I introduce a few minor characters in this chapter, but you will have to wait until chapter three before the next major character is introduced, along with another major plot turn, not quite as subtle as this one.
"Miss, we're here. I'm afraid you're gonna have to leave the bus now."
Alexis opened her eyes to see the shadow of a man with his arm extended to her shoulder. She jumped in her seat, nearly shifting on instinct before realizing it was just the bus driver waking her.
"Thank you," she said, as she stood and sidestepped to the aisle. She looked out the windows as she walked toward the front of the bus. Nothing outside looked familiar. She'd been to the Atlanta bus station a few times before, and remembered it being much busier. The metro buses weren't lined up in there usual places. The late morning sun bleached the concrete in a seemingly empty lot, and there was no din of traffic, or dark wall of tall buildings.
"Excuse me, Sir," Alexis tapped on the driver's shoulder. "Are we in Marietta? I'm paid all the way to Atlanta."
The bus driver gave her a serious look, but then a smile crept across his lips until creases formed in his cheeks, consuming gray stubble in folds of dark brown skin. He blurted, "Well then young lady, I guess you've gotten your money's worth."
His eyes welled up and his cheeks expanded until Alexis thought he was choking, and then he let loose with a laugh so rich, it made him bend at the waist, the buttons on his shirt stretched tight over his round belly. His laugh was so infectious; Alexis started laughing with him, but having not understood the joke, could not sustain the mood. The driver got himself under control, his face becoming serious and caring once more.
"Young lady, you're in Montgomery." He said it with a thick southern drawl, extending the first syllable out and saying the last two as one.
"Montgomery? You mean—"
"Yep, that's right. Alabama." The bus driver's look turned serious. "Child. You're in Montgomery, Alabama."
Alexis stepped backward, shocked at the news. She had never been in Alabama. She had never been out of Georgia, even attended college just outside Atlanta.
"I'm sorry," Alexis said. "I must have slept through the Atlanta stop. Can I pay you for the extra mileage?"
The driver, the serious look on his face quickly turning to amusement again said, "You slept through Atlanta, Columbus, and Tuskegee. If I hadn't woken you up here, you might have gone on to Mobile, or even New Orleans, Louisiana."
Alexis asked again, "What do I owe you for the ticket?"
"No need to pay me, young lady. In fact, I'll let the ticket office know to give you free passage back. There's a bus leaves for Atlanta late tonight."
Alexis thanked the driver, and gave him a twenty dollar tip, before stepping off the bus. She was still groggy, and a little upset with herself at her lack of awareness, but the pressure in her bladder and the groaning from her stomach told her the first order of business was to find a bathroom and a place to eat. She walked across the huge broken concrete and gravel parking lot to the edge of a four-lane divided roadway. Fast food, payday check cashing establishments, and pawnshops darted the roadside. Across the roadway and just a couple hundred yards to the left, a big pink neon sign featuring a horse rearing up, caught her attention. Underneath, neon letters in the same color read, "Pink Pony Bar and Grill."
Better than fast food, Alexis thought, as she ran across the four-lane at the first opening.
Hope you enjoyed this little excerpt. Remember, this is merely a draft, so one can expect changes between this and the final product. As always, comments are welcome.