An excerpt from "Fireflies"

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An hour later, we were rolling back onto the highway after a quick stop at a gas station with a fresh tank and a year’s supply of cinnamon-buns, purchased at Lee’s request. “You never know when someone will get hungry,” she stated pseudo-wisely, peeling a sickly sweet cake out of the box. We laughed. Lee was hungry all the time.
I was enjoying the trip in spite of what was waiting for me when we finally got to New York. It seemed like we were crossing state lines at a rapid rate, and Pete drove with his knuckles clenched and his eyes wide. It was his compulsion to get me back with Cody and back where I belonged. I didn’t know how any of it was going to work out, but I tried not to think. It was getting easier.
Hazel slept mostly, curled up like a Cheshire cat in the middle seat of the car. Charlotte was overly cheerful, trying to make up for the events of the previous night. Her eyes were too bright, her smile forced and painful. She sat in the passenger seat, her feet propped up on the dashboard and her chair leaned back. I sat behind her and wrapped my arms around her shoulders, whispering jokes into her ear. Lee sat in the back with her legs crossed, like some kind of blond skinny Buddha.
We couldn’t get a hotel room because we were all underage, so we slept in the car, heads on each other stomachs, curled like yin-yang signs. We ate in rest stops and sat on the cold steel hood of the car when we needed to wake up. We couldn’t shower, couldn’t brush our teeth. We sat in a circle in the cramped trunk; legs crossed, discussing G-13 and Jack Kerouac and communism. We became our own tribe, a group of suburban teenage vagabonds. Pete and I tried to overlook the way we were separated from the rest of them. We ignored the noises Hazel made whenever we walked down to the brinks of the dirty ponds behind every rest stop, our fingers twisted together like a helix, they were justified anyway.
I was getting just what I wanted, what I needed. We drove down the highway at eight o’ clock, the last burning light of the day fading like a head rush; we pounded our fists on the roof of the car and broke out in verses of Wreckless Eric songs whenever we felt like it. I stuck my whole torso out the passenger side window like a golden retriever, holding my ears to block out the honking coming from the other cars. A yuppie-looking guy in a Honda stuck his hand out the window and flipped me the bird. All I could do was laugh, because so many people just need to learn how to live, and this man was obviously one of them. I screamed into the pulling wind as we sped away, his figure fading into the distance like a ship pulling out of port. “I’d go the whole wide world, I’d go the whole wide world, just to find her. I’d go the whole wide world!” Lee giggled dreamily into the crook of her arm as the hum of the padded floor kept her asleep, sprawled out in the trunk. I sat back down and Pete leaned over and put his hand on the back of my neck, running his fingers up and down, twisting in my hair. I couldn’t stop looking at him. The pavement baked and crackled in the sun.
We had driven for 500 miles. We weren’t exactly efficient, we stopped more than we needed and slept for eleven hours at a time. We lay comatose until we were awoken by the unsympathetic rapping of a cop’s knuckles on the Plexiglas windshield. We kept the wheels rolling and our eyes straight ahead. I tried to ignore the feeling that a wild animal had burrowed into the pit of my stomach. My nervous habits seemed to quadruple with every passing mile; and by the time we reached the Holland tunnel, my nails were bitten down to the quick.





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