IN THE BETWEEN
It’s dark, and the highway before me shines like black glass. A semi roars past, temporarily blinding me with its headlights. I mutter a curse.
I wrestle the steering wheel with one hand and crank up the AC with the other. It’s getting on late September, and the night air is unbearably thick with humidity. Even at eleven o’clock, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, sweat dampens my forehead.
Another big truck blazes past me in the opposite lane. As it goes by, my car shudders. I tighten my grip on the steering wheel.
A buzzing sound. My phone, sitting in the cup holder, lights up, bright in the cramped darkness of the car, and I slide my gaze from the road. It’s my mom.
I sigh. I grab the phone and answer it. “Yeah?”
“Logan, where are you? In case you’ve forgotten, your curfew is at ten thirty. You’re thirty minutes late.”
Another heavy sigh escapes me. “Yeah, Mom, I know. I’m running a bit late. Me and Jeremy got carried away with our, um, studying.” A quick mental image of glowing Xbox controllers and virtual gunfire flashes through my brain. Hurriedly, I shove away the incriminating thought. Though it’s never been proven, I swear my mom has at least a little telepathy. Which sucks, when I happen to do something I know she wouldn’t necessarily approve of.
“Logan.” Her voice sounds harsh, clipped. “You know this is a school night.”
“Yeah, I know, Mom.”
“And don’t you have a math test tomorrow?”
I lean over to flip on the radio. Electric guitars scream from the speakers; I fumble to turn down the volume. “I’m almost home. I’ll be there in like five minutes, okay?” On both sides of the road, trees flash past, and in the dark, they look monstrous and malformed. “Okay?”
I hear her take a breath. “You’ll go straight to bed when you get here. And we’re going to have a talk before you leave for school in the morning, all right?”
My left hand tightens around the steering wheel, but I force my voice to sound calm. “Okay, fine,” I say evenly. As I’ve previously discovered, getting angry at her never solves anything. In fact, it usually makes things worse.
Besides, I’m pretty sure I can talk my way out of this.
“See you when you get here,” my mom says. “I love you.”
“Yeah, bye,” I say, and hang up.
I try to focus on driving. There’s a sharp curve ahead, and I take it a little too fast. I yank the wheel sideways to stay in control.
I love my mom, I really do, but sometimes she can be so controlling. I mean, I’m seventeen years old. I don’t do drugs, or drink, or even stay out late with friends. Well, except for tonight. And maybe a few other times . . . .
But anyway, I’m pretty much a model kid. God, I don’t even have a girlfriend to fool around with. Based on all of this, you’d think she might consider loosening the reins a little. Give me a chance to, you know, live my life.
But no. Of course not.
I crank up the radio. I haven’t seen another car for a few miles now, and I flick on my brights, illuminating the empty stretch of highway before me.
There’s a big white shape in the road ahead.
A dog? It makes no move to flee.
“Shit!” I gasp.
I wrench the wheel hard, to the right. My tires screech. I try to correct, to steer back on the pavement, but I can’t.
I bump across grass and dirt. I jerk the wheel left. The car spins.
There’s a tree. It’s right in front of me. I hit the brakes, but it’s too late.
I hear a massive crunching noise. My head slams into the window.
Everything goes very still.
© 2017, Caitlin Hensley
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