Not a Chance (Sweet Nothings) - By Carter Ashby


Travis was only a windshield's width away from snow and slush and freezing looked downright inviting compared to the frost emanating off the woman seated next to him. He reached down to the dash panel and kicked the heat up another notch. They were traveling at the lightning speed of fifteen miles per hour. The wipers squeaked on high speed back and forth, snow packing down beneath them. In the meantime, her highness Arden Butler, former prom queen, homecoming queen and Miss Merry Christmas, sat chirping away on her cell phone as though the snow storm was utterly beneath her interest.

Arden sat plastered to the door, clearly requiring as much distance as possible between herself and Travis. He glanced at her and then leaned forward on the steering wheel, squinting to see through the snow. His big shoulders strained against the fabric of his flannel shirt. The road blended with the ditch, now, and there were no tire tracks to follow.

"We ain't going to make it," Travis said. His Missouri twang made him sound every inch the uneducated hick she no doubt thought he was.

She covered her cell phone with her hand and turned to him. "It's only twenty miles. We can make it." The twang was conspicuously absent from her voice, likely swept from her tongue at birth by the silver spoon that replaced it. God forbid she talk like all the rest of the four thousand river rats and rednecks that dwelled in the hill town of Splitlog.

Travis gritted his teeth. He'd been making an effort not to let this break into an argument. He didn't know Arden well. She had become a school teacher right out of college which had surprised everyone considering that, with the size of her trust fund, she probably wouldn't have to work at all for many, many years. She went to the same church as Travis, but had never said so much as a casual greeting to him. He assumed she was a typical rich bitch and so far she had proven him right. She talked down at him and smugly assumed he would do as he was told.

Travis sensed her examining her perfectly manicured nails as she edged closer to the door. Not a problem for Travis. Let her keep as much distance as she wanted. He considered himself a connoisseur of women. He liked a variety of sizes, shapes and personalities. He could handle them sweet or bitchy, kind or selfish, sane or crazy. But cold and condescending--that he had no patience for.

Arden chattered away sounding falsely warm and perky. Travis tried not to listen. She giggled at something and Travis squirmed in discomfort.

"No," she said to the person on the other end of the phone. "It will probably be a half an hour or more. We're going really slow." Arden said this last part extra loud.

Travis cleared his throat. "There's a hotel two miles up." His deep voice sounded gruff, even to him.

She put her hand over the phone. "We can make it, I said." She removed her hand. "Yeah. It's the tow truck guy."

Travis marveled at how swiftly her voice could switch from ice to sunshine.

"Okay, Nick," she said. She giggled again. "Alright. I'll call you when I get home. I love you too." She flipped her phone closed and slipped it into her vibrantly colored couture purse.

"We're going to have to stop, Miss Butler," he said, struggling to remain cordial.

"That hotel you mentioned shut down six weeks ago. It won't do us any good to stop. Just keep going." She flipped her medium length blond hair over her shoulders and rearranged herself to the improvement of her posture.

"I'm trying to tell you, I can't see the road. It's six inches of wet, packed snow that’s quickly turning to ice. We're lucky we aren't in a ditch yet. We have to take shelter and there is nothing between here and Splitlog but that hotel."

Arden straightened, pulling her black jacket closed over her low-cut pink blouse and shivering slightly. As the heater in the truck was working perfectly well, Travis could only assume she was shuddering at the thought of spending the night with him. As though he would touch her. His distaste for her was growing steadily.

"If you are suggesting," she said, "that I spend the night with you in an abandoned hotel building, you're out of your freaking mind," she said, each word perfectly enunciated and just the right amount of passionate indignation in her tone.