On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair. . .ugh, I did not want to hear that, considering I was driving through the desert heading home. I kept scanning through the stations. I wanna wake up where you are, I won’t say anything at all. . .and settled on that. I had the highway all to myself, no surprise considering it was just after two in the morning. Night driving is ideal for my line of work; I can drive wide open getting where I need to go, although I was really in no rush to get home. Michelle, my partner of nearly three years is pregnant and wants us to get married, even though I told her from the beginning I wasn’t keen on the idea of being a family man. I reminded her that we weren’t in the dark ages anymore; there was a simple remedy for her problem. She went ape shit after I mentioned that. There is a good possibility I don’t have a home to return to.
Suddenly, a figure in white appeared on the side of the road out of nowhere, arm outstretched; thumb raised. Normally, I don’t pick up hitchhikers, but I stopped for the young woman clad in a long white dress.
“Where're ya headed?” I inquired.
She climbed into the passenger’s seat of my rig and the journey resumed. She was a cute little something with a mop of dark curls framing her heart shaped face. A small hoop punctured her left nostril.
“You got a name, darlin’?” I asked.
“Hmm. . .Bethany?”
“You got it, cowboy.”
“Yeah, right," I muttered under my breath. I've encountered all kinds of people on the road, heard all kinds of lies and sob stories, counseled several young runaways convincing them to return home and offered advice to ones with a rough home life, having been there myself. I wondered what this kid's story was.
“Cross my heart, hope to die. I got ID," she responded with a drawl as thick and sweet as honey, then reached for her backpack.
“You don't have to prove anything to me.”
“I suppose you’re wondering why I’m dressed like this.”
“Never crossed my mind,” I lied.
She chuckled, “You got a family, cowboy?”
“I suppose; things are kinda complicated right about now.”
“Let me ask you this: If you went home to an empty house, would you miss her?”
My heart stopped at her question. How the hell did she know?
“See, you do love her! Love is all that matters.”
“You’re just a baby; what do you know about love?”
“I know you miss out on a lot by being pig-headed and scared. Things will work out if you love each other. Sometimes, it's just that simple," she advised while twisting a silver ring on her left hand ring finger.
Pig-headed was one of Michelle’s favorite insults. I had no template on how to be a good father. What if I agreed to this and the whole thing blows up in my face? I don’t want to see my kid on weekends only. Could it really be that simple?
“We’re almost to Amarillo,” I replied.
“Drop me off at the truck stop up ahead.”
We sat in silence the rest of the drive as I pulled into the first truck stop I saw.
“Goodbye for now,” she whispered, kissing my cheek before she exited. I watched as she ran, then jumped straight into the embrace of some lanky looking young dude with dreadlocked hair, clad in black standing next to a dark colored old Ford pickup. They exchanged a few words, then she pointed towards me; they both waved. Suddenly I saw Michelle's face in hers. I waved back, then resumed my journey, feeling an overwhelming sense of peace.
I knew what I had to do.
“She’s so beautiful; I love the name you chose,” replied Michelle, cradling our daughter after enduring eight hours of labor.
“It just came to me,” I answered, kissing the top of Bethany’s head full of dark curls.