Read this one carefully, Bareknucklers. This one is not at all what it seems, and the more disturbing for it.
Thinspiration by Rebecca Jones-Howe
He seemed normal at first. I thought he was going to ask me for a cigarette but when I rolled down the window he pulled out a gun, pointed it at my face and said, "Get into the passenger seat."
At first I froze. Then he leaned in through the window and pressed the barrel against my cheek. His gaze slipped over my frame. My grasp tightened around the wheel.
"C'mon now," he said. "Do it."
There was a family on the other side of the rest stop parking lot, unloading their SUV with picnic supplies, pop and chips and hot dogs. They were all too preoccupied to notice. I unbuckled my seat belt, my hands shaking.
"There we go," he said.
I climbed over the gear shift and sidled into the passenger seat. He unlocked the door and climbed in. His scent filled the car, a bad mix of cologne and cigarettes and sweat. He ran his fingers through his hair and turned the key in the ignition.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"You'll still get to go wherever you're going," he said. "I'm just going to do the driving for a bit and then you can have your car back." He looked at me, still pointing the gun. "You're going to be good, right?"
"No protesting, no nothing."
"No," I said.
"That's what I like to hear." He tucked the gun beside the seat, put the car into gear and pulled onto the highway.
He drove the speed limit, his thick fingers clenched tight around the wheel. I stared out the window at the blurry passing sights. I thought about opening the door, about jumping, but then I caught my reflection in the side mirror and I turned my cheek and studied my jaw, lifted my hand and pulled the skin taut.
"It's funny how easy it is," he said. "The last girl thought I was gonna rape her. She kept on pleading with me. I didn't even have to rely on my gun. Made it so much easier to drive."
My fingers twitched over my throat. I swallowed. My esophagus burned. The taste of orange juice and bile still lingered in my mouth. It was the reason why I'd pulled into the rest stop to begin with. It wasn't often, but at times I could be realistic about my situation.
"It's funny to think of it," he said, "what really scares you girls."
I shrugged. The wide neckline of my shirt slipped off my shoulder.
He turned the radio on but he couldn't pick up any stations. He left it on anyway, filled the car with whir and static. The sound was comforting, like the inside of a stomach with no food to digest.
He drove for an hour his hand on the gear shift, the gun still tucked between us. The black metal caught bleak reflections of the sun, but my heart didn't start pacing until he pulled his gaze from the road. He looked me over again, eyed me for too long. He reached across the seat and touched me, his fingers grazing my knee.
Goosebumps pimpled my skin. I crossed my arms over my chest. He kept staring at my leg and I pulled away from his grasp. He wrinkled his brows and looked back back at the road.
I shivered. I couldn't draw a breath into my lungs. I felt like I was going to shatter, but all I did was flinch when he geared down and turned onto the next highway exit.
"You got money?" he asked.
"I haven't eaten in a while," he said.
I swallowed and braced my hands over my knees.
He pulled up to the McDonald's drive-thru. The line-up was long. He groaned and looked at me. He reached over and pushed down the lock on my door.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"I don't need anything."
"Sure you do," he said. His gaze slipped over my arms, my thighs, my stomach. I tried to pull away but there was nowhere to go to escape him, his scent, his invasion. He glanced around the car, at the pile of clothes and magazines and makeup in the back seat. He reached into the mess and picked up my notebook. I flinched when he opened the cover.
"This your homework or something?"
He flipped through the pages full of magazine cut-outs and journal entries. He looked at the numbers at the top of each page. They counted backward the further he went in the book. On some pages they climbed, but on those days my handwriting was hard and ugly. He stopped flipping on the last entry, where I'd tucked that picture of Kiera Knightly I'd cut out from an issue of Vogue. In it she was sitting in a white dress, sitting before a typewriter. She looked so dreamy, so romantic, so at ease.
"It's just a picture I like," I said.
"What do you like about it?" he asked.
The radio static still filled the car. I tried to concentrate on it but the sound wasn't calming anymore. "I think she's pretty," I said.
He looked down at the photo and I squeezed my thighs, the meaty middle parts I could still pinch between my fingers.
The car behind us honked and he tossed the journal at me. The picture slipped between my thighs and to the floor. I reached to pick it up.
"Sit back," he said.
I did as he asked.
He drove up to the drive-thru speaker and ordered two cheeseburgers and a large coke.
My chest started throbbing. The tears burned behind my eyes.
He paid for the food at the window and set the bag beside his gun. He drove to the back of the parking lot. He killed the engine. The static gone, it was just the sound of his breathing, the scent of his presence, cologne and cigarettes and sweat and grease. He dug one of the burgers out of the bag and handed it to me.
"I'm not hungry," I said.
"I know you're not, but you should eat anyway. We've still got a lot of driving to do."
"You don't even know me," I said, my voice shaking.
He unwrapped the burger and placed it in my hand. "Eat it."
I shook my head.
"I'm the fucking kidnapper here," he said.
"Please," I said. "You can take the car. You can have whatever you want. Please."
He leaned over the gear shift and grabbed my arm, his fingers digging in so hard. "Take a fucking bite," he said.
It wasn't until then that I started crying.