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Car Rides

I pulled into the high school parking lot and waited for my sister to come outside. She finally stepped out the front door and weaved through dozens of students towards my car. Her backpack was light on her shoulders. I tapped my bunny-slippered foot impatiently as I turned up the stereo. Celine Dion was wailing Because You Loved Me. I rolled down the window and started serenading her as she walked over. After climbing in the car, she immediately turned off the stereo.

“Sure, no music,” I said then asked, “Homework?”

“Nope.” She stared straight ahead and fastened her seatbelt as I pulled out of the parking lot. We drove in silence for ten minutes. When we passed our street she finally spoke up.

“Where are we going?” she asked. She gripped the handlebar on the door. She hates car rides.

“To look at apartments. We’re selling the house,” I said.

“We’re selling everything. Mom’s car, her jewelry, her house. Mom wouldn’t like this.”

“Mom wouldn’t care. She’s dead.” I wasn’t trying to be mean. I just think we both forget sometimes.

“I’m not stupid,” she said in a small voice, “I was there, remember?”

“Yes I remember.” Despite my best efforts, I can still see my sister being pulled out of a battered car; she was luckier than our mother. I can still feel the crisp white letter from the insurance company. They had given us a new car just before she died. I still wonder why it happened—the result of someone falling asleep behind the wheel or drunk driving or a missing brain?

The wreck clearly troubled her as well. I would find her in odd places around the house: sitting on the clothes dryer, below the kitchen table, under her bed. If I asked her what she was doing, she would only reply “thinking.” She would wake up screaming from nightmares, talk to herself, or see things that weren’t there. I haven’t seen her smile in the three months since the accident. I don’t blame her though. She had a front row seat to the whole thing.

“It’s nothing.” Her voice startled me.

“What?” I asked.

“It’s that voice again,” she said, “She wanted to know why I’m sad.”

I laughed.

“What?”

“I guess it’s just kind of silly,” I said, “keeping secrets from a voice in your head.”

She halfway smiled.

I waited a few minutes then asked, “Do you ever think about Dad?”

“No,” She said.

“Why not?”

“Because I hate him,” she said flatly.

“Hmm.”

“What?” She asked

“He called the other day. He said he heard what happened. He offered money,” I said plainly.

“Hmm.”

She sat perfectly still for another five minutes, but tensed as we went over a bridge.

“How much farther do we have to go?” she asked.

“About fifteen minutes,” I said, “I can take you home if you want. You can hang out with our neighbor, Mrs. Ross.”

“No. She’s an old lady.”

“She’s only fifty five.”

“So? You’re an old lady too and you’re only twenty. You drive a minivan.” I’m pretty sure having to be responsible for my sister has helped that out a lot.

“And I suppose in four years you’ll be an old lady as well,” I joked.

A few minutes later we arrived at the apartment complex. I looked out the windshield at the mess of a building. The outside alone could use a fresh coat of paint and two new windows and a front door and about a dozen other things.

“Anna,” my sister said as I was about to open the car door.

“Yeah?”

“I don’t want to move.”

“I know. But we need the money. And we should hurry—I have work at 5.”

Then my sister said, “She says not to worry. Things will get worse, but then they’ll get better.”

“That sounds familiar,” I said.

She thought a while then said, “It’s funny, this voice I keep hearing. It sounds just like Mom.”





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