Warm night breeze coming in through the broken window. The smell of those thick, gnarled succulents Jackson had seen on the drive, splashed around the desert and all the way to the horizon, dark leaves and rust-colored flowers tracking the sun as they’d sped west, him and Cherry.

He’d found her - or she’d found him; if he was honest, he didn’t know who’d been in good enough shape to claim primacy - in the burned-out wreckage ringing Little Rock. He’d had a car, the ten year-old station wagon that was now tucked in tight against the motel wall downstairs. She’d had a gun, and most importantly of all, a plan. There was a place near Needles where, she said, there were others like them, and they could claim shelter. A battered Moleskine clutched in one dirty hand like she was going to preach from it. Jackson, who’d just been kind of drifting, figured he might as well. He’d never been out that far, so why not? Wasn’t like there was anything better to do.

"Just for the journey," she’d said to him, facing him across the roof of Jackson’s car. Hand up to stop the wind smearing straggles of blonde hair across her eyes. "You can come with me all the way, or you change your mind, I’ll split, go it alone. Whatever."

It wasn’t like gas or food was getting any easier to find, but he still hadn’t changed his mind and she still hadn’t split, and Jackson was finding the thought of this girl with the tired eyes and the bright scar on her cheek leaving tougher all the time.

"I could be gone before morning," she told him each night.

"If you need to," he said back. Thinking, don’t.

A dusty, wind-tossed motel room. Some of her things in the sink where she’d done her best to wash them. His in a pile on the floor beside the bed. A long, hard road through the desert ahead of them, and her always promising to leave if she had to, but for now he had Cherry curled up, warm and soft between his arms, the curve of her back pressed against him, and that was enough.

By me. “Wakes” is (intended to be) an occasional-regular writing exercise, fragments out of nothing, inspired in part by whatever cycles through iTunes as I sit down to work.

Wake 2: ‘Hotel Song’ - Jon Crosby, off 'Generica vol 1'. That version’s acoustic, but not on YouTube. His later VAST version isn’t, but is.