Frank pulled into the rest area off I-95 heading south in Virginia. He had been driving for almost ten hours at this point with only breaks for gas and he was pretty tired. There was no way he was going to reach Raleigh, North Carolina by the time he had hoped. It was already 3 AM and he was supposed to be at the sales convention by 9 AM. He hadn’t slept, showered and other than the fast food he had stopped for, he had nothing to eat since he left home in New York that morning. So he would miss the first round of seminars, but he should get there in plenty of time to be at the booth for the convention to make some sales. Frank had been selling shirts and jackets in the high school team market for a few years now and he was good at it. He had quickly risen to one of the top salesmen on the East Coast for the company and had earned some good bonuses along the way. Sure, maybe he had been a little underhanded in some of his tactics to get in at some schools, costing some other salesmen big sales and commissions with other companies, but that was all part of doing business, wasn’t it? At least that is how he always rationalized it to himself. Frank was far from the model person and he accepted that and expected those around him to just accept him that way as well.  “Trust yourself and no one else” was his favorite motto.

He pulled his red Chevy Cavalier up to one of the close spots right in front of the rest area. He thought about parking in one of the handicapped spots that were right in front, but with his luck a cop would come along and he would get another ticket, not what he really needed right now. There was practically no one at the stop anyway. He noticed two other cars when he had pulled in,  a sky blue minivan with Florida plates with some kids in the back and a black pickup parked near the front as well. He couldn’t tell if there was anyone in the pick-up as the windows were tinted black, but he didn’t wonder too much about them with all the skulls and cross-bones all over the rear gate of the pick -up.

He walked into the rest area, rubbing his eyes and heading right for the men’s room. This rest area was surprisingly clean compared to some others he had been at. The floors looked like they had just been taken care of not that long ago, now paper towels bundled up near the trash bins, and the room till smelled of whatever antiseptic cleaner they used to scrub the place down daily. Frank relieved himself of the three cups of coffee he had so far the first urinal. He washed up, and looked himself in the mirror, rubbing the stubble on his chin. He wished he had brought his electric razor in to shave, but figured he would go out to the car, get a few hours sleep to re-charge and then shave and be on his way when the sun came up.

He walked back out to his car just as the blue mini-van was pulling away out of the rest area. He breathed in the fresh, still air of the night. It was eerily quiet and Frank couldn’t even see much traffic on the highway other than the occasional semi going by. He thought about sitting at one of the picnic tables near by for a moment but a quick chill came over him and he thought it would be better to get back in the car. He strode over to the driver’s side of his car and reached for the door handle. It was locked. Frank hadn’t remembered locking it, but it was always possible. He reached into his pants pocket for the keys and noticed they weren’t there. He check both pockets and then his shirt pocket and found nothing. He could feel the unease of panic starting to set in. He peered down and looked into the car. He could just see thanks to the light in the parking lots the glint of his beer bottle opener/keychain hanging from the ignition. He also saw his cell phone and wallet sitting in the center console.

Under normal circumstances Frank wouldn’t panic. There was always a hidden key in a magnetic case in the rear tire well for him to open the car. That was until his brother Randy, who had been staying with him this summer, had needed a key to the car and Frank let him take that one two days ago. Frank cursed under his breath and then decided since there was no one here he would curse out loud and yelled “Fuck!” at the top of his lungs while he kicked the car door. He was pissed, he was cold, and now he would really be late if he had to wait for someone to come by to help him out or someone with a cell phone.

It was after Frank had yelled his obscenity that he looked over and saw the cab of the black pick-up stirring. He had awakened whoever was inside. Frank thought about going over and asking for help and even took a few steps over that way when he felt that chill again. Something was telling him to stay away from there. Frank was not a real big guy, only six-foot tall and in decent shape, but not great for a guy in his thirties. He looked far from tough wearing his collared blue polo shirt and khakis anyway. He slowly backed away from the pick up and sat down on the trunk of his car after checking the other doors to make sure nothing was open. No such luck.

About fifteen minutes had passed and Frank was getting pretty cold, even if it was Virginia in July. It had cooled significantly and felt like it was down in the forties. The rest area itself offered no warm spots, just the rest rooms and a couple of vending machines. He didn’t even have enough change in his pocket for some bad coffee from the vending machine. Now all Frank was thinking about was how Bill Stevens, the new guy on the sales team, was going to get his chance to shine and brown-nose the bosses while he drove furiously to get there before he was forgotten. He seethed more over it and slammed his fist down on the trunk, harder than he thought he had. This caused him to yell “Fuck!” again as he felt his pinky crunch against the metal. He looked down at his right hand and could see the pinky swelling.

This time the black pick-up not only stirred, but it moved. Frank heard the passenger side door open and close. He saw some black boots hit the ground and slowly make their way around the back of the truck and turn the corner towards Frank. He felt that chill again and for the first time in many years, Frank felt afraid. He saw the body turn the corner, a tall shadow in black jeans and a black hooded sweatshirt covering the head so Frank couldn’t see a face. It walked directly over to him, swiftly. Frank began to mutter and stutter “I… “I’m really sorry…” as he climbed off the trunk and jumped over to driver’s side door tugging hard on it as if a genie had come along and unlocked it for him. He looked down and kept tugging, harder and harder and then he noticed a hand on top of his. The hand was covered in tattoo ink from the tips of the fingers down to what disappeared under the sweatshirt. Frank gasped as the hand gripped his tightly, now noticing the black nail polish on the fingernails as they lay on Frank’s hand. He looked up quickly, fear in his eyes. The left hand, equally tattooed, reached up and pulled the hood of the sweatshirt down, revealing not just long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, but a face that was completely covered in ink as well. It was hard for Frank to make out what the design was, and he honestly didn’t care at this point he was so scared.

“Why do you keep yelling so loud?” the voice asked in hushed tone. It was then that Frank realized that this person was just a young girl, maybe 19 or 20. He looked closer at her and notice at least 5 piercings in her left ear and a large ring in her nose. She was a good size, easily as tall as he was, and looked larger all in black. “I… I got locked out of my car and then punched the car… it’s okay, I’m alright…” he said trailing off, hoping she would just go back to the pick-up.

“Well my dad is in there sound asleep. I didn’t want you to wake him up. Are the keys in there?” she asked quizzically as she peered in the window.

“Yeah,” Frank said dejectedly, but still wary and afraid of this girl. He slumped down to the ground, clutching his hand, shivering. “Here,” the girl said to him as she unzipped the sweatshirt and tossed it to him. “I’ll be right back.” Frank sat holding the sweatshirt for a second as he watched the girl walk away. He tentatively put it on and zipped it up, glad for the warmth it provided. He could smell some kind of scent on it, one he did not recognize at all, and wondered what they were smoking in that truck. He zipped up the sweatshirt, noting the heaviness and good quality, thinking he should get the brand name and recommend it to his bosses and maybe score some make-up points.

The girl came back over to Frank’s car carrying a long piece of metal, a small tool bag and what looked like some blue ice. “Put this on your hand,” the girl said, handing the blue ice to him. “It will help with the swelling. I took it out of our cooler.” Frank placed the cold pack on his throbbing pinky. He then watched the girl unzip the tool bag and take out a small, black item and start to feel in the frame of the car door. “What are you doing?” Frank asked, worried about what was going on as he stood up. She placed the item in the door frame and began to pump it. “It’s a wedge. it will give me a gape in the door frame.” He watched the girl work quickly as the wedge inflated and made the gap. She then took the piece of metal and slid it into the gap. Frank watched her try to work the metal to find the controls for the door locks. It was then Frank noticed that she was only wearing a black tank top and in the light he could see her whole body was covered in tattoos. He couldn’t see a bare spot anywhere he looked. It only took her a few seconds before Frank heard the door unlock. She turned and smiled at Frank as she pulled the door open. “Where did you learn that?” Frank asked her. “Do you really want to know?” she said to him.

Frank stood there aghast. Here was the complete stranger, a young girl no less, looking like part of the Manson family, who had just helped him out. Frank shook his head and went to unzip the sweatshirt when she said “you can keep it if your cold.” Frank quickly got in the driver’s seat and sat down and started the car, turning the heat on. He reached into the back seat and grabbed the first sample he saw, a black baseball cap with a gold lightning bolt embroidered on the front. He handed it to the girl. “As… as a thank you,” he said handing her that hat. “Hey thanks,” the girl said, feeling giddy from the gift as she put it on, pulling her ponytail through the back of the hat.

Frank then handed the ice pack back to her. “How’s your hand?” she asked with concern. “Oh I think it will be okay. I should be on my way. Thanks again….um, I never got your name,” he said sheepishly.

“Lydia,” she said with a smile.

“I’m Frank, Lydia,” he said with an awkward smile.

“You better go Frank,” Lydia said, her face turning serious. “If my Dad wakes up and sees you, he’ll kill you.”

Frank’s face went pale. Lydia burst out laughing when she saw him. ‘Lighten up Frank,” she told him. My Dad is a computer engineer. We’re on our way to Disney, father-daughter bonding trip,” she said rolling her eyes. ‘Have a good night Frank,” she said to him as she leaned in and lightly kissed him on the lips. ‘Don’t believe everything you see,” she whispered as she broke the kiss and walked away.

Frank rolled up the window and pulled out of the lot. He saw the pickup disappear in his rear-view mirror as he got back on the highway and looked at the dashboard clock. It was 3:45 AM. he could still make it on time and felt suddenly refreshed. He spent the rest of the drive contemplating whether he would tell anyone about his run-in with Lydia that Tattooed Lady.

One Response to “Lydia”

  1. 1 A Dizzying Didactic of Doctors and Doldrums « The Office of Iguana Flats

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