Disclaimer: I do not own What Happened to Goodbye.
Chapter 2: Decisions
As I stepped out of the library I was met with a blast of cold air. I stuffed my hands into my pockets to protect them from the merciless December chill and made my way to my car.
I got into my car and sat there for a few minutes, not sure where to go next. All I knew was that I wanted to get out of this cold. I was also well aware of the fact that despite my longing to get out of the cold, I didn't have anywhere to go. I put my keys in the ignition, deciding that anywhere was better than sitting here. Maybe I could go to some diner or some coffee shop or something. Somewhere where I could sit for a while and warm myself. I turned the keys in the ignition, and immediately cranked up the heat before carefully easing my car out of the parking lot.
I remembered hearing from someone at Kiffney-Brown that Auden spent all her nights in some diner. This had always frustrated me in the past: how could someone who didn't get a good night's sleep possibly be my number one competition for highest GPA? I didn't want to run into Auden or anyone else I knew for that matter, so maybe it would be better to lay low. At least for a while.
I glanced at the time; it was only a few minutes past nine. I had two choices: either I sat in my car and drove around all night, possibly getting into an accident in this snowstorm, or I passed the time in some diner and risked running into someone I knew. Neither option sounded that great. Although, considering what had just happened at the library maybe it was better to just stay in my car.
I chuckled softly, without any humor. The light ahead turned red and I slowly came to a stop. I never thought I'd see the day where I'd rather choose to get into an accident than run the risk of running into someone I knew.
But things had changed now. I had changed. I wasn't scared to see people I knew, it was more that I didn't know what to say to them. How was I supposed to explain things to others when I couldn't even explain it to myself? God, I sounded like a broken record player.
I sighed, exasperated with myself and slowly pulled forward as the light turned green. Stupid snow was making it difficult to drive; driving around like this was reckless. I had to make up my mind quickly. I tightened my hands on the steering wheel, thinking hard.
Was I really willing to run into someone else I knew? After what had just happened at the library, maybe it was better to keep a low profile. And after the way my parents had acted earlier today, keeping a low profile sounded even more appealing.
Okay, so it was decided: I'd fly under the radar. At least for tonight. Which would mean that I'd need to find a place to stay. The problem with that, however, was that I had nowhere to go. It seemed as though the only option I had was to sleep in my car. I knew it was illegal to sleep in your car in most cities and towns but I couldn't remember if Lakeview was one of them. Although, I supposed it didn't really matter. I'd have to sleep in my car either way, seeing as I didn't have anywhere else to go. "Great," I thought, smiling without any humor. "My first criminal act."
Up ahead, the streetlight turned red again. I turned on my blinker, planning on taking a right at the next intersection. The street I was on right now was busy with traffic, despite the heavy snowfall; I'd feel safer—both driving and sleeping—on a less busy street.
As I carefully took the corner, I was struck by a sudden thought. I didn't have anywhere to go, right? I'd have to sleep in my car? So why not park my car in a parking lot instead of on the side of a street? Also, parking in a parking lot would probably draw less attention than parking on the street. Parking on a busy street would only make it more likely for the cops to find me, especially since the windows on my car weren't tinted; anyone could see into my car. If I parked on some residential street, well, there was always the chance that the people living there would get suspicious and wonder why a strange car was parked in front of their house. Although, I supposed I could park my car in such a way, so that it was in the middle of two houses. That way, the people living on the left would assume I was visiting their neighbors on the right, and vice versa. I smiled, thinking how diabolical that was.
Still, though it was a good idea, it would probably be safer to stay in a parking lot. I vaguely remembered debating with someone a long time ago about whether or not people should be allowed to sleep in their cars in Park Mart parking lots. I'd been against it obviously, stating that the homeless were leeching off of society and not giving anything in return. "It's all take and no give," I had said stubbornly, not realizing that one day I'd be glad that Park Mart allowed people to sleep in their parking lots.
As I passed through another intersection, I glanced at the street signs to ensure I was on the street I thought I was on. If I was right, there was a Park Mart only a couple of blocks away, and sure enough, a few minutes later, I was pulling into an empty parking space in front of Park Mart.
As I turned off the car, I realized something I'd overlooked earlier: I couldn't leave the car on all night, but without the car and the heat on I'd probably freeze to death.
Things just get better and better, I thought bitterly, before remembering that I had brought along a suitcase when I'd run out of my parents house this morning. I turned around and glanced at the big black suitcase in the backseat. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't sure what was in it. When I'd decided to drop out of Harvard, I'd been in a bit of a hurry and thrown things into my suitcases without giving a second thought to what was going where.
Reaching out, I unzipped the suitcase with some difficulty, my arm bent at the unnatural angle, only to be greeted with a huge mess. Most of my clothes were in here, which I'd thrown in here haphazardly, not bothering to fold any of them.
I couldn't help but think that the old Jason wouldn't have been very impressed. Hell, the old Jason couldn't even have gone to the grocery store to buy bread without a detailed plan of action.
I pulled off my parka and grabbed a sweater at random, pulling it on, then another, and another. Before I knew it I had on most of the sweaters and shirts in my suitcase. I glanced down at my jeans as I pulled on my parka again. No. There was no way I was going to pull jeans on over another pair of jeans. It'd look too weird. My legs would just have to put up with the cold.
Okay, now what? I wondered, turning to face forward again. How the hell was I supposed to sleep in a car? Especially in the dead of winter with a snowstorm raging outside? I pulled my legs up closer to my chest, trying to conserve body heat. It had been only a few minutes since I'd turned the heat off and I was already beginning to feel cold. How was I supposed to spend an entire night like this?
I leaned my head against the window and watched as my breath fogged up the window. Glaring at the fog, as though it had personally offended me, I pushed myself away from the window. Leaning against the window to sleep was a bad idea. Not only would people immediately spot me sleeping in my car, but what if some psychotic person decided to smash my window and break into my car? Not that I had anything too valuable. No, wait, that wasn't true. I had my credit card and my wallet, not to mention my laptop in my suitcase.
Wait, I did have my laptop in my suitcase, right? I didn't remember seeing my sleek black laptop case just now when I had pulled out my clothes, but maybe it was somewhere near the bottom. Though I knew I should have checked for my laptop, I was too exhausted, everything that had happened that day finally catching up with me: the long flight back from Harvard wondering what my parents were going to say, my parents kicking me out, seeing Lauren again.
I closed my eyes, exhausted and in my mind's eye I saw a girl with pale skin and wild, curly red hair, her bright green eyes narrowed suspiciously. Or was it curiosity?
I gave an involuntary jerk and opened my eyes, all exhaustion gone. I let my eyes wander through the mostly empty parking lot, which was now covered with a thick coating of fluffy, white snow. There were a few cars, parked near the front of the store and I suddenly remembered that quite a few Park Marts were open 24 hours. It wouldn't be a bad idea to go inside and buy a few things like blankets or pillows or maybe even a sleeping bag. Running into someone be damned. I was freezing out here and if the only way to make sure I didn't freeze my butt off was to endure a few minutes of awkward conversation, well, I'd do it.
I opened the door and got out, feeling slightly disorientated, thanks to the many layers I was wearing. I glanced up at the sky, watching the snowflakes fall thick and fast, before making my way towards the front of the store.
As I stepped inside, I let out a sigh of relief. It was so warm in here, maybe I should just stay here all night, wandering through the empty aisles. I made my way down the aisles in search of blankets and pillows. Would I even need a pillow? Or would it be a waste? Would there even be room for a pillow in my car? I had no idea. It wasn't like I had ever slept in a car before. I was completely out of my element. Again. It seemed to be happening a lot lately.
Eventually I reached the aisle I was looking for. Blankets, pillows, sheets and all sorts of other odds and ends covered the shelves. I grabbed a blanket at random; it felt warm enough but one glance at the price and I knew there was no way I could buy it. I shoved the blanket back onto the shelf and continued to meander down the aisle, pausing every now and then to pull down and inspect another blanket.
I had money. In fact, I had a lot of money, thanks to the fact that I'd worked at the library through most of high school and had had the sense to save it, in preparation for university, instead of spending it on movies and clothes and fast food like all my classmates from Jackson had done. Well, at least the old Jason had done some things right, I thought wryly.
Despite the fact that I had a lot of money, I was still going to be careful with it. After all I still had to find and rent an apartment, and buy groceries and furniture for said apartment. Not to mention, I didn't have a job yet, so there would be no money coming in. And also, it wasn't as though I could ask my parents for money—or help of any kind—if I ran into any problems. Not that I could remember ever having asked them for money.
Grabbing a blanket and pillow that were soft, affordable and in the blankets case warm, I made my way down to the only open register. There were a couple of people already in line, so I fell in behind a tall guy with long hair held back in a ponytail.
As the line slowly moved forward, the guy in front of me placed a jumbo pack of paper towels on the conveyor belt. As he did, I noticed scars criss-crossing across his arm and idly wondered where he had gotten them.
"Good evening," I heard the girl behind the counter say, sounding all too peppy, grabbing the paper towels and scanning them. Then she glanced at the guy in front of me and suddenly her face brightened in recognition. "Hey, you're out late again. Do you always do your shopping this late?"
"Well, not anymore," I heard the guy in front of me reply. "But I sometimes fall into my old habit," he flashed her a smile.
She nodded, smiling back. "That'll be 9.98."
I watched as the guy handed the cashier a few crumpled bills. "I'll see you tomorrow," he told the girl and she nodded. He grabbed his jumbo pack of paper towels, and headed towards the doors. As the doors slid open and he stepped out, I was hit with another blast of cold air and I could see the snow swirling outside.
"Hi," the cashier said, turning to me as I readjusted the blanket under one of my arms so I could place the pillow on the conveyor belt with the other.
"Awful weather isn't it?"
"Yeah," I agreed. "It is."
A few minutes later I was headed out the automatic doors towards my car, carrying my new purchases in my arms, when something caught my eye. Call it what you want, but I choose to call it destiny, tacky as it sounds. In one of the front windows of Park Mart, was a Help Wanted sign. Smiling slightly, I headed back inside the store.
"Back again?" the cashier asked, and this time I noted that she wasn't as young as I had originally thought. She was probably in her late teens or as opposed to her early ones.
"Yes," I replied. "I was wondering about the Help Wanted sign actually. Are you still hiring?"
She glanced at the window where the sign was and then back at me. "Yeah, I think so. Just drop off your resume and we'll—,"
I didn't hear the rest of her sentence. I had been hoping to get a job right on the spot, dumb as it may sound.
"So how about it?" she asked.
"Oh," I said, coming back to the present. "I don't have my resume with me right now."
She looked confused for a second and then said, "No, no. I just asked you if you want to talk to the manager. He's staying late today, he had to do something. I'm pretty sure he's still in his office."
I didn't think her manager would think much of me barging into his office late at night, demanding a job. "Oh, that's okay. Maybe I'll come back tomorrow."
"You sure?" the girl asked. "The manager's my dad so I could probably get him to interview you for a job right now. I mean, if you want."
"Oh." I paused, thinking hard. Though the girl was saying her dad was the manager and she could probably get her dad to interview me, I still wasn't sure what the manager would think of me for barging into his office for an interview when he had obviously stayed late so he could get some work done. Stop thinking so much into things, Jason, I scolded myself. He's either going to give you a job—which is great—or he isn't—which isn't so great. But even if he doesn't give you a job, you can try looking for a job somewhere else. Not getting a job here isn't the end of the world.
"Okay," I told her. "I'll talk to him. But only if he's not busy."
"Don't worry, he's not," she assured me. "Besides, Dad owes me. One of the other employees called in sick today so he made me come in. Just a sec, okay? I'm going to go convince him to give you an interview." She took a few steps away and then turned back to face me. "Hey. What's your name again?"
"Jason," I told her. "My name is Jason."
"Jason," she repeated. "Nice to meet you." She smiled at me and tapped her name-tag, "My name is Mandy."
As I stepped out of Park Mart for the second time that night, I couldn't help but think that though there was no doubt the day had been awful, the world wasn't conspiring against me. After all, I had a job now. The interview with the manager hadn't even been much of an interview. The moment Mandy had said I was a friend of hers—I hadn't bothered to correct her—her father had given me the job.
I had a job now. I had a blanket and even a pillow. Though it wasn't a lot, I still felt good. Better than I had before going into the store, at least. Now all I needed was an apartment. I'd search for that first thing tomorrow morning. For tonight though, I'd have to sleep in my car.
I carried my purchases to my car, opening the back door with some difficulty, thanks to the bulky shopping bags I was carrying. I stuffed the bags into the backseat, beside my suitcase. I closed my suitcase and pulled it out, before stuffing into the trunk of my car. I glanced around once to see if there was anyone around. No one. I didn't want people to start suspecting that I was sleeping in my car, even if I was allowed to sleep in the Park Mart parking lot. Hopefully the fact that my car would be parked here all night probably wouldn't attract too much attention, since Part Mart was open 24 hours.
But what if Mandy or her father walked out and found me? What would my new manager and co-worker/friend say if they found out their new employee was sleeping in the parking lot. I didn't even want to think about it. I doubted their reaction would be a good one.
I have two options, I thought as I got into the driver's seat. Either I say 'screw it' and sleep here anyways, or I drive in this snowstorm and sleep in a different parking lot. Though neither option was very tempting, finding another Park Mart to sleep in seemed slightly better. I wasn't too eager to get fired only moments after I'd gotten a job.
About ten minutes later, I was pulling into an empty parking space. This particular Park Mart seemed a little busier than the previous one. I wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not. I was pretty satisfied with the parking spot I'd chosen. I hadn't wanted to park too close to the store because more people would walk past my car, which meant that the chance of someone finding me was greater. Though I was pretty sure it was legal to sleep in the Park Mart parking lot, I wasn't going to take chances. The parking space wasn't too far from the store either; reason being that parking too far would probably attract attention too.
I got out of my car, and got into the backseat. I ripped open the packaging of my pillow and blanket, throwing the plastic bags on the front passenger seat. I placed the pillow on one end, by the door and pulled my legs up onto the seat by the other door. I pulled my shoes off, but decided to leaves my socks on to keep my feet warm. I double checked to make sure the doors were locked and carefully laid down on the backseat, my knees pulled up near my chest.
How did people sleep like this? It was far from comfortable. Not to mention the fact that I felt so vulnerable lying here in the backseat of my car. Anyone could break in. But hey, at least I wasn't sleeping outside. Sleeping in my car might not be my favorite way to sleep but I preferred it to sleeping outside. Especially during this snowstorm.
I closed my eyes, willing sleep to come.
A/N: Chapter 2 is finally up. Sorry for the long wait. I just started university this year and it takes up a lot of my time, although I've noticed that I get a lot more written while I'm in class than while I'm out of class. Heh, most of this chapter was written during one of my chemistry lectures. -UrgeToDance