An Oasis in Death Valley (Part 1 of 4), a short story by Down2myankles. Date added: 2011-06-04. Times viewed: 812.
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- Intro: The girl with no name looked into the mirror and all she saw was a stranger.
The lights were off in the distance.
They seemed to be moving.
No, it was her padding along in her bare feet on the highway that created that sense of movement. The pavement was still warm from the desert Sun even though it was long after midnight. She could see a car coming from behind her and hid instinctively behind a prickly tall cactus. The breeze from it's passing cooled her skin momentarily.
The petite brunette was dressed in a form fitting evening dress. Her shoulders were bare and the tops of her lushly rounded breasts peeked out in a deliciously tempting invitation to pleasure. Except for her bare feet and her somewhat disheveled look, the pretty young girl in her early twenties could have been returning from a date at the local country club.
Not that any country clubs existed in the infamous Death Valley.
There was no mirror for her to check her appearance. No lipstick to repair any damage to her lips. In fact, the absence of a purse or a cell phone seemed to reinforce the strangeness of her missing foot attire. The girl could feel her legs sweating from the exertion of the long walk down the darkened highway. Feeling under her dress, she confirmed that she was not wearing any undies at all. For some reason, that make her a little nervous because she was certain she would never leave home without her under garments.
She could not really be certain of anything, because She could not remember anything at all.
All that she recall was looking into the distance and seeing the lights that drew her like a moth to the flame. Her voice was working, her eyes and ears and nose and everything else seemed in good working order. With the exception of the missing shoes, her missing panties, and lack of a cell phone or a purse, it all seemed normal. She knew she was a girl. She knew what a cell phone and a purse were. She even knew the heat on the bottom of her feet was because of the hot Sun baking the highway the previous day.
She did not know her name.
She did not know where she was.
She did not know why she was wandering around in the desert in the middle of the night. Dressed in an evening gown and no underwear. What really frightened her was she did not know why she would hide when vehicles passed her in the darkened moonless night. Shouldn't she be seeking help?
Maybe what she did not remember was the reason for her caution and her heightened sense of impending doom.
She was getting closer to the lights now. She was able to make out the words on the lighted sign.
"AUNT LIZZIE'S CAFE"
"Burgers - Mule Team Fries - Aunt Lizzie's Famous Pies
There was no visible parking lot. Just a hard packed dirt area with a half dozen cars jumbled about like they survived a recent dust storm. The "A" in AUNT was flickering leaving speculation as to the missing letter. The girl with no name decided to stick with AUNT as the most likely candidate.
The girl paused and looked over the scene in front of her.
Everything seemed to be in place.
She knew her appearance would cause some concern on the part of anyone inside the small cafe. She decided she would call herself Linda. Linda Johnson would be her name if asked. Linda didn't know why it was so important to have a name, it just seemed like the thing to do in this situation. Quickly, Linda assigned herself the role of a girl with a broken down car on the highway. She broke the heel on her high heels and had to discard them as unusable. Her missing purse with her cell phone inside was dropped and lost in the darkness. It must have fallen into the ditch and she was not going down into that unknown abyss to look for it.
Linda had to admit her story sounded good. All she added was the fact she was a college student at the University of California and she lived in a dormitory on the Campus. The campus was closed for the Summer and she was on a road trip to see the nearby places of interest. Linda decided to be returning from Las Vegas when her car broke down. She really didn't know why she selected the name Las Vegas except it popped into her head when she thought of a plausible reason for the dinner dress.
When the newly named Linda entered the small cafe, six pairs of eyes gazed intently at this strange apparition in the midnight hour. She brushed back a wisp of loose dark hair. There were two people behind the counter, a sleepy-eyed latino, replete with a full compliment of tattoos and a stained white apron and a frazzled, mature blond with very prominent breasts. Linda made the assumption that the blond was, "Aunt Lizzie", maker of famous pies.
She was startled to see one of the customers was a uniformed policeman. When she got closer, she saw his patch said Department of Corrections, and surmised he worked in the nearby prison. Linda did not know why she knew of the existence of a prison located in close proximity, but it hung in her memory bank like other tenuous strands of lost images in a dense fog bank.
The uniformed middle-aged man was talking to a young girl with red, pig-tailed hair and a mass of freckles that emphasized her natural freshness. The jacket she wore was emblazoned with the name of a local community college and advertised she was the captain of the spirit squad. Linda placed her age at 19 or 20. Perched as she was on the swinging counter stool, her bare legs splayed out from the short plaid skirt in an obscenely innocent display of youthful exuberance.
Two men, dressed in black, sat at a corner booth, displaying disregard for everything around them. Yet, Linda could tell by their constantly moving eyes, they were absorbing every little detail. They could have been undertakers, hit men, or budding evangelists. Linda sensed they spelled trouble no matter who they were.
The last of the cafe's customers were a young boy and girl. They had that look in their eye that said, "on our honeymoon, do not disturb". The young couple only had eyes for each other and were stealing each others food in a telltale sign of total absorption in one another.
Instinctively, the girl with no name, the newly named Linda, sensed that one of these strangers knew exactly who she was and was not happy to see her still breathing. The problem was, she had no idea who it was and why they wanted her six feet under.
"Where is the ladies room, please?"
Linda's voice broke the sudden silence in the room.
The frazzled blond pointed her finger to the short corridor on the left. Linda moved carefully to the door marked with the symbol of a dog wearing a skirt. A cryptic message that this was for female gendered customers. The other door had the dog sitting down and smoking a pipe. She smiled at the sheer incongruity of it in a tiny cafe in the middle of the desert.
She checked herself over carefully in the restroom. No cuts, no bruises, not even a scrape on her knee from an unremembered fall. She did have a faint lingering headache and felt a little lump on the back of her head. It was tender to the touch, so she left it alone and freshened up at the sink. Her eyes were clear, her mouth was a little dry, but fine. Whatever had happened to her, it was not visible to the naked eye.
The missing shoes were her immediate problem. If her story was suspect, she formulated a back-up of a nasty date that ended with her being pushed out of the car minus her shoes and purse. That sounded more plausible and would probably be accepted in lieu of her first story as more likely in this place and at this time. Even her motivation for hiding the true facts could be attributed to her avoidance of humiliation in front of strangers.
Linda tried to shake off the feeling that one of the people outside the door was responsible for her present predicament. If her enemy was present, they would know who she was and why she couldn't remember a thing.
She reentered the cafe dining area and sat on the nearest stool. Linda was aware that her bare knees and legs and her partially exposed breasts in the off the shoulder dinner dress were out of place in the cafe and drew studied attention from the corrections officer, The two men in black, and even from the groom peering over the shoulder of his new bride. There was nothing she could do to mitigate the unfortunate display of bare skin, so she calmed herself and asked the well-endowed blond behind the counter for a glass of water.
The cook went back to reading his spanish girlie magazine not hearing an order for him to prepare. The blond returned with a glass of iced water and introduced herself,
"Hi there. My name is Lizzie. I own this joint. Looks like you lost your shoes, honey. You OK?"
Linda went into her first story about the car breakdown and saw the suspicion in the older woman's eyes. She noticed everyone else except the disinterested cook was listening to every word.
When she paused in her drawn out story, Lizzie interrupted and asked her,
"Wadaya fixin to do, honey? You can stay in one of the rooms out back until you get your car and other stuff up here. How about I fix you some nice bacon and eggs?"
Linda shook her head in complete acceptance of the generous offer and made a little show of drying a tear at the corner of her eye. Her helpless look was automatic and most effective. Lizzie came around the counter with a pair of simple flip flops for Linda to place on her odd looking bare feet.
The bacon and eggs were absolutely delicious. Linda didn't know how long ago she had eaten last. The food was cooked to perfection and she smiled in appreciation at the Latino cook. Lizzie had called him Hernando.
"Thank you, Hernando. You are a very good cook."
He smiled back and she could see at least one gold tooth in the wrinkled face.
Linda saw the corrections officer moving his hand on the college girl's thigh. The red headed girl did not object and was listening to him with great interest as he told her a story about an unruly prisoner. She watched in fascination as the hand moved closer and closer to the girl's private area. It was like watching a snake charm it's prey.
The young bride and groom in their early 20s got up and told Lizzie they were going back to their room. Apparently they were in the room next to her in the duplex building out behind the cafe. She hoped they would have their conjugal business completed by the time she headed back to the beckoning bed.
Lizzie handed her a key and told her,
"You got to wait a bit for the hot water, honey. It takes a while to get there from the cafe. Don't worry about the no shower curtain. I am gonna get some new ones on Saturday. It's ok if the water spills out a bit. It's all tile on cement slab. We can just mop it up."
Linda overheard the red headed girl with the pig tails ask the corrections officer for a lift home. He told her to get her "little tush" in the car and he would be right there after he "shook the weasel". It was only after she saw him headed to the room with the dog smoking the pipe, that she understood what he meant. Linda thought to herself, "What an odd expresson".
The pair of black suited men were still sitting in studied disengagement, as she headed to the room so generously offered by "Aunt Lizzie".
The shower water was hot and she cleaned herself in leisure. The water puddled on the tile floor was quickly sopped up with the towels and she decided to sleep under the sheet "au naturale". There really was no alternative since she was without undies or clothing of any type to cover her nude body.
The next morning, she was awakened by the telephone. It was Lizzie to tell her there was a package of some of her unneeded clothes outside the door and to "get her ass over to the cafe for coffee and whatever." The package was filled with a nice selection of well-worn jeans and several tank tops and blouses. There was also an assortment of granny panties to choose from.
Linda brushed her teeth with the new tooth brush and dressed quickly.
She wanted to talk to Lizzie about the possibility of some temporary work while her car was repaired. Not for pay, but to at least repay for the bed, the food, and the clothes she was wearing.
Until she knew the reason for her lack of memory, it might be better to stay a little bit longer.
Yes, a bit longer in this middle of Death Valley oasis of safety.
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