Velentine takes a long drag of her cigarette, looking away from me. She's become quieter somehow since the last time I saw her. Her cheeks have hallowed out more and her eyes look tired and sad. She reeks of cigarettes and her nails are turning yellow. She's dressed in tight black jeans, scuffed up boots, a leather jacket, and a wrinkled see through white shirt. She's wearing too much eye makeup and her lips are making cinnamon heart kisses on the tip of her cigarette. She turns her head back to look at me. She smiles, squinting her eyes as if she is trying to be happy.
"Things are really ok, Glay. I promise you I'm ok." She taps the ash off her cigarette in the glass ashtray on the table. It is already overflowing because the waitresses in the diner never bothered to empty it.
"I'm worried about you, Valentine, I really am. Rena says you haven't been in touch with her for months and she was worried about you. Haven't you been calling anyone?"
"Yea… I don't know I've been busy. I got evicted a while ago and I've been staying with a friend of mine." She looks off and I wonder about this friend.
"Who?" I ask.
"Jay… He works, Glay, and he thinks he can get me a job. He's sweet." She smiles, eyes half closed biting her lip. I can tell she's really tired.
"He's your boyfriend?" I hope she isn't just sleeping with him.
"Maybe…I guess." She stubs out a cigarette and asks me for one. I shake my head "I'm all out, hon."
"Shit. I'll be right back." She gets up and leaves. I can see her outside the diner crossing the parking lot. She's walking swinging her body back and forth. Somebody whistles but she ignores them. She might be pretty if she stopped smoking. She looks as though the fags are burning her slowly from the inside out. She disappears into the gas station store and I wonder how she can afford to buy cigarettes and whether I should have offered to buy her some. But she hates that, taking money from me I mean.
I rest my face on my hands and I can see the sunlight reflecting off the grease stains on the table. I have forgotten about my coffee and it must be stone cold my now. I debate whether or not I should risk a sip. I think better of it and wonder if I can really help Valentine. Or maybe she really is the one that has to help herself. I guess I can try anyways by giving her a bit of money now and then, which she hates taking and promises me she'll pay back – though she probably never will. I see her crossing the parking lot with her cigarettes already lighting up as she walks. She sees me but doesn't acknowledge me until she is back inside. She says she has to leave and could I drive her home before I leave.
"Yea, sure." I leave a tip even though the food was gross and I didn't drink my coffee and we head out to the car.
My car is one of the nicest in the parking lot, which it never is anywhere other than a grungy truck stop. I feel self conscious as we get in. As we drive out Valentine turns on my radio to the local pop station and she seems to be enjoying it. I don't turn it off because she obviously wants it on and I wouldn't know what to say in the silence.
Valentine tosses her cigarette out the window and lights up yet another one.
I glance over at her when the car is stopped because of freeway traffic. She doesn't see me looking at her because she is looking forward. She looks too skinny, and very worn out. I want to ask her to come stay with me for a bit and let me take care of her. But she won't want to. And even if she does a little she definitely won't admit it. The hot air from outside sweeps across her face, pushing her hair back and it reminds me of when she was little. When we were both little, because I did almost half of my growing after Valentine came along anyways – I guess we grew up together which is funny because she is my daughter.