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My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. The newly chill air kissed my cheek.
“Are you excited?” she asked the obvious mom question.
I gave her my most heinous “whatever” look, and then turned away from her. I hid the smile that crept over my lips. If she knew how excited I really was it might blow her mind. Me, who hasn’t shown interest in anything for the better part of three years. Me, who took a chance and for once was rewarded. Me, who is leaving home for the first time, traveling across the country, starting a new life. I shivered.
Mom sighed and flipped her Dorothy Hamill ‘do, causing it to feather slightly when it landed.
“I hope you have a better attitude when you meet your roommates.”
I tried my sweetest voice, “Oh, mom, I will.”
This time she did the eye rolling. “Come on, Care, we only have a little while before you’re gone for a whole semester. Do you think you can drop the attitude?”
“It’s not an attitude, it’s a lifestyle.” I winked.
She started in on watching my manners, somehow jumped to laundry and circled back around to “do unto others”. I half listened. I mean, I will have THREE WHOLE MONTHS of freedom; I owe her a little consideration.
The truth is, I’d done all the damage I could do in the junky public school I’d attended for the past two years. I started searching for an alternative at the beginning of the year, sent out piles and piles of applications, essays, all that crap that private schools want. Luckily, when I decided I wanted to jump I didn’t have to worry about grades. They were there, all lined up on my transcript. A after A after A.
So I’m off to Dallas to the most prestigious girls’ school in Texas, and a hell of a lot of other places. Yes, I said girls’ school. But it’s located in the center of Dallas, not exactly cut off from the world. There will be boys. Lots and lots of boys. I can feel it.
“…for goodness sakes remember why you’re there. This isn’t public school where your little schemes will be forgiven because of your grades. Your state test score isn’t going to bring down their average,” she squinted and looked off to some unknown place, “I don’t think they even take state tests there.” She looked over at me and patted my knee, “ I hate to say it Cara, but you’ll be one of many there. Nothing special.”
Gee thanks ma.
Schemes? I don’t do schemes. I prefer to think of them as psychological art. It takes a lot of thought and preparation and yes, even sweat to make people line up and do your bidding without them knowing.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Of course mom, I’ll be good. I promise.” At least until I get bored.
Mai mommeh driveded me 2 da arport wit da windows rolled down. Sum goth keeds pointd nd laughd. Nd then a bee stung me an I dyed of anaphlactic shck.
Now, all ur prizes are beelong to ME!
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. As my mother continued to make the radio louder, I sighed and leaned back in my seat ignoring her.
I dragged my hands down my face with disbelief. She was actually making me go through with this. I had been joking when I had said it sounded like fun. But who knew she would take me seriously.
She smiled as she turned down her tunes a bit. “Isn’t this just going to be great? Just the experience you need to make some new friends.”
As she said that all I could sadly think was one simple fact. I had no friends. I didn’t want to do this. No matter how good it was for me.
“Oh come on. Don’t be like that. This camp is a chance for you to finally meet some people going through the same thing as you.”
Yes continue mother as I sit here dying of private humiliation. Well more public then private. We were still only in a residential area. And she was announcing to the world I was going to camp. Fat camp. My mother isn’t really the best person to tell your secrets to. Seeing as she is a chatter box.
She smiled as she continued to talk, and I continued to ignore.
I chanted silently to myself that I will be thin and beautiful after this. I will finally get a boyfriend. I continued this all the way to the airport.
I just wish California could be farther away.
Standing outside waiting for a cab in San Jose isn’t the easiest thing to do. Especially when even there all the beautiful tan blondes seem to get the first ticket to everything. Including the cab ride.
All I could think was, ‘I would have been better off walking to the horrid place that shall not be named.’ But heck Im going to fat camp. I don’t have that type of energy or motivation yet.
I sighed sitting on my suitcase. My eyes widened as I fell to the pavement after my suitcase had buckled under my weight.
I could hear some kid laughing. But I was used to it. Used to all of it. I groaned getting up and looked at my suitcase. I broke my suitcase. By sitting on it. Maybe fat camp was a good idea.
Kicking my stupid suitcase I waved trying to get a cab. Another failure.
I groaned again wanting to just fall to the floor with my face buried into my hands.
A cab stopped but no one got in. It was right in front of me. I looked at it quizzically then looked to see if there were any blondes nearby. None.
But there was a boy. All he did was smile at me, “All yours if you want it.”
I looked at him. He had to be joking. But he wasn’t. I smirked then got into the cab.
All I could simply think was, ‘Great mock the fat kid by getting her a cab.’ I had no idea he was being nice.
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. She hates the way the wind tears at her hair. But she didn’t say anything because I was the one who rolled them down. Inside her head she was probably having a little celebration.
Fi rolled the windows down! Fi made a conscious decision to interact with her environment!
That’s the problem when your mother is a child therapist. She reads into everything and still doesn’t understand. She glanced over at me several times right after I hit the window button. I could see the hope in her grey eyes. She can hide it from her patients, but I get a front row seat for all her emotions. Especially the ones pertaining to me. I’m not really sorry about her distress and subsequent hope. Just that I can’t abate them both.
Sometimes, in my head, I stand and look back across that depthless chasm, back across to the life that was. It’s only just a little wider than the distance I could leap. I know even if I got a running start it would widen at the last moment before my foot hit the other side and I would fall, devoured by the in-between. There’s no bridge that can span that chasm. And if there was a bridge, I wouldn’t cross it anyhow. But I can’t say that to my mother. She wouldn’t understand. Like the windows. She thinks I wanted them down because I wouldn’t feel so trapped with the wind swirling all around me. But I rolled them down because it would make her happy since I did it.
“Oh Fi,” She blurted after the silence had stretched as far as she could bear. “This is going to be good for you.” Her fingers tapped the steering wheel.
She loved how her engagement ring spun on her finger when she wiggled it.
“And you don’t have to leave town. Or drive, if you don’t want to. You’re father will arrange everything. Your friends can keep in touch by email, like me. He’s gotten high-speed internet. He’d better have gotten it. He said he would.”
This is my mother’s code way of saying, ‘You won’t wander into the woods, will you? You won’t drive if you don’t have to, will you? Friends will talk to you again. You just have to make the first attempt at reconnecting.’
I let her talk. It made her feel better and I couldn’t, so why bother stopping her?
It’s not that I almost died that disturbed her so much. It’s that it didn’t bother me. It’s that I enjoyed those few moments touching something else no one could. She feared - deep down knew - that I still clung to that feeling. I hadn’t looked death in the face. I’d kissed it full on the mouth. The world had seemed small and petty since then and I wanted no part of it. But mother kept trying.
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. And the top down. In the pouring rain.
“It will be cleansing,” she said as we pulled away from the cemetery. I wanted to think it was a way for her to hide any potential tears that might, just might, seep out of her eyes. Not that I’d ever actually seen her cry, even when my brother tried to kill himself with a razor blade and she found him in the bathroom.
But I wanted to see her shed a tear now. I wanted to know that she had some feelings left in that black shriveled piece of coal she called a heart.
I pulled the sopping curls off of my face, trying to capture the stray hairs that whipped sideways in the wind. Gathering them at the back of my neck, I twisted the hair into a bun and secured it with the elastic band around my wrist. My black skirt was collecting a pool of water and I groaned with the knowledge that I’d be cold and damp, sitting in an airplane for the next three hours. Perhaps I’d invest in a Seattle t-shirt and shorts in the airport souvenir shop.
“Are you okay?” my mother yelled.
I ignored her. Of course I wasn’t okay. My father had died the week before and she didn’t call me until twenty-four hours later. Twenty-four hours. Who does that? I hadn’t even known that he was admitted to the hospital in the first place. Her excuse? “It was just a heart attack. The doctors said he’d be fine.”
But she didn’t have an excuse for not calling me after he went into cardiac arrest on the operating table. That was just her way of doing things - keeping secrets and manipulating events to suit her needs.
I dashed off the drops gathering on my eyelashes, glad I had foregone even the waterproof mascara that morning.
“Are you too cold? I can turn up the heat?” She was good at these insignificant gestures; the ones that made her look like a doting mother.
“I’m fine.” I muttered. It was spring and the weather had warmed up quickly. The rain was a cool relief against the heavy oppressive heat that hovered around us during the funeral.
The rain shifted, coming in at more of an angle. I kicked at my purse with my toes, nudging it further under cover of the dashboard. My single expensive accessory, and she was determined to ruin it with her idiotic notion of driving with the top down.
But it wasn’t really the handbag that bothered me. There was something much more important inside. An item that symbolized the one thing she personally couldn’t destroy, or ruin, or exploit, or manipulate. My secret. The secret that got me through the last six days with my sanity in tact.
It was my ultrasound picture. I was pregnant and she didn’t know, wouldn’t know. Ever.
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down and I hated every minute of it. The wind whipped my perfectly straightened hair into patterns resembling a tornado after-effect.
What did mom care with her short cut? It’s not like anyone would be looking at her at the airport. Me, on the other hand, I had to meet my dad at the other end. A man I’d only seen a handful of times in my sixteen years. I wanted to impress him with my new-found maturity and sense of style. But now my hair would just resemble a tumbleweed in a bad western movie.
“Are you nervous about seeing your father?” Mom’s voice rose above the traffic noises on the freeway.
Now she decided to play the concerned parent?
“A little.” If you gave them a hint of what they wanted to hear, they usually left you alone.
She threw me a worried glance. “We don’t have to do this, you know. You could still come with Joe and me to Florida.”
“Don’t sweat it, mom. I’ll be fine. Besides, dad’s looking forward to this. I don’t want to disappoint him.”
I had a vague flashback of my dad cooking pancakes for me in his tiny kitchen. Must have been eight years ago or so. He seemed so lonely, even then to my young eyes, and I always felt the need to protect him. Take care of him. Now I’d have my chance.
“Well, you know you can call me anytime, if you’re not happy, and we’ll send you a plane ticket.”
I smiled, knowing she meant well deep down. “I know, mom. I’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to meeting some new friends in Forks.” Total lie, but mom didn’t care. It’s what she needed to hear.
“You’ll make lots of friends. I just know it.” She grinned at me and winked. “Maybe even a boyfriend.”
I groaned. “Mom. You know I don’t care about that.”
“Maybe that nice Jason boy, or was it Jacob. He always seemed polite.”
I had a flashback of a handsome, native boy with long flowing black hair and beautiful black eyes, fringed with crazy lashes that most girls I know would kill for.
At last mom pushed the button to roll up the windows. I tried to pat my hair into some semblance of normalcy, but, just like my life, my hair had a mind of its own.
As we took the turn on for the airport, a strange flutter in my stomach told me my life was about to take an irrevocable twist. A turn that would change me forever. Chills ran down my back and goose bumps rose on both arms.
“Time to face your destiny,” I mumbled under my breath.
Mom parked the car in the nearest spot to the door. “Come on, Bella honey. It’s almost twilight. You know that’s the bewitching hour.”
Mom and her superstitions. I sighed and jumped out of the car, grabbing my bag from the back seat. What could possibly be bewitching in the Hicksville, USA?
I guess I was about to find out...
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down.
Two degrees, whiteout conditions and a chill stiff enough to freeze dry skin in nanoseconds, but she insisted. More sensible living things were burrowed in safety, but not us. Snowflakes swirled around us, barely able to settle and mound into drifts. The speedometer and stereo face were layered by a delicate lace of tiny flakes and frost was etched in spidery fingers on the inside of the windshield.
I shivered and blew into my fingers, trying to encourage blood flow to return. I knew better than to roll the windows up. It was easier to suffer bitter cold than it was to breathe in the unmistakable smell emanating from the back seat.
He had been rolled up for months, neatly burritoed within the worn threads of his prized antique Navaho rug, along with the 45, a bloody kitchen carver, his ID and credit cards. It was late September when the deed was done. She and I managed to wrestle him to the backseat. I parked the car in the far reaches of the back lot and we spent the next three months ignoring the rusting Fiesta and its fermenting contents.
I turned toward the mound in the backseat. My initial thought was 'He would die if he saw that blood stain,' then I caught myself. The idea was so preposterous, I almost laughed out loud. The passage of time did little to lessen the effects of decay. Granted, he was smaller now, his flesh no doubt sunken and compacted, but he still stunk.
What was worse was the odor had permeated the velour upholstery, the padded dash and the nubby carpeting. I sniffed at my parka and caught a whiff of hair as it blew past my nose. A thin layer of decay covered everything. How could anyone ignore it?
My mother and I shared an uneasy silence as she plunged on, her mind on one goal. The airport. At first, she navigated the freeway slowly, following the furrows left in deep snow. She would not acknowledge me. She couldn’t. I was unwelcome cargo, a colossal complication, another tedious chore to tend to so she could at last wipe her hands clean of her life. She needed to complete the task and close the circle.
I could never forget this. Her breath, thick and heavy, as it filled the car in a rush of warm steam. Her knuckles white and bony as she clutched the icy steering wheel. The serious determination in her cool, blue eyes. My brain took notice and imprinted it on my nerve endings, my cortex and medulla. I could hear synapses ringing in my ears from the images of this wondrous horror.
She glanced at the clock and sped up. I felt the car slide toward what I assumed was the shoulder and the ditch beyond. I held my breath and grabbed the door handle. Did she want all three of us to die?
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It did little to dissipate the smell of sulfur, but I've grown to like my own scent—especially now that I've found the perfect blend of amber, patchouli and rosewood to transform it into something, well, sexy. I reached back to scratch my right horn, a small mahogany ram's curl, grown darker with the blooming velvet. It bothered me all the time now, keeping me in a low-level state of arousal and frustration, but of course, I didn't tell Mom that.
"Cover it, Angie," she hissed at me between clenched teeth, a breath of smoke puffing through her lips. She was not best pleased about this trip or its timing, but this was the first interest my father had ever shown in me, so she agreed to it.
"You got enough bump-ups for your hair?"
"I'll have the biggest hair in Los Angeles. If things go sour, I'll get myself a job as a drag queen."
I was only half joking. At 19, I'm six-feet seven, and for all I know I might still be growing. Angel-demon hybrids are exceedingly rare, so until I meet another, my life is just one joyful surprise after another.
I hate being boxed in a car. It makes my wings twitch, and even the shoulder pads can't hide the motion. I'd been dressing like a Boogie-Woogie Bugle Girl for a couple of years now, so it was no wonder people thought I was a man. When I was a child, the other kids were rather cruel. Now they avoided me. I suspect my eyes flash red when I get pissed, just like Mom's do.
"Are all angels as big as my father?" I blurted, then wished I'd held her tongue. Mom puffed out another smoky breath then sucked the swirling smoke back in. She nodded once and turned on the signal to exit into the terminal lane.
"Stay away from the others, Angie. They are nothing but trouble." she swallowed, and to my alarm, a blood tear welled up in her dark eye, "They are worse than Satan. At least you know where you stand with the Prince of Lies."
"I'm sure Father won't let any harm come to me."
She slammed on the parking brake and turned to me,
"You don't know that. You know nothing about him. You're not his first daughter and you won't be his last. Of course the others," she waved her red claws dismissively, "Half-human. Bunch of milquetoast music majors. 'Daphne's at Julliard!'" she mimicked, "Beatrice just joined the New York Philharmonic."
"I can't carry a tune in a bucket."
"No, Angela Gabriella, you can't. But you can fly," her smile was feral. "And if one of those prissy bitches gives you trouble, you can eat her."
Since I'm a subprimatarian, it was our running joke. I laughed for her as I climbed out of the car.
"Sure, Mom. I'll do that."
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. The radio blared "Sweet Home Alabama" so that neither of us had to say a word. I kept my arms crossed over my chest like a shield while I stared at the nothingness that was Nebraska.
"Don't put your feet on the dash please," she said in her tone that grated just the right way, but I slumped my sneakers off nonetheless.
"Honey, it's only ten more miles to the airport, are you sure-"
"Yes mom, I'm sure. It's settled."
"I was going to ask if you wanted a bite to eat, but if you want to to talk-"
"I don't." I tried to turn the radio up, but she just turned it right back down. Typical. For the forty-seventh time I wished I had a car of my own so I didn't have to endure this together. What can I say? I like numbers. I would have paid for a taxi myself, except they don't come out in the middle of nowhere.
Her voice cut through the quiet.
"Fulbright," I said, snapping around, "does that word mean anything?"
"Of course it does. But to Germany?"
"I want to go to Germany," I said, hoping that would settle it, at least until the airport. She glanced at me then focused on the road again. I didn't see the point. There was no one there.
"You could use your bioengineering here. You would make a brilliant doctor."
"No mom. No."
"Because I want to have a life, a real life. Not this. I want to do something, be somebody. I can't do that here." The song ended and went to commercial.
"I just want you to be happy," she said and a pebble of guilt plopped in my stomach. "I don't think you will find it out there if you can't find it here." Well that killed the mood. I closed my eyes, reciting algorithms to keep from completely hating my mother. I didn't want to end it this way. But she had to bring it up, she just had to. We rode in silence for two miles. Then she flicked her blinker and took the exit. I said my last goodbye to Nebraska.
"I wonder if they have meatloaf in Germany," she mused. It was her way of lightening the mood. I appreciated it, but couldn't find the words to tell her.
"I wonder if you can see the sky there," she said. I blinked. It was an old joke that ran between us since I was four. We had lain on the grass while she tickled me and said there was no sky like a Nebraska sky. We always said it as the last thing whenever we talked about what we loved best. Apple pie, the smell of freshly shucked corn, and always the Nebraska sky. I glanced out the window and looked up.
I had to admit, I would miss the sky.
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