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I pulled the plug from the outlet. I was still holding the cord when I looked up into the eyes of a dark-haired stranger.

And his gun.

“Everything you’ve got,” he ordered, pointing with his gun to the register. He was swaying from side to side and his eyes were rimmed in red.

“I don’t know how…” I started, but the man interrupted.

“Just fucking do it!” he ordered, making the gun click, he hopped up so that his chest was resting on the counter and the gun was only inches from the side of my head. I slid off the stool and pushed it over to the register, climbing on it I sat back on my knees and attempted the complicated combination of buttons that Emma had used when she’d opened it.

Nothing.

“Come on! Now kid!” The man yelled, growing impatient.

“I’m trying, maybe I’m hitting it in the wrong spot.” I tried again, this time hitting it more at the bottom than the top. The man came over to my side of the register. He smelt like the time my baby brother got sick in the backseat of the truck on our way to Savannah.

“You listen here you little bitch,” he said, raising his gun in the air like he was going to hit me with it. I jumped off the stool and wedged myself under the counter.

The front door chimes announced the door had opened and a voice boomed through the room, rattling the display case filled with glass jars of homemade beef jerky. “What the fuck are you doing?” The voice asked. The man with the gun froze with his hand still in the air.

“I’m getting paid, motherfucker,” the man slurred.

A colorful arm came across the counter and grabbed the man by the neck pulling him over the counter like he weighed no more than a bug. There was a commotion and again the bells announced the door opening and closing.

It was another few minutes before I came out of my hiding spot from under the counter, crawling back onto the barstool I leaned across just as the doors opened. In walked a blond man wearing the same type of leather vest as the man with the gun, except he wasn’t wearing a shirt underneath. He had muscles you could see under his skin like the wrestlers on TV, except not as enormous, his skin was decorated with tattoos, one large one across his shoulder and down one arm. The same colorful tattoos on the arm that had just pulled away the guy with the gun.

His bright eyes were the same shade as the Maxwell’s new above ground swimming pool. A deep shining blue. His sandy blond hair was slicked backwards, longer on the top and shaved on the sides. A Mohawk I think they called it in the movies. “Are you the only one here?” he asked, scanning the room, peering into all three of the little aisles.

I nodded.

“You are the one that Skid just…” he didn’t finish his sentence. Leaning forward he braced his hands on the counter and took a deep breath. His colorful tattoos extended to the tops of his hands and his fingers. He wore three big silver rings on each of his hands. He had hair on his face and up until that moment, when someone talked about beards, I’d always imagined the long white wire hair growing from the chins of old and ugly wizards wearing long robes and huge blue pointed hats. This man’s beard was a little darker than his hair and only an inch or so long.

He was no wizard. Or old.

Or ugly.

“You have cool hair,” I said. He had cool everything. More than cool he was…

Pretty? Could a guy be pretty?

No, he wasn’t pretty.

He was beautiful.

“Thank you, Darlin’,” he said, leaning on the counter. He smelled like my father’s truck when he was changing the oil and the lilac soap Mrs. Kitchener made from scratch every summer. “Your hair is pretty cool too.” It was the first time in my life I think I blushed. My cheeks got hot and when the man noticed, he just smiled brighter and leaned in closer.

“Why are you in here all alone? They don’t believe in child labor laws in Jessep?”

“I don’t know what that is, but no one really comes in here much since they opened up the new highway. I was just minding the store while Emma May went to the beauty parlor. She said she’d be right back, but if they are going to make Emma May beautiful I think she’s gonna be a while.”

The man laughed and leaned on his elbows. “Listen, sweet girl. I’m sorry about my friend.” He shot me a small smile. “He’s very sick from a long ride and was being really stupid.”

“Looked more like drunk to me. Maybe hungover, but you should tell him not to drink and drive.”

“Where did you come from?” He looked amused. I wanted to do whatever it took to keep that look on his face. “Yeah, long rides can do that to people. But you’re okay? He didn’t hurt you at all did he?”

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