Dean Whitmore guided the car north in silence. It was still early for a Saturday, and traffic on the New Jersey turnpike was light. Angela was asleep in the passenger seat, likely dreaming of the latest night spot they would visit in Manhattan. Dean was wide awake, anxiously wrestling with his acceptance speech for the New York Book Festival. His poetry collection Angels at Midnight had won first place, which meant he would have to endure several tortuous moments at he podium addressing the audience.
The small low fuel indicator that suddenly lit up on the dashboard proved a welcome distraction. A green sign a few miles back had announced the upcoming Walt Whitman rest area which offered gas pumps and all of the greasy food you could handle.
After guiding the car off of the exit and coming to a stop, Angela finally stirred.
"What's going on?" she asked groggily while rubbing her eyes. Even without makeup and in her UMD sweatshirt she was still a vision.
"Low on gas," Dean replied. "We might as well get some coffee and food while we're at it."
"Coffee sounds good," Angela agreed.
They exited the car and made their way to the entrance of the visitor center. Several vendors in front of the center offered sunglasses, phone accessories, and hand bags.
While Angela remained unimpressed, Dean was fascinated by the social phenomena that was the American turnpike rest stop. It was as if the hustle and bustle of the big city had been distilled into a microcosm. Although all walks of life were represented at the rest stop, they all shared a need for speed, a need for calories and caffeine, and they needed it now.
Soon they were swept inwards by the crowd and it was time for a plan of action. In her typical style, Angela took control.
"You go to Roy Rogers and grab us some burgers. I'll head to Starbucks and take care of the coffee."
And just like that Angela was gone, her mane of coal-black hair streaming behind her.
Dean walked towards the opposite wing of the rest stop, almost colliding with two teenage girls in his haste. He mumbled an awkward "Sorry," and made his way into line. He was still going over his speech in his head when he got up to the hot food counter. Someone behind him nudged him, and he woke up.
"Can I help you?" a young girl asked from behind the counter. She would have been pretty, but her daily exposure to deep fryers had given her a severe case of acne. Dean quickly placed his order and moved on to the cashier.
"So what are you having?" the cashier asked. Unlike the fryer girl, she was a natural beauty, with smooth skin, strawberry blonde hair and ice-blue eyes. Her name tag read HONEY.
When at first Dean couldn't answer, Honey prompted again, obviously flattered and bemused. "Well Cowboy?"
"Uh, sorry. Two hamburgers please," Dean replied. The girl rang up the order, still grinning.
Dean felt the need to strike up conversation. "Honey, that's a pretty name."
For a moment, Honey's frost-blue eyes locked on his, as intense and invigorating as a winter storm.
"How's it going?" Angela asked walking up behind him.
"Uh, good'" replied Dean. At that moment, the fryer girl walked a small bag over to Honey, who then handed it to Dean.
"Your order sir," she said with a subtle wink. Dean quickly snatched the bag as Angela glared at Honey.
Nothing was said during the walk back to the car, but as Dean moved the car out of the food area parking and over to the gas lanes, Angela could take it no longer.
"Honey's a pretty name!" she exclaimed sarcastically.
"Oh please, I was just making conversation."
"Yeah right," Angela retorted. "I can only imagine what you two would have been making had I not shown up!"
Dean didn't say anything while the car was fueled, but as he eased back on to the highway he couldn't shake that ice-cold stare that both terrified and intrigued him.