Jim still needed to eat dinner, so we stopped at a Wendy’s on the outskirts of town. As we were eating our hamburgers, I spied the door open – and in walked Sophia and her boyfriend.
I almost choked in surprise. “Sophia!” I called, swallowing my mouthful of food awkwardly.
Her head whipped to face me, and she went pale. “Please don’t tell our parents,” she said, holding out her hands.
“I wasn’t gonna.” I patted the seat next to me. “Want to sit with us? We don’t bite.”
She frowned and looked to the boy. He was eyeing me, like he expected me to pounce on him. The girl eventually sighed, touched his arm and nodded. He just set his jaw and went to order food.
Sophia settled on the edge of her seat next to me. “Thanks,” she said.
“Sophia, Jim,” I said, introducing the two. “Jim, Sophia Grangerford.”
“Hi,” said the senior. She just smiled halfheartedly and nodded.
I finished my burger and put my chin in my hand. “You guys caused a huge scene on the internet,” I said quietly.
“I know.” She leaned back and blew a strand of hair out of her face. “I never wanted to do this, but we don’t have a choice.”
“Why’d you do it? They’re gonna kill each other.”
Sophia shook her head. “No they won’t. No one’s died in years, and even that was an accident. But they’ll come close. That’s always how it is between our families. The guys and even some of the girls will get in fights, get hurt, get arrested. My brothers will come home with broken arms, bloody noses, black eyes. You never know when someone’s going to be put in the hospital or hauled in by the cops. And for what? Politics. I hate politics.”
“You hate it?”
“I hate it,” she said. “They’re so dumb. Like, yes, I voted against Trump this past November, but I don’t consider myself a democrat, at least not to the extent my family is. I just don’t like Trump as a person. Neither does Harry. We’re both more realistic voters. We don’t care about political parties.” She closed her eyes.
Harry came back with the tray. He was still wary of me and Jim. “How do we know you won’t rat us out to our families?” he asked.
“They won’t. Dylan’s a friend,” said Sophia tiredly, taking some fries. Harry scowled, but dug into his chicken sandwich.
“So, you guys ran off together to get away from your feud?” asked Jim.
“I didn’t want to have to run away,” she said, “but my dad would have a fit if I even told him I was dating a Shepherdson, let alone planning on marrying one right out of high school.”
“Eloping was the only way we could stay together,” grumbled Harry. “My parents were pushing me to law school in California and I would have gone in the fall. I probably would have never seen Sophie again.”
“It sounds crazy, I know, we’re so young and all, but it’s the only way.” The girl unwrapped her hamburger and morosely took a bite, ending the conversation.
We didn’t speak much for the rest of the time. Eventually, Jim and I got up and threw our trash away. We bid the two star-crossed lovers goodbye and good luck, then got back in the car.
“I never wanna fall in love like that,” I said as we pulled out of the parking lot. “That seems like way too much of a hassle.”
Jim just smirked.
“I feel like I’d feel pinned down. I don’t wanna be tethered to anything.”
“Speaking of freedom,” said the older boy, “where are we headed next? Same route south?”
“Anywhere to get away from this town. I don’t want to be anywhere near here when it blows. This whole Shakespeare love affair is gonna tear this place apart.” I thought to put my feet up on the dashboard, then remembered the truck and thought better against it.
“You got the map,” said Jim.
We turned onto the southbound road. I just shook my head. “Who needs a map?” I declared. “Not us. This is a road trip, Jim, there are no maps on a road trip. You just drive.”
And we drove on.