"Hey kid! Where you going?"
Saul waited, staring at the girl in the rearview mirror. She was slumped in back, head lolling toward her shoulder, black hair shrouding her face.
When he pulled up to the house, a young guy had been waiting there, holding the girl stiffly by the shoulders. He shoved her into the cab and hurried back inside to what Saul could see was a raging party.
"Yo!" Saul had called out. "Where am I taking her?"
The kid kept moving and didn't look back.
Well shit. This is perfect.
"Young lady! I need to know where you want to go."
The girl groaned.
"What's that?" he asked.
The chin lifted and the hair fell away from a pair of dark eyes, which focused directly on Saul's in the mirror as a voice asked pointedly, "Can we get some food?"
Saul was caught off guard. It was a slow night, but still - time was money.
"C'mon. Please? I haven't eaten all day," she said.
His favorite diner was nearby. It would be quick.
As he drove, she pressed her cheek to the window, staring skyward. The cab was silent until he put it in park and told her, "Get it to go."
"Will you come in with me? I don't want to go by myself." Her voice sounded higher – chipmunk-like. It was a voice you wouldn't want to hear first thing in the morning.
"What do you think I am here?"
She didn't move. The dark eyes in the mirror grew wider.
The counter girl was new. She looked self-conscious in her apron, like she didn't belong, and wasn't much older than his fare. Maybe sixteen. The way they made themselves up these days, it was hard to tell.
She looked bored, like they all do. "Can I take your order," she said flatly.
The fare didn't pause to think. "French fries with mayonnaise on the side and a large Coke, no ice."
The counter girl wrinkled her nose. There was a small stud in her left nostril. "O.K. I need a name," she said.
"So I can call you when your order's up."
The girl made a show of thinking hard. She screwed up her face and placed a finger on her chin.
Finally, she said, "Evangeline. Evangeline Lilly."
The counter girl snorted in disdain. "Evangeline" looked smug. "It's to go," she said. "And hurry up with it. We've got places to be."
With that, she spun around and flounced to the booth where Saul waited impatiently, feeling like a dupe.
He tried to sum her up. Her clothes – jacket, T-shirt, short skirt, boots - didn't look expensive, but the rich kids dressed the poorest. And they sure as hell acted as trashy as any trailer park denizen. Trashier.
Her eye makeup was smudged. If she'd worn any lipstick, it was gone. A constellation of pimples was scattered across her shiny forehead.
The bleached light of the diner was flattering nobody at this hour.
She turned to her reflection in the plate glass window. "I look like shit," she said, snaking her fingers through her long hair.
The hair is O.K. I'll give her that.
"Don't I?" she asked, turning back to him.
"How would I know?" Saul replied, suddenly irritable.
He checked the clock and ordered a cup of coffee from a passing waitress. "To go," he said. She nodded.
He liked the anonymity of this place. They knew him - or rather, they knew what he ordered - but nobody bothered him with small talk. He ate most of his meals here and was always in and out quick.
When his coffee arrived, the girl said, "You shouldn't drink that out of those Styrofoam cups. The chemicals get into hot stuff. Coke's O.K. 'cause it's cold."
"Health tips from the girl who's dipping her fries in fat."
The girl flushed. "It's European," she protested, eyes downcast.
"O.K. your majesty. I'll feel plenty cosmopolitan with your greasy food stinking up my car."
She was silent.
"Where am I taking her highness this evening, anyway?"
"What's your favorite song?"
"I'm going to check out the jukebox."
He waved a hand, dismissing her.
"C'mon. You can't name one song? You must be old," she giggled and brushed her fingers lightly across his arm, which rested on the table between them.
He pulled away. He wasn't that old.
"E-van-ge-line Lil-ly!" the counter girl called, sarcastically enunciating each syllable. A few heads turned.
The girl strutted to the counter and pulled a wad of bills out of her pocket. "I've got his coffee, too," she said, turning to smile at Saul.
Women. They were beyond comprehension. The colder you were to them, the more they warmed up. Even when they were this young.
He nodded at the waitress, tossed a couple of bucks on the table and pushed open the door, the girl following behind.
At the cab, she stood there, Coke in one hand, bag in the other. "Will you get the door for me?"
Saul opened the back door.
"Can I sit up front with you?" Her voice took on a higher pitch.
He stood stonily, holding the back door open. She got in.
Back behind the wheel, he demanded, "Where to?"
She'd placed the Coke cup between her legs and was holding a plastic container of mayo in one hand, dipping a fry with the other. She popped the fry into her mouth.
"Where, kid?" He was getting pissed. "Or would you rather I leave your ass on this corner?"
She slurped deeply from her Coke, returned it to her lap, and thought for a moment.
"What are you doing?" The dark eyes stared meaningfully out of the mirror. "You want to go somewhere and hang out?" She twirled a fry in the mayo and ate it, slowly.
This Lolita routine was a pain in his ass.
He thought of the other guys driving that night. There were plenty of creeps out there. What if one of them had picked her up?
What she needs is the shit scared out of her. She needs to be scared straight.
In the mirror, she smiled slyly, taking his silence as a victory.
Yeah. She needs to be taught a lesson.
"Sure, Evangeline," he said. "I know a place we can go."