She looked at her watch, which was thin and gold-colored. Is there somewhere to get food? she asked. I have to drive back to Missoula.
The interstate ran straight across Montana, from the edge of North Dakota, where they were, west through Billings and Bozeman and past Logan, where he had grown up, over the mountains to Missoula, near the Idaho border. Thats an awful long drive, he said.
She shook her head, not in disagreement but in amazement. I took this job before I finished law school, she said. I wanted any job, I was so afraid of my loans coming due. I didnt know where Glendive was. It looks like Belgrade, the word does I mean, which is closer to MissoulaI must have gotten them confused. Then I got a real job, and theyre letting me do this because they think its funny. But it took me nine and a half hours to get here. And now I have to drive nine and a half hours back, and I have to work in the morning. Ive never done anything so stupid in my life.
I can show you where the café is, he said.
She looked like she was wondering whether to fear him, and then she nodded. Okay, she said.
In the parking lot, he was self-conscious about his gait, but she didnt seem to notice. She got into a yellow Datsun and followed his truck to the café on the main drag. He guessed she could have found it herself, but he wanted more time with her. He went in and sat opposite her in a booth. She ordered coffee and a turkey sandwich and a brownie sundae, and asked the waitress to bring it all at once. He didnt want anything. The waitress left, and Beth Travis took off her glasses and set them on the table. She rubbed her eyes until they were red.
Did you grow up here? she asked. Do you know those teachers?
She put her glasses back on. Im only twenty-five, she said. Dont call me that.
He didnt say anything. She was three years older than he was. Her hair in the overhead light was the color of honey. She wasnt wearing any rings.
Did you tell me how you ended up in that class? she asked.
I just saw people going in.
She studied him and seemed to wonder again if she should be afraid. But the room was bright, and he tried to look harmless. He was harmless, he was pretty sure. Being with someone helpedhe didnt feel so wound up and restless.
Did I make a fool of myself ? she asked.
Are you going to come back?
Whens it next?
Thursday, she said. Every Tuesday and Thursday for nine weeks. Oh, God. She put her hands over her eyes again. What have I done?
He tried to think how he could help her. He had to stay with the cows, and driving to pick her up in Missoula didnt make any sense. It was so far away, and theyd just have to drive back again.
Im not signed up, he finally said.
She shrugged. Theyre not going to check.
Her food came, and she started on the sandwich.
I dont even know school law, she said. Ill have to learn enough to teach every time. She wiped a spot of mustard from her chin. Where do you work?
Out on the Hayden ranch, feeding cattle. Its just a winter job.
Do you want the other half of this sandwich?
He shook his head, and she pushed the plate aside and took a bite of the melting sundae.
Id show you if you could stay longer, he said.
Excerpted from Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy Copyright © 2009 by Maile Meloy. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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