Les didn’t really want to leave. It wasn’t the hotel, Heaven knows it wasn’t that, they were all the same. Sleeper Suites, Pearl’s Inn, The Fawn Motel, they were all the same. Small rooms, door directly to the outside, thirty years out of date and in terrible disrepair. That’s why he chose them, actually, because he knew he’d find work. Les was a jack-of-all-trades, good at most repair jobs, and couldn’t stand to stay in one place for long. He’d roll into town, set up residence in a somewhat seedy motel, exchanging rent for repairs and a bit of cash for food and fuel, and then move on when most things were in order and he got the itch to drive again.
This time, though, he wasn’t quite sure why he was leaving. He didn’t have to, yet, there were still a few air conditioners that needed repairs at LouAnn’s Bunkhouse, and the manager, Skeeter, had been pretty happy to have someone to fix things so he wouldn’t have to do it himself. And yet, it felt time to leave. He’d gotten too close this time, too close to actually settling down, staying awhile, and that scared him.
It was mostly Debbie’s fault. Debbie, who didn’t bat an eyelash when he sat down at the counter of her diner and ordered a coffee with a shot of maple syrup in it. She just smiled, nodded, and passed him the bottle of syrup so he could pour as much as he liked. After awhile, she’d have a hot beef sandwich and a slice of blueberry pie waiting for him around six, when he’d finish with the day’s repairs. Sometimes he’d even stay and talk till her shift was done, and they’d go for a drive around town. She would point out all the local spots, with local gossip included, and he would nod and try not to look at the way her hair curled just behind her ear, where she continually tucked it back throughout the day. She caught him looking a few times, and just smiled. She knew he would be moving on soon, knew he wouldn’t try anything with her, that he respected her. So she let him moon over her a bit, and she enjoyed the drive.
Once in awhile Debbie would mention moving on herself, but mostly to move to the next town over, go to school at their community college, maybe be a teacher. She never did move though, mostly resigning herself that she’d always be the waitress at someone else’s diner in that little town. Les didn’t like when she talked like that, she sounded like a caged animal then, trapped and not seeing a way to escape.
The more time he spent with Debbie, the more Les felt it would be time to move on soon. He was getting too attached to this place, to her, really, and attachments made it hard to do what he did. So one evening, when he went in for his sandwich and pie, he told Debbie. Once again, she didn’t flinch, as though she’d been expecting this day to come, waiting for it. He was almost sad about that. He finished his meal, and didn’t wait for the nightly drive, claiming he needed to pack. He tipped her and left.
The next day, after letting Skeeter know, he checked out of his room ad loaded his things in the trunk of his old beater car. When he slammed the trunk shut and looked up, there she was. Debbie was standing beside the car, duffel bag in hand.
“Where are we going?” She smiled at him. He nodded, took her bag and placed it in the trunk alongside his own.
“I don’t rightly know. Why don’t we find out?”