It might have been going on for a while, but I first noticed it at mile marker 197 just west of Brady on Interstate 80. A red late model Dodge Intrepid seemed to be playing some kind of game with me. It would be behind me for a while and then it would pull out to pass and blow by me at 85 or 90 miles an hour and a quarter mile down the road it would pull back into my lane and slow down.
The speed limit was 70 and I had my cruise control set on 76 and I was trusting that no cop was going to bother me for going 6 miles over. At 76 I would slowly creep up on the Dodge and eventually I would have to hit my brake, which would take me out of cruise control, or I would have to swing out and pass. Unless there was traffic I always opted for the swing out and pass option and then a quarter mile or so down the road I would pull back into the right lane and the cycle would repeat itself.
About the fifth time it happened I glanced over at the driver of the Dodge as it flew by and saw that the driver was an extremely attractive young woman. After that fifth time I began to think that what she was doing was deliberate and I started trying to figure out just what it was that she was doing. Try as I might I could not come up with an explanation.
It went on for another forty miles or so and then finally she pulled out, passed me doing 90 and pulled back in front of me only to get off the Interstate at the 133 exit. Weird, I thought, but it had been a distraction from the long and boring ride across I-80.
It was maybe twenty minutes later and darkness had fallen when I noticed a set of headlights coming up from behind at a high rate of speed. There were no flashing lights so I didn't think that it was a cop after somebody and then, suddenly, the red Dodge roared by me and a quarter mile later pulled in front of me and the game began again.
I was in the lead when I swung off of I-80 onto I-76 and I was surprised when I saw the Dodge follow along. I was even more surprised when the Dodge followed me off I-76 at Julesburg and into the Flying J truck stop where I had planned to get a bite to eat and fuel up for the final leg into Denver.
I saw the Dodge park at the far end and no one got out while I gassed up. I pulled away from the pump and pulled up in front of the restaurant and went inside and took a seat. I was looking at the menu when someone slid onto a chair across from me and I looked up and into the biggest brown eyes I had ever seen. They were set in a face that was more striking than beautiful, but the face topped a body to die for.
"Hi. I'm Shauna. Mind if I join you?"
Like I would say no, right? I introduced myself and then I asked her what she had playing at with me for the last two hundred miles.
"Just trying to break the monotony of the long haul across 80. I half expected you to follow me when I got off for gas."
"What would have happened if I had?"
"I don't know, but it might have been fun."
"What kind of fun?"
"We'll never know will we?"
"Where are you headed?"
"I'm supposed to be on my way to Sacramento, California."
"You should have stayed on 80; it would have taken you right into Sacramento."
"I know. I'm just not all that sure that I want to go to Sacramento anymore."
Just then a man approached us and said, "Just what do you think you are doing asshole?"
I looked up, "Are you talking to me?"
"Yeah you dick breath, just what the fu..."
He never finished what he was going to say because I tossed my glass of water into his face and when his hands instinctively went up to cover his eyes I grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled his face down into the table. He fell in a heap on the floor. The manager came running up:
"I don't want no trouble in here. Take your beef outside"
"Just leaving" I said and I got up and headed for the door. Shauna was right behind me and when we got outside she said, "Sorry about that."
"Sorry about what?"
"What just happened. I thought he was asleep in the back seat."
"You know him?"
"He was the reason that I was going to Sacramento and he is also the reason I wasn't sure that I wanted to go to Sacramento."
"I think you lost me there."
"He was my fiancée and we were on the way to Sacramento so I could meet his folks and make wedding plans."
"Was your fiancée?"
"You learn a lot about someone when you are cooped up in a car with them for eighteen hundred miles. By the time we hit Kearny I wasn't sure that I really wanted to go through with the wedding."
"You got room in your car for me and three suitcases?"
I helped Shauna move her stuff from the Intrepid into my car and through the window of the restaurant I saw people helping Shauna's boyfriend up off the floor.
"You going to say goodbye to him?
"Nah! He'll figure it out eventually," she said as she tossed the car keys onto the front seat of the Dodge. "Let's get out of here."
We pulled out of the Flying J and got on 76. The first ten miles were traveled in silence as Shauna looked out the passenger side window at the dark countryside. Finally I broke the silence.
"Having second thoughts? We are still close enough to turn around and go back. He will probably still be there."
"No, no second thoughts. Troy has always been a jealous and possessive asshole and I think that is what attracted me to him in the first place. To go from a life where no one gave a shit about me to where I had a man who thought so much of me that he wanted to own me and keep others away from me was somehow comforting. Remember when I said you learn a lot about someone when you are cooped up with them for eighteen hundred miles?"
I nodded a yes.
"I wasn't talking about Troy, I was talking about me. By the Illinois/Indiana state line I knew I was making a mistake. I'm just not the marrying kind. I'm not a girl who can tie herself down to just one man. You know what I mean?"
"No, I'm afraid that I don't."