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Miho has opened her window and her hair is snapping around her head colorless in the moonlight. She is driving because she never gets tired; her hazel eyes always flicking up at the mirror and then over to me.
The radio is playing Christmas carols but these are muted by the sound of the car.
I am staring through the sunroof.
"What are you thinking about?" she asks.
"Nothing," I say. "Just about how empty this place is. We haven't seen another car since yesterday."
"Could be the snow," she says.
"Could be the holiday," I say.
"Woolly, are you all right?" she asks. "You haven't said a thing all night. You don't feel like you're going to have another attack do you?
"I'm fine," I say shaking my head. I don't know how to put it. I feel disconnected tonight. I feel like I don't belong here. Everything around me feels magical, unreal. The landscape is pure white snow covered in moonlight and it extends to a sky filled with stars. I've never seen so many stars in my life. There seems to be an impossible amount of them. The radio is playing songs I remember as a kid, but so low that I barely get a whisper. And then there's her, especially her, in the storm of hair glowing from the light, in her parka, in this car. None of it can be real, all of it is fantastic. And then there's me, ordinary, plain and boring. Real and concrete, not a drop of magic in me and I'm eternally disconnected from this world I've somehow come to.
"Miho," I say. "I just think I want a cup of coffee somewhere."
"If I see a place that's open I'll stop," she says. Her tone worries me because it sounds like she's worried and I'm so undeserving of it.
"Do you think coffee will be good for you this late?" she asks.
"I'll be fine."
"Are you sure?" she continues on. "Because I heard about, uh, um, eh, constitutions and that if someone takes something to strong for it, it, uh... is bad."
I laugh to put her at ease, "I'm still young. I'm not that easy to break."
"Okay, okay," she says. "Do you think there will be a place open?"
"I hope so," I say.
She adjusts her grip on the wheel.
I remember several days ago while eating at a dinner, I had watched her fiddle with her silverware. She fidgets when she's nervous or impatient. She tossed a spoon from hand to hand always catching it by the handle, but once she had gotten bored of that she tossed the spoon up a final time and it simply never came down. I watched it go up but my eyes lost it on the down swing and I never saw it again. I didn't ask what had happened to it, she is usually evasive about such things.
But the spoon nags at me now. This whole trip has been surreal. Is it possible that she has spirited me away just like that spoon? Did I vanish on the way to school one day? I mean, it must seem like that to the folks back home, but did I actually vanish?
"Vanish?" she asks and I start. This is something she hasn't done before.
"You can read my mind?" I ask trying to recall everything I'd ever thought about in front of her.
"No," she says. "I can sometimes pick up images but only if you're thinking loudly. You were thinking about a spoon?"
"Yeah," I say. "That spoon you were playing with at the dinner a few days ago."
"The one in Lubbock?"
"Before Texas," I reply.
"I made a spoon disappear?" she asks.
She frowns, "I don't remember that. Maybe I--."
There is a small pop as the spoon tumbles out of the air in the front seat into the space in the backseat. Surprised,I reach back to get it.
The spoon is burning hot.
"Woolly are you all right?" she nearly swerves off the road to see.
"I'm fine," I say. "It's just that it's hot."
"I'm sorry," she says. "I should have warned you!" She sounds near tears.
"Don't worry about it," I say examining the burn. I have the word STAINLESS branded into my palm. "I just touched it for a second."
She looks at me distressed, "But it was a second too long."
"It will heal," I try to be casual.
"How? We don't have any Band-Aides!"
I laugh, "Miho, I don't need Band-Aides to heal."
"Oh," she says and laughs along nervously.
"Why is it hot?" I ask.
"It just is," she said. "I'm surprised it didn't melt."
"Why would it melt?"
I drop it. If she doesn't want to tell me she won't.
"Gas station," she says and there is one, coming up along the road and spilling yellow light all over the snow. A sign says it's open.
It's really more of a truck stop with a small little restaurant with a cafeteria-like atmosphere. A bored looking bald man who has the misfortune of having to work tonight sits behind the counter watching an old black and white television show.
"I'd like some coffee," I say.
"One-fifty," he says and we pay and sit down.
"It's starting to snow," Miho says rapping her knuckles on the table. Inside her hair is a very light brown. It's messy and ragged from the wind. Her eyes dart around settling on tables, chairs, and ads on the walls.
"This looks familiar," she says.
"The stop near Scottsdale was exactly the same," I say watching the snow drift down outside.
"How do you remember that?" she asks.
"I just do," I say.
"Woolly, you're amazing," she says. "You can write in mirror, you can sing, you can memorize entire books. I can't do any of those things."
"I'm not so great," I say. "I can't make spoons disappear."
"But that's nothing," Miho says leaning toward me so that all her hair hangs down on the table. Outside another car pulls up. "That's like taking off a shoe. You can do stuff that's hard."
The bald man looks up as the door opens. Miho flicks a glance over my shoulder and her whole face freezes. Her expression terrifies me. I lean around.
The person who just walked in is a blonde woman in a business skirt and a light jacket with a pair of sunglasses propped up on her head. This woman talks to the man for a minute, hands him money and then in turning toward us sees Miho.
The blonde woman seems taken aback at first but then she walks to our table.
She addresses Miho with a long string of words I don't understand and Miho says, "English please. Let's talk in English."
Miho's expression doesn't look right to me. It's a cross between anger and fear and it doesn't fit on her face well.
"What?" the blonde woman says sitting down next to me. She smells strongly of clover. "You would abandon our own tongue for something as inferior as English?"
"Legi, let's cut the pretensions." Miho says.
Legi smiles. It isn't friendly. "You've gotten bold, but English is inferior."
"I don't really have time for this," Miho says.
"Oh you don't?" Legi says widening her eyes. "Why is it then that you are out in the middle of nowhere sitting with this..." she throws a look at me, "...boy?"
Miho grits her teeth. Legi leans toward me looking at me curiously.
"It's foolish to throw too much emotion into these things," Legi says sneering. "This one looks half broken anyway."
"Hey!" I say. "Who do--."
"Woolly don't!" Miho say and the fear in her voice brings me up short. I turn and see her eyes are wide.
"Heh," Legi says. "What are you going to do when he's gone? Cry?"
"You were never nice, Legislator," Miho says.
"You were always weak, Counselor," Legi counters. "I wonder what the others will think when I tell them I found you gallivanting around on some sort of awful romantic road trip with a mortal boy. Half the Hierarchy is wondering about you. It's almost like you don't like the Hierarchy anymore."
"I don't," Miho says viscously. Now Legi widens her eyes and stares.
Finally she says, "That sounds like treason. You should be careful what you say."
"Careful?" Miho says. I can tell she's near tears. "Careful so I don't find some thugs waiting to hurt me one night? Careful so that I'm not stripped of my rank and power? Careful so that I have to ask Their permission to do anything? I'm sick of it all and I WANT OUT!"
"You can't get out," Legi says slowly with less of an edge to her voice. "I'm going to forget what you just said, but I suggest you don't go around spreading any ideals of Freedom and Anarchy least it gets into the wrong ears."
The woman gets up and leaves. Miho sits bitting her lip and trembling, the tears flowing now. I switch sides and put an arm around her.
"It's all right," I say. "Come on, it's all right."
She inhales deeply, "Yes. I suppose it is. Let's go."
The snow is falling heavily and she drives fast. I understand her a little better now. She is running away from something. It's a scary thought.
I cough and she pulls over almost instantly.
"Woolly?" she asks. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'll be--." I cough again. Maybe coffee wasn't such a good idea.
I put my hand to my mouth and cough up blood. And I cough and I cough.
"Woolly!" she says terrified. "Is it another attack? Should I do something?"
I can't answer because I can't breath. My chest is as tight as a vise.
"Woolly!" she lays a hand on my chest and the tightness is gone and I'm gasping for air.
"I'm fine, thanks," I say but now I voice another fear.
"How much longer can you keep fixing my attacks?" I ask.
"Not much longer," she says gritting her teeth, tears in her eyes.
"I think we should go," I say. "The snow's stopping."
"Okay, yeah," she says sniffing.
The moon is bright and the road a river with snowy banks and visible vapor. We go down it all night until I am asleep and dreaming.
This a bit of an experiment. I am thinking about expanding the central idea into a novel length story. I'm unsure with exactly what I want to do with it just yet, but feed back is (and always will be) appreciated.