In Which Carbohydrates are Consumed
Randall walked out of the sub shop and back towards the parking lot, sandwich in hand. He hated eating alone in restaurants, so he figured he may as well eat outside by his car. It was a nice day out anyways, the sun was shining, the sky was clear, and there was a nice cool breeze. The situation had changed so rapidly. It was hard to imagine that the last time he sat down for lunch the world was small, he had a job, and he knew at least a tiny bit of what he was doing. Now he was without a job and on a cross country road trip with a couple of aliens.
One of whom was sitting on the hood of his car.
Ruth was sitting with one foot on the ground, the other on his front bumper. In one had she held a cheeseburger, the other a beverage of some kind. She waved at Randall as he approached.
So much for solitude during his meal.
"I can't believe we picked up a hitchhiker. How in the world did you talk me into that?" said Randall as he walked over and leaned on the drivers side door. Ruth leaned backwards to look at him and shrugged. Then she winked at him, and Randall blushed slightly.
Randall peeled the paper wrapper off of his sandwhich and took a bite.
"Sorry about that by the way... but I just felt sympathy for the guy," she said after taking a drink from her soda. "He's just some alien trapped on a planet with nowhere to go. He's in the same boat I am, really. Besides, you had already agreed to drive me, and it's not like you met me all that long ago. What's the difference?" Ruth took another drink and thought for a second, "It can't just be because you think I'm pretty."
Randall stood there silently eating.
"Holy crap! That is the difference!" she laughed. Randall could feel a knot of embarrassment growing in his stomach. This was not a subject he wanted to talk about at this exact time. Thankfully, Ruth changed the subject, "So, how far are we going to drive tonight?"
He thought for a moment and swallowed.
"Well, I was thinking that we'd drive until dinner time, then get a motel room somewhere and stay the night. There's no reason to push it as I don't think any of us are in a particular hurry," he said. "We'll just stay at some chain place as there's no good reason to rough it when we don't have to. It won't bee too late either though, as I'd rather not drive tired."
Ruth nodded in understanding.
"How long until we get to your hometown?" she asked in a curious tone. The way she asked him made him nervous about responding, but he didn't know why. It was if she had some grand plan going in her head, and Randall wasn't sure if he was going to come out the better for it.
"Probably four days give or take," he replied, taking a bite.
"Anyone special back there you'll be happy to see? Break any hearts when you left?" she asked in a tone far too innocent. This was going to a strange place, and Randall didn't know how to respond. He felt like he was getting about half the picture and wasn't filling in the blanks at all.
Randall swallowed his food and sighed.
"Not as such," he finally responded after a moment.
"Not as such?" she laughed, "That's your answer? I think that means there's a string of heart broken young women you're not telling me about... ready to claw my eyes out for having spent time with you."
Randall rolled his eyes.
"Hah hah," he mimed laughter sarcastically. "No, it doesn't mean that. My ex-girlfriend still lives in the area, but we split up so long ago it's barely worth mentioning."
"How long is 'so long ago'?" She just wasn't giving up on this line of questioning.
"Two years now I think? Yep, I've been depressingly single for two years." Randall took another bite of his sandwich. He was slightly surprised that he'd admitted that much. It was very hard for him not to give her answers when she asked him directly, even if it was on a topic he wasn't all that keen on discussing.
"How long were you together?" Ruth asked.
Randall did some quick math in his head. He and Sarah had gotten together when they were very young, before high school even, and that was a while ago for him. After a moment Randall looked back at Ruth and answered, "A little over seven years."
Ruth almost choked on her soda.
"Seven years?" she sputtered, half coughing. "That's... that's... that's a very very long time. I'd be happy if one of my relationships made it to seven months. Wow... just, just wow..." Ruth had finished her burger, and began to eat fries out of her bag. After a moment she turned to him again, "So, why'd you guys call it quits after so long?"
Randall thought about this for a minute.
"Honestly? I think the last year and a half of it we were both phoning it in," he said. "...it just sort of ended one day." In truth, Randall couldn't remember if she broke up with him or if he broke up with her. Randall finished his sandwich.
"That's sad," Ruth replied thoughtfully.
"Yeah, it was," he replied. He found himself oddly feeling the need to open up to her. These were things he hadn't talked about with anyone. He really just did feel relieved to have said them out loud. "I still talk to her from time to time. Last I heard she'd gotten engaged to this guy Steve I grew up with." This was the calmest conversation Randall had ever had with her in the twenty-seven hours he'd known her. It was an interesting to see her not bouncing around excitedly about something.
He kind of liked it.
"Wait," she said, looking puzzled, "You still talk to her? You actually talk to your ex still? That's just... weird." Ruth continued to eat fries one by one, staring off into the distance. "I can't think of anyone I've dated who I'd still want to talk to these days..."
"That's not the weird part," he continued. "My talking to her is fairly normal compared to everything else that happens. The weird part is that she talks to my Mom. Not only does she talk to my Mom still, but I think that since I moved away the two of them have been hanging out."
Ruth almost choked again as she began to laugh.
"That's just... wow. I have no words to describe exactly how weird that is," she laughed, shaking her head. "I... just can't believe that. Does she come by for holidays still? Wait... don't tell me..." she glanced back at Randall, "Am I being too mean?"
Randall shook his head and laughed.
"No, you're fine," he said. "It creeps me out completely. I think they try not to talk about it in front of me... like they're embarrassed about it." Randall looked straight up and sighed. He smirked slightly, "I think my Mom is helping plan her wedding."
Ruth laughed again.
"Yeah, that's my thoroughly unexciting dating history. Not exactly the stuff of legends." Randall laughed quietly. "What about you though?" he asked. "Is there someone waiting with bated breath for your return to the mall in the stars?"
She laid back on the hood of the car and closed her eyes.
"Only a small ficus that isn't getting watered enough," she said. "Through my illustrious carreer I have managed to pick guys not worth spending time around or conversely ruin every single relationship I've been in with a decent one. I am in fact, for the record, a dating train wreck."
"Mind if I ask why?" Randall asked tentatively.
Ruth opened her eyes and looked back at him, "I don't know if you've noticed, but I can, on occasion, be excessively pushy to a point well beyond the tolerance of even the most patient person." With that she winked at him. Her smile faded a bit though and she took a quieter tone, "I think I said it before, but I think I need to say it again... Thank you for this."
Randall just smiled at her, "No problem."
Ruth rolled over on her stomach and looked straight at him, "No, I've massively inconvenienced you. In fact, it may turn out that I have very well ruined your life... and then, after all of that, you go and do this massive favor for me by trying to help me get home..."
She sighed. "I really don't deserve it."
Randall shrugged, "What else was I going to do at this point? Sit and home and feel sorry for myself? At most all I'm missing right now is some terrible daytime television. I think it's not that much a sacrifice for me to miss soap operas and terrible talk shows." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Although I do like court room shows..."
With that they both laughed.
"We better get back on the road," said Randall, spotting George crossing the parking lot towards the car. George was a mystery at this point to Randall... and he was still unhappy that they'd brought him along. That, and George smelled a bit like chlorine. But this was the situation Randall was in and he'd best learn to cope as soon as possible.
What was the alternative?
The three got into the car and drove off down the freeway. The rest of the day's trip was filled with Ruth expounding on the various parts of different songs and George snoring quietly in the back seat. The drive was thankfully, for all intents and purposes, fairly uneventful. Ruth did make them stop several times to look at some scenic view or local attraction, but nothing that strayed them too far off the beaten path.
Randall surprisingly enjoyed himself.
Many hours later they found themselves repeating the same routine as lunch for dinner, and eventually they checked into an inexpensive chain motel. The double room wasn't huge, but it was thankfully clean. Before any debate over sleeping arrangements began, George had quickly volunteered to take the floor which was a small blessing.
Randall still felt a little nervous about sleeping in the same room as George though. Not much could be done about that at the moment though.