Fly With Me
Chapter 3: 20 QuestionsI had only been driving for a half an hour with Brandon Nickson before I couldn’t take it any longer.
“Either stop whining about my driving skills or throw yourself out of my car,” I growled, my grip tightening on the steering wheel. He had been griping out my slow driving the entire ride and it was driving me nuts.
“But you’re going so slow!” He moaned as his head fell back to hit the support behind it. “I thought you would be one of those people who drive at least twenty miles over the speed limit.”
“Well then, you thought wrong,” I grumbled, keeping my eyes stubbornly on the road.
He didn’t understand why I drove the way I did. No one did.
“Obviously.” His head was still lolled back as he stared up at the ceiling of the car. With another sigh, he reached his hand up and began to trace random patterns along the ceiling fabric. “Could you at least go another five miles faster?”
A sneer crept onto my face as I turned to face Brandon, “My offer still stands, Nickson.”
He ignored me and continued on with his yammering.
Even though I was frustrated beyond belief, I refused to let myself be distracted from my driving. I would not be responsible for more deaths than I already was. The stress of trying to control myself was terrible, and I found myself craving a cigarette. I removed one of my hands from the steering wheel to roll the window on my side down.
When Brandon saw what I was doing, he had to pipe up. “What on earth are you doing?”
With the same hand, I pulled out the pack of cigs that I always kept in the driver’s side door, took one from the package, and stuck it in-between my lips. I dropped the package, and then took out a lighter, lighting the cigarette quickly before dropping it back into the door’s compartment. As I inhaled deeply, I felt my stress slowly ebb away. Tilting my head, I blew the smoke out of the window; it wafted away quickly in the air outside.
One glance out of the corner of my eye let me know that my passenger wasn’t happy with my habit. “What?” I asked around the small roll of paper in my mouth.
Brandon quickly rearranged his face so that he no longer appeared royally disgusted, “Oh, it’s nothing. I just,” he paused for a moment, considering his words carefully, “I just never imagined that you smoked.”
Another puff of smoke flew out of the window, “You also thought that I drove quite fast; you’re terrible at guessing games, Brandon, I hope you don’t gamble on games of 20 Questions.” I chuckled a little bit as I said this, and took another long draw of my cigarette.
“I don’t gamble,” Nickson sniffed and I rolled my eyes. Evidently I had hit another discordant note with him.
“Well, pardon me, sir.” I rolled my eyes again, and turned the radio on.
We sat in silence for several minutes.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Brandon remove his thick-rimmed glasses and clean them with the corner of his shirt before placing them back carefully on the bridge of his nose.
“Have you ever considered contacts?” I asked curiously, taking my eyes off of the road for a brief second to look at him.
“Why? What’s wrong with my glasses?” The boy turned to face me as well, and I could barely make out the shape of his eyes that were hiding behind the thick lenses he wore.
“Nothing at all.” Besides the fact that they make you look like a total geek. “Do you want to play 20 Questions?” I swiveled my head around for a second to grin cheekily at Brandon and he grimaced in response.
“Are you serious?”
“Fine. Is it bigger or smaller than a bread-box?”
“Hold on, dude, I haven’t—did you just ask me if what I was thinking was bigger or smaller than a bread-box?”
“Well, yeah…” A sheepish smile and a rosy blush bloomed across his face.
I snorted, “Alright then.”
“Dude, I’ve thought of what you need to guess.”
“Oh, oh! Right. Is it bigger or smaller than a bread-box?” He repeated the question he had asked before.
“What the crud is a bread-box?” I demanded, reaching one hand over to the radio to switch it off.
“A box you keep bread in.” Thank you, Captain Obvious, was my first thought, but I refrained from uttering it aloud.
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“Actually,” cue nerdy pushing of glasses up bride of nose, “it did.”
“Fine.” I wracked my brain to think of how big a dove was. “It’s smaller than a bread-box.”
“Is it alive?”
That one I could answer right off the top of my head, “Definitely.”
He paused for a moment, “Is it a bird?”
“Uh, yeah.” I tried not to show my surprise.
“Is it a dove?”
I blinked rapidly, “Well, yes. It is.” A crease appeared between my brows as I frowned, “How did you know?”
He motioned to my left forearm, indicating a small tattoo on my wrist, “A dove obviously has some kind of personal significance to you.”
I covered my wrist with my right hand swiftly, and again focused my attention on the white lines ahead, “It was my mother’s favorite animal.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” he murmured, and as I turned to look at him in surprise, I saw that he was sincere.
“H-how did you know?”
“Well, it’s obviously important to you if you marked it permanently into your skin. You also referred to her in the past tense, meaning that you’re either estranged or she died. I highly doubt you would tattoo a dove into your wrist if you were estranged, so she must have died.” He quieted as he realized that he sounded much too much like a know-it-all. “I’m sorry.”
An awkward silence ensued, “How did she—“
“She died, Brandon. That’s all you need to know.” The mention of my mother’s death sobered me greatly, and I regretted ever choosing the dove as my thought.
“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.” Nickson’s face was downcast and he twiddled his thumbs in his lap. “I’m sorry…”
“Stop apologizing!” I snapped, as I pulled off of the highway to fuel up again. We were in Pennsylvania at this point, and the gas needle was dangerously close to the empty mark.
“I’m—“ Brandon let his mouth shut with a click when he stopped himself from apologizing another time.
In a few minutes we reached the gas-station and I hopped out of the car. Angrily, I slammed the car door shut and ran my credit card quickly through the slot. As I hefted the nozzle out of the machine I groaned and let my head hit the side of the car. Why did Brandon have to bring up so many painful memories? How could he manage to do that without even trying? He didn’t even know about my parent’s for goodness’ sake!
With a sigh, I replaced the nozzle, collected my receipt and placed my hand back on the door-handle. Feeling stressed again, I was tempted to light up once more. But remembering Brandon’s reaction to my habit turned me off to the idea. Maybe it was because he reminded me of my parents and how they would react to my habit; maybe it was because I didn’t want to repulse him. Whatever the case, when I saw the small cardboard package in the pocket at the base of my door, I ignored it.