Wilder, TN

Sarah waited impatiently at the gas station counter as the bleary eyed clerk scanned her purchases.  He was clearly stoned, and having trouble punching the right buttons on the tablet. Next to the checkout was an add for ‘Krunchy, Krispy Chicken’ and ‘Home Fries’, under which a glass countertop revealed a variety of dried out brown nuggets, which probably smelled good nine or ten hours ago.

Sarah was wearing an oversized tie-dyed shirt, and her chubby white calves were bare beneath knee-length blue shorts.  She held her phone in one hand and pecked at it with the other as she distractedly instructed the clerk on her cigarette preference.  When she had paid him and gotten her change, she turned quickly towards the door, noticing the girl waiting behind her for the first time.

The girl threw her a half smile, which somehow felt more to Sarah like a quick assessment of her value than an attempt at politeness.  In a pair of expensive looking yoga pants, the girl looked rich, despite her messy hair and plain face. She had soft, smooth skin and perfect white teeth. Sarah could tell she was from out of town, nobody around here dressed like that. What the hell was she doing in Wilder, alone, at this hour?  Sarah walked by without acknowledging her, internally rolling her eyes.

When she got to the truck, Trey was waiting in the driver’s seat.

‘You took long enough’ he said

‘I was getting your cigarettes’ she retorted

‘And a whole bunch of other shit’ he said, eyeing her Twix bar.

Sarah rolled her eyes, out loud this time.

It was late, almost eleven, and the gas station was lit up like a fire escape under the black, small town sky.

As Trey started the engine, the rich girl walked out of the storefront glass doors, looking like a perfectly ripe fruit among moldy produce.  Sarah watched Trey’s face to see if he would notice her. She saw the subtle twitch of his mouth as his eyes followed her stride longingly across the parking lot to her shiny SUV.  Sarah felt a hot fist clench in her stomach, and she looked away.

They drove home in silence, along two-lane county roads littered with fast food bags and beer cans, framed by dark fields and cattle. Sarah was restless in the passenger seat. She felt sweaty and ill formed with her scratchy clothes and frizzy hair.  Earlier that evening, she had applied a new lipstick shade that she’d picked up at Walgreens on a whim, and it felt sticky on her lips. She flipped opened the car visor, and the mirror confirmed her fears that it looked cheap and stupid.

As soon as they got home, Sarah scrubbed her face hard with a paper towel over the small bathroom sink. Better to blend in than to look like a try hard, she thought.

Trey had turned on the TV and didn’t even turn to her when she walked by him towards the bedroom.  She lingered in the doorway, examining the back of his head. “Look at me”, she thought.

But the TV blared on and Sarah walked down the hall. She tore off her miserable clothes and crawled into bed.