Delta Masago smiled widely as she drove down the road in her old Toyota, enjoying the cool breeze coming in through her open window. It blew her long, wavy red hair in a tangled mess around her head, but for the moment, she didn't care. She felt so good- better than she could remember feeling in a long time. For once, she felt completely happy and excited over the course of action she had chosen, sure that it was right for her, that she would finally succeed at something.
It had been 30 minutes since she'd left, but she could not stop smiling, had not yet let go of the delicious feeling of exhileration she'd felt when she first decided what it was she was going to do. All Delta knew was it was about time all ready for her to really do something, to discover what it was she wanted... and to achieve it.
Her grin widened as she recalled the look on roommate's- ex roommate, she thought happily- face as she'd informed her of her plan. Kennedy had been beyond stunned- she'd been furious. Jealous, Delta knew- why else would she have been so angry, tried to desperately to lash out at her, to shatter her dreams? Kennedy had always been like that- Delta could hardly believe she'd lived with her for nearly two years now. How had she stood it?
Necessity, that was how. Delta had met Kennedy when she was 18- they'd both been waitresses at a rundown diner. Delta had just finished high school, and knew there was no hope for college- she never had been a good student, though, as her mother had repeatedly told her, she very well could have been if she'd apply herself. Both she and her parents were eager for her to move out adn get her own place- Delta had always had drastically different views from her parents, and they were always butting heads. But Delta didn't have much money, nor a place to go. When she discovered Kennedy's boyfriend had broken up with her and Kennedy was having a hard time making rent, they had agreed to be roommates, and Delta had moved in with Kennedy that very weekend. Almost immediately it had been obvious the two weren't soul mates- Delta was impulsive and rather messy, while Kennedy was closed off, somber, and obsessively clean. They had begun to fight more and more until they were avoiding eah other as much as possible. Now, two years later, it was over- one last spat had changed it all. Delta couldn't even remember what it had been about now- but it didn't matter. The result had come all the same- miffed, fed up with the entire situation, she had announced that she couldn't stand another day with Kennedy and was moving out.
" Oh yeah?" Kennedy had sneered, hands on her hips mockingly. " And just where are you moving to? Back home? Because you're certainly not affording anywhere else!"
Delta had replied snappily in the heat of the moment, not even knowing what it was she was going to say until she said it- but as soon as she had, she loved the idea. Of course... it was what she'd do. It was the only way...
" I won't need to," she said defiantly. " I'm driving to Hollywood. I'm going to be an actress."
Rather than being stunned and awed, as Delta had vaguely expected, Kennedy had stared at her bug-eyed, then burst into laughter.
" You- an actress! In HOLLYWOOD! You've got to be kidding!" Kennedy had howled. Her disbelief had only made Delta angrier- and more determined.
" I WILL become an actress," she said hotly. " You'll see!"
" Oh yeah? And how will you manage that? You have no money- you're a waitress with a 16 year old car! You've never been in a school play even! You're not SKINNY enough!" Kennedy had leered.
That had settled it for Delta. She was a size 4- and she knew that Kennedy, a size 6, could not forgive her that. From that point on, she knew she was going to be an actress, no matter what it took.
" Oh, I'll manage," she murmured. " Trust me."
"Well, good luck!" Kennedy had replied nastily. " I'll look for you in the tabloids!"
Thinking back to that, Delta smirked. She'd show her- she'd show everybody- her parents most of all. All her life they'd been disappointed in her, wishing she could be more traditional, more the way they wanted a daughter and less the way she was. She could just picture their faces if she told them what she was doing- exasperation and disbelief overwhelmed by disappointment, the ever present disappointment. She wasn't going to tell them. She'd let them see for themselves...when they saw her on a magazine, they'd be so surprised- they'd finally realize what she was worth, that she WAS doing something with her life.
She wasn't too worried about getting what she needed- she had $550. If she stretched it out, just getting gas and food, she could make it from Oklahoma, her homestate, to California, she thought. She'd also packed all her personal things and her best clothes- and some of Kennedy's. All in all, she was off to a good start.
Her happy thoughts were interrupted when she saw a slender figure standing at the side of the road. She didn't pay any attention at first- people were always taking walks around here, or just hanging out- Oklahoma wasn't exactly a big dangerous place- but she noticed then the girl's thumb was up- she was hitching. By the time Delta realized this- for hitchiking WAS unusual in the area- she had already passed the girl, who was now waving frantically, in one last attempt to flag her down. Delta bit her lip, torn. It's not like she was afraid to pick the girl up- she was a girl, after all, and therefore incapable of raping her and highly unlikely to kill her. Plus she was about her own age- she might be interesting to talk to for a while.
Yeah, a selfish voice in the back of her mind said, but do I have time to pick up a hitchhiker? I'm on my way to Hollywood...
Oh, come on, she told herself impatiently. To hell with that. Be nice while you can- you definitely can't do things like this when you're an actress. Pick the girl up!
Decision made, Delta made a U turn and drove back to where the girl was still standing, shoulders slumped, expression detached- but somehow more than that. She looked like she was fighting tears. Delta felt a twinge of guilt. She was glad now she'd stopped- she obviously needed a ride, and Delta doubted psycho killers cried if they couldn't get a victim to stop for them.
The girl looked up as Delta stopped in front of her. She stared at her in seeming disbelief, as if she couldn't believe someone was actually stopping for her. It took Delta's impatient motion for the girl to climb in before she hesitantly got into the passenger seat, holding a red duffle bag on her lap.
Delta looked her up and down appraisingly, assessing her for possible signs of craziness or other reasons she might be hitching besides simply having no ride. She didn't look like a druggie or prostitute- not that Delta saw many of either in Oklahoma. In fact, she was pretty, really- long, shiny black hair, olive colored skin, and lovely features emphasizing her dark eyes. Delta could not decide what race she was- she almost looked like a gypsy. She was around Delta's age- 20- so she was too old to be a runaway. Why in the world was she hitching then?
"I guess you need a ride?" Delta asked unnecessarily, hoping the girl would clarify as to why. When she merely nodded, Delta plunged ahead.
" I'm Delta Masago. What's your name?"
" Anais Donato," the girl replied in a mutter Delta barely heard.
"Anais Donato, "Delta repeated as she started up her car again. " That is such an awesome name. It would be a great stage name. Is it Greek?"
"Yes," the girl muttered. All this time she had not looked over at Delta, not thanked her for the ride, or answered in more than a monosyllable. It was beginning to make Delta uncomfortable. She herself was a talkative, outgoing person- shy people made her nervous. She always felt like she HAD to make them talk to her.
" So did your car break down or something?" Delta persisted, trying to subtly pry out the reason Anais was hitching in the middle of suburban Oklahoma- well, as suburban as Oklahoma got- without seeming nosy or rude. But her efforts were once more futile- Anais just shook her head, muttering, "No."
Delta gave up going in that direction- obviously the girl had sworn a vow of secrecy, or something. She changed the subject to one Anais should have no problem answering.
" Where do you want me to take you to?" she asked. "Where are you heading?"
At last Anais lifted her head from staring into her lap, turning it to look at Delta. Her eyes had an odd, empty expression that Delta could make nothing of.
"Where are YOU going?" she asked.
Slightly surprised, Delta smiled quickly.
" Hollywood. I'm going to be an actress."
"Ok," Anais murmured. And that was it. Delta glanced at her sharply, wondering what THAT meant.
" Okay?" she repeated. " What do you mean, okay?"
"That's fine," Anais muttered. " I'll go to Hollywood. I really don't care where I go- as long as it's anywhere but here..."
That calm statement really got Delta's attention. Looking at Anais in alarm, she tried to wrap her mind around what she'd just heard. This girl- this stranger, who had just gotten into her car without so much as a thank you- wanted to ride with her all the way from Oklahoma to Hollywood? Was she crazy!
" What?" she blurted out. " Wait a minute, I can't do that! You want me to take you all the way to Hollywood! Do you realize what a long trip that is? It's across like five states! It will probably take me a week or two!"19
The blank look on Anais's face faltered. " You don't want to take me?"20
Hearing a strange, almost forlorn tone in her formerly flat voice, Delta heistated.21
" Well, not all that way..." she said finally.22
" Ok," Anais said in the same flat tone as before. " That's ok. Just let me out then."23
She began to mess with her seatbelt. Unsnapping it and throwing it off herself, she reached for the door handle, as if preparing to jump out while the car was still moving. Delta couldn't believe this- this was definitely not the reaction she'd expected. Then again, she wasn't sure what she should expect from a hitch hiker...24
" Wait-" she started. Anais cut her off.25
"Do you not want me to come with you?" she asked. " It doesn't matter either way to me. If you do, fine, great. If you don't, I'll get another ride."26
Her words were casual, unconcerned, but Delta could tell they were anything but. Anais's eyes, she saw even from a quick glance, were panicked, pleading... Delta hesitated, but finally replied weakly, "It's just that..."27
"It's ok," Anais interrupted. " Just let me out then."28
"let me out!" Anais said in a louder, almost angry tone. Delta was so shocked to hear her speak in such a manner she obeyed, pulling over to the side of the road. The car hadn't even come to a complete stop before Anais had jumped out, bag in hand as she began to walk away rapidly, shoulders squared as if steeling herself for something terrible she knew was coming. Delta watched her for a minute before starting the car, her stomach knotting guiltily. She had done the only thing she could, she knew. She couldn't take the girl- a stranger- all the way to Hollywood with her. Not only was that stupid, she just didn't want to. The girl hadn't even been friendly- she'd barely said anything. She couldn't have her tagging along when she was trying to be an actress anyway. She'd get another ride, anyway.
But despite what she told herself, trying to believe it was all true, Delta knew just as well that it could be very false. Anais might NOT get a ride, especially in this part of the state... she might walk for miles, and what would she do when night came? Even if she did get a ride, what if it was with a rapist, or a murderer? Anais was young and pretty, and a woman- easy prey.31
What are you doing, Del? she scolded herself. She's a big girl, she'll be fine. But a little voice in her head questioned, what if she's not?32
come on, you can't be thinking about picking her up again. Honestly...33
But already the thought had crossed her mind, and she was reasoning out why she should... it was the only way to stop feeling guilty, to know Anais was safe. She didn't think she had to worry about her own safety- if Anais had meant to rob or kill her, surely she would have done so rather than hop out of the car without even being asked to. And as for robbing, what did Delta have for her to take anyway? What money she had was in her pocket.34
I don't know what's up with her, Delta thought, but she must be in a bad fix, out here alone... I really shouldn't, but then again, I really should...35
Her mind suddenly made up, she turned again and once more, found Anais walking down the side of the road. She pulled to a stop beside her. Anais looked up, her expression startled, then suspicious- she seemed afraid, almost.
" Anais, wait!" Delta called. " I changed my mind. You can come with me, if you still want to."37
Anais regarded her with narrowed eyes, seeming not quite to believe her. it was as if she couldn't understand why Delta would do such a thing.38
"Really?" she said slowly. " You want to take me? You don't mind?"39
"Well...I guess not...do you have any money?" she asked, a sudden suspicion creeping up. " I don't have enough to pay for stuff you need and my stuff too."40
" Yes," Anais replied. " Not much, but some. Enough, I think... I don't eat much."41
" Ok," Delta said in relief. " Well- uh- get back in, if you want."42
Anais hesitated for a long moment, looking from Delta to the car, before slowly, apprehensively, opening the car door and climbing back in. They had been driving over a minute or so before she finally said stiffly, " Thank you."43
" You're welcome," Delta replied. " I can kind of use the company anyway. It's a long drive to be alone."44
Anais did not reply, and when Delta glanced over at her, she had not even nodded or acknowledged her in any way. She was staring into her lap, her long hair concealing her face. Delta sighed. Then again, she thought, as talkative as this girl is, I might as well be talking to myself.