Last scene of previous:
As they passed the city line out of Ellindawe, Echo held up both middle fingers at the blue sign. “Fuck you!” She yelled out the open window and into the wind. Vi chuckled.
“What!” Echo smiled, “I’m fuckin’ done with the shit!” She laughs.
“I agree! No shame here.” Vi smiles. She just thinks Echo is really adorable, that was all.
The strength she has is something unformidable; she has such quiet, solid grace about her and Vi always admired it. She took great joy in her.
Realizing she’d been staring at Echo for a good solid second or two, Vi turned her focus back to the fleeting asphalt. She saw Echo turn away and smile, though, out of the corner of her eye. She raked her hand through her hair, and Vi saw that too. Her hands are beautiful, they always were. She was just generally mighty fine in Vi’s eyes.
Echo was embarrassed and flustered. She knew Vi still had great adoration for her, and she was feeling some old, buried butterflies, herself. How long would this go on for? She wanted to open the car door and jump out, but this was the safest place for her to be and she knew that. If she jumped out, she’d risk having to crawl back to Tess; and she was definitely not putting herself in that position ever again. …Secretly, though, she also cared greatly about Vi, and besides, they made a pact: protect each other. She knew she was still in love with Vi, too, but she didn’t want to risk her heart. She wanted to run away before Vi had a chance to. She didn’t want to be left in the dust again, like she had been countless times by other “lovers”; the last one to love, the last one to care, the only one never wanted by anyone. Vi was way too good to be true, but here she was, in her life again, wasn’t she? Vi had never been the one to run, but Echo was scared. It could always happen, and it was the unknown that scared Echo the most.
She had been staring out the window for the better half of an hour, and Vi could tell she was lost in her thoughts. She wondered what she was thinking about.
Echo was stirred from the world she’d slipped away to, when they pulled into the parking lot of a hotel, the Mayland Hotel in Mabury. She didn’t know how long she’d been lost in her thoughts, but they made it here in one piece. Vi had said nothing to her while she stared out the window. She appreciated the space and the allowance to sort through her thoughts, but it made her feel embarrassed again. Not the bad kind of embarrassed, but the hot cheeks kind of embarrassed where someone is out-of-the-ordinary nice to you and you’re not sure if you should feel like a fool for it for feel sorry about it or not. The oddness of being treated carefully or given unusual grace makes one blush, does it not?
Echo wanted to make it up to Vi; she felt it ought to have upset Vi and made her think sourly of her. She didn’t want to be rude to Vi; she always felt so close to and comfortable around her, but she didn’t know what a simple granted silence would warrant repayment of so she shook this all away; she was beginning to think these thoughts were silly. They were in this together. Maybe Vi was simply lost in her thoughts, too.
Neither of them had bags to carry in, so they just walked in and up to the counter to ask about vacancy. Plenty of rooms were available, so they picked one on the third floor in the front of the south-east facing building. They had nice nestled city views of a Walmart, Harris Teeter, café, and tofu place across the street to the right of their view; and practically all trees to the left; the thin little two-way highway slithering off into trees.
“Not bad!” Echo looks around the room. It was a rather large room, but still modest, featuring two queen beds and matching end-tables, a desk with a rolling chair, a heater by the window, and a mini closet by the bathroom stocked with a few plastic hangers. One of the hangers was wire, so it was figured that someone had left it behind. The place was nothing grandiose, but it had all the necessities.
Vi set her sketchbook down on the end-table by the bed closest to the window. She lightly pushed a curtain aside and stood there looking at the small town embedded in trees below. Echo came up behind her and started thinking aloud.
“You know, I don’t even know how Tess found me…I parked a ways away and just walked kind of through that wooded area.”
She was staring down at the city, too, but turned to look at Vi.
Vi met her eyes and she continued, “I parked out by that Tractor Supply Co. And, at that, I don’t know how she even got there. The only car we have is the one I took. It would’ve taken her longer than it did to get there if she’d walked, too…” Her words trailed off.
Vi wasn’t sure either, it all sounded weird. “Maybe it was your phone? Like she somehow tracked it?”
“Fuck.” She turned her head to look at her phone sitting on her end-table, then looked at Vi again, “Maybe.”
She stared back long and hard at it, thinking what to do with it. “Is there a way we could tell? If that’s how she did it?”
Vi shook her head, “I don’t know enough about that stuff to say.” She was looking at it too. They both were staring at it like it was the spider in the corner of the room that neither was willing to go squish, or as if they were waiting for it to grow legs and come attack them.
That’s at least what must’ve been going through Echo’s head, because her eyes went wide and then she shook her head and ran her hand through her hair, “I just want to figure out how, because I just can’t deal with it. With her, I mean…Tess.”
“Well, I guess we can start by looking at apps on your phone? And turning off location services.” Vi shrugged, “And then we can go from there, I guess.” It was more question or suggestion than statement.
“Yeah, I guess so.” Echo was the first to walk toward the monster. She picked it up and, when she did, it felt small and…almost unmenacing, yet then again, life-threatening. She handed it to Vi, afraid of what she might find, and not sure how she’d cope with it when she did.
Vi turned it on and opened the screen. “I guess I’ll start with the settings and turn off Location Services. Then we’ll toggle settings on other apps like Snapchat and see who has had access to them, from where.” She switched the button to “off” and then looked through all the apps that had been using it.
“Did you have snapchat open in the background when you met me at the spot?”
“No, I almost never use Snapchat.” Echo was looking at Vi like she was diagnosing a serious illness she might have and was waiting for the bad news.
“Hmm, all your other apps are set to off, on here…” she hands it back, “I don’t know what else to try, really.”
Echo takes the phone, “Oh. There’s nowhere else to look?” That was shorter than she expected, waking her up from her expectation of a thorough diagnosis.
Vi frowns, “Honestly, we could go through all the apps separately, but I feel like only the ones using location services matter, anyways. Only all the typical ones were on the list. GPS, Snapchat, photos. All the other ones were already set to ‘while using’ or ‘never’.”
“I didn’t have anything on in the background. I’d only watched YouTube this morning. And TikTok.” She said aloud, thinking through her day and scrutinizing every move. “I didn’t do anything else with it.”
“Well, maybe it was your car keys. Like a keychain fob on the ring that was a location tracker. They have ‘find my car keys’ fobs and tiles now.”
“Maybe. I kind of want to disintegrate this now, though.” Her phone lays in her hand.
Vi chuckles, even though she, too, feels the weight of the situation. Echo reneges on her idea, saying, “I just don’t want to lose everything else I have on it.” She stares at it again.
“It could have always just been a good guess on her part? A phone tracker only seemed like the most vulnerable option.”
“Yeah.” Echo felt hopeless and Vi noticed it. She offered that they go out to eat and Echo agreed, so they drove out to a local steakhouse to get some good ol’fashioned southern grub. The phone was left at the hotel.
Both in high-nerves, they walked into Texas Roadhouse to put in their reservation, and sat at a waiting booth. Vi crossed her legs in tension, and Echo gently bobbed one of her knees. Vi started thinking of ways her family might be able to find her. She thought of pulling out her phone now, and looking through it, but didn’t want to put Echo’s mind back on it.
Close to half an hour later, after playing tic-tac-toe a thousand times in a mini notebook Vi had, a host came and retrieved them from where they sat and moved them to a table and took their drink orders. Echo looked at Vi sitting across from her; she could tell she was nervous, too.
“I’m not going to let anyone find you, sweetie.”
Vi blushed. Echo was a lot of things; among them, a protector. She wasn’t the angry, territorial type, though; she was a gentle carer—tough when she had to be, but full of heart.
Echo continued, “I’m running, too; I’m not going to give away your spot or where we’re at.” She was watching Vi’s expression with affection, and Vi could tell. Those were the eyes that made her melt. Beautiful smokey grey and so full of compassion.
“I know, but my family is persistent. Upset, if not anything else. They’re keen on payback.”
“I won’t let them hurt you.” She came back just as steady and surely.
Vi did trust Echo, she wouldn’t have let her come along, if she didn’t. She actually secretly went out to her spot in Ellindawe to see if she might happen across Echo and see if she’d want to come along. But, you never know.
Vi looked up at Echo, finally, “I know.”
Echo wanted to reach across the table and hold Vi’s hand, but she really was fresh out of a relationship (as of this afternoon) and thus, out of respect for everyone involved, she didn’t. Besides, this was fresh, too… it was fresh and old at the same time. No one needed led on. She just frowned instead and then turned to her menu and started reading through the options, or pretended to, at least. Vi did the same after staring at Echo a few seconds longer. She missed her. She loved her. She wanted to be closer to her than a whole table away. She wanted to be in Echo’s arms. She bit her lip then to stop a tear from escaping her eye and wondered why the fuck that made her so emotional. Instructing herself to pull it together, she flipped through the flap-book of meals and sipped on her water.
They sat in that bit of silence until the waiter came by to take their order. They both took turns then to awkwardly stare at each other in silent and self-unadmitted adoration as each put in their order. There were so many things to say, and so much past zipping it in. Circumstance and time were their enemies right now; just as always, seemingly.
Love shouldn’t obey time and circumstances such as these, should it? And yet, being human is so complicated that moral runs deeper beyond that; and both of these are moral, or at least they try to be. So many words of soul dissipated as clouds of vapor before such could come out of their mouths; bursting at the gate of resolve and falling to the floor of their hearts, shut behind that blessed and cursed filter in our throats.
After swallowing bitter sweetness for a long while, hot plates were brought on treys and the meals they both ordered and needed were delivered to them. They both ate, though their stomachs were heavy with all the thoughts they had to swallow. Empty, and churning on regrets and wishes, old hopes and always dreams. God knows their eyes were glassy with pain and empty with remorse and full of apologies. But nothing came out, and their mouths only opened to take the food in front of them.
This silence should have been awkward, but they both were so trapped in their own worlds of thought, that the other seemed far away somehow, anyways. They simply thought beside each other, almost as if the other weren’t even there, aside of the fact that they could finally tell the person in their hearts the things their minds had been full of all these years. The chance was there. The resolve was not. Or maybe it’s that circumstance took the chance for himself and they both felt the chance wasn’t theirs to take. However, all of it simply boiled down to one resounding sentence bouncing around in both of their souls: I love you. I still do. I always have. But would either believe it if the other said it?
Ego is a dick, isn’t he? Such a pal with circumstance; he can practically chain anyone to all the things they hate. It’s a silent suffering, really, where selfishness meets selflessness. Time and chance and reality, dreams and hopes and possibility. It’s a little overwhelming, if not just a lot.
Vi started thinking about the pie she left in her car. Shit.
“Want to explore around town and see if there’s a dessert shop? We can get ice cream or something.”
Echo was tired, so she said she’d rather not. It was getting dark outside, anyways, so they got a piece of chocolate cake off the TR dessert menu to split, and a takeout container.
“I’m sorry, I’m just really tired and a little overwhelmed…” Echo said as they were walking out the double-doors. She felt bad for not wanting to go out. She felt like a party pooper.
Vi smiled at her, “That’s alright, you’ve had a long day. I didn’t really want ice cream anyways. I was just mourning the melting of my mousse pie.” She points to her car. Echo laughs.