Disclaimers in Part 1
BOOK 5 - SOME GIRLS HAVE ALL THE LUCK
Monday, April 21st, 1980.
*CLICK* - *CLICK*
"Honey, I think you've wasted enough film on me now..." Toni Willis said, as she put their bags on the ground next to the truck.
"No, just one more... hey, I got an idea, where's your mirror sunglasses?" Cassey Peters said from behind her camera.
"They broke, remember?"
"Shit. All right, plan B. Look straight ahead... *CLICK* Oh man, they're gonna be great!"
"The clock is ticking, honey..."
"Just one more, just one more. Wait a second, let me get the remote," Cassey said and ran into the house, leaving Toni to look at her watch.
"Almost there..." Cassey said as she returned, placed the camera on her tripod and attached the remote trigger. She looked through the viewfinder and adjusted the focus.
"Come on old girl, sit down on the bottom step with me. Last one, I promise."
"Oh, all right," Toni mumbled and sat down next to the younger woman. Cassey put her left arm around Toni's waist and rested her head on the taller woman's shoulder.
"Say cheese... three, two, one, Cheese!" Cassey activated the remote trigger, and the camera clicked.
"I still think you're wasting your film," Toni said and laughed, dusting off the seat of her pants.
"No way, Toni. Trust me," Cassey said as she stored her camera gear in the protective case.
"I do trust you, honey, I just can't understand why anybody would want to see pictures of a truck driver with a beer gut..."
"Oh, you don't have a beer gut, Toni!" Cassey said, and continued, soto voce:
"... well, maybe a little one."
"Thanks hon... WHAT? Get over here ya skinny little kitten and I'll give you a tickle you won't soon forget!"
Cassey shrieked, grabbed her tripod and ran inside so she could be as far away as possible from Toni's long fingers.
Toni opened the back door and peeked in. All quiet. Where could Cassey have gone to... Hmmm... she stepped inside and was about to peek through the curtain into the storage room when she was assaulted by a golden whirlwind, tickling the taller woman all over and causing her to writhe around in the hallway, howling with laughter.
Cassey had both hands inside Toni's shirt, tickling the older woman mercilessly. She was secretly enjoying that she had for once gotten the better of Toni.
"Oh gaaawd! Peace, time out, I give up!" Toni said in between fits of laughter.
"I accept your defeat. Now kiss your conqueror," Cassey said and smiled.
Toni placed a tiny little peck on the tip of Cassey's nose.
"And what the hell's that supposed to be, huh? Do I really have to do everything around here..." Cassey said and gave Toni a kiss in return that made the angels clap and cheer.
"Now can we please pack the last bags?" Toni said after licking her lips.
"Oh, why not..."
Cassey was humming and whistling some unrecognizable happy tune while she carried the last holdall out to the truck.
"Cassey, honey, please don't take this the wrong way, but in all the time we've known each other, I've never seen you be so giddy at seven in the morning..." Toni said when they had finished stowing the bags into the sleeper cab.
"Well, I know, but I'm so excited! Spending a whole week on the road is a new experience for me. I almost can't wait for it to start," Cassey said and shrugged.
"Yeah, and in five days' time you can't wait for it to end," Toni added.
"Who knows, but one thing's for sure. I've looked forward to this trip ever since we first talked about it way back in November. This is April, that's one hell of a long wait."
"Well, let's hope there'll be more good days than bad days on this run, honey," Toni said and mussed her partner's golden locks.
Toni closed the back door of the house, and walked round it to see if all the windows were secure. She went inside to make a final check, and locked the front door.
"Are you all set?" Toni asked as she opened the passenger door for Cassey.
"Yep, I've told Fred we'll be gone for longer than usual, and he promised me that he'll take extra good care of my plants. I think we're ready to go, actually."
"Good, let's get trucking."
Even for Cassey, the goings-on at Detillo's Freight was old hat by now, so Toni had left her waiting in the truck while she went in to the office to get the manifests. Cassey had scooted over to the driver's seat and was busy studying all the unfamiliar instruments. Her own Beetle didn't have nearly as many knobs and dials, but she had always been a quick learner, so she soon understood most of them.
Toni opened the door to the office and walked in, prepared to face the same horrible colors as always, light-brown and yellow. She spotted Greg sitting in a plastic chair by a plastic palm tree, holding a plastic cup in his hand.
"Morning, Greg," she said.
"Hello, Toni, nice to see ya."
"What are you doing in here, shouldn't you be out in the booth?"
"Well, I've been temporarily reassigned to office duty. My kidneys started acting up because the old booth is so draughty," he said and shrugged.
"Sorry to hear that. You're the one I'm looking for, then. Mr. Detillo's secretary called and told me there was a long distance load waiting for me...?"
"Oh yeah, heard about that. Let me see..." he got up and went over to the file cabinets.
"Got it," he thumbed through a file, and continued:
"OK, here's the deal..."
On her way back to the truck, Toni spotted Cassey sitting at the steering wheel, and decided to have some fun with her partner. Cassey hadn't noticed Toni coming back, so she jumped when the older woman opened the passenger door and climbed up.
"I'm all ready, honey," Toni said with a smile.
"To go? You'll take the first shift until lunch, and then I'll take over."
"Har har, very funny. I couldn't get it in gear even if I wanted to."
"You're selling yourself short, honeybuns. Don't you think it would be great fun if you tried to drive it once?"
"*Your* truck? Your *truck*? This monstrous behemoth right here?" Cassey said and pointed at the Mack's steering wheel.
"I mean, really, Toni... I'm not big enough. The seat can't go far enough forward for me to reach the pedals. The steering wheel's too big and heavy for me. And what about the insurance?"
"Is that a yes or a no?"
"... that's a maybe, honey," Cassey said and winked at the older woman, earning a chuckle from Toni.
"All right, then... how about we swap so we can get this show on the road?"
"That's probably a good idea," Cassey said and opened the door.
After they had swapped positions, Toni started the engine and, much to Cassey's surprise, headed for the exit of the freight central instead of going around the warehouse.
"Hey, wait a minute, we're not gonna get a trailer?"
"We'll pick one up about an hour east of here. It's kinda complicated, but it's all in the papers," Toni said, and pointed at the folder with the route info.
"Mind if I read 'em?" Cassey asked.
"Of course not."
Cassey opened the folder and looked at the papers.
"OK, let me get this straight... We're running empty to this freight central," she said and pointed at the name on the papers, and continued:
"...and pick up a trailer headed for Fort Worth, Texas, where we'll get another one headed for New Orleans, Louisiana?"
"That's basically it, yep."
"But it doesn't say anything about the return trip?"
"No, we'll get that when we get to New Orleans. There's bound to be a load going West."
"I've never been to Louisiana. New Orleans is supposed to be a very beautiful city," Cassey said.
"I've been there twice, and it is, but we probably won't have time for sightseeing, Cassey. So don't get your hopes up too high, OK?"
"Oh sure, honey, I hear ya. Let's see what happens. In any case, my camera's ready at one second's notice."
"It's so weird not to have a trailer behind us, the engine note's completely different," Cassey said as she was sitting on the bed in the sleeper cab, cutting an apple. They were going Eastbound on I40, and fortunately the traffic wasn't bad.
"Yeah. It's called running a bobtail. I gotta watch the speedo. Without the added weight of the trailer, this truck could easily be a triple digit ride," Toni answered over her shoulder.
"We could easily do a hundred miles an hour," Toni explained.
"I'll never learn the lingo. Just when I think I have it down pat, someone invents new names... and they never make sense!" Cassey said and laughed out loud.
The CB crackled to life.
"Breaker, breaker to the black Bulldog that just passed the Wisconsin Meats truck, over."
"10-roger breaker, that'll be Little Toni, over," the tall trucker said into the mic, and flicked a switch twice to flash the two strong lights on the back of the sleeper cab.
"Howdy li'l gal..."
Cassey leaned forward and put her elbows on the center console between the seats. She rolled her eyes, but Toni merely chuckled.
"...my handle's Big Benny. There's a truck stop comin' up in five miles or so, and I'm wonderin' if you'd be interested in a little company, over."
"Now, what *do* you mean by that, Benny, over?" Toni asked in her most angelic voice.
"Well, you know, a little F-R-E. I'll bet it can get lonely out here for yer wimmen, over."
" 'F-R-E' ? " Cassey asked confused.
"Front and rear entry, honey, it's a euphemism."
"Fron... oh, for cripe's sake!" Cassey said, and got the creeps just thinking about it.
"I'm gonna hafta pass on your offer, Benny. I already got all I can handle right here in the rig, over."
"Yer sure, darlin' ? I didn't see nobody else with ya when ya went past."
"I'm sure. Sorry buddy. Out," Toni said and hung up the mic.
"Well, I learn something new every day around here... even if I don't want to. I think I'm gonna throw up," Cassey said as she moved into the passenger seat.
"Well, there's a truck stop in about five miles or so..." Toni said and smirked.
"Don't even think about stopping there, Toni! He'll follow us for sure!" Cassey said shocked.
"Of course I won't, Cassey... but I don't want you to puke in my truck, either."
"I'll hold it 'till we get home."
"OK," Toni said and chuckled.
Cassey handed Toni half the apple, cleaned her pocketknife and put it in the glove compartment.
"No, seriously, why are there so many strange people out here, Toni?" Cassey said as she was munching on her half of the juicy fruit.
"Well, trucking is a strange business, and I guess it attracts a special type of human being. But, of course, not all truckers are strange."
"That's true, most of the people we've met have been decent enough. Remember Angela from last year?"
"Yeah, she was a fine woman."
"Yep. Funny, too," Cassey said, and suddenly remembered something.
"Toni... I... have a delicate question to ask you, but if you don't want to talk about it, it's all right."
"Remember back to when we first met? One of the mornings I came out from the motel, I found you with a tall brunette, and you were kissing her. She obviously meant something to you. Why haven't you ever talked about her?"
Toni squirmed in her seat and cleared her throat.
"Well, I... Jeez. I haven't seen her since that time, Cassey."
"I didn't say you had - I wasn't jealous, Toni. I just wondered why you've never mentioned her."
Toni briefly looked out of the side window, and ran her fingers through her hair.
"Her name's Charlotte. She's just a fellow trucker I used to meet from time to time for casual sex."
"And I meant what I said, I haven't seen her since that morning."
"No, no, I believe you. But... I have to admit, that wasn't the answer I was expecting."
"I can imagine," Toni said, mostly to herself.
"But I understand, Toni. Big Benny, or whatever the hell his name was, was more or less right wasn't he? These endless highways can really be killers."
"Yeah. That's why the lot lizards have such a booming business. And I think it's getting worse. The trips get longer and longer, and we're away from home far longer than we've ever been. Every day I count my blessings that I found someone like you who accepts I'm away for two weeks at a time occasionally. You wouldn't believe how many marriages this business has busted..."
"I won't lie to you Toni, some times I do get lonely when you're away. But then I start thinking about what we'll do when you return, and I cheer up," Cassey said and patted Toni's thigh.
"... and besides, it more than makes up for it when you invite me along for a run."
"Well, that's good to hear. Whenever you're with me, the trips are always much more enjoyable, 'cos you know... I kinda like you a lot." Toni said and smiled.
"Oh, that's nice, 'cos you know... I kinda like you a lot, too!" Cassey said, and reached over to kiss Toni on the cheek.
"Exit 214's coming up," Cassey said to Toni, in case she had missed the off-ramp.
"Check. Well, it's easy to see where we're headed, huh?"
Just on the other side of the I-40, three very tall flagpoles had been erected in a corner of the freight central's parking lot. Dozens of trucks were lined up, seemingly without any system.
Toni drove up the off-ramp and crossed over the Interstate on a bridge. She turned left off the smaller road and drove into the freight central. She pulled to a halt in front of the booth. Deja vu - Toni couldn't remember one single central that wasn't built to the exact same layout.
"Papers, please," the controller in the booth said.
Toni handed him the paperwork which the man proceeded to read carefully.
"All right, head for lot #11, there's a refrigerated trailer from Nor-Lines waiting for you, #72."
"Got it. I'm new around here, where's lot #11?" Toni asked as she got the papers back.
"Between #10 and #12," he said and smirked.
Toni had heard that joke far too often, and responded by glaring at him and raising her eyebrow. The man in the booth couldn't meet her eye, so he looked down and cleared his throat.
"... it's on the far side of the main warehouse. Go right, and you can't miss it. Good day, Ma'am."
"Good day, Sir," she replied, and put the truck in gear.
As Toni drove off, a word sounding rather like 'asshole' was heard coming from the passenger seat of the truck.
As it happened, lot 11 was easy to find, and it didn't take long to find the trailer, either. Toni expertly moved the Mack in position, and went out to connect the brake lines, check the tires, and retract the support-legs on the trailer.
Her trained eye quickly caught several tell-tale signs of wear and tear, all pointing to the fact that this trailer wasn't in tip-top condition. She shook her head, and cursed under her breath. She walked back up to the tractor unit and opened Cassey's door.
"Hey honey, this trailer's a rusty old piece of shit, and the compressor for the refrigerator is rattling like Fred's old pickup. I need you to slide over behind the wheel and step on the brake and stuff while I check it from the outside."
"Ooh, can I?" Cassey said.
"Yes, just don't drive off before I'm back. I don't wanna chase my own truck all the way to Texas!" Toni said and laughed.
"Hit the brakes, Cassey!" Toni shouted. She did, and Toni looked at the brake lights.
"Well, whaddaya know, they all work. Turning signal, first left then right!" Cassey moved the arm behind the steering wheel, and the little orange lights flashed.
"Yay, they're working too, it's a bloomin' miracle," Toni mumbled on her way back to the cab.
"Let's see if we make it to Fort Worth before the trailer collapses. Anyway, thanks for you help. Great work, honeybuns," she said and flashed a smile towards Cassey as she sat down and closed the door behind her.
"Oh, you know, all in a day's work," Cassey replied as she moved back over to her own seat. She bashed her eyelids seductively.
"You're fishing for a kiss, ain't you?" Toni said.
Cassey nodded, puckered her lips and closed her eyes, waiting for the soft contact. She didn't have to wait long.
Toni stopped at the booth to finish up the paperwork by getting the appropriate stamps and signatures. She also reported the compressor was running poorly, which the controller didn't really give a damn about.
The black Mack left the freight central, crossed the bridge and went down onto the I-40, Eastbound. 590 miles to go until they reached Fort Worth. Now the adventure really started.
Some time ago, Cassey had bought a book called '101 Funny Stories', and as the truck continued to eat up the miles going east, she figured now was as good a time as any to see if she had wasted her $1.99.
"OK, here's a funny one... what do you get if you cross an elephant with a mule?"
"Eh? No idea."
"A whole lotta trouble," Cassey said, and giggled.
Toni looked at Cassey, out on the road, and then back at Cassey.
"A whole lotta trouble, get it?"
"Well, I thought it was funny," Cassey said and looked down at the book.
"How about this one: A man walks into a bar and asks the barkeep for a glass of water. He drinks it and leaves. The next day it's the same, and the next, and the next, until the barkeep finally tells him 'look, Mister, the next time you ask for a glass of water it'll cost you five dollars!'. The thirsty man looks towards the heavens, and says 'dear wife, I promised you to spend less money in the bar, but seeing the water costs as much as whisky, I might as well get some liquor!' ," Cassey said and guffawed.
"Oh, that was cruel!" Toni said and chuckled.
"Yeah, you can just imagine the wife back home, holding a rolling-pin, huh?"
Cassey thumbed several pages further along in the book.
"Here's another bar joke. A zebra and a mule are playing poker. The zebra wins yet another hand. Do you know what the mule says?" Cassey said with a giggle.
" 'Hey Frankie, you've already gotten the shirt off my back, what more do you want?' "
"...? I definitely don't get that one, honey..." Toni said.
"It's two zebras, see, but one of them lost his 'shirt' to the other... the stripes!"
"Uh-huh. Right," Toni said, and couldn't help but chuckle at the silly joke.
"OK, how many bricklayers does it take to change a light bulb?" Cassey said.
"Four. One to hold on to the light bulb, one to turn the ladder, and one to call the ambulance after the first two fall down!" Cassey said and laughed out loud.
"That's three, honey..." Toni said and furrowed her brow.
"No, 'cos the fourth one is telling the others what to do!"
"Oh for pete's sake... who wrote that book, anyway? Abbott & Costello?" Toni said and rolled her eyes repeatedly.
"Actually, it doesn't say," Cassey said as she turned the book over in her hand.
"Gee, I wonder why...?"
"Aw, it's not that bad, honey."
"No, it's worse."
"Must be a generation thing, because I think these jokes are funny," Cassey said and stuck her tongue out at Toni.
"Watch your mouth, young lady, or you won't get an ice cream the next time we stop."
"Yeah, yeah. I'll behave," Cassey said as she leafed trough the book.
"I mean, 101 Funnies... isn't there even one single joke we'll both find funny?" Toni asked.
"This one might be... if a car leaves Denver at 8 am, and another car leaves Dallas at 9 am, when do they meet?"
"When? Hmmm. Let me see, Denver..."
"Don't bother, the punch line is they'll never meet because they're going in opposite directions. The joke didn't say which way they went."
The sound of laughter started bubbling up from Toni chest, and within a few seconds she was laughing out loud.
"That's not funny, Toni," Cassey said flatly.
"Yes it is!" Toni managed to say between laughs.
"It's a generation thing. Must be," Cassey said, and put the book in the glove compartment with a deep sigh.
The day had gone by surprisingly quickly, and the two women found themselves only 90 miles away from Fort Worth.
Toni was looking intently at her watch, and calculating the remaining distance against the time.
"What's the matter, honey, have we forgotten something? Your forehead is really wrinkly," Cassey asked.
"I don't have wrinkles!" Toni said shocked.
"They add character to your face, you know," Cassey teased.
"I. Don't. Have. Wrinkles. Period," Toni said.
"OK. Of course not."
"I'm agreeing with you," Cassey said and crossed her fingers out of sight of Toni.
"I think we'll need to stop for the night before we reach Fort Worth. I'm beginning to feel tired. My shoulders are killing me. It's all this damned crosswind, I've been holding the wheel in a death grip ever since we entered Texas," Toni said and winced.
"Fine by me, honey. No sense in getting you all stressed out on the very first day. And... I remembered to pack some of the special oil, you know, so perhaps I could... help you with the shoulders a little later on?" Cassey said.
"How can a girl say no to that?" Toni answered with a wide grin.
45 minutes later, and the black Mack was safely parked in a truck stop.
"Oh man, it's busy in here tonight. If we don't find a table soon I'm gonna sit down on the floor and start eating," Cassey said as they were walking around in the cafeteria, fruitlessly looking for somewhere to eat.
"I know, honey, I think they can hear your stomach growling clear down in Dallas."
"Yeah, well, you know how it goes... there's one!" Cassey suddenly said, ran ahead, and plunked her tray down on the last free table.
"Finally! Now let's get some chow," she said as Toni caught up with her. Within seconds, Cassey was munching on a monster-sized bite out of her extralarge cheese burger.
Toni had to shake her head at the ferocious appetite of her partner.
"Damn, was I hungry..." Cassey said as she pushed the empty plate aside. Toni was savoring her t-bone steak, so she had plenty left.
"So, how do we do this... do you wanna go and shower while I finish my meal, or...?" Toni asked.
"No... actually... I was thinking of buying another burger," Cassey said in a sheepish tone.
"One of these days they're gonna come back and haunt you, you know? One morning you'll wake up and you're suddenly 300 pounds," Toni said and waved her fork in Cassey's direction.
Cassey leaned forward, and whispered:
"We better hope I'm not on top of you at that moment, huh?"
"Yeah, but what a way to go," Toni said and put a handful of fries in her mouth.
"Yeah. I guess you're right, they're not good for me... But starving ain't fun either, so I'll just buy a small one!" Cassey said and left for the buffet.
By the time she returned, Toni was done.
"I'll go and shower now, Cassey. It's downstairs. You'll need a $5 coin for the cabin."
Cassey patted her pocket.
"Got it. Go on, it won't take me five minutes before I'm there."
"No point in rushing, the cabins aren't big enough to share," Toni said as she left the table, nearly causing Cassey to choke on a French fry.
The shower cabins were easy enough to find for Cassey - they were located next to the restrooms downstairs from the truck stop, and only four of them were occupied, so she was spoiled for choice.
She briefly considered knocking on the doors to find Toni, but she quickly put the thought aside when two tired looking truckers descended the stairs to the cabins.
Cassey put the $5 coin in the slot, opened the door and stepped in. A typical shower cabin, white tiles and plenty of lewd graffiti, but it was adequate for the task. Making sure the sliding bolt was in place on the door, she took her clothes off and put them in the small locker so they'd be safe from the water.
Five minutes of gloriously hot water later, the coin was used up and the water stopped. Cassey dried herself with her towel and got dressed. As she was doing so, she couldn't help but look at all the adolescent graffiti. Mixed in with the usual crude drawings of various elongated bits and pieces, several writings caught her eye.
'For some hot action, call Francine, 555-0728'
'Smile! You're on candid camera,' with an arrow pointing up - Cassey did a quick peek just in case. Nothing. Phew.
'Girls, if you want a real man, call Twelve-Inch Tony tonight, 555-6532'
'Go cry in your beer, dude. I've got a 36-inch Toni waiting for me,' she thought, and chuckled.
She opened the door and immediately saw Toni combing her hair in front of the big mirror. Walking over to stand next to her, Cassey fixed her own golden locks, always keeping eye contact with Toni via the mirror. Suddenly, Toni's eyes became darker and darker, as they always do when she's getting in the mood. Cassey was worried the mirror might crack from the strain.
Silently they finished and left the restrooms. Well fed, freshly showered, and feeling very romantic, Cassey's fingers quietly found Toni's hand as they walked back to the truck.
Toni closed the privacy curtains and turned to face Cassey, who was looking even more sexy and luminous than usual. The younger blonde was kneeling in the sleeper cab, warming the tube of massage oil between her hands, and the sparkle in her eyes was almost electric.
"Come on, honey, it's almost ready," she said and patted the bed.
Toni unbuckled her jeans and took them off. The hot shower hadn't done its duty, her back and shoulders were still aching, so she was really looking forward to this.
She took off her T-shirt and her sportsbra. She had to smile at the thought that Cassey was now wearing one as well. Nine hours of bouncing breasts day-in day-out shook the poor things to pieces, and was simply no fun.
For some strange reason she felt incredibly vulnerable, naked save for her panties, and looking at a still dressed Cassey.
"Aren't you gonna take your clothes off, too?" Toni asked.
"All in due course, honey. Come on."
Toni crawled into the bed and got down on her stomach. Cassey had arranged a pillow for Toni to rest her head on, and she did so. She turned her face to the left so she could still watch Cassey.
"Are you ready?" her partner asked.
Cassey brushed Toni's long hair away from her shoulders, before pouring a large blob of hand-warmed oil onto Toni's back. She started to spread it out with her hands - firmly but carefully so she wouldn't accidentally tickle Toni, her hands moved in circles, from the shoulderblades and upwards.
Toni answered with a long, throaty moan that made Cassey's nape hairs stand on end.
Cassey's roaming hands found their destination, lovingly kneading the suffering muscles in Toni's neck. After a little while, she could feel Toni's muscles relax, and she was about to suggest a new course of action when she heard the easily recognizable 'ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz' coming out of Toni's half-opened mouth.
Cassey chuckled and wiped the remaining oil off her hands with a rag. Quietly she took off her clothes and covered Toni's sleeping form with the spare blanket. She clicked off the ceiling light and whispered 'good night, old girl' to her soundly sleeping partner.
The next morning, 6:15 am.
"I'm really sorry about last night, honeybuns," Toni said and mussed the golden locks of her partner as they were getting dressed.
"No harm done. I'm actually kinda proud that my hands made you relax so much, you know," Cassey said and laughed while crawling into her jeans.
"Yeah, but falling asleep in the middle of it is the biggest no-no of them all," Toni added.
"You obviously needed it. And I'm sure we'll make it up at a later date."
"Count on it. With interest," Toni said and wiggled her eyebrows, scooting over on the bed to kiss her partner on the lips.
"Oh yeah... can't wait," Cassey said seductively as they separated.
Toni pulled apart the privacy curtains. As the daylight spread throughout the cab, Cassey's stomach growled.
"It's alive!" Toni said and covered her eyes with her hands.
The truck stop was no less busy now than last night, so this time they saved themselves the aggravation of trying to find a table and went straight back to the truck carrying a large paper bag with their breakfast.
Black coffee only for Toni as usual, and equally as usual, Cassey gobbled up two bagels. Today they were both with caraway-seeds and really strong smelling slices of cheese on top instead of her customary sugary product.
"Cassey, you know I love you... but how the hell can you eat stinky cheese for breakfast?" Toni asked and crinkled her nose at the smell.
"Family traditions. Mom does it as well, and has since she was a little girl."
"And I love it," Cassey added, and gave Toni the saddest puppydog eyes imaginable.
"Awwwwwww. Just don't forget to go and brush your teeth before we go."
When Cassey returned from the restrooms, Toni was busy checking the tires on the truck and on the decrepit trailer.
"Does it still hold up?" Cassey asked.
They climbed up into the cab and got settled in for the day's journey.
Cassey flashed Toni a brilliant smile.
"Look mom, I done brush my teeth. Can I get a kiss now?"
"Why certainly, dear," Toni said, and kissed her partner.
Toni put the Mack in gear and slowly drove out of the parking lot. Next stop, Fort Worth.
The remaining 55 miles went by without incident, and the black Mack soon pulled up to the booth of the freight central.
Toni already had the paperwork ready when the controller asked for them, so she quickly handed them over to a redheaded woman sitting in the booth. Her name was Annette, Toni noted, at least that's what the nametag placed right above her ample bosom said.
The controller stamped the paperwork and handed them back to Toni.
"Drop the Nor-Lines trailer off at the first available slot. You need to go to the main warehouse and speak with the load supervisor. I have a note here saying there's a problem with your next job, but it doesn't give any details," she said.
"Damn. All right, thank you," Toni said.
"You're welcome," Annette said, and winked at her, which caused the trucker to blush slightly.
"Problems?" Cassey asked as they drove off, heading for the parking lot.
"Maybe. We need to find the load supervisor. But first, let's lose this old piece of crap trailer."
A few minutes later the trailer had been dropped off. The refrigerator unit sounded like it was on its last, so the shunter boss had decided to bump it up in the queue. Toni was glad to see the end of that old thing. If it had broken down while in her possession, the paperwork would have been a killer.
"Now let's go find Mr. Supervisor," Toni said to Cassey as they slowly cruised round the lot.
It was easy enough to spot him, but rather more difficult to get to talk with him. The supervisor was a slightly overweight, and definitely overworked, man in his late ‘50s, with a sweatsoaked shirt, and a tie that was more off than on. He was constantly barking into a walkie-talkie, trying to keep on top of the madness in the busy warehouse.
Toni approached him cautiously, and cleared her throat when she was close enough.
He turned around and wiped some sweat off his brow.
"Great, more work. You gotta be Toni Willis, right?"
Just as Toni opened her mouth to answer, he put up a hand and barked into the mic.
"Fort Worth to New Orleans, right?" he said to her.
This time Toni merely nodded.
"The trailer's late. Ten hour delay, there was a..."
A new message from the radio made him shout a string of profanity into it. Toni wanted to do the same - a ten hours delay...!
"... problem on a weigh bridge, it had to be..." he started to say, but interrupted himself, talking into the mic.
Toni angrily raised an eyebrow. Just flippin' great.
"So, what'cha gonna do? Wait for it or get another?" he said, not waiting for a reply.
"Get another!" Toni said rather vehemently.
"Gotcha. There's plenty to choose from. You still want New Orle...", and the radio squawked.
Toni's blood pressure was beginning to rise to dangerous levels.
"Yes, I still want New Orleans," she said to him.
"You got a certificate for class-D/E Hazardous?"
"Yep. Class-F, actually."
"Great. I got a class-D/E 15K gallon chemical tanker, New Orleans, double pay, no rush. So?"
'Chemicals. How the hell am I gonna explain that to Cassey? Double pay, no rush... No wonder, hardly anyone has classification to haul one of those things. I do,' Toni thought.
"I'll take it."
"Great, it's out on the..."
Toni rolled her eyes as they were interrupted again.
"... out on the haz-lot. Find a shunter boss in an orange suit, they're cleared for...", he said before talking into the mic again.
"I got it," Toni said, and left.
"What's up?" Cassey asked as Toni returned.
"Well... the original load has been delayed almost a full day," Toni said.
"Yeah, so the supervisor offered me another trailer, for New Orleans..."
"Good, but... I can see on your face there's something you're not telling me," Cassey said.
"It's a tanker, class-D/E hazardous.”
"Oh," Cassey said.
"It's a load of chemicals, but D/E is not nearly as dangerous as class-F, Cassey, and you've already tried that. It's double pay and there's no deadline, so we can take it easy if we want to..." Toni said.
Cassey sighed, but didn't say anything.
"Do you want me to decline it?" Toni asked.
"No... How far is it to New Orleans?"
"520 miles. We'll be there by lunch tomorrow."
"If nothing goes wrong," Cassey added flatly.
"Honey, listen, I've driven hazardous materials several times now, and I've never had a problem..." Toni countered.
"I s'pose. At least none of us smoke, right? All right... I'm in if you are," Cassey said and smiled a slightly nervous smile.
"I am. Let's get it and get on our way."
Four hours later. They had visited a diner just off the Interstate because Cassey's bladder had been sending out distress signals - no doubt from all the soda pops she had been drinking to take her mind off the big can of rocket fuel behind them.
Cassey being Cassey, she had also bought a paper bag full of sandwiches, and she was now eating a ham-and-cheese, much to Toni's surprise.
"I would've thought you'd be too nervous to eat, honey?" she said.
"mmmfff-nuh-uh," came the reply, through a mouthful of sandwich.
As they approached the intersection that would take them back onto the Interstate, Toni reached for the CB.
"What the hell's going on with all that chatter?" she said, and turned up the volume.
She turned the Mack onto the ramp leading down to the Interstate, and suddenly Cassey jumped in her seat and excitedly pointed out of the window.
"Oh wow, look at that!"
In front of them, an enormous convoy stretched out over several hundred yards, and more trucks kept whizzing past as they gained speed going down the ramp.
"Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen... holy flip!" Cassey said with a delighted squeal.
"It's the biggest convoy I've seen for years, that's for sure," Toni added and grabbed the CB mic.
"Breaker breaker, you've got Little Toni and the Green Eyed Goddess, Eastbound in the black Bulldog, what's going on here, boys, over?"
"Hello breaker, you're talkin' to the Texas Lizard, we just got a li'l ol' convoy! Just slot in wherever there's a place, over."
"That's a big 10-4, Texas Lizard. Out."
As they entered the Interstate, a truck went out into the left lane so Toni could glide in.
"Much obliged, buddy," Toni said on the CB.
The driver of the other truck returned the call by giving his airhorns a long wail before he slipped in ahead of them.
"I've died and gone to heaven!" Cassey said dreamily.
"Why do you like driving in convoys so much?" Toni asked.
"Don't know. It just... I can't describe it, but it's... to me, this is the essence of the life on the road, you know? The brotherhood."
"Hmmm, yeah, I see what you're getting at."
"How many trucks are behind us?" Cassey said.
"... four," Toni answered after swerving slightly so she could see behind them in the mirrors.
"And twenty ahead of us, boy, a convoy twenty-five trucks strong, that's not something you see every day."
"Sure ain't, honey."
The CB crackled to life.
"Breaker one-niner to Little Toni, this is the Lonesome Cowboy at the backdoor, do you have a copy?"
"10-Roger Lonesome Cowboy, I've got ya clean and green, over."
"How do you fancy bein' the rear guard, I need some time in the rockin' chair, over."
"10-4 buddy, linin' up."
Toni went into the left lane and slowed down slightly so the other trucks passed by her.
"Rocking chair?" Cassey asked interested.
"Means that you don't have any obligations, you're just along for the ride, somewhere in the middle of the convoy."
Lonesome Cowboy passed them in an old green Peterbilt. As he went past, he stabbed the horns and gave them a salute by waving his arm out of the window. Toni answered with her own airhorns and Cassey gave him a thumbs up.
"Goddamn, this is the best fun I've ever had with my clothes on!" Cassey said and laughed.
"Much obliged, Little Toni. The bears ain't very active today, but you never know. Some times they sneak up on ya. Lonesome Cowboy out," a voice said on the CB.
After the green truck had gone by, Toni sped up again and went back to the right lane, constantly keeping an eye on her mirrors.
"Being the backdoor is tiring because you have to be alert and look for the cops at all times, in addition to minding your own driving, right?" Cassey asked.
"That's right, Cassey. Now it's my job to keep an eye out for the highway patrols and unmarked police cruisers."
"The plain brown wrappers?" Cassey said and smiled broadly.
"Yeah! Damn honeybuns, you're getting good at this. Pretty soon you'll be doing all the talking on the CB, and I'll just be your driver."
Twenty minutes later, and the CB hadn't stopped squawking. Even Cassey had joined the fun and talked to another lady trucker further up the long line.
"Cassey, look in the mirror and tell me what you see," Toni suddenly said.
"It looks like a red Mustang, and... hmmm, can't really see what's behind that. Oh, now I can, it's a beige something... a Buick, I think."
"Might be," Toni said and picked up the mic.
"Breaker breaker, this is the backdoor. A possible plain brown wrapper half a mile or so back, over."
"10-4 backdoor, the Lizard's waitin'," the voice said from the CB.
The car came closer, and pretty soon it was evident that it was an unmarked police car. The CB antenna was swaying in the wind.
"Gotcha," Toni said.
It took the car almost two miles to pass all the trucks, but as everyone behaved, the cop didn't have anything to do.
After about an hours' drive the convoy had been whittled down to about 19 trucks. Toni had gradually moved up to being second in line when the Lizard called her on the CB.
"Breaker for Little Toni and the Green Eyed Goddess, this is where I'll be leaving, so catch ya on the flipflop. Stay safe. The Lizard is gone, bye bye."
"10-4 Texas Lizard, keep the bears off your tail, will ya. Out."
"Hey, that means we're..." Cassey said and grabbed hold of the dashboard. Ahead of them, Lizard's yellow Freightliner pulled off the highway and went up the offramp.
"... that means we're gonna be in front!" Cassey said and squealed.
Toni picked up the CB, and clicked the button.
"Breaker to the convoy, Little Toni has taken the front door, out."
A couple of hours later. The convoy had dissolved itself, but Toni's black Mack was still trucking along.
"How far do you think there is to go now, Toni?"
"Tired? Or hungry?" Toni said and laughed.
"Both, but mostly tired, it's been an exciting day!" Cassey said, and yawned.
"We're coming up to a large truck stop in about two hours' time. I was planning to spend the night there. We'll reach New Orleans by lunch tomorrow.”
"Good, I can't wait to get rid of the tanker. I have to tell you, I don't particularly like driving around with that much danger right behind me. I mean, what if a brake hangs and catches fire or a tire blows or something? We won't have much time to get away."
"Honey, there won't be *any* time to get away, it's 15,000 gallons of chemicals, remember?" Toni said in a solemn voice.
"Yeah, well... thanks for reminding me, the knot in my stomach really needed that. I know I'm sounding silly, but I can feel that something... something's about to happen."
"Please don't worry yourself sick, honey," Toni said and patted Cassey's thigh.
"Would you mind if I lie down for a little while? I feel a headache coming on," Cassey said.
"No, of course not. Go on and get some rest. If you fall asleep, I'll wake you up when we reach the truck stop.”
8:30 pm, and dusk was approaching.
"Hey Cassey? Wake up," Toni said loudly to the snoozing woman, and tapped her knuckles on the center console.
"Are we there yet?" Cassey replied from the sleeper cab, and sat up straight, rubbing her eyes.
"No, there's a truck in trouble up ahead."
Toni pointed to a flatbed truck, loaded with barrels of some kind. It was moving erratically, never staying in one lane for long.
"What's wrong, do you think he's sick or something?"
"White line fever. He's fallen asleep."
Toni pulled the chord for the airhorns. No reaction.
"There must be something we can do, Toni?" Cassey said as she moved into the passenger seat.
The tall trucker shook her head.
"Not a damn thing, honey."
The two women could only watch in horror as the Kenworth in front of them swayed towards the hard shoulder, this time without pulling straight. The wheels on the right-hand side caught the gravel on the outside of the road... and dug in. The truck jerked right and went straight into the ditch, flopping over onto its side like a beached whale.
Dirt and gravel was thrown about violently, and a giant dust cloud obscured their view of the truck and the road ahead. Toni stood on the brake pedal and managed to get the Mack stopped with a minimum of hassle.
As the dust cloud settled, they could see that several of the barrels had been toppled from the trailer and were spread out onto the ground.
"I'm gonna run over there to see if I can help the driver!" Cassey said, and took off like a scalded cat.
"Cassey, wait up! Wait! God dammit!" Toni said and slammed her fist into the steering wheel.
She drove on for a further 150 yards or so to get the tanker out of harms way, got out and started to run back.
Despite her slender size, Cassey climbed up the overturned truck like a monkey in a circus. She opened the undamaged left hand door and looked inside.
"Hello? You all right?" she shouted, but the driver wasn't responding. He had been thrown across the cab in the accident. Cassey watched Toni approach her quickly, and she had every intention of waiting until the older woman had reached her.
Suddenly a part of the embankment crumbled and the truck slid another two feet down the ditch. The unexpected movement caused Cassey to lose her footing and she fell down into the cab with a surprised yelp.
Toni's heart almost stopped when she saw Cassey going down. She was still twenty-five yards away and ran as fast as she could. She reached the truck with her heart hammering in her ears, and like Cassey, she quickly climbed up the truck, using the headlights as steps.
"Cassey!" she shouted with a trembling voice. She went to the still open door and looked down like Cassey had done just moments before. She could clearly see the two people down there, entangled in a mess of arms and legs.
"Shit..." Cassey groaned.
"Are you all right?"
"No. I think I've broken my wrist... hurts like hell..."
The blonde woman managed to untangle herself from the driver and stood up in the cab, careful not to step on the still unconscious man.
"Here, come on, stretch out your good arm, I'll lift ya up," Toni said from somewhere above her.
Cassey did as instructed and was soon lifted out of the truck. She nursed her injured left wrist, and she was bleeding from a cut on her lip.
"Can you get off the truck by yourself? I need to get the driver out of there," Toni said to her.
With some difficulty, Cassey jumped off the truck but couldn't keep her balance as she landed, so she keeled over rather ungracefully... right on her butt.
"Ouch! I don't believe this, I really don't believe this! Here I am, once again knee-deep in someone else's fuckup, and it's me who gets hurt! That's what I get from playing The Good Flippin' Samaritan!", she roared to no-one in particular as she dug a handkerchief out of her pocket and wiped her lip with it.
Inside the cab, Toni had crawled down and stood next to the driver. She lifted him up into a sitting position, which shook him awake. It didn't take long for him to understand the situation, and Toni was able to get him out of there relatively untroubled.
The driver staggered out of the wreck and climbed down. He sat down on the ground, leaning against the filthy underside of his employer's truck. A big lump was forming on his forehead, but he wasn't bleeding, and as Toni gently opened his eyelids, his pupils were responding to light.
Cassey was sitting down on the tarmac when Toni returned to her.
"Honey, are you hurt anywhere else? You look a little pale," Toni said, and put a hand on Cassey's forehead.
"No, I'm fine, except my hip hurts like hell now, too. I must have bumped it on the steering wheel or something when I went down."
A Winnebago pulled over and two elderly people, who were clearly husband and wife, came over to Toni and Cassey.
"What the hell's happened here? Somebody need a meat wagon?" The man said while he surveyed the situation.
"Yeah, the driver's banged up a bit. You better call a 10-33," Toni said to him, before turning to Cassey. The man went back to his Winnebago to call the authorities.
"I've got a first aid kit right here, let me look at her lip," the woman said and showed them a Red Cross medical kit.
Behind them, the driver of the Kenworth groaned and pressed his hand against his throbbing head.
"Go see to him, Ma'am, I'll take care of the young 'un," the woman said reassuringly.
Toni looked at Cassey, who nodded in return. She squeezed Cassey's shoulder and went back to the overturned Kenworth.
"Come on, dear, let's go to our van and fix you up," the elderly woman said.
As the ambulance departed with the injured truckdriver, Cassey limped back to the Mack, constantly cursing under her breath.
"Goddamned flippin' piece o' rotten cowflop..."
Toni was walking behind her, and quickly caught up with her partner. She put an arm around the blonde's shoulder.
"Come on honey, I'll help ya."
"Thanks... I need a headache pill, do you think we've got any?"
"Plenty. Does your hip hurt real bad?"
"Yeah, well... it's more my backside, actually," Cassey said and smirked.
"As soon as we're alone I'll give you a rubdown," Toni said and winked seductively at the younger woman.
"Mmmm... it'll have to be a thorough one..." Cassey said as the opened the passenger door of the truck.
"Oh boy, I'm gonna need to sit on a pillow, or something..." Cassey said as she very, very gently placed her abused backside on the passenger seat.
"Maybe one of those inflatable rings?" Toni replied as she started the truck.
"That might work, yeah."
"Some truck stops sell them. Maybe we get lucky... unfortunately the next major truck stop is about an hours' drive away."
"Crap," Cassey stated flatly, causing Toni to wince in sympathy.
"I told you something was gonna happen..." Cassey said quietly.
"Yeah, you did. I think these premonitions of yours are getting spooky. Remember the dream you had last year, just before you got the letter telling you about Tommy?" Toni said.
"Don't remind me. I wish I didn't have them. I mean... it's not like I'm one of those fake psychics from TV, you know?"
"Of course not, honey."
"... but when I do get a sense of something, it's so flippin' real... You know what's strange, Toni? I never had them before I met you."
"No. Not once, not even when I was smoking pot regularly. Once in a while I'd hallucinate or something creepy like that... but never these premonitions. Why do you think that is?"
"You're asking me? I'm not a shrink, honey."
"Me neither. But it's the weirdest stuff I've ever experienced."
"One thing's an absolute fact, though," Cassey said, and moved about in her seat.
"My ass is killing me..."
55 painful minutes later - just before 10 pm.
A few miles earlier, Cassey had succumbed to the pain caused by the vibrations, and was lying on her stomach in the sleeper cab just wearing her panties and her oversized nightshirt. It wasn't a bad position to be in, actually, as she was fondling one of Toni's shirts for comfort.
Toni parked the truck and opened the leather curtain to look after Cassey.
"How's it hangin' honey?" she said.
"I think your honey has broken her ass..." Cassey growled.
"Oh damn, I've always loved that particular piece of you..." Toni replied.
"I wish I had your sense of humor."
"Yeah, sorry," Toni said and moved into the sleeper cab. She opened a small locker and found a mirror.
Toni clicked on the light, and held the mirror so Cassey could see the colorful bruise spreading out across her shapely backside and down the side and back of her left thigh.
"Whoa..." Toni said disbelieving.
"I'll second that!" Cassey replied, somewhat startled.
"How many different colors is that? Five, six?" Toni said, and began to count.
"No idea, but it feels like 50," Cassey said and winced, carefully avoiding putting pressure on the injury.
"Do you want to go with me to the cafeteria, or do you just want to stay here and drool on my T-shirt?" Toni asked as she put the mirror away.
"Stay here and drool if you don't mind. I think I'll try to get some sleep," Cassey answered.
"How's your wrist and your lip?" Toni asked.
"Wrist's fine now, must've just been the impact that hurt, but the lip stings like hell."
"I hate to see you hurtin', honey." Toni reached in and gently caressed Cassey's arm.
"Thanks. It sucks, let me tell you..."
"I'll bet. I'll be back later, OK?"
"OK, and... please lock the doors. The elastic band on my panties is pinching me like crazy, so I'm gonna have to take 'em off."
"Oh?" Toni said, suddenly interested.
"Yeah, but if you get any funny ideas you better bottle them for later, 'cos, frankly, I won't be in the mood for *anything* tonight..."
"Oh..." Toni said in a really sad voice, causing Cassey to chuckle.
"I'll lock the doors. Try to get some rest, huh? I'll bring you some food, a Coke and lots of salt and grease to make you feel better," Toni said and kissed Cassey on the shoulder.
Toni was busy watching an old gurgling percolator fill up a Styrofoam cup with a brown liquid that was supposed to be coffee when she heard a man behind her say,
She turned around ready to punch the jerk's lights out, but was instead faced with a broadly smiling Jackson.
"Who ya callin' toots, ya big lug?" Toni said and laughed, slapping the big man in his gut.
"Whoa, Toni! I thought I was gonna pee my pants from the look in your eyes when you turned around!"
"Yeah, well... I tend to react that way."
"No shit. Is that coffee?" Jackson said as he looked at the indescribable contents of the cup.
"No, I don't know what the hell this is. But I'll drink it anyway," Toni said and shrugged, before grabbing the Styrofoam cup.
"Did you order yet?" Jackson said and looked at the menu display above them.
"Yeah. It should be right here."
Within a minute or so, a waitress put a large plate with a burger on the counter.
"Here you go, Ma'am. That'll be $4.98."
"And a coffee," Toni said and pointed at the cup.
"Then it's $5.98."
Toni handed the waitress a handful of coins and grabbed the tray.
"Come on, let's find a table and talk, huh?" she said.
"Ha ha, yeah, that was a funny story. Man," Toni said. The coffee had been horrendous, but her dinner had actually been good for a change. She wiped her mouth with a napkin and threw it down on the empty plate.
"Yeah. We've experienced a lot of stuff, haven't we?" Jackson said.
"By the way, you were a medic... is there anything I can do to ease the pain of a bruise that looks like it's going to be the size of New Mexico...? Any secret medic tricks?"
"You don't look like you're in pain, Toni...?"
"Nah, it's not for me, it's for... someone."
"Someone I know?"
"What is this? Twenty Questions? You've met her. The hitchhiker."
"... not the *blonde* hitchhiker with the green eyes?" he said and wiggled his eyebrows.
"The one and the same."
"Well well well. I saw the connection right away."
"BS, buddy. I didn't see it for another two weeks."
Jackson laughed out loud.
"Well, ahem, back to business. A bruise? Large bruises can be real painful. How did it happen?"
Toni filled Jackson in on the events of the evening.
"Yeah, she's like that. Very strong... but this bruise is real painful. It's about 8 by 10 inches."
"Ouch! Where is it?"
"On her left buttocks, and going down her thigh."
"O... K," he said and winced.
"... well, I can't really give you any tips. Time is the best healer, Toni."
"I know, it's just... I just hate to see her in pain."
"Toni, you're head over heels with this girl, aren't you?"
"Yeah. I guess I am," she said and fidgeted with her fork.
"Do you think I could meet her? I'd love to shake her hand."
"It's not going to be tonight, Jackson, she's really hurting. I promised to buy her some food, and after that it's about time for me to hit the sack anyway, but tell you what, how about tomorrow morning instead?"
"Deal. Are you leaving at dawn as usual?"
"Hard to say this time. Oh, by the way, we're parked way over in the boonies, I'm hauling a chemical tanker," Toni said and started to get up.
"OK. Hey, I just remembered: As long as the bruise is throbbing there's still some way to go. When it changes into 'needles and pins', it's getting better," he said and put on his jacket.
"Oh? Right, I'll ask her. Thanks, Jackson, and good night."
Toni waved at her friend as he left the cafeteria, and then she went back to the counter to order a medium cheeseburger with fries and a can of Coke for Cassey.
Toni closed the driver's-side door quietly. She could hear Cassey's lazy breathing and knew her partner was sleeping.
She placed the paper bag with the food on the dashboard with great care so it wouldn't make any noise. On the other hand, the smell alone would do it, Toni thought and chuckled to herself. She closed the privacy curtains and locked the doors.
In the sleeper cab, Cassey stirred and yawned.
"Honey?" she said and clicked on the little reading light.
"Right here, Cassey. Something wrong?" Toni answered.
"No, I'm just lonely in here," Cassey said and carefully rolled over so she could sit up.
She started to sniff about, and within seconds her eyes lit up like emerald suns.
"Food!" she growled, sounding like a starved grizzly bear.
"Bought you a cheeseburger, if you're up for it?" Toni said.
"Listen, I'll have to be comatose for not to be up for a burger."
"... and fries, and a Coke."
"You're a goddess, and you sure know how to spoil a girl," Cassey said as she grabbed the bag with the food.
The junkfood was disposed with in record time, proving that even though Cassey's rear end was hurting, the other end worked just fine.
"Toni?" Cassey said in a strangely subdued voice, still sitting on the edge of the bed, putting all the weight on her right buttock.
"I... I have a little problem."
"How can I help?" Toni said and was quickly by her partner's side.
"I... gotta pee."
"Oh. I can't help you with that."
"I guess you can't. If I were a guy, I'd just use a bottle."
"We don't even have a bottle, honey..."
"Oh..." Cassey said, and shifted her position on the bed.
"Geez, we're half a mile away from the restrooms," Toni said and winced.
"Yeah, well... I'm not sure I could make it that far, anyway."
"I'd rather you didn't wet our bed, honey..."
"No shit? I guess I'm gonna have to squat in the shadows somewhere... help me get my jeans on, please?"
"Sure," Toni said and started looking for their reserve roll of toilet paper.
Toni helped a fully dressed Cassey down the ladder, and left her to do her business behind the tandem wheels, in the shadow of the trailer.
Cassey came back out, still limping, and sporting an embarrassed look on her face.
"Christ, how humiliating."
"When ya gotta go, ya gotta go..." Toni offered in sympathy.
"Good thing we're alone out here... I couldn't have done it with an audience."
"Yeah, there isn't anything out here but snakes and lizards."
"We're in Louisiana, honey. Plenty of critters here."
"I wanna go home, Toni," Cassey said, and pretended to pout.
"Soon, dear, soon."
Cassey yawned and stretched, after going through the strenuous process of undressing.
"Did you catch some sleep while I was away?" Toni asked.
"I think I did, yeah."
Toni took off her boots and socks and prepared for bedtime - or rather, not, since she was planning to sleep across the seats.
"Hey, you're not going to sleep out there, are you?" Cassey suddenly said.
"No way, your back'll kill you tomorrow. Get in here, will ya."
"Are you sure? I don't want to cause you any discomfort," Toni said as she took her T-shirt off.
"Honey, the days when you have to ask if we can share a bed are long gone."
"All right, all right. Hey, you'll never guess who I ran into in the cafeteria."
"Jackson. You remember Jackson?"
"He told me that as soon as your pain changes from a throbbing to a 'needles and pins' kinda thing you're on your way to recovery. What does it feel like now?" Toni said as she unbuckled her jeans.
"Throbbing," Cassey said muffled from the sleeper cab.
"So... you were discussing my ass with a guy?" Cassey said and giggled.
"Yep. He wanted to come out right away and get a good look at it, but I told him to wait until tomorrow," Toni said as she sat down next to her partner.
"... you're kidding..."
"Cross my heart," Toni said as she ran her fingers through Cassey's golden hair, and gave her a good night kiss on the cheek.
"What am I? A freak show? Come watch the bruised lady, only 25 cents?"
"He used to be a medic in the army."
"Maybe so, but my ass was never in the army..." Cassey growled as she went to lie down again.
"Don't worry, I'll protect your good name and posterior," Toni whispered in Cassey's ear as she turned off the reading light.
"That makes me feel SO much better," Cassey said out loud into the darkness.
Cassey woke up in her favorite position: sprawled across Toni's body. She loved being this intimate with her partner, feeling her heartbeat and hearing her soft snore.
Toni stirred and stretched. She opened her eyes, and looked straight into Cassey's emerald green orbs.
"Good morning honey. How do you feel today?" Toni whispered.
"Better, thanks," Cassey replied and leaned over to kiss Toni on the lips.
It was only supposed to be a 'good morning' kiss, but soon the fire burned brightly in both of them.
Cassey's hand snuck its way inside Toni's shirt and began to caress the older woman's stomach, gradually working its way upwards. Their kisses became more passionate, and pretty soon Cassey had forgotten all about her aching backside. A quiet moan escaped her lips as Toni started to remove Cassey's t-shirt...
"Yo, Toni. You in there?"
Cassey buried her face in Toni's t-shirt, and Toni beat her fist into the wall of the sleeper cab.
"Not again! What the hell have we done to deserve this!" Cassey said into Toni's shirt, and giggled.
Toni took a second to control her breath and run her fingers through her damp bangs.
"Hang on, I'll be right there, Jackson!" she said loudly.
"I'm gonna kill him," Toni growled to Cassey as she left the sleeper cab.
She removed the privacy curtains and rolled the window down.
"Yes?" she said in a menacing tone.
"Hi, Toni, I... you're kinda... ah, flushed. Did I interrupt anything?"
"Yes!" she growled.
"Do you want me to come back later, or..." he started to say, but Toni cut him off.
"Never mind now, Jackson. Give us ten minutes, OK?"
"Sure. How about I'll go and get us some coffee, huh?"
"Ten minutes, not a second sooner," she repeated, and rolled the window up before he could answer.
"Right," Jackson said to the closed window.
Just to make double sure he wouldn't get Toni even more angry with him than she already was, he waited until thirteen minutes had passed to return to the truck with a tray loaded with three Styrofoam cups and various small bags of milk and sugar.
Toni was waiting by the truck and greeted him with a scowl.
"Good morning, Toni," he said sheepishly.
"'morning, Jackson," she said, and lifted an eyebrow.
"Anyways, I've brought you some coffee, but I don't know who prefers what, so I've taken a bit of everything."
"Smells great. Don't worry buddy, I forgive you. Don't know if Cassey does, though, she's known to hold a grudge," Toni said, and smiled off Jackson's concerned look.
"Hey, is that a whipped cream donut I see on that tray?" Cassey said as she was climbing down to ground level.
"But she can be bribed..." Toni said and chuckled.
"Yes it is. It's yours if you want it. I know Toni doesn't eat breakfast, so..." Jackson said and laughed nervously. He placed the tray on the bottom step of the ladder and took his own coffee cup.
"Oh you better believe I want it. 'Morning, Jackson." Cassey said with a smile and poured milk and sugar into her cup before grabbing the sticky pastry.
"It's nice to see you again. But... you've got to work on your timing. It sucks," she said as she munched on the donut.
"Ah, yes. That's a promise. I'll arrive a little later the next time."
"A lot later," Toni added to herself, which caused Cassey to choke slightly on the last bite of the donut.
"Which reminds me, my backside is a lot better today, so I think I'll keep it to myself, if you don't mind," Cassey said to Jackson.
Jackson looked very puzzled at Toni.
"Ah, I kinda joked last night that you wanted to come out and look at Cassey's bruise," Toni said, trying not to look at the expression on Cassey's face.
"Oh. I see. No, what I wanted was to just talk with you. That's all," Jackson said, and continued:
"But actually, that gives me an idea. Cassey, how about riding with me until we reach a truck stop called "Wynn's" just outside of New Orleans? Toni told me last night that's where you're headed. I'm continuing onwards to Florida."
"Hey, that's a fun idea. I'd like to get to know you better, too. If it's all right with you, Toni?" Cassey said.
"Of course, why shouldn't it be? I'll just be by my lonesome self, listening to my old Country & Western tapes with songs about long lost loves and broken friendships," she said and took her baseball cap off, before pretending to wipe a tear away.
"You're breaking my heart. Don't forget the one where the dog was run over," Cassey added with a wink.
"Mercy sakes, no. That's my favorite."
Jackson's eyebrows went up, but within a few seconds Toni started laughing.
"Go on, you two. We're wasting daylight here. See ya at lunch. C'mere..." she said, pulled Cassey close to her, and gave her a quick little kiss.
Jackson smiled. Toni had changed so much she was almost a new woman.
Toni gave them a quick salute with her airhorns as she drove past and headed out onto the highway. Jackson put his fire-engine red Kenworth in gear and followed the black Mack.
"Wow, this is so weird to see our own truck this way!" Cassey said as they pulled out of the parking lot.
"I can imagine. We haven't been properly introduced. My name's Jackson Jefferies," Jackson said and took his hand off the steering wheel to greet Cassey.
"Cassandra Peters, everybody calls me Cassey. Hello," Cassey said, and shook his hand.
"I have to tell you right away, Cassey, if you could meet the Toni I knew from a few years back, you wouldn't recognize her. She's changed so much it's almost hard to believe. I really need to thank you for that," Jackson said.
"Aw hell, I didn't do anything. It was always within her, you know..."
An hour or so went by with the two of them talking about this, that and everything.
"Hey, Cassey, you want a sodapop or something?" Jackson said.
"It's in the back."
Cassey went into the sleeper which was very different from the one in the Mack. Because Jackson's truck was a full-size cab-over, the sleeper held a double bed instead of a single, and there was plenty of room left over for shelves.
"Whoa, you've got a fridge in here... and a TV!"
"And a sound system with six speakers," Jackson said and beamed.
"Can I get you anything to drink?" Cassey asked.
"No thanks, I'm fine."
"This must've been really expensive," Cassey said as she sat down in her seat and opened a can of Coke.
"Well, I guess. I'm still paying off on it," he said and laughed.
"We don't have a fridge in Toni's truck, just a cooler box. I don't think a fridge would fit in there. We don't have a TV either, but we've never had trouble killing time," Cassey said and chuckled.
"Not sure I need to hear about that..." Jackson said and cleared his throat.
"Don't worry, I'm not a kiss and tell kinda gal."
"... good, 'cos Toni would wipe me out if she even thought I'd heard something I shouldn't have."
"Yeah, she's a feisty woman, all right."
"How did you meet Toni, Jackson?" Cassey asked, as the landscape flew by outside the windows.
"Well, it's a bit of a long story, so I better tell it from the start. When I came back from the jungle in '71, I didn't have a job. Toni's dad advertised in the local paper... this was still in Arizona, by the way. Anyway, he advertised that he needed drivers and skilled mechanics. I wasn't any of those things, but I applied anyway. We got along very well from the beginning, and after a few months of working in the garage he paid for my truck license..."
"That was nice of him," Cassey added.
"Yeah, I thought so. And then, one day I was waiting for a load, and this old rust brown Freightliner pulled up, and out climbed Toni. And I... well, she's a bombshell, you know that, so I was hit bad. I really tried to butter up the ol' girl, but I never got anywhere. Finally, one day she was fed up with me, and told me in so many words what I could do with myself, and why. Fortunately we became great friends instead."
"Awwww, that's Toni in a nutshell. Never one to mince the words."
The CB came alive.
"Breaker one-nine to the fire-engine red K-Whopper at my backdoor, this is Little Toni, over."
"Do you mind?" Cassey asked Jackson.
"No, no, be my guest," he said and laughed.
"You've got the Green Eyed Goddess, breaker. What can we do for you? Over."
"Hello Green Eyed Goddess, switch to channel 22, over."
"10-4, buddy, switching to 22, stand by," Cassey said, and released the button on the mic.
"It's a private channel. Technically it's still public, but everyone respects the request for privacy," Jackson said.
"Oh, I see."
Jackson turned the dial to 22.
"Go ahead," he said to Cassey.
"Breaker two-two, Little Toni do you copy? Over."
"I'm here, Cassey. We don't have to use the lingo now. So, how's it going? Over."
"We're doing great. Jackson's been impressing me with a Coke chilled in his fridge, over," Cassey said and smiled.
"Has he now? Yeah, well, he would, over."
Jackson laughed out loud.
"He heard that, over," Cassey said into the mic.
"He was supposed to. It's so damn quiet over here, I really miss you, over."
Cassey wanted to answer, but she found herself all choked up.
"That's... that's nice to hear, Little Toni. There's only about..."
"Hour, hour and a half," Jackson said.
"... An hour, hour and a half until we break for lunch. I promise I'll spoil you rotten for the rest of the trip, over," Cassey said, earning a ear-to-ear grin from Jackson.
"Oh, well, I guess I better get a grip, then, over and out," Toni said, rather despondently.
Cassey hung up the mic.
"She can't live without me," she said to Jackson, and smiled.
An hour and twenty minutes later.
"Breaker breaker, Wynn's coming up in two miles, over," Toni's voice said from the CB.
Jackson picked up the mic.
"10-Roger, breaker. I'll follow you to the haz-lot, over and out."
Toni's turning signal came on, and Jackson's red Kenworth followed Toni's black Mack off the highway and into the giant parking lot.
Toni quickly found a slot in the special lot designated for hazardous goods, and waited for Jackson to park.
Cassey climbed down from the Kenworth and closed the door behind her. Jackson did the same thing on the other side of the truck.
"It's been a real pleasure driving with you, Jackson," Cassey said and smiled broadly before hugging the tall man.
"Likewise, Cassey. If you and Toni ever swing by Scottsdale, gimme a visit, huh?"
"We'd love to."
Out of the corner of his eye, Jackson saw Toni approaching them. He quickly winked at Cassey, and whispered so only she could hear it,
"Follow my lead!"
Cassey nodded, always ready to make a little fun with her partner.
As soon as Toni was within earshot, Jackson said,
"So I bid thee farewell, my Fair Lady, and I thank you!"
Jackson picked up Cassey's hand, brought it to his lips and gave it a real smooch.
Toni halted mid-step, and her eyebrows shot up... and then down as she scrunched up her face.
Cassey took her hand back, and held it to her bosom and sighed while she was looking towards the heavens.
Toni put her hands on her hips and cleared her throat.
"Excuse you! 'Did I interrupt something?'" she said, and mimicked Jackson's words from this morning.
"Oh no, we were just wrapping up, weren't we, Jackson?" Cassey said in a sing-song voice.
"We sure were..." Jackson said, and made the mistake of looking at Toni's face.
"Oh rats, there she goes giving me the Evil Eye again!" he said and laughed.
Toni was scowling fiercely at the two of them, but couldn't hold it for long and soon her face cleared into a big grin.
Cassey moved over and put her arm around Toni's waist and gave her a little squeeze.
"Miss me?" she said.
"More than you think, honeybuns," Toni said and squeezed back.
"All's well that ends well, and that gives me a perfect opportunity to say goodbye. Catch ya on the flip-flop, huh?" Jackson said and shook their hands.
"You bet," Cassey said.
"Stay safe, big guy," Toni added.
Jackson climbed back up in his rig, and gave the women a salute with his horns as he left the parking lot.
"Damn, what a great guy," Cassey said on the way back to Toni's truck.
"I'm glad you think so. Jackson's my best friend," Toni said.
"Oh? Where does that leave me?" she said and squeezed Toni's hand.
"Don't worry, honeybuns, you fill out all the other important positions in my life," Toni said.
"Yeah? Are you thinking of any positions in particular?" she said and winked at Toni.
"I might be. I might be..."
3 pm, at a freight central just outside of New Orleans.
Cassey breathed a sigh of relief when they parted company with the chemical tanker. Toni had been right, there were literally hundreds of trailers going West, so they could pick and choose. But that was for later.
Toni wanted to give Cassey a little time to relax, so they parked in a remote corner of the freight central, and set up two foldable chairs at the rear of the truck so they could catch some rays undisturbed.
"I'm really sorry, Cassey, looks like we won't be able to get into downtown with the truck," Toni apologized after asking around.
"It's all right, honey. Don't worry about it. I've already taken half a dozen photos here... which reminds me, there's something I've been thinking about..." Cassey said and handed Toni a can of Coke, before cracking open one for herself.
"Do you think truckers would be willing to pay if I took pictures of them and their rigs? Kinda like wedding pictures, just with a truck."
Toni pondered that for a moment.
"Well, Cassey, I hate to shoot you down, but I don't think you'd get anywhere with that. I mean, OK, the cowboys with the spit-shined trucks would jump at the opportunity, but don't forget that most truckers aren't like that. They're just hard working men and women who only just have enough money to fill 'er up at the next truck stop."
"Mmmm. Yeah, guess you're right. It's just that I've been wanting to help out more in the household, you know... and the photography is the only thing I'm really good at."
"I understand that, honey. I just don't think that idea will work."
Cassey shook her head, and scratched her hair.
"Well, there's a good idea in there somewhere. It needs some fine-tuning, that's all."
"Yeah. Don't give up the dream, honey," Toni said, and gave Cassey's shoulder a squeeze.
Toni leaned down and started to pull off her boots. Her socks came off next, and she wiggled her toes.
"Ahhhhh!" she said and leaned back in the chair.
"Breaker one-nine, breaker one-nine, we have a major toxic leak in the area, be advised to stay clear!" Cassey said in a distorted voice, and gave Toni a crooked smile.
"Whassamatter, getting a little sensitive, are ya?"
"No, but... cough, cough..." Cassey answered, and pretended her eyes were watering.
"I challenge you to take your sneakers off," Toni said.
"... All right. I guess we're all alone out here, so we're not endangering anyone," Cassey said, and looked around.
She took her shoes off and put them aside. She got up and turned her chair at a ninety degree angle to Toni's before sitting back down again. She moved her legs across Toni's lap.
"What's the verdict, your Honor?"
Toni didn't answer, but instead grabbed her throat with both hands and pretended to have a fit of some kind.
Cassey raised an eyebrow, which caused Toni to start laughing.
"Hey, you challenged me. I did it, so what do I win?" Cassey said.
"Oh, give me a minute to think of something," Toni said, and slowly moved a finger up the outside of one of Cassey's gloriously tanned legs, all the while looking straight into her partner's eyes. As the finger disappeared underneath the edge of Cassey's orange cotton shirts, still climbing upwards on her thigh, the blonde woman moved her legs down from Toni's lap.
"As much as I appreciate the sentiment, we're hardly in private, Toni," she said and looked around again, frowning slightly.
"We could be standing in the middle of Times flippin' Square in New York City, and I'd still love you openly."
"I know you would, but I'm sorry... I just can't, OK? I just can't. I want to keep our love out of the world's narrow-minded eyes," Cassey said and looked away.
"I understand, honey. I'm sorry," Toni said, and put out her hand.
"'s all right," Cassey said with a smile, squeezing Toni's hand.
A radio blasting out of the opened windows of a truck slowly driving past shook them out of their little cozy nest, and back into the real world.
"Well... I think we better get over there to find a westbound trailer. I'm starting to long for our bed back home," Toni said and started to put her boots on.
It didn't take them long to find a trailer headed for New Mexico. They settled for a load of furniture, as no danger could possibly come from hauling that.
After the paperwork had been dealt with, they started the long, long journey back to Albuquerque. A 1200 miles trip that Toni wasn't particularly looking forward to, since this load had a very tight deadline, forcing them to fit a three-day drive into a two-day period. Toni knew she would be wiped out at the end of each day, and when she was that tired, she became grumpy. She just hoped she wouldn't be lashing out too much at Cassey.
"Good lord almighty, I need a shower!" Cassey said to Toni after sniffing her t-shirt on their way to the cafeteria. It had taken Toni longer than usual to find a parking space because the truck stop they had chosen was so crowded, and Cassey was getting impatient for the feel of the soothing water on her body.
"Yeah," Toni added.
"What? Are you sayin' I stink?"
"No, I'm saying your scent is quite strong, honeybuns."
"Yeah, well, number one, I didn't get to shower last night, number two, we've driven in goddamned 104F heat all day, number three... your scent is kinda strong, too, darlin'!" Cassey said.
"Never said it wasn't," Toni countered.
"Good, 'cos it is."
"Do we really want to have a body odor contest?" Toni asked and winked at her partner.
"No. Guess not. You always win."
"Yeah, but that's because trucker sweat beats all."
Cassey looked at Toni, and laughed out loud.
"God, we're so gross. OK, here's the plan, first shower, then food, then back here to catch up on what we were cheated out of this morning."
"Check, check, and... check," Toni said, and opened the door to the cafeteria.
A little later on. The two women were on their way back to the truck after showering and eating.
"Much better," Cassey hummed, and looked intently at Toni's long, black, and freshly washed hair.
"Yeah, you seem a lot fresher, too," Toni said.
"Yep. Not that'll last long, though. I plan on being quite sweaty again in a little while," Cassey said, and gave Toni a bump with her hip, which she immediately regretted when her abused backside gave off a throb of pain.
"... ouch. Crap."
"Is your butt still giving you grief?" Toni asked as she heard Cassey complaining.
"Not nearly as much as yesterday, but yeah..."
"I'll be real gentle, then," Toni said.
"We always say that, and yet we always end up getting as wild as Tarzan in the jungle," Cassey said and giggled.
"You do. I'm just trying to hang on, honeybuns."
"Oh sure. I can remember once or twice where you nearly blew me straight off the bed back home... or was that someone else, huh?"
"Well, that's just because you wind me up like a clock. Every coiled spring has to get released eventually," Toni said as they reached the black Mack.
"I'll say. And... the way I see it, you owe me for the massage from the other night, and this morning," Cassey said and put her hands in her back pockets, smiling seductively at her partner.
"The massage, you bet, but I couldn't do anything about this morning, darlin'."
"He's your friend, and he interrupted us. That's two you owe me..."
Toni moved real close and whispered to Cassey:
"How about I just drive you to the brink of insanity instead?"
A wolf-like grin spread out over Cassey's bright features.
"Threat or promise?"
"Guarantee, baby. Guarantee."
Not long after, Toni and Cassey were sitting on the edge of the bed in the sleeper cab, kissing passionately. They had liberated themselves from the constraints of their clothes, and were lovingly exploring each other's bodies.
Reluctantly, Cassey broke off the contact to get some air into her lungs. She moved her leg around Toni, and scooted real close to her partner. Their breasts touched, sending off signals that none of them could ignore. The electricity between them was tangible, as was the hunger in their eyes. They started kissing again.
"Come on, lie down..." Toni whispered. Cassey did as asked, and got down on her back on the bed. Toni slipped down next to her and started to draw intricate patterns on Cassey's stomach, sometimes just touching the upper edge of the triangle of blonde curls, sometimes moving her fingers up between the younger woman's breasts.
Cassey wanted to kiss Toni, but she didn't allow it.
"Oh no, not yet," she whispered.
Toni's hands had centered on Cassey's chest, and she leaned down to kiss each hardened nipple. As Toni's tongue danced around the inviting peaks, Cassey started to whimper and reached out, but Toni still wouldn't allow her partner to return the favor.
Toni continued to caress Cassey's body, and soon she was making an achingly slow descent into the blonde curls, putting small, yet loving kisses on Cassey's stomach on her way there.
As Toni performed magic with her tongue, Cassey found it difficult to even remember how to breathe. Her body was humming with energy, and it wasn't long before Toni's TLC indeed brought her to the edge of insanity. Cassey couldn't hear, she couldn't see, she couldn't do anything but feel - feel Toni's tongue on and inside of her, and feel the incredible passion that filled the small room, and the even smaller space between them.
And then, almost without warning, the world disappeared, and everything dissolved into one tiny little grain of light. It lingered there for a heartbeat before exploding into a billion colors, hurdling through Cassey with the speed of light. She found herself drifting through an unknown, colorful universe where the real world had no meaning, and she loved it.
Finally, and slowly, reality was restored. Cassey opened her eyes to see if she was still alive, and discovered that she was. Her heart was hammering away, and she was completely out of breath.
"Oh gaaaaaawd..." she croaked in a hoarse voice.
Toni moved up and cradled her still confused partner. Cassey had trouble focusing her eyes, but Toni fixed that with a thorough kiss. Cassey was startled to taste herself on Toni's lips, but found she enjoyed the sensation.
Toni chuckled, and snug even closer to her partner.
"Jeez honeybuns, you sure know how to make your presence felt, you know that?" Toni whispered.
Cassey, completely engulfed in the best afterglow she had ever experienced, could only smile.
"Well, us cowgirls just lurve all you buckin' broncos..." Toni said, and used her tongue to play with Cassey's earlobe.
"Please, honey, no more... I'm... I'm..."
Cassey could only nod.
"I'm surprised the fire department hasn't arrived yet. That scream of yours sounded like a fire alarm," Toni whispered, grinning wickedly.
"... I screamed?"
"Oh yeah, my ears are still ringing..."
"Poor you..." Cassey said, and giggled.
"Mmmm, and that was just the first one I owe you," Toni whispered into Cassey's ear.
"Oh god, no more, Toni, you'll kill me!" Cassey said, and turned over to face her partner.
Cassey looked at the fire still burning in Toni's blue eyes and decided it was high time to even the score. She let her hand glide slowly down her partner's long body, earning a throaty moan from Toni in the process, before moving to the end of the bed so Toni could get comfortable. Cassey started to caress the taller woman's long thighs, kissing her way closer and closer to the jet black triangle in Toni's center.
When Cassey's lips found their target, Toni arced her back and let out a passionate moan that betrayed the level of need found within her.
The sound wasn't lost on Cassey, who became even more determined to make this the best evening it could possibly be, and she couldn't help but think,
'Oh yeah... This party's just getting started.'
Toni woke up with her head resting on her favorite pillow - right between Cassey's breasts. Her hands were still wrapped around the feisty blonde, and she couldn't move them without disturbing her sleeping partner, so she didn't.
Instead she listened to Cassey's relaxed heartbeat, and thinking about the incredible love-making they had shared last night. By the end of it, they had both been reduced to boneless creatures, collapsing in a heap, one on top of the other... and loving every second of it.
They had shared many such moments in the past, of course, but there was something very special and almost magical about last night. Toni couldn't quite put her finger on it, but they had both been so... well, uninhibited. Free of concern about anything, they had just tried to make it the best night it could possibly be.
Again, and again, and... the thought made Toni giggle, causing Cassey to stir underneath her.
As the blonde woman opened her eyes, Toni could see those thoughts weren't hers alone. Toni moved up Cassey's athletic body and gave her partner a searing good morning kiss.
"Ohhhh yeaahhmmmmm," Cassey responded with a purr.
"It's gonna be a bitch of a day today, honeybuns. We're going to be driving for 11 hours, and that's only halfway home," Toni whispered to her.
"What time is it," Cassey said and tried to focus so she could see the little digital clock on the shelf of the sleeper cab.
"Damn, that's the middle of the night..." Cassey said and yawned.
"Yep, but unfortunately, we've gotta go," Toni said, and sat up on the bed, stretching her weary muscles and joints, making a few of them pop and crack.
She searched for her panties, and found them down one of her boots. Briefly wondering how the heck they could've ended up down there, she put them on and started looking for the rest of her clothes.
Cassey stretched and writhed her catlike and very, very naked body around on the bed. Toni felt her ears burn from the sight. Oh damn, if we just had a little time... but no. She rubbed her face instead, and continued to get dressed.
Twenty minutes later, inside the truck stop. Both women had felt somewhat sticky after last night's excesses, so they decided to take a shower before eating.
Toni looked on in amazement as Cassey wolfed down two bagels and a donut with pink frosting. She looked at her own cup of black coffee, and wondered for the umpteenth time how people could have so different morning routines... and how on Earth Cassey was able to maintain her slim waistline with such an appetite. Mysteries of life.
"All done," Cassey said and wiped her mouth with a napkin.
Toni couldn't help but notice that the young blonde was absolutely glowing this morning. A memory from last night flashed through Toni's brain - a delightful one, where she watched in awe as Cassey bucked wildly. A naughty grin spread out on the dark-haired woman's face. Cassey picked it up.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
"Oh, no need to pay. You were there," Toni said with a goofy smile.
"Hmmm..." Cassey said and wiggled her eyebrows, fondly remembering one or two things of her own.
"So, what's the plan for today, Toni?"
"Drive, drive, drive and then drive some more. I want to get as far as we possibly can today. I know I'm going to be bombed out tonight, but the less distance we have left tomorrow, the better," Toni said, and took a sip of the coffee.
Cassey nodded in agreement, but suddenly realized something...
"Hey, does that mean we're not gonna stop to eat!?"
Toni chuckled into her nearly empty cup.
"No, honey, I'd never do that to you. Don't worry, we'll stop for lunch, only it's not going to be for hours on end, 's all."
"Thank goodness. I'm prone to grumpiness when I don't have anything to eat."
"No shit," Toni said flatly.
"Har har!" Cassey growled.
An hour later, out on the road.
They were driving on a boring stretch of road, so Cassey's thoughts started to wander. Last weekend, she and Toni had visited their local public library and Cassey had picked up a few books on how to extract data from old church records. It proved to be a fascinating read, and Cassey's interest in the subject had been piqued.
"Have you ever thought about looking at your family tree, Toni?"
"Thinking about that book? Nah, I haven't. Not really, anyway."
"I've been thinking about it a little bit since I read it last week. I know my great grand father on my dad's side was an immigrant from Germany some time in the 1890's, but of course he died long before I was born. My grandpa died of pneumonia when I was only four, so I never really knew him either. I don't really have anything to work on. Do you know where you're from? Willis sounds English...?"
"I'm not sure, but I think I originate from Ireland, although I don't look Irish at all. You look more Irish than I do, honeybuns, with your green eyes and your reddish-blonde hair," Toni said and laughed.
"Yeah, I guess I do."
"I seem to recall my grandpa always talked about the Irish famine of the 1860's-something, and that's why his dad took a ship over here to start over," Toni said.
"Sounds logical," Cassey added.
"Damn, that must've been a hellish journey, huh? Weeks and weeks on the Atlantic, exposed to storms and everything? I'm glad I was born in an age where we can fly all over the world in a matter of hours, if we want to. Not that I've ever tried it, though," Cassey said.
"When we win a million bucks in the lottery, I'll invite you to Rio de Janeiro, or somewhere!" Toni said and laughed.
"Rio? Honestly, I'd rather go back to New Orleans, if you don't mind," Cassey answered.
"You got it. Of course, we need to win the money first, but when we do, we're going to New Orleans. That's a promise!"
A little later on.
"Hey Toni, how do you feel about shaving armpits and legs, and stuff...?" Cassey asked.
"Why? Do you think I'm fuzzy?"
"It's not you, it's for me. Last summer, when it was so damn hot, all the women in the office who are my age wore, you know, breezy clothes, and stuff. In fact it was only the old spinsters and me who didn't," Cassey said.
"OK, I can see where you're going with that."
"Well, if the summer's equally hot, why don't you try it? I think you'd look sensational in a more revealing T or something, all low cut and... oh yeah. Combine that with your tanned, muscular legs in 'Daisy Dukes'..." Toni said and wiggled her eyebrows.
"Yeah, yeah. Roll your tongue back in. No, seriously, have you ever tried to shave your legs or armpits? It's prickly as hell, isn't it?"
"Yep. I've tried it. All over," Toni added with a smirk.
"Oh," Cassey said, and for some unexplainable reason felt embarrassed.
"Do I want to know how that came about?" She said after a minute or so.
"It was soon after my 18th birthday, back in '66. I'd met an older woman who was into that clean-shaven thing. Among other things. She... shaved me. Armpits and down."
"I see... When you say 'older woman', how much older?"
"Oh she was... ten years older than me."
"And now you're seven years older than me. Have you corrupted me the same way she did you?" Cassey asked in a teasing tone. She wasn't entirely sure she wanted to hear the answer, however.
"No. No way. Even if I wanted to, your backbone is much too strong to allow yourself to be corrupted."
"Thanks. And your wasn't, back then?" Cassey said.
"Well, you have to remember, this was right in the middle of my rebellious streak. I did a truckload of idiotic stuff, just because I could. Basically, I was an egotistical asshole, only looking after number one. But trust me honey, that Toni will never return," Toni said.
"She won't. I'll make sure of that," Cassey said with such conviction it made Toni laugh.
"I believe you!" Toni said.
Cassey tried to imagine how Toni would look and feel completely shaved... nope, she didn't like that. Toni was perfect as she was.
Just after lunch.
Toni had been forced to pull over at a small diner because Cassey's stomach had been growling so loud it drowned out the CB.
The young blonde woman had bought a large cheeseburger and a Coke for herself... and a nice, healthy salad and a mineral water for Toni.
By the time Cassey finished off the last French fry, Toni was still chomping on the salad, which wasn't her favorite food by any stretch of the imagination.
"Do you like the salad, honey?" Cassey asked as she slurped down her soft drink.
"Oh yeah," Toni said in a drab tone.
"It's good for you."
"So is Castor Oil."
"Don't even think about it!" Toni rumbled.
Cassey jumped in her seat as the door to the cafeteria was slammed open. Three mean-looking young men walked in and went straight to a table. One of them beat his fist on the table top, causing the items there to jump about. A salt shaker fell to the ground, and the first man kicked it so it went flying across the floor, breaking in half and spreading the salt all over when it hit a chair.
"Where's the fuckin' waitress!" the first man said in an obnoxious tone of voice.
Toni wanted to get up, but Cassey put her hand on Toni's and shook her head.
A waitress sighed, picked up a tray and headed for the table where the three troublemakers sat.
"Hey, that's more like it!" One of the men said, and grabbed the waitress' rear end. She squirmed and tried to swat his hand away, but it only made his grip tighter.
"Get your hands off me, dude," she said, but this only lead to a chorus of jeers.
The cook came out from the kitchen. He was a big man, and by the look of his nose, not a stranger to fighting, either.
"What the hell's going on out here?" he said.
"We wanna order!" the first young man said, and his two cronies laughed.
"I said, get your hands OFF me!" the waitress shouted.
"I suggest you boys leave now... while you still can," the cook said.
"Make us, fatso!" the first man said.
The cook stepped closer, and the three troublemakers took that as a cue to start a fight. They kicked the table into the legs of the cook, and the first young man jumped up and started to swing wildly at the older man, getting the occasional hit in. The waitress was thrown to the floor and she started crying.
"Daddy, no! Please, somebody help my daddy!"
Cassey and Toni were out of their booth in a flash. Cassey helped the waitress up and moved her behind the counter. Toni gave the first man a hard shove, leaving the cook free to fight for himself.
"Thanks lady! I'm gonna teach those assholes a thing or two!" he roared, grabbed the first man by the collar and started to slap him around.
The two others grabbed hold of Toni's arms and were about to punch her when they were intercepted by Cassey, who was as taut as a prize fighter in a championship bout.
"Come on ya fuckers! Ya 'fraid of a couple a'girls?" she roared.
As expected, the remaining two men weren't about to let that slip, so they attacked her. They shouldn't have.
Cassey rammed a fist into the first attacker's gut, which left him severely winded. As he doubled over, she stepped back and cannoned off a right hook to his chin that could've felled an oak tree, and that's pretty much what happened. His eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed in a heap.
The third troublemaker didn't know what to do against such wildcats, so he wisely gave up the fight.
"Get over here, ya chickenshit!" Cassey shouted, and clenched her fists.
"Keep that crazy bitch away from me!" he said to Toni, and scooted back as far as he could go to get away from Cassey's aggressive body language.
"Calm down, Cassey, it's over," Toni said to the still seething Cassey, very surprised over her partner's murderous temper. Cassey's t-shirt was straining from the pressure of her bulging arm muscles, and a vein was pumping strongly on the her neck. At first she didn't seem to hear Toni's words, but after a few seconds the message got through to her.
"Yeah, all right..." she said, and relaxed her arms.
Cassey turned around, and as the adrenaline slowly left her system, she felt her legs turn into rubber. She staggered back to the booth they previously sat at and leaned against the edge of the table, feeling like she was about to pass out.
Out in the yard a police cruiser arrived with flashing lights. Two officers got out and quickly arrested the three troublemakers. When the last remaining man said his friend had been decked by Cassey and that he wanted the police to do something about it, the sergeant looked at the heap on the floor, at the very large and imposing cook, and then at the petite frame and angelic features of the pale, and clearly shocked, young blonde woman. He rolled his eyes, and mumbled words about goddamned drugged-out hippies.
Toni turned to the cook.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Thanks for your help, Miss. How about I make us some coffee? "
Toni walked over to Cassey who was so pale that Toni was afraid that she might faint.
Suddenly Cassey felt her stomach tighten, and she rushed to the bathroom to throw up.
Afterwards, Toni gently cooled off her partner's neck and forehead with a damp handkerchief.
"Shhhh, Cassey, it's all right. Those creeps are gone," Toni whispered.
"Yeah," the younger woman said and rinsed her mouth with some water. She wiped her face with some wet paper tissues and threw them into the waste basket.
"Christ, I don't ever want to feel like that again... I was ready to kill 'em all. All the many times Tommy had humiliated and hit me just came to the surface. I just wanted to hurt those sons o'bitches so bad... it was pure hatred," Cassey said quietly, and sighed deeply.
"I understand, baby," Toni said and placed a loving kiss on Cassey's forehead.
There was a knock on the door leading to the bathroom, and from the other side, the waitress asked if Cassey was all right.
"We're fine, we'll be out in a minute!" Toni said back, before turning to Cassey.
"Are you up for it?"
"Yeah. Let's go."
They walked back into the diner where the cook and his daughter had already begun cleaning up the mess made in the fight. The cook looked at Cassey and winced in sympathy with the surprisingly frail looking young woman.
"Is your friend all right?" he asked Toni.
"Yeah. She just got a bit... over-excited, that's all."
"I know all about that. I used to be a boxer before I got the diner, well, punching bag is more like it... but, anyway, thanks for helping my little girl, I... don't have much money, so I can't offer you much..."
"Money? No way, man. If you put some of the coffee you're making into my thermos, we'll be grateful."
"... Hell, that's a deal, lady."
As Toni left to get her thermos from the truck, Cassey sat down at the same booth they had shared just minutes before.
The cook's daughter came over to her and sat down opposite her.
"Thank you so much for helping us," she said in a small voice.
Cassey's face had regained some of its color, but she was still feeling weak, so she only nodded.
"You're welcome," she said quietly, after a little pause.
"Oh boy, you're strong... you're the strongest woman I've ever seen... how did you get so many muscles?" the young girl said, completely in awe of Cassey's impressive arms.
"At one point, I had a lot of time on my hands, so I started working out," Cassey answered, mostly out of politeness - she really didn't want to have a conversation now.
Toni came back and went up to the counter with her thermos.
"Here ya go. I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name before? My name's Toni," she said.
"Harry Knox. Nice to meet ya," he said as he poured the steaming hot coffee into Toni's bottle, and then into a mug of his own.
"What about those punks? Won't they come back and cause more trouble?"
"They haven't been in here before. Maybe they'll come back, but if they do, I'll be ready for 'em," he said.
"How about I make your friend another burger, huh? Or some sandwiches? I have to do something."
"No thank you, Harry. The coffee is enough. But I'm going to grab a couple of these pouches of sugar, if you don't mind. My friend can't drink it black."
"Take the whole goddamn bowl if ya want!" Harry said and rumbled off a laugh.
"Are you ready, Cassey? I've got some hot coffee..." Toni said, and showed her the thermos.
"Mmmm. Nice talking to you..." Cassey said to the young girl, and tried to remember if she had mentioned her name.
"... Cindy," the girl answered.
"Cindy. I'm Cassey. Too bad it couldn't have been under better circumstances." They shook hands, and Cassey got up from the booth.
"Perhaps you'll swing by again, one day?" the girl said, still holding on to Cassey's hand.
"Maybe we will, Cindy," Cassey said with a smile that made Cindy's cheeks blush.
Toni opened the door to the diner, and they waved goodbye to the cook and his daughter.
As they drove off the diner's gravely parking lot, Toni saluted them with two stabs from the airhorns.
"I feel sorry for Cindy. She's lonely. There's no one here she can talk to who's her own age. I used to know that feeling all too well," Cassey said with a big sigh as she readjusted herself into the passenger seat.
"I know what you mean, honey," Toni said, as she went through the gears to get up to speed.
"Yeah. One day, someone cute and cuddly will walk in and steal her heart. And that'll only lead to trouble."
"Someone cute and cuddly... just like you. She liked you, you know," Toni said.
"I noticed. It only makes it harder for her," Cassey said and looked in the mirror at the diner, rapidly disappearing out of sight behind them.
Much later - they were driving into dusk.
Toni was dizzy and her shoulders were killing her, but she didn't want to admit it to Cassey.
'Jeez, you'd think I was 62 instead of 32. Can't even drive 11 goddamned hours without feeling like a ragdoll. Six-seven years ago I could have gone on for five more hours. I'm getting old,' Toni thought, and hated the idea.
Out on the road, the white lines separating the lanes were whizzing by, almost hypnotic in their repetitiveness, calling out to Toni like latter-day sirens...
"Are you all right, honey? You're holding the wheel in a death grip," Cassey suddenly asked.
Toni hadn't even noticed, but sure enough, her knuckles were all white. Damn. Oh well, no point in hiding it.
"I'm really tired."
"Can I help?"
"There's a truck stop coming up in about 8-9 miles, we'll stop for the night there."
"Yeah, but can I help you now?" Cassey asked again.
"Well, tell you what, if we just talk about... anything, really, that'll be a great help."
"Oh? Talking! I'm very good at talking. Talking is one of my many skills. Hmmm. Oh yeah, do you remember, when..." Cassey started, and didn't stop until they turned off the road and into the truck stop.
After they had parked, Toni leaned back into her seat and let out a long sigh, mirroring the sound of the truck's airbrakes.
"Pffffffffffffffffffffffffff..." she said, and rubbed her face, before looking at Cassey.
"Thanks kid, I might keep you yet," Toni said and winked.
"Gosh golly almighty, I think li'l ol' me would like it in your company," Cassey replied in her best Texan accent.
"Honeybuns, I think I need some sleep before eating, so why don't you go ahead and get some chow, and when you come back we'll swap," Toni said and yawned.
Cassey's stomach responded with a dangerous sounding growl.
"Good, because... I think the monster in there needs to be fed. Hey, will an hour be enough, or do you need more?"
"An hour sounds fine, but I don't want to keep you out of your bed, honey."
"Naw, I'm fine. I'm young, I don't need so much sle..." Cassey said and looked at Toni, who was giving her a raised eyebrow, with the bonus feature of an Evil Eye beneath it.
"... anyway, I'll be back in an hour and a bit. Sleep tight, and sweet dreams," Cassey said, barely stifling a giggle. She leaned over and kissed her partner.
"I only tease you because I love you, honey," she whispered to the older woman.
"I know. I'll lock the doors, so here's the keys. Go on. See ya later."
Cassey ordered a jumbo cheese burger with fries and a 7-Up. She spotted a table with a discarded newspaper on it, so she sat down there and ate.
There wasn't anything remotely interesting in the newspaper - it was from yesterday - so she wasn't distracted too much while eating. When she was done, she looked around. It was a typical truck stop, with overworked waitresses, sweaty, tired-looking truckers, and a constant cacophony of noises coming from the people eating and from the kitchen. Two electronic poker machines were jingling loudly in the corner, and the five phone booths were all occupied by truckers, no doubt calling their families.
The pool room was vacant, as was the TV room. Cassey looked at her watch and discovered that it was almost time for the late news. She'd watch that, and then go downstairs to grab a shower. That would fill out the hour and a bit she had promised Toni.
Cassey turned on the large TV, and grabbed a chair while the screen was warming up. She was joined by a couple of other people, clearly truckers. The TV room was 'for truckers only', which she strictly speaking wasn't, but she was suitably attired: a sweat-stained white t-shirt and a pair of slightly greasy blue jeans.
The other truckers looked at her, and grunted something that was probably 'hello'. Cassey nodded and grunted back.
'They accept me as one of theirs,' Cassey thought, and felt a pang of pride.
The anchor and the reporters spoke of the usual disasters and political scandals, followed by the sports and then the weather. Hot. Figures. Tomorrow's run was going to be just as tiresome as today's had been.
As the TV program changed into a rerun of some old sit-com, Cassey grabbed her bag with her towel and headed for the showers.
Out in the truck, Toni had barely had time to unbuckle her jeans and take her boots off before she fell asleep.
She found herself in a dreamless state, just a big, black hole of nothingness. To her, only a few minutes had passed when Cassey quietly unlocked the door and climbed up into the cab.
Toni rubbed her face. She was thinking that something had happened to Cassey for her to come back so soon, but a glance at the digital clock told her otherwise.
'Whoa, nearly an hour and a half...'
"Sleep well?" Cassey whispered.
"I'll tell you when I wake up..." Toni replied, still rubbing her face.
"Are you coming down with something, you feel hot?" Cassey said, and put her hand on Toni's forehead.
"Nah, I'm just bombed out," Toni said and sat up on the edge of the bed.
"Perhaps you need another massage?"
"Well, the first one you gave me worked wonders, so..." Toni said as she put her pants on.
"Deal, then. Grab a shower and a bite, and I'll get the oil ready in the mean time."
"Sounds mighty fine, darlin'," Toni said and winked at Cassey.
The next morning. Very, very, very early AM.
Toni walked ahead of Cassey towards the truck stop, and she appeared to be in a real hurry when she opened the glass doors.
"Gotta go, see you in a few," she said to Cassey, and walked briskly towards the restrooms.
"... OK," Cassey said and chuckled.
Cassey looked around. The place wasn't real busy, but there were a lot of kids running around.
She spotted a young woman, probably a couple of years younger than herself, sitting at a table, and looking quite forlorn. The woman had a large bag next to her, and a single tear ran down her cheek from her red eyes. She was nursing a mug of coffee while counting some coins.
A strong sense of deja vu flooded over Cassey as she approached the young woman, a magnetic force moving her legs almost involuntarily towards the table.
"Hello," Cassey said quietly, but the woman still jumped in her seat.
"... hello..." she said in a small voice. She quickly wiped the errant tear away.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," Cassey said, before continuing:
"I couldn't help but notice you're crying. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, thank you."
"Pardon me for intruding, but... are you running from someone?"
The young woman sat up straight and cleared her throat.
"I can't see how that concerns you."
"Well, it doesn't, except that I split from my boyfriend, too, almost exactly two years ago," Cassey answered.
Cassey sat down at the table.
"Wanna talk about it? I'm Cassey Peters," she said and put out her hand.
"Well... Carol Fields. Hello. How did you know?"
"The bag, the cold coffee, counting your last money... I did all that. The red eyes..."
"Yeah..." Carol said and again wiped her eyes with her sleeve.
"Did he hit you?"
"No! No... it wasn't anything like that. I discovered my... lover was selling dope, and I didn't want any part of that," Carol said.
Cassey nodded, she knew how that felt, too.
Carol tried to take a sip of the stale coffee, but the result was inevitable...
"Hey, let me buy you a new coffee," Cassey said and got up.
"I can't accept that, Miss," Carol said.
"Of course you can. It'll only be a minute, just hang on."
Carol had to admit that the hot coffee felt great, and she thanked her benefactor.
"Don't mention it," Cassey said and waved her hand.
"... so you're married to a truck driver now...? I mean, since you're here, and..." Carol said, and looked at the Celtic-looking ring on Cassey's finger.
"Well, not exactly. But I'm with a truck driver, yes. I've never had it better."
Right on cue, Toni came back and sat down next to Cassey.
"What? No food?" she said and looked at her partner.
Carol's eyes went from the ring on Cassey's finger to an identical one on a necklace around the tall woman's neck.
"Who's your new friend, Cassey?"
"Pardon my manners, I'm Carol Fields," Carol said and put out her hand.
"Toni Willis. Howdy."
"Carol finds herself in a situation not unlike the one I was in when we met. She's split from a boyfriend."
"Oh," Toni said.
"Well... I... guess I wasn't completely truthful before..." Carol said, and looked down at the table.
Both Toni and Cassey furrowed their brows.
"... but I'm hoping we're all on the same page here... so... I didn't split from a boyfriend, but rather a girlfriend... but this is Texas, and I didn't want the world to know about it," Carol said quietly.
"I see. I understand," Cassey said. Underneath the table, she grabbed Toni's hand and squeezed it.
"Are you looking for a ride?" Toni asked.
"Well, yeah, I guess I am. Is Wichita Falls near to where you are going?" Carol said.
"Wichita Falls? That's where I lived before," Cassey said, quite surprised.
"Really? My Gran lives there. I'm not going back to my parents, because they don't... anyway... is it?"
The corner of Cassey's mouth twitched at Carol's words. Her own dad didn't approve of her new life either. She looked at Toni, who was busy re-calculating the schedule.
"Well, we're headed back to Albuquerque, but I guess the Falls ain't that far off the route..." Toni finally said and nudged Cassey.
"We'll get you home, Carol, you're safe with us," Cassey said and smiled at the young woman.
Relief washed over Carol's face as the words sunk in.
"How did you get here, Carol?" Cassey asked, sitting on the bed, as the truck rumbled out of the parking lot, finally beginning the last day on their long journey.
"I hitchhiked. But it creeps me out, there are so many shady characters out there, you know..." Carol said, sitting in the passenger seat.
"Yeah, don't we know it," Cassey said off-hand.
"... but I'm glad I ran into a couple of Sisters. I feel a lot safer with you than with some random guy."
"Heh! I think we need to tell you that Cassey here is a regular bad-luck magnet," Toni said and chuckled, earning her a gentle slap on her arm from Cassey.
"I noticed your rings... have you been together long?" Carol asked,
"Two years come May. And as I told you before, I've never had it better," Cassey said.
Toni blushed slightly, but nodded.
"That's so wonderful. My ex and I, we couldn't get through a day without having a shouting match. And when I discovered she'd started to sell weed and pills, I didn't want to stay anymore, I've never been into that," Carol said.
"That was a wise move, Carol. You need to stay away from that shit if you possibly can. Sooner or later it'll bite you in the ass... pardon my French," Toni said.
Cassey looked down at her hands, suddenly embarrassed.
Carol eyed them both.
"That sounds like bitter experience talking?" she said.
"Guess it is."
"Yeah," Toni and Cassey said simultaneously.
A little later.
"It's not often I meet older lesbians, so... would it be all right if I had a few questions?" Carol asked.
Cassey's eyes popped wide open, and her jaw was halfway into her lap - her brain had shut down right after the 'older' part. Toni was used to it by now, so she was able to recover quicker.
"Sure, Carol. Anything in particular?"
"It's nothing embarrassing, I just wanted to know how you deal with, you know... narrow minded people?"
"I ignore them. It's all about self-confidence. If you let them push you around, you're theirs to hunt, but if you have a 'take no crap' attitude, it's my experience they'll leave you alone," Toni said.
"And that has worked for you?" Carol asked.
"Hmmm. I don't know... I've never had much confidence in myself. I think you need to be as good looking as the two of you for it to have an effect. I've always been a mouse," Carol said thoughtfully.
Toni blushed crimson red - from her earlobes to the tip of her nose.
In the meantime, Cassey's brain had kicked itself back into life, so she was able to rejoin the conversation.
"Nonsense, Carol, you're a very pretty girl - and you've already taken a big step by realizing your relationship wasn't what you wanted."
"You really think so?"
"Oh yeah, you better believe it," Cassey said and gave Carol's shoulder a little squeeze.
"If it was possible in New Mexico, would you get married? I mean, get the legal documents and everything?" Carol asked.
"Well, we're married in all but name, Carol. We share everything, pay the rent together and do the dishes together, all the big and small things you'd find in a marriage," Cassey explained.
"... and no secrets," Carol added quietly to herself, thinking about the shock she had had when she had found a plastic bag full of stolen prescription medicine.
"Definitely no secrets. We know *everything* about each other, right honey?" Toni asked Cassey.
"Yeah. We do," Cassey said and laughed.
"Yeah. Actually, if we were to be married, it would lead to one of the world's greatest dilemmas," Toni said and smirked.
"And what would that be, Miss Willis?" Cassey asked in a sharp tone.
"Which one of us should wear the wedding dress?!"
Carol guffawed loudly.
"You should!" Cassey said.
"I haven't worn a dress since I was baptized," Toni countered.
"Better late than never. I'll be wearing a tux, of course. Oh yeah, I can see that clearly."
"They don't make tuxes in women's sizes, but I could use a man's size," Toni said.
"Yeah, you could - if it had an extra large waistline."
Carol guffawed even louder.
"You have to pardon my partner's manners, Carol, she seldom gets out, and this is why," Toni said.
Behind them, Cassey started chuckling, and soon all three women were laughing out loud over the ridiculous conversation.
"I'm sorry, Carol, we can't get the truck in there, that's a residential area," Toni said and pointed at a sign that prohibited vehicles over 5000 lbs. to enter.
"Shit, I forgot... Anyway, it's not far, I'll walk the rest of the way... well, I guess this is as far as it goes, then," Carol said, and clutched her bag to her chest.
"It's been a real pleasure knowing you, Carol," Toni said and gave the young girl a blinding smile, before putting out her hand. Carol shook it vehemently, and opened the door.
"Here, let me help you with the bag," Cassey said, and took hold of the heavy bag while Carol climbed down.
With ease, Cassey jumped down behind her, and gave the bag to the young girl. Cassey could see tears beginning to swell in Carol's eyes, so she gave her a fierce hug.
"Remember: you did the right thing, Carol. Even if it doesn't feel like it in your gut, you did the right thing," Cassey said, and gave Carol's shoulders a squeeze.
"Thanks, Cassey... thanks."
Carol extended the handle and hoisted the bag over her shoulder. She started to walk away, but turned around after half a dozen paces to wave at the two older women - and then she left, soon to be out of sight behind a cluster of trees.
Toni put the truck in gear, and slowly drove on down the suburban road.
"She was a nice girl. I hope she finds some happiness here..." Cassey said with a sad voice.
"Yeah. Me too."
"Are you thinking about your own parents?" Toni asked.
"Yeah... I haven't spoken to my dad for... nearly a year and a half now."
"You shouldn't blame yourself for his behavior, honey. You tried to reach him, but he ignored you."
Cassey eyed Toni cautiously.
'He didn't exactly ignore me, Toni,' Cassey thought. She knew she couldn't tell her partner the full story. Her father, who had always been so supportive of her when she was growing up, had given her a violent slap to the face that had left her in pain for two days when she told him she was coming Out. Toni didn't know about that, and Cassey dearly hoped she never would. She'd just hunt him down and beat the crap out of him. Fortunately her mother accepted her new way of life, even if it was difficult for her to understand...
As Toni found a shortcut that would lead them back to the I-40, Cassey started to remember that day in April of last year when her mother had visited their house in Albuquerque, and the events leading up to it. It was soon after she had received the letter bringing the news of Tommy's death...
Cassey stared at the phone, hoping Captain Kirk would somehow swing by and beam it out of there. Why was it so hard to pick up a phone and call your mom?
'Perhaps because every time we talk it's because something bad's happened', Cassey thought. Writing letters is one thing, but hearing a voice on the other end of the line always hammered home the message for her.
She sighed, and picked up the receiver - and then she put it back on the hook at once. This little circus act continued for nearly five minutes before she decided that enough was enough. She dialed the numbers and waited.
"Joanna Peters speaking," a voice said. To Cassey, it felt like it came from a million miles away.
"Hi mom, it's me..." Cassey said.
"Cassandra, I... how are you?" Cassey could hear her mother's quiet sobs filtering through the phone.
"Please don't cry, mom. I'm doing fine. I've never been better."
"Where are you, I mean... are you still..."
"Yes, I'm still living with Toni. I'm in Albuquerque."
There was a pregnant pause in the conversation.
"I wish that you'd consider coming home, Cassandra..."
"I'm a grown woman, mom, I'll decide for myself. How's dad?"
"Fine, the last I heard. He's found a flat on the other side of town."
A sudden idea formed in Cassey's mind.
"Mom, please come and visit us."
"Visit you... but... no, I..."
"Please? I really need you here with me. Just for a few days."
"I want you to meet the woman I love, mom."
"I'm still here. I've missed you so much, my little girl... and I... all right."
"You will?!" Cassey said excitedly.
"Yes... yes, I'll come."
When the day finally arrived, Cassey turned into a bundle of nervous energy. She was really worried that inviting her mother had been the wrong decision after all, and she showed it by fidgeting endlessly and generally getting on Toni's nerves.
"Now Toni, remember what we agreed on: no beers, no cussin', no -how's ya doin'- my mom isn't used to things like that."
"Really, Cassey, I don't do all those things..."
"Yes you do, honey, you just don't realize it."
"Can I at least kiss you?" Toni asked quietly.
Cassey looked away.
"Well, I guess that answers that question, huh?"
"I just want my mom to feel comfortable, that's all, honey," Cassey said.
"And I understand that perfectly, but *nobody* can make me hide my love for you. If they can't deal with it, tough shit. But all right, for starters, I'll try to keep my lips to myself."
The taxicab pulled up in front of the house. Cassey's mother got out and the driver extracted two suitcases from the trunk. She looked around nervously, studying the neighborhood - nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except for the giant black truck parked in the driveway.
She paid the driver and he left her standing there alone. A curtain was moved to the side, and the door to the house was opened. Joanna could see her daughter standing in the doorway - a woman now, not the teenager she had been when she left home to move in with Tommy.
The two women watched each other with some trepidation, until Cassey couldn't hold back any longer and ran to her mother. They hugged each other with fierce determination.
"Oh god, it's so good to see you again, Cassandra!" Joanna sobbed.
Cassey couldn't speak, but buried her face in her mother's hair that still had the wonderful scent of lavender she remembered so well from home.
"I've missed you so much, mom..." Cassey managed to say in between sobs.
Joanna took a handkerchief and wiped away her daughter's tears, just like she had done dozens of times over the years.
"Let's go inside before people start to wonder what's going on!" Joanna said and tried to laugh.
Toni had been waiting on a kitchen chair, dressed out in her finest black jeans and a neutral white t-shirt. She even had her hair trimmed for the occasion. When Cassey and her mom entered the house, Toni stood up and put out her hand.
Cassey's mom put down the suitcases she had been holding, and stared at the tall, dark haired woman. She hadn't really known what to expect, but the beautiful woman she was looking at didn't fit into any of the stereotypes. Immediately she chastised herself - 'of course Cassandra wouldn't fall for someone who looked like a... like a... never mind.' She put out her own hand.
"I'm Antonia Willis, welcome to our house."
"Th-thank you, my name's Joanna Peters, nice to... finally meet you."
Cassey grabbed her mother around the waist.
"Come on, mom, I'm gonna make some coffee now, and then we'll talk."
"I'll make the coffee, you go and talk," Toni said.
"All right, honey..." Cassey said and didn't even notice the word had slipped out until her mother froze slightly.
Toni raised her eyebrows and looked at Cassey, who smirked in return.
"Mom, we better get the gorilla in the corner out of the way before we do anything else. We probably should start over, so... I'd like to introduce you to Toni Willis, the love of my life."
Joanna turned around and looked at Toni again.
"I'm sorry for reacting that way... it's all just so new to me," she said to both of them.
"It's all right, Mrs. Peters, I understand," Toni said and smiled warmly to the older woman.
"Oh for heaven's sake, call me Joanna!" she said and laughed nervously.
"Joanna it is, then. Now, I'm gonna make the coffee, and then we'll talk, OK?" Toni said.
And talked they had, for hours on end. When the clock struck 1 am, Cassey felt like she had been through a wringer, but also that she had come out of it a stronger woman. She had definitely re-bonded with her mother, in fact she had begun an all new relationship with her. They had talked about aunt Jenny, how the family had reacted back then, and how she had been instrumental in helping Cassey to understand who she really was.
The evening had ended with Toni volunteering to go and sleep in the truck, so that Cassey and her mother could share the double bed. Cassey was grateful for that, because she knew that, even though her mother had fully accepted that Toni and Cassey loved each other, she would need some time to digest it all.
Yeah... thank god that had worked out. Cassey had even managed to bring aunt Jenny and her mother together again, for the first time in years, at her birthday last year. Cassey made a mental note to invite her mother again soon.
Cassey wiped her tired eyes and looked at Toni. At the black hair, at the ice blue eyes, at the sharp profile, at her chiseled cheekbones, and at her full lips.
Toni could feel Cassey's eyes on her, and turned her head to look at her partner. Toni's eyes lit up as they made contact, and a broad smile spread out across her face.
'God, I love you so...' was Cassey's only thought as she smiled back. Unbeknownst to her, the exact same words ran through the mind of the dark haired woman driving the truck.
Toni turned off the small road they'd been travelling on and onto the I-40. Soon they were eating up the miles between them and home, and Toni was happy they were finally on the home stretch. The muscles in her shoulders and neck were stiff as a board, but she didn't want to upset Cassey any more than she already was. All the strange things happening on this run, like being involved in a fist fight yesterday and then finding a runaway that were so much like herself, had left Cassey unusually subdued.
She looked over at her partner, who was trying to relax, sitting with her eyes closed and her head leaning against the side window.
For once the CB was off, partly because they had been pretty much alone on the isolated stretch of road they had been using, and partly because Toni wanted to give hers and Cassey's ears some respite from the incessant chatter on the air.
Some distance away, she could see the flashing lights of a police cruiser. It looked like they had stopped a rig. Toni quickly checked the speedo in case the cops were using a radar gun, but, as usual, the needle was glued to 55 mph.
Unfortunately, an officer stepped out on the road as she got closer, signaling for the black Mack to stop.
Toni cursed to herself. She slowed down and parked in front of the other truck. Perfect. Just what we needed.
"Manifest and logbook," the cop said, after he had climbed up the steps and was standing in the opened door. She duly handed him the papers.
"Is there a problem, officer?" she asked.
"Spot checks, Ma'am," was all the cop said.
In the passenger seat, Cassey stirred and wiped her eyes. She quickly realized they weren't moving and looked at Toni for an explanation. Her eyes opened wide as she saw the officer, but a smile from Toni quickly calmed her down.
"Just spot checks, Cassey."
"The logbook is OK. We need to verify your cargo before we can allow you to go on," the cop said.
"Yes, Sir. ...sit tight, Cassey, I've done it a million times. It'll only take five minutes," Toni said as she climbed down to follow the cop to the rear of the trailer.
Cassey nodded nervously.
A few minutes later, the cop jumped down from the trailer. He removed his heavy gloves, pulled out a pencil from his pocket, and used it to make a check mark on a piece of paper attached to a clipboard.
"Everything looks fine, Ma'am. The manifest checks out. You gotta wonder why the hell people bother movin' furniture from Louisiana to New Mexico," he said, trying to strike up a conversation while they were walking back towards the waiting police cruiser.
"Beats me, officer."
"Yeah, anyway... have you had any alcohol today?"
"No Sir, I never drink when I'm driving."
"All right. Well, we better check. Blow into this, please," he said as he pulled out an alco-tester.
Toni wanted to roll her eyes at him, but settled for leaning down to blow into the device.
"Thank you, Ma'am. Now we'll have to wait until..."
The needle jerked into the green area of the meter.
"All green. Have a nice day, Ma'am," he said and put the device back in its box.
Toni knew that growling at him would only make matters worse, so she didn't.
"Thank you, officer."
She climbed back up into the truck, looked at Cassey and let out a long raspberry.
"Did he give you any trouble, honey?" Cassey asked.
"No, but he was sure looking for it. Come on, let's go," Toni replied and started the truck. She made sure to signal before she drove off.
"Aren't you going to warn other trucks about the cops?" Cassey asked after they had driven a mile or so.
"I should, but that cop was itching for a fight, and there are so few trucks here he'd recognize my voice instantly. Five years ago, I would've been hollering like hell by now, but I won't risk anything when you're here."
"Oh, I didn't think of that. Thank you," Cassey said and moved over to kiss Toni on the cheek.
"Do you think I'll ever react normally when we're near police? I mean... not feeling like I'm about to lose my lunch because my stomach's one big knot?" Cassey asked with a big sigh after a few minutes of uneasy silence.
"It's perfectly understandable you're feeling that way, considering what a cop did to you," Toni said.
"Yeah, I guess... but I'm getting so sick and tired of feeling that way. They're not all assholes, at least I hope they're not."
"I can sorta see it from their angle, you know. Every single car or truck they stop, they might be looking down the barrel of a gun. They can't know how the people they stop will react, so they treat them all the same, with suspicion. Especially these days, you know how many potheads there are driving around out there," Toni said.
"Do you think you'd feel the same if we're ever pulled over by a female cop?" Toni asked.
"... that's a good question. I don't know. I'm not sure I would. But there aren't many female cops around, though. And certainly not in the Highway Patrol."
"No, but there are more of them now than just a few years ago. In ten years' time, I'll bet that we'll see female cops every day," Toni said.
Suddenly, a police car with its lights flashing passed them with great speed, going in the opposite direction.
"Damn, that cop must've found the fight he was looking for..." Toni said.
Cassey just sighed.
The drop-off of the furniture trailer at Detillo's Freight had gone without any glitches, so they were finally on the last leg of the journey.
Cassey was summing up the last few days in her head, and she came to a slightly depressing conclusion.
"You know, honey, I love the road, but I think the road hates my guts..."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. At least your ass is back to looking the way it's supposed to," Toni said, and chuckled.
"Thank god. I wouldn't know what to do without it."
"So, how many days will you be home now?" Cassey asked.
"We'll have the weekend for ourselves. I'm leaving on Tuesday, a two-truck job to California. I'll be back Friday next."
"I'm going back to work on Monday... so I guess it's back to normal, huh?"
"Overall it's been an interesting trip, though. I mean, just think of all the things we've seen, all the people we've met..."
"All the troubles we've had..."
"Yeah, that too. I know I won't forget this trip in a hurry," Cassey said and smirked.
"Agreed. Well, you know what they say..."
"Some girls have *all* the luck," Toni said and chuckled.
The truck rumbled onto their own street. They could see their house from here, and everything looked as it should. Old Fred's mutt of a dog barked its head off as Toni drove into their driveway and killed the engine.
"Home sweet home..." she said and shook her head.
"Back in a flash!" Cassey said and shot out of the truck.
Toni shrugged and went into the sleeper cab to start to collect all the things they had amassed over the last five days.
Cassey unlocked the front door and gave the living room a quick once-over. She stormed into the bedroom, shedding her shoes and her clothes left and right, until she was standing buck-naked in front of their closet. She grabbed an over-sized T-shirt and her favorite boxers and put them on.
Her body was metaphorically jumping for joy from the exhilaration of being free of the tight clothing, and she breathed a big sigh of relief. She snuck her feet into her bathing slippers and went back out to the truck.
"I'm back!" she said as she opened the door and climbed back up in the truck.
"That's funny, I coulda sworn you were wearing clothes the last time I saw you," Toni said, busy stuffing the dirty laundry into a plastic bag.
"I still am," Cassey said.
"Yeah, but not particularly much, huh? A Bugs Bunny T, and your Snoopy boxers?"
"Well, they cover my modesty, don't they?"
"Just barely, honey. The T is see-through."
"Ah, who cares. My body would have gone on strike if I wore those confining clothes for another minute," Cassey said as she helped Toni putting all the stuff into bags.
"Are we done here?" Toni asked, with her finger on the light switch.
"Looks like it. Oh, the jokes book, forgot about that," Cassey replied and reached for the glove compartment.
Toni turned off the light in the sleeper cab.
"All done then," she said.
"Welcome home," Cassey added, and gave Toni a nice little kiss, before climbing down and walking to the house, hand in hand.
"Yes, old girl?"
"I was thinking... we'd be conserving some water... so... wanna share a shower?"
"Thought you'd never ask", Cassey said and laughed.
Where are they now?
The black Mack RS : Toni sold it in 1985 and bought herself a Superliner. Both Toni and Cassey were greatly saddened to hear that the RS was destroyed in a roll-over in June 1988, when her new driver lost control in a severe thunderstorm. When they bought their new home, Toni covered an entire wall in the study with framed photos Cassey had taken of the two of them in and around the truck, showing the many happy times they had shared. The center piece was the cover photo of Cassey's first book, proudly displaying a shining black Mack RS being filled up with diesel by Toni at what used to be Myrna's Truck Stop just outside of Albuquerque.
Cassandra 'Cassey' Peters : Up through the 80's, she gradually gained fame as a top-flight photographer, and in 1988 one of her photos was crowned as the best picture of the year. She made a series of photo-books depicting the lives of the regular, hard working people on the road, and the money made from those books enabled her and Toni to buy a much bigger house in Albuquerque. When she turned 40 in 1995 she was well on her way to becoming a wealthy woman, but she still went on the occasional run with Toni. Even today, in her early 50s, her body is athletic and lithe, much to the consternation of Toni - but as Cassey has been known to say, 'what can you do about hyperactive genes?'.
Antonia 'Little Toni' Willis : In 1997, just before her 49th birthday, she was diagnosed with diabetes, but fortunately the illness was found in time, so she has managed to keep it under control. She had grown weary of the life on the road, so she quickly accepted a desk job at Detillo's when it was offered to her. Celebrated her 60th birthday in 2008, and even though her hair isn't quite the same jet black hue it was before, and her face has gained more than a few wrinkles, her ice blue eyes burn as brightly as they ever have - although, these days it's through a pair of designer glasses.
... and most important of all, Cassey and Toni are still madly in love with each other.
- SIGNING OFF, OVER AND OUT.
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