Sunday Excerpt 8
This is the scene that sets the rest of the story in motion. Alexis is woken up by the bus driver and finds that she is not in Atlanta.
"Miss, we're here. You have to get off the bus now."
Alexis opened her eyes to see the shadow of a man with his arm extended to her shoulder. She jumped in her seat, nearly shifting on instinct before realizing it was just the bus driver waking her.
"Thank you," she stood and sidestepped into the aisle. She looked out the windows as she walked toward the front of the bus. Nothing looked familiar. She had been to the Atlanta bus station a few times before, and remembered it being much busier. She did not see the metro buses lined up in their usual places. The late morning sun bleached the concrete in a seemingly empty lot, and there was no din of traffic, or dark wall of tall buildings.
"Excuse me, Sir," Alexis tapped on the driver's shoulder. "Are we in Marietta? I'm paid all the way to Atlanta."
The bus driver gave her a serious look, but then a smile crept across his lips until creases formed in his cheeks, consuming gray stubble in folds of dark brown skin. He blurted, "Well then young lady, I guess you've gotten your money's worth." His eyes welled up and his cheeks expanded until Alexis thought he was choking, and then he let loose with a laugh so rich, it made him bend at the waist, the buttons on his shirt dancing over his round belly. His laugh was so infectious, Alexis began laughing with him, but having not understood the joke, could not sustain the mood. The driver got himself under control, his face becoming serious and caring once more.
"Young lady, you're in Montgomery."
“You mean, Montgomery, Alabama?”
“The one and only,” the driver said, nodding his head.
Alexis stepped backward, shocked at the news. She had never been in Alabama. She had never been out of Georgia. She even chose Georgia State University because they had a campus in mid-town Atlanta. Now she was in a city she didn’t know, which put her at a disadvantage for hiding places when someone might come looking for her.
"I'm sorry," Alexis said. "I must have slept through the Atlanta stop. Can I pay you for the extra mileage?"
The driver, still chuckled a little as he spoke. "You most certainly slept through Atlanta. If I hadn't woken you up here, you might have gone on to Mobile, or even New Orleans."
Alexis asked again, "What do I owe you for the ticket?"
"No need to pay me, young lady. In fact, I'll let the ticket office know to give you free passage back. There's a bus leaves for Atlanta late tonight."
Alexis thanked the driver, and gave him a twenty-dollar tip, before stepping off the bus. She was still groggy, and a little upset with herself at her lack of awareness, but the pressure in her bladder and the groaning from her stomach told her the first order of business was to find a bathroom and something to eat. She walked across the huge concrete parking lot to the edge of a four-lane divided roadway. Fast food, payday check cashing establishments, and pawn shops darted the roadside. Across the roadway and just a couple hundred yards to the left, a big pink neon sign featuring a horse rearing up, caught her attention. Underneath, neon letters in the same color read, "Pink Pony Bar and Grill."
Better than fast food.
Alexis she ran across the four-lanes at the first opening.