MARCH / APRIL 2013: BY CARISSA HORTON
Resisting the temptation to close her eyes, Sharon dug her nails subtly into the crisp upholstery of her nearly new Hyundai Genesis instead. Rusty made a right turn, the front tire bouncing off the edge of the curb and jostling her already gritted teeth.
“Oops.” Rusty shot a sideways glance at her before easing carefully into the flow of traffic. The light ahead turned yellow and then a blaring red. He slowed the car to a halt, a few scant inches from the vehicle in front.
Sharon’s pulse pounded in her temples, but she still managed a calm, “Very good, Rusty.” Praying that perspiration hadn’t popped out on her forehead, Sharon ran through the scenarios she’d used with her own kids while teaching them to drive. Rusty’s attention to detail while driving was excellent, but distractions still assaulted him on all sides of the vehicle.
With summer break in full swing, Sharon gestured for him to turn into the high school parking lot that loomed up on their right. The tightness in her chest eased the moment they turned but renewed full force when Rusty hit the speed bumps. Her knees flew upwards, hitting the underside of the glove compartment. Just as she reached down to stabilize herself, Rusty hit another speed bump. Her fingers accidentally locked into the handle for the compartment and insurance papers, half-folded napkins, plastic spoons still shrink-wrapped, a shiny registered gun, and several CDs cascaded to
“Rusty, pull over, now.”
The car lurched to a halt in-between two parking spaces, and Sharon leaned forward to collect the paraphernalia sprinkled liberally across her expensive pumps.
Brow wrinkling in that familiar whipped puppy-dog expression, Rusty sat silently in the seat next to her, worrying his lower lip with his teeth, arms tensely crossed across his chest. “You know, Sharon, I actually am a responsible driver. My school instructor can tell you that. It’s just that you make me nervous. It’s like driving in the car with my mother!”
“Yes, well, Rusty, that wouldn’t be far wrong, now would it?”
The glove compartment clicked safely closed and she leaned back into her seat, removing her glasses and pressing her fingers into the bridge of her nose, distancing them from any other handles she might suddenly decide to open in a compulsive play for freedom.
A small noise at her side drew her attention and she caught Rusty staring at her, head tilted in curiosity. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without your glasses.”
She raised an eyebrow.
Hands tapping idly on the steering wheel, he declared, “You’ve got wrinkles around your eyes. More than I thought. No wonder you wear glasses.”
Any good feelings towards Rusty quickly vanishing, Sharon’s testy side won out. “Young man, do you want this lesson to stop right now?”
Rusty’s laughter echoed in the confined space. He reached across the narrow gap between them and tapped her lightly between the eyes. “I like people with laugh lines because it means they’re good-natured.” He gestured between his eyes and across his forehead. “My mother has lines here, and they deepen every year. I can guarantee they’re not laugh lines.”
“So my wrinkles don’t offend you?” Sharon noted the way he gripped the steering wheel harder now, as if it were his life line.
“No. I… I’m sorry. I don’t know why I end up saying such nasty things to you sometimes. Defense mechanism, I guess. Forgive me?”
When handling Rusty it was always best to keep a modicum of control because he had proven himself capable time and again of manipulation. Still, with him reminding her so much of her own children after they’d witnessed a fight between her and her husband, well, it was nearly impossible to stay irritated with Rusty.
Replacing the glasses, she tugged on the seatbelt, making sure it was securely fashioned across her lap. “I think for a little while we might try driving in an empty parking lot where the only things you might possibly hit are inanimate objects.”
She sensed his grin, but didn’t face him as he started the engine, put the car in reverse, and pulled back out into the main lane in front of the school. They circled safely around the lot, him adjusting to the sensitive nature of the gas pedal on her vehicle, and Sharon trying to remember the Lamaze classes she’d taken when pregnant.
After half an hour, Rusty faced her with a twinkle in his eye. “See, no problem!”
His attention distracted, Sharon grappled for the steering wheel, but too late.
The car eagerly plowed up and over the curb, its front wheels digging deep ruts into the xeriscape mulch. In a moment of panic, Rusty hit the gas instead of the brake and the car plowed on up the embankment, narrowly missing a Canary Island Pine tree. The branches scratched across the paint of the Genesis, Sharon’s mouth open with no sound coming out, and a pine cone flew right through Rusty’s open window, ricocheting off his head, and landing between them on the console.
Once the car landed on the other side of the embankment, Rusty braked to a halt and sheepishly faced her. “Do you want to drive home?” ♥
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carissa Horton sews, knits, and writes. She works for Compassion International, which finds sponsors for third world children, and dreams of being an agent at a publishing house. She blogs about life, faith, relationships, and fandom in her free time.