Becky was restless as hell as we pulled into the diner. I was fed up with Little Chefs and MacDonalds so when I spotted the Route A66 Diner sign in the Pennines, I was hooked. Place looked old but well kept. American theme obvious, but not overdone. An old car painted on the side wall, Caddy or Mustang or summat, just added to it. Kind of felt like we were meant to stop there. An omen. This whole thing’s like a road trip across the west.
“Can we eat inside this time?”
Her wide and bright eyes left me no choice. She knew it too. Knew I couldn’t resist when she did the eyes.
We went inside. Low, single storey building, fifties jukebox playing Love Me Tender about filled the back wall. Chrome tables, chessboard floor, Route 66 signs, waitresses with pretty dresses and the counter stretching across the room. Was almost like we’d crossed the pond and stepped into a real Diner.
Becky chose the middle table. No other customers, but we’d have sat there anyway. Centre of attention without knowing it, that’s Becks.
“Get you a drink,” said the waitress. Hint of Geordie to her accent nearly killed what the place had. I looked at the chef, turning over food on his grill for non-existent truckers. He shrugged and went back to flipping.
“Coke,” I looked at Becks, she shook her head
“Strawberry milkshake, please.”
“Anything to eat?”
“I’ll have the King Burger and fries,” she said.
I looked at her. We been eating burgers since the south coast. Four hundred miles of burgers, fries and coke. We find somewhere different and what does she want?
“Is your apple pie good?” I asked.
“Damn finest in the county.”
Her accent didn’t work. More Durham than Dallas. She knew it too.
I looked at the menu: Elvis themed. Hound Dogs – chili-dogs with sides, His Latest Flame Grilled Burger – big, but not as big as Beck’s King Burger and Jailhouse Roc – battered fish, fries and peas.
“I’ll have the Hound dogs, mam.” Don’t why I said mam, just seemed to fit in.
She took the order and poured our drinks. Becks was looking round, taking it all in.
“We could go to America,” I said. “Drive across, one side to the other. Like we’re doing now, only bigger. A lot bigger.”
She nodded before heading for the jukebox. I thanked the waitress when she bought the drinks over and sipped the coke. Cool and fresh. I looked at Becks, bending over the jukebox. Lost for a moment choosing songs. Almost happy again.
She came back, “Not much there, but I put a few on.” The King was still on the mike but the song was ending. I guessed her choice would be next.
She sipped her milkshake through a straw, rattling her legs back and forth like she was twelve again not twenty five.
She nodded as Return to Sender started. “Can we go to Scotland next?” she asked, whipping the froth on her shake with a straw.
“Course. We’re near the border now.”
Her eyes caught mine, her mouth opened like she was about to start talking, like she was about to tell me everything. But she stopped. The waitress came over with the food. Real bad timing.
I was going to ask her after we’d eaten, but I didn’t. I figured Becks was close to it and would tell me in her own time.
I keep thinking that and it’s been two weeks now. Two weeks living in hotels, eating in roadside cafe’s and touring the country, east to west, north to south.
One day she’ll explain. Hopefully before the money goes, I only got a hundred left. It’ll come. One day she’ll lose that smile and tell me who the man is lying in the boot of my car, covered in knife holes and polythene.
She’ll tell me what happened, why she killed him and kept on stabbing him for five minutes after he was dead. She’ll tell me. We might even bury him then. It ain’t gonna be easy when she tells me, but she will.
Until then, we’ll just keep driving.