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his pocket. His fist emerged clamped around some change. He counted and said, “Want a coke?” 

She declined, saying she preferred water. 

“Not this water. If you’re thirsty, you need a coke.” 

“Okay, but do you have anything other than Coke?” 

Matt paused a moment and blushed, “Sorry, out here when we say ‘coke’ we mean ‘soda’. Yeah we got all flavors: Seven-Up, root beer, Coke, orange. Which do you want?”

She smiled, and began to dial. “I’ll have a Seven Up.”

     “You know what to order?” he blurted and, seeing the ire streak into her eyes, wished he could pull it back.

“It’s just the belt. I checked it out when we first opened the hood,” she huffed.

Vexed, Matt tried to explain: “Most girls, wouldn’t know.”

“Most women never took an auto mechanics class,” Stephanie retorted.

Matt turned and went for the sodas.

She worried that her response had been sharp; however he returned as friendly as ever. She smiled and gulped her drink, the cool liquid soaking into the surfaces of her mouth and throat as it flowed downward.  She was certain it was all absorbed before it reached her stomach.  

Matt sipped his.

“You’re probably dehydrated. You can drink only so many of these things. The water across the street is better. Every place here has its own well.” He nodded his head toward the cafe.

Again he peered through the filmy window at the conversation outside.

“She seems to enjoy bickering.” He was being polite.

Stephanie sighed and shook her head, then brought her eyes to his. He just stared back, feeling he was losing his anchor to the earth, fearing that he couldn’t stay focused on her words.  

She sighed again. “It’s amazing what you can learn about a person by traveling with them.”

She jerked her shoulders as if to throw off a hex.   “You know you see warning signs in every day things, but you pass them off as quirks when you should triple or quadruple them in your head before you agree to a trip.”

Matt gushed an empathetic laugh, giving her license to open up, and she did.

“What you saw was minor. Think of five days like that,

 confrontations with anyone, over anything. Once she cut right in

 front of a black Cadillac, one with smoked windows, like a Mafia

 car. They pulled up beside us and tried to push us off the road.

 I could just make out that


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