lay in.
Looking up I heard her struggle for air. "What do you want? To gloat? To hit me again? To brag about how you have that THING to protect you? Well go ahead…I don't care. Not anymore."
Kneeling down to her I slowly held out my hand. She looked at it and then looked at me puzzled. "W-why?"
"Because whether you know it or not Lila, I AM human…just like you."
For a long moment as the rain continued to come down she just stared at my hand…and then…she took it.
Hoisting her up and supporting her weight on my waist I helped her hobble over to her car where her friends sat waiting. They watched in 'awe' as I sat her down and kneeled beside her. "Are you going to be okay?"
Slowly she nodded brushing her hair away from her face. "Yeah, I think so."
Nodding in return I stood to walk away when something grabbed my arm. Turning back around I was surprised to see Lila staring up at me. Her eyes glistening from the glare of the gas pump lights. And the words she spoke…I would never forget.
"Grace…I'm sorry…a-about everything. And don't worry about the truck; your secret is safe with me—."
The thunder cracked as she looked down and shook her head. "—you opened my eyes Grace, far enough to the point where I didn't like what I saw. And I only lashed out because I knew you were right…"
I couldn't help but smile as I gently patted Lila on the shoulder. "I know Lila. I know."
Just then she took my hand and gripped it hard. "I'm going to change Grace. I swear I'm going to change. And I hope you can come to forgive me."
I just smiled and let go of her hand. "Keep my secret and we'll call it even."
Smiling sheepishly and bowing her head, I knew Lila understood. And as I walked away, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my chest. Some ice had been chipped away and the sun was shining through. I slowly paced my stride as I returned to get back into my place in Optimus' passenger seat.
As I climbed in and situated myself and closed the door, Optimus' engine roared to life and we pulled out. His silence was at first unsettling but as soon as he started chuckling I understood.
He was too proud to speak.
As we moved down the lonely highway Optimus just sighed and then reassured what I had already assumed.
"I'm proud of you Grace. Truly I am. It may take a bold being to face down and fight their enemy. But you have truly risen above yourself in showing your enemy mercy."
I just sat there staring out the window as I yawned. "Yeah…"
Optimus just chuckled. "You really do remind me of me when I was younger."
The only problem with what Optimus said last was that I didn't hear it. I was too busy falling asleep against the window.
Listening to the soft hum of Prime's engine, I could hear that die away as I lost consciousness. And for the first time all night my dreams were able to take wing and my mind began to drift away.