At the edge of Pleasanton, his nerves began to get the better of him. He pulled into a gas station and up to the pumps, then turned off the engine. He needed gas and a chance to think. He should have stayed home and not put himself through all this.
A tap on the doorframe pulled him out of his thoughts. Arik turned and squeaked at the huge man half leaning into his window. “You want some gas or what?” the man asked gruffly. Arik was belted in or he’d have scooted into the passenger seat to get away.
“Yeah,” he answered shakily. Arik watched as the huge, bald-headed man, dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt with a leather jacket hanging open over the top, stared back at him with eyes that said he wanted to tear Arik apart. At least that was what Arik saw in them. He shivered and tried not to look scared. “Th… thank you?” God, he hoped this guy worked at the station.
The guy didn’t move—he just watched Arik for a few seconds as Arik chilled and willed his legs not to shake while hoping the guy wasn’t about to reach in and grab him.
The huge man pulled back, and Arik breathed a sigh of relief.
“You need to open your gas cover,” the man said, and Arik pulled the gas-cap lever, fingers shaking. He reached over and raised the passenger window. He also raised his partway and felt a little safer. Arik adjusted his rearview mirror, watching the man and wishing like hell he could get out of here. He reminded himself that the two of them had never met before, and the guy pumping his gas had no reason to hate him. That still didn’t stop Arik’s insides from churning. When he heard the sound of the gas nozzle being removed, he pulled out his wallet, checked the pump for the amount, and got out some bills.
“That will be $27.53,” the man said gruffly.
Arik handed him thirty dollars. “Thank you,” he said hastily, and then he raised the window and started the engine. The man might have said something, but Arik pulled away and turned back onto the main road, following the directions his GPS system gave him.
It took a good ten minutes for his breathing to return to normal. He hated that the gas station guy had intimidated him, but he hadn’t been able to help his reaction.