Jason and Joni huddled together on the only spot the springs didn’t poke through on the back seat of a 1974 Ford Capri. Joni whimpered softly, tiny little sobs she tried to hide by holding her breath. Tightly in one hand she clutched a fresh orange and a tiny candy cane. Jason held her tenderly as only a big brother could. It was early Christmas morning but there was little festive to surround them, no rumple of wrapping paper, no goodies to eat. Their belief in Santa Claus had ruthlessly been ripped from them. The only signs of Christmas were the twinkle lights on the convenience store across the street and a lighted sign in the window proclaiming “Merry Christmas.”
There was nothing Merry about this Christmas. Jason wrapped his arms tighter around Joni trying to keep her warm while he thought back over the events of the previous night. His mother had recently been released from treatment, again. She had seemed to be doing well this time. Even Gram said she was. He had expected Gram to pick them up from the Community Christmas Party, but wasn’t really surprised to see his mother. He didn’t suspect anything until she turned left out of the parking lot. “You need to turn right,” he had tried to explain.
“Shut up!” she had snapped.
She had looked so vicious that he had been afraid to say anything else. He had watched the familiar sights of town, McDonald’s, Taco Time and the neighborhood electronics store as they disappeared from view. There had been little heat in the car and the defroster didn’t’ work well so it was only the speed of the car that alerted him that they had entered the freeway.
They hadn’t been on the Interstate for long when his mother had driven the car to the shoulder of the road, stopped, and with the engine still running she had removed something from her purse. He couldn’t see what she was doing, but he had thought perhaps he didn’t want to know. After that her driving had become more and more erratic.
He’d felt the car slow down as it left the freeway. He had polished the window with the sleeve of his jacket as he tried to see where they were. All that he could see were empty fields and an occasional light from a distance farm-house. The city lights had disappeared from view.
He was glad that Joni had eventually fallen asleep leaning against him. Once they left the freeway he had felt the car accelerate once again. It had seemed to be going faster and faster and faster. He had recognized truck lights approaching too quickly ahead of them when the car veered to the left. He had heard the sound of gravel as the car bumped over the rumble strip along the shoulder of the road. He had held his breath as he saw headlights coming directly at them from the opposite direction. He had wanted this to be a bad dream, but he had known that it wasn’t. He had felt their car leave the shoulder and had known that they must be racing along the ditch line when he saw the oncoming lights pass to his right. He’d heard the blast of the truck horn and the popping of the air brakes as the trucker had slowed to a stop. But his mother kept driving until they were once again speeding down the road.
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(Three Word Wednesday: festive, belief, rumple.)