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Her breath was warm against his sunburned ear. “Faster,” she said, “I want to feel like I’m flying.” Brian grinned, stepping harder on the gas while looking sideways at Erin. She beat her fingers on the dashboard as the music blasted, the sun beating down on them, urging them that the world was meant for the taking, that driving slow was akin to sin.
The car picked up speed, the open windows ushering in wind that whipped past them, encouraging them along.
“This fast enough for you?” She heard him yell in his baritone, laughing. They were going sixty, faster than her dad had ever let her go in the pick up. She needed this, a scream in motion.
“Faster!” she tilted her head back and laughed, like wind chimes tinkling in the breeze. Her dark hair was blown across her face, creating a veil. “I want to fly!”
And so he went faster, sending the world into a spin around them, the colors blurring, meshing together, a sea of greens and blues in the hick town they couldn’t wait to get out of, they wanted to escape from, they wanted to be free of. There was nothing in sight, but everything before them as she squeezed his shoulder, her blood red nails digging in. His skin was tanned from driving the truck and doing errands for his dad’s dairy farm, smattered with freckles that looked almost innocent and boyish on his arms. The freckles and the long eyelashes that framed his dark eyes were only vestiges left of the doe-eyed boy he was when they met so many years ago.
The wind was pounding now in their ears, dancing with them as they went. He could barely see, his baseball hat shading him from what surrounded them, darkening the world as it was illuminated, not seeing everything, but seeing enough. “I love you,” he shouted over the noise, but she couldn’t hear; the world was too loud, causing his words to drift and dive out of the truck, playing a game of tag he couldn’t keep up with.
They were drawn to each other because they both liked the dark side of things, the sad and gloomy things everyone else glossed over. They were secretly morbid and depressing, and they were more than happy to share stories about how much they hated everyone, life included, the other excepted of course. They were more than happy to be their dark selves, normal on the outside and completely insane on the inside. He tried again, “Erin, I love you!”
They would never fit in, never be happy here. They couldn’t, as it stifled them, pearls suffocating in their tightly clamped oysters, drowning in this town. Erin leaned her head out the window. “I hate you,” she screamed, half-laughing, half-crying, “I hate it here!” The couple selling apples on the side of the road looked appalled as Brian and the girl with the high voice and wide set eyes flew past, the pair that no one understood.
Brian’s rough hands pulled the ethereal one inside, as he steered with his eyes on her. She was like water, always slipping through his fingers, making ripples where there was calm. She was perfect, his perfect disaster. And they were nearly flying. But not yet.
“Faster Brian,” Erin shrieked, “I want to feel alive.” She was restless, bursting from her skin, reaching her tiny hands towards the radio, turning up the sound.
He sped faster, defying speed limit by some fifty miles an hour, not seeing anything as her heart beat faster, faster, faster. Brian leaned in, trying it again, “I love you Erin.” And she heard, finally. Erin turned, smiling broadly, and opened her mouth to speak.
The light was dark, a shadow swimming over them, darker, darker, darker, and he whipped his head forward, seeing the metal grill of the truck. The blasting horn was too late and too loud, but he could still hear Erin scream.
The Jones family drove past, touring the country on their vacation, but slowed as they past the wreckage, barely moving, as people were loaded onto stretchers, a lone hat lying on the side of the road, near the glass of the windshield where it had shattered, angry smoke emitting from the car. A bulky man stood near a dented truck, speaking to a police officer, and shaking his head. “My god,” said Donna to her husband Randy, “look at the front of that car. How fast could it have been going to look like that?”
The kids rolled down their windows in the back seat, leaning out and pointing, grossing each other out. In awe of the crash, they wrinkled their freckled noses, and sipped from their juice boxes, fingers sticky against the window panes.
“Look at the windshield,” said Andy, “it’s gone.” Ted’s eyes followed his brother’s hand, looking at the shards strewn on dark pavement.
“Man, that’s gross,” Ted said laughing. The sound died in his throat as the stretcher came into view.
“Get inside boys,” Donna said to her sons, wide eyes on the sight.
Randy shook his head, gripping the wheel. “Teenagers.” He turned his head away from the car. Donna nodded, and looked down feeling the pang in her heart, knowing that these kids were somebody’s kids, that these were things unanticipated, and that youth was never as easy as it seemed. They drove on in silence, listening to the siren and trying to forget the image of a young boy reaching out for a girl who was already gone.