In the passenger seat as the rain trickled down, Sierra had forgotten when and where Avery had come from, she looked so ordinary in this moment. Everything felt right but nothing about this situation was actually right. There was something shimmering under the surface of Sierra’s subconscious but what could it be? Find out in the next chapter of Catching Time!
[Read First Chapter Here.]
Chapter 14: Small Truths
A car honked, the noise caused Sierra to jerk awake suddenly. Everything rushed in at once, but nothing caught in her subconscious. She was in her car in the passenger seat, and the sky was dark above her. Outside, light sprinkles of rain drizzled on the windshield, the drops were quickly wiped away by the car’s window wipers. Avery drove calmly when a car impatiently cut in front of the vehicle that was ahead of them. It caused Avery to break suddenly.
The car behind them honked again.
“Hey,” Sierra said softly as she sat up a few seconds later. A denim bomber jacket that wasn’t hurt fell down her shoulders. Everything started to come back slowly.
“Hey,” Avery said back, not taking her eyes off the road, ” “Did that wake you up?”
“Yeah.” Sierra sat up. She fixed the jacket back on her shoulders, running her hand up her neck. Her right side felt sore from falling asleep, awkwardly on her seatbelt.
They seemed to be merging into heavy traffic.
“I have to admit that I could fly a Delta better at thirteen than these idiots can drive these toys. This guy won’t get off my ass,” Avery said sharply, rolling down the window with an angry crank of the manual lever. She looked like she was about ready to flip off the car behind them or at least turnaround and shout angrily, but she stopped midway. Avery put both of her hands back on the wheel and sighed heavily.
The car behind them honked a third time as if taunting her.
“Oh,” Sierra blinked a few times at the image before her, trying to ground herself. Avery’s comment seemed so out of place in 1994 that it took a while to process. She had forgotten when and where Avery had come from, she looked so ordinary right now. “What the hell is a Delta?”
“Um, it’s a cargo shuttle.” Avery shrugged.
“They let thirteen-year old’s fly cargo shuttles?” Sierra asked because that didn’t sound right.
“No, my dad let thirteen-year old’s fly cargo shuttles.”
“Oh,” Sierra watched Avery pull out of the traffic jam into the nearest exit. She had no idea where they were going, and she had a feeling that Avery didn’t either. They had been traveling like this for a few days now.
The weird thing was, Sierra, didn’t feel like she was in danger. She enjoyed watching Avery flounder in this era.
The longer Sierra stayed with Avery, the less she felt threatened. Especially after the events of the first night. Avery was just Avery, she was only a woman put in an awkward situation she wasn’t prepared for. Sierra should have left the first night, but for now, she was safe.
Sierra also knew this sense of security wouldn’t last forever.
“Hmm,” Sierra sighed, catching herself feeling content when she shouldn’t. Avery’s jacket felt warm around her shoulders; it was comforting considering her predicament. Not only that, but the coat smelled nice. Avery smelled nice, it was the fragrance she picked out the day before when she was trying to get situated with a few more changes of clothes.
Sierra had to remind herself where she was. What was clear was that Avery wasn’t the one calling the shots. The gun Avery kept hidden didn’t matter, Sierra was the one with the money and the knowledge on the era that held the power balance in check.
Eventually, something was going to change, but it wasn’t going to happen now.
Sierra turned to Avery beside her and held her gaze, tracing her silhouette, trying to figure out what made Avery tick. She knew it made Avery uncomfortable as she watched her hand fidget on the steering wheel.
Avery glanced at her, “Stop doing that,” she said sharply, bouncing her thumb on the steering wheel one last time. The urge to do something with her hands looked to be too much, Avery turned one of the car dials counter-clockwise to turn down the heater.
“Alright.” Sierra turned her eyes to the road.
For some reason, it made Sierra smile, knowing that she had the power to do that to Avery. It was something she figured out on the first day. This might have been the reason why she didn’t run, but she didn’t know what to do with this information.
“Where do I go to fuel this thing?” Avery asked, breaking Sierra out of her thoughts as they pulled into a side street of a small town.
Everything around them looked like it was built 20 years ago. This town wouldn’t stand the test of time, it would be gone by the early 2000s. For now, it didn’t matter, this was only a pit stop and a chance to get out of traffic.
“A gas station?” Sierra replied. She watched Avery glance at the buildings around them with a furrowed brow, “You need to pull into that place over there.” Sierra pointed at a gas station nearby.
They pulled into a Shell station, and Avery parked next to pump number ten. Before Sierra had time to tell her what to do next, Avery turned off the car, stuffed the keys in her pocket, and held out her hand to Sierra as they sat in the car.
“What?” Sierra looked at Avery’s hand. She didn’t have a clue about what Avery wanted her to do.
“Money,” Avery closed her fingers around her palm and opened it expectantly, “cars don’t drive on willpower.”
“Oh.” Sierra fished around in her pocket and handed her some cash. Then, she slowly pulled back the jacket from her arms.
“Keep it, you look warm.” Avery said as she took the cash, “Now get out of the car, we’re going inside.”
It was clear that Avery still didn’t trust her enough to leave her alone.
They stepped out into light rain and hurriedly made it to the entrance. The gas station door opened with a chime as they walked into the building. Avery looked determined as she walked up to the register to pay for the gas. She almost seemed a little too determined. The officer inside her was starting to show through. That poor kid at the register was going to have an unusual couple of minutes.
“Good luck,” Sierra whispered before leaving Avery’s side. Watching Avery would be almost amusing if Sierra wasn’t aware she was being held hostage.
Avery gave her a side glance but otherwise didn’t try to stop her. The gas station only had one entrance and one exit, and Sierra was well aware of that.
These last couple of days had been curious, it hadn’t been as tense since the first night as they started falling into a rhythm that neither of them spoke about. Sierra stopped asking Avery where they were going; it only took Sierra a day to figure out that Avery had no idea.
“Yes, that would be to pump number ten,” Avery was talking to the cashier when Sierra walked up and placed Pringles, a package of Twizzlers, and two cans of soda at the register.
“This too,” Sierra let the items sprawl across the counter as Avery glanced down at the mess.
Sierra smirked, she placed her hand on Avery’s upper arm and gave her a light squeeze. The kid behind the register instantly relaxed. Sierra knew Avery could appear intimidating when she wanted to be, even when she was out of uniform. The only thing that muddled that appearance for her was the mistake she made at the hotel room on the first night. Avery wasn’t as formidable as she acted.
Avery picked up the can of soda and frowned. As far as Sierra was concerned, her food choices were questionable, and she was going to continue to make them that way. Sierra could tell Avery hated anything edible from the ’90s, and maybe that’s why Sierra went overboard. It was her version of silent punishment.
The boy rang up the items, placed them in a bag, and Avery paid silently. They walked back out into the rain.
Again, Sierra let Avery fumble with the gas pump and the gas cap of the car as she watched from the warmth of the passenger seat. It was only Avery’s second attempt at it after watching Sierra the first time. It didn’t take as long as Sierra thought it would take for Avery to figure it out.
Hurriedly, Avery slammed the car door with a shiver as she sat down in her seat. Sierra didn’t offer her the coat back.
“Can I make an observation?” Avery asked she shivered one more time as she rubbed her hands together. Avery’s hair was back in a low bun, and it was getting curly and frizzy from the rain. Her white shirt was sticking to her from the raindrops, and her military exterior fell. Overall, she looked generally miserable.
“Sure,” Sierra smiled at Avery’s discomfort as she opened up the Twizzlers.
“I hate the 1990’s.”
“That’s not an observation,” Sierra pointed out as she pulled out a Twizzlers, “That’s a statement.”
“Okay, let me make a statement.” Avery rested her head on the driving wheel, “I hate the 1990’s.”
“Let me make a statement?” Sierra placed the Twizzler package down and moved up in her seat. She put the lone Twizzlers that she had taken out between her teeth as she took off the bomber jacket. She was going to give the coat back as guilt started to inch into her. The memory of Avery wandering into her kitchen, wounded and defeated, was back in her mind.
“What?” Avery turned her head on the wheel to face Sierra.
“You don’t know what you’re doing.” Sierra bit off the tip of the Twizzlers before replying. She handed the jacket to Avery, who gladly took it.
“Are you sure that’s not an observation?” Avery put on the jacket, “Because you’re wrong.”
“No, it’s a statement because it’s true.” Sierra finished her Twizzlers.
“When did you come to that conclusion?” Avery’s eyebrows furrowed together again.
“On the first day.”
There was a pause as Sierra waited for Avery to respond. Avery broke eye contact as she sat back up in the driver’s seat, stretching her arms and pushing her back into the chair. She started the car, not appearing happy with Sierra’s response.
“Sure, keep telling yourself that,” Avery said flatly.
They drove until the sky was dark, and the moon was high in the air. Avery had failed to find a place to stay for the night ahead of time, so she pulled into another small town following some old railway tracks. A few broken street lights lined the road as they coasted into a run-down shopping outlet to get their bearings.
“We should keep going,” Sierra said as she looked out her open car window. The town might have once been a booming area thanks to the railroad, but those days looked long gone.
Outside, the air had the crisp smell of rain, a light breeze floated through the car from the open window. It was a comfortable night, but the area looked rough. Sierra manually rolled up her window, waiting for Avery’s answer. There were only a few cars in the parking lot and the sound of a couple arguing in the distance. Then, a car alarm went off. None of it seemed to bother Avery.
“Wait.” Avery appeared to be thinking, she pulled out an old map from the glovebox.
“If you need to rest, I can drive.”
“No, I’m going to find a motel.” Avery glanced up from the map at Sierra with a scowl.
Avery didn’t look well; she looked drained. Her answers were now short and curt since their exchange earlier. Sierra had clearly got under her skin, and she wasn’t that great at masking it. Sierra glanced at the map, none of it had any mention of any business or places to stay. Avery was only pretending to appear busy. Sierra knew that Avery had no idea where they were as she struggled to keep her eyes open. It was apparent that Avery continued to be out of her element.
The thing was, traveling in the ’90s was a completely different monster than the 2090s. Surprisingly, the future was generally safer because of the war. The people a hundred years from now had become tired of bloodshed. In the future, petty crime, and murders drastically declined as people tried to pick up what was left of their lives. When they weren’t ordered to kill each other, they spent their free time staying out of trouble.
But that wouldn’t be for another hundred years.
Right now, this location was so run down and out of the way that Sierra felt exposed. Regardless of what Sierra felt, Avery stayed parked for several more minutes before she turned the key to the ignition, starting the car. They pulled out of the parking lot and into the street.
Avery circled around the town slowly until she finally found a motel out of luck. Unfortunately, it looked just as bad as the shopping outlet they had pulled into earlier.
“We’re here,” Avery announced tiredly as she turned off the car.
“Really, this one?” Sierra followed Avery out into the parking lot. “I can find a better place to stay.”
“I don’t care,” Avery replied as she handed Sierra her suitcase from the trunk before picking up her own.
This area was busier than the shopping outlet. An old truck pulled up and parked next to Sierra’s car while Avery closed the trunk. A group of men and women got out and loudly slammed their doors. While the others went inside, one man in a studded leather jacket stayed back to light a cigarette by the entrance.
“Damn,” The man whistled as Sierra and Avery walked by. “I’m guessing you two aren’t from around here.”
“You have no idea,” Avery said under her breath.
Sierra knew responding to the man would only encourage him, but she couldn’t stop Avery.
The man watched them approach, his mouth formed a toothy grin, and he walked up to block their way to the door. Sierra caught up with Avery, placing her hand above Avery’s elbow to keep her from doing anything brash. Sierra didn’t know Avery well enough to know what she was going to do next. Both of them didn’t need confrontation for more reasons than getting mugged or shot. They both couldn’t afford any interaction with the police.
“We should leave,” Sierra whispered in Avery’s ear, but Avery only pulled her arm away.
“What did you say?” The man blew out smoke from his mouth before continuing. “You know, you have to pay admission before staying at this place?” The man pulled out a switchblade, and he laughed, his eyes bloodshot.
Avery positioned herself in-front of Sierra protectively. The man watched them, regarding Avery’s movement with curiosity.
“You think I’m going to hurt your friend?” There was more amusement in his voice. The man slowly gave Avery a once over, stopping at her chest, he eyed her hungrily.
The look made Sierra’s blood boil, “Don’t you fucking dare,” the comment slipped from her mouth naturally. Sierra instantly regretted it.
The man’s eyes met Sierra’s, “Oh, look at you two,” he said and then put out his cigarette. “Y’know, I think I just found the price to get you in. You can come in if you join me for a little party.”
This time Sierra was aware that she was the one that made the situation worse. She really needed to work on her impulse control. If she had to see Avery in pain because of her again, Sierra wouldn’t be able to forgive herself.
“Hey, back off,” Avery ordered, standing up to her full height, but it didn’t really matter next to the man. He was a good head taller than them both.
It was evident to Sierra that Avery wasn’t going to back down. Sierra tried pulling Avery away again, but she wouldn’t budge. Instead, Avery snaked her hand behind her bomber jacket to the back of her jeans. Avery had traveled with her Glock hidden the whole time. Sierra was so close to her that she felt her hand reach for the gun.
“Well, you’re confident. What are you reaching for, pretty?” The man stepped within arms reach of Avery. He held the knife up between her collar bones. “I just want to play.”
In one swift movement, Avery pressed the Glock to his ribs.
“Looks like I win,” Avery said, the threat was evident in her voice.
“Bitch.” The man stepped back, but he wasn’t angry, he only laughed harder.
The tension between them and the man was so high that they didn’t hear someone exit from the motel entrance.
“What the hell are you doing?” A tall man walked out. He had been with this man earlier in the truck.
The man with the switchblade instantly deflated as he put away his weapon. Avery quickly tucked the gun back behind her jeans.
Looking between the man with the switchblade and the one that just came from the hotel, it was clear that this man was the leader. Sierra wasn’t sure if he had seen Avery with the Glock, but it looked like he didn’t particularly care. He was focused more on the man that had the switchblade, and he looked angry.
“You need to get inside now. Stop being an ass,” the man said, regarding Avery and Sierra. “We’re going to lose our dates if you keep this up.”
The man that had the switchblade shrugged. He took one last look at Avery, eyeing her up one more time, and turned towards the man.
“I only invited them up for a little fun. The more, the merrier, right?” The man was heard saying as he followed the other man inside the motel’s entrance.
“Yeah, and it looks like you bit off more than you could chew,” The tall man shot back.
In only a short few seconds, Sierra and Avery were left alone on the sidewalk. The exchange had been uncomfortable, Sierra could feel her heartbeat in her ears from the intensity of the encounter. Slowly, she felt Avery remove her hand from the Glock behind her jeans as she stepped away from her.
“That asshole,” Sierra’s fear was replaced by anger, she hated that look on his face. She hated the way he looked at Avery.
“It’s over now, we’re fine,” Avery shrugged. She picked up her suitcase, continuing forward.
“We’re still going inside?” Sierra picked up her own suitcase, she was in disbelief. “Did you see the way he looked at you? He wanted to… what if he hurt you? He wanted to do more than hurt you.” Sierra blurted out.
The comment made Avery pause, she looked at Sierra questionably, “Why do you care?”
“Because-” Sierra realized the implications of her words. It was another lapse in judgment, “You don’t want to hear it.”
“Yes, I do.”
“No, it’s nothing.”
“What does it matter to you if I get hurt? I mean, why are you even following me after everything? I’m arresting you, and you’re doing nothing about it.” Avery retorted the encounter had worn on her more than she first let it show.
“Give me the suitcase, and I’ll find us another place to stay.” Sierra stepped forward. She tried to take Avery’s suitcase. She didn’t want to tell Avery what she really thought.
“No,” Avery moved back, “don’t change the subject. Answer my question.”
“It’s because-” Sierra trailed off, she didn’t want to finish.
“Yes, go on, say it.”
“I hurt you, okay.” Sierra finally said a well of emotion threatened to come undone, but Sierra held it in check. She remembered Avery lying on her kitchen floor and what it was like with her hands soaked in Avery’s blood. “You’re here because of me. I can never let you get hurt again because of something I did.”
Avery looked at Sierra in disbelief as she wrapped her head around the answer. Sierra tried to retake Avery’s suitcase, but Avery swatted her hand away. Another car drove up and parked. A middle-aged man passed between them to get inside.
“You feel guilty? That’s why you won’t run,” Avery’s voice was dripping in doubt.
A knot tensed in Sierra’s stomach. She had wanted to tell herself she didn’t run because she found Avery interesting. Well, more than interesting. This woman, from the future, was sexually attracted to Sierra despite her orders. This fact made Avery easy to mess with. Sierra thought that this road trip was only going to be a fun ride until she got bored, but the reality was that it wasn’t the truth. She couldn’t let Avery get hurt. Not again, and not because of her. Avery was only here because of her.
“If I leave you alone in the ’90s, you are going to get yourself killed.” All of Sierra’s anger drained. She felt vulnerable for the first time in a long time.
Avery nodded, thinking this over. She looked upset as she reached in her pocket and took out the keys to the car.
“You’re disregarding your own safety because you shot one person, prove it.” Avery tossed Sierra the keys.
“What?” Sierra caught the keys clumsily.
“Show me if that’s really what you think.” Avery stood firmly on the cement. She wasn’t going to move.
Sierra stared at Avery in the moonlight. She had another chance to run, she had another opportunity to start her life over without the future catching up to her. Sierra’s mind told her that the logical thing to do was take Avery’s offer and run. The thing was, she was never good at doing what was smart. It was true, she had an impulse control problem.