Sounds blurred and stretched--- in and out---like an old rubber band, and with every turn, every push of the excelerator, pain and anger blinded her vision. Somewhere in her she knew she was being irrational, erratic---dangerous even--- but the more present, animal side of her was the one driving, and all that was pounding in her head was run.
She needed to get away from the night, but with every yellow line that passed under her tires, the need just seemed to grow. Every car around her was competition, every bridge she passed under was a threat. Her world was crumbling and with every mile she fled, it seemed to fall faster. Her sights were set on the wide, flat highway in front of her. She knew it lead to the mountains, but right now the only direction in her mind was forward. Every mile ensured that, but no matter how fast she sped, she could not escape her reality. She could not numb the memories buzzing like flies, pressing against her skull. Still she drove as the dark mountains rose and cut against the sky, and as the black-peaked beast grew and swallowed the sun in front of her, it all came swarming back… How could she?
I was so excited. She thought as she passed though the treeline.
It was her birthday. The highway grew smaller.
Tonight was my chance to repay her. She was my chance to finally, finally find a place here. Without her I had nothing. The cars thinned as the road began to crack and snake.
A charge built just under her skin as she thought about all the work that she wasted. She turned on her headlights as the sky began to pulse and undulate with heavy rain as the trees stretched like jagged teeth over her. Now she was truly alone.
I spent months planning, hours on the phone booking, and lied to my boss to get off work today...all for nothing.
Headlights pulled her back to reality as she swerved back to her side of the road.
If only I came home a few minutes later... She thought.
Never would she forget the sound of her best and only friend, laughing and trashing her with two others as she stood on the other side of their peeling, green door--- key hovering halfway to the lock.
Pathetic, dumb, needy, sad...her friend’s voice taunted her as each word hung painfully clear in the stale air of the car.
Is that what she thinks of me? She thought.
A curve jumps out of the darkness. Her tires screech on grey pavement as her car struggles to make the hairpin turn. Her headlights ignite the guardrail, and as the screeches stop, the two other voices join her best friend in the silence of the car. Each vindictive and cutting.
“Kays, we still have an hour, why worry?And honestly, if she walked in right now, what would change? Would you really wanna go to that boring thing she had planned?”
“Exactly, she's a pathetic person and does nothing but drag other people down with her. Besides the occasional entertainment I don’t know why you let the girl stick around.”
Another pair of headlights burn away the darkness. Adrenaline sears through her as she’s forced back into the present. She kept climbing as the highways got darker and denser as the pain burning through her pushed her foot farther down on the gas. Her eyes narrowed and her heart wrung as the present compacted her. Her breath came in short pants. It was then that her friend’s voice cut through the ringing in her ears to taunt her one final time.
“Guys, She is a pain in my ass. I know. But I’m literally the only thing this chick has and for one night can all of you please just humor me? I need her. Pathetic or not she is still my roommate, and I need her for the other half of the rent. I’m just asking for a little support from my real friends. ”
Real friends… She thought. She could feel the anger spilling over as she relived the moment. She felt every click of the tumbler as she, once again, forcefully jammed the key into the lock, and flung the door wide.
Her knuckles turned white around the steering wheel as she felt the electric burn of anger prodding her farther into the moment. She could feel the wind of the door flying open. She felt her chest heave as the apartment’s scent of must and old christmas tree filled her memories. The need to confront her friend, and see her face, consumed her once again. She needed to see...something. Shock, anger, fear, it didn’t matter as long as she saw the regret in her friend’s eyes.
She was barely aware of the road now. Her car screamed with effort as her wheels skidded and clawed for the road on every turn. The sky roiled and flashed in challenge to her anger. She was wild. She wanted to be wild. Like an animal, her pain was a living thing, and it wanted out, because she knew what was coming next.
As she stood at the door, heaving with anger and vengeful rage, she got the regret she wanted, but not in the place she expected. The two others with her best friend had the compassion and shame to show regret and look away, but all her best friend was stare coldly at her. No emotion, not even a flicker of regret crossed her features. Her friend’s eyes were devoid of any emotion towards her, and in that moment. All she could do to to keep the betraying pain from spilling was nod, turn and walk back to her car. She would not see her cry.
Her anger fizzled. Those few moments at the door still echoed through her mind, forcing her to replay the scene over, and over, and over again as she bolted higher. She woke up today feeling like she was building a world of her own, and she never would of guessed that the person she trusted it to most would be the one to take a sledge hammer to it. As she breached the peak, she finally let the tears come. She slowed.
The arching beast finally unclamped its jaws, and left her with flat, scrubbed land, a low sky, and an open viewpoint of the entire range. Here, she thought, was far enough. She couldn't keep driving. Every word, every thought she shoved down standing at her front door was clawing--- begging to be let out. She couldn’t contain a sob as the bloated sky let go and let its pity fall down around her. She wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Not even an hour passes parked on the side of the road, when her phone buzzes on top of the pink cake box next to her. She lifts her head off the steering wheel, eyes puffy and red, and looks over to the semi-crushed, salmon colored cube. She picks up her phone and looks to find paragraphs. Her friend felt regret, valued her, and was frozen in the moment and did not know how to explain her feelings. This made her pause.
Could I be wrong? She thought.
Uncertainty and regret filled her as she read through the paragraphs of text sent just minutes ago. Another notification flips down over the top of her screen. Kayla posted a picture of her and five others smiling, drinks in hand, at a concert. The caption, best night ever.
She throws her phone under the seat and looks over to the cake box once more, numb. She lifts the lid and takes in the delicate scent of icing as it fills the car. Her stomach growls in hunger, and her mind salivates at the chance of comfort.
With a flat face she leans to the back and rifles through piles of plastic bags, looking for the party pack of forks.Thunder booms and lightning flashes nearby as she digs through the artifacts of what used to be. Balloons... plates..streamers.. confetti..every item she unearthed now purposeless and dull in the limited light of the dashboard. There was something about digging through those bags that woke something within her. The pressing numbness cracked with every relic. It felt hot, electric, and made her toss each item aggressively to the side until the forks came into view.
She rips open the package, pulls one out, and rips it’s hot pink points right through Kayla’s name spelled in frosting. Another flash of lightning ignites the sky and the electricity under her skin builds as she hears another buzz from her phone under the seat.
Memories were coming back now. Her fork slices through a frosted yellow rose as different memories snapped like puzzle pieces into place--- building a monster. This time though, it wasn't her that was growing fangs.
“Hey...I thought you had work tonight.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry! My phone battery died! I totally forgot! Did you bring any leftovers?”
“Hheeyyy...soo I know I said I was at my moms house, but I didn't want you to worry. Me and a few buddies are a little drunk and need a ride…are you doing anything right now?”
The pain began to morph into something new, something hard, harsh yet… oddly freeing in the quiet of the car’s cab. Like a weight was lifted, the pressing anger and regret she felt was lifted and for the first time all night,she could breathe. She digs deeper and scoops a bit of actual cake into her mouth, crosses her arms over the wheel, nestles her chin on top of them, and takes in her surroundings. They were like nothing she has ever seen.
The storm had moved on, and in its place were clusters and galaxies of stars, not only in the skies, but lining every inch of her car. She leans farther towards the beaded windshield to take in the subtle moonlight her headlights hid from her. The ground glistened in its newly acquired rain, and every tree rippled in a silvery sway with the high altitude wind as the chrome pieces of her car gleamed new in the moonlight. The world seemed new, clean. There was a calmness, and a promise of growth through the hardship of the storm. She sighed.
She looked farther towards the lights nestled between jagged, olive-blanketed mountains. Tonight she goes home. She lifts her head, stabs her fork into the cake, turns the ignition and starts her journey back down the sleeping giant.