Saturday, 2:45 p.m.:
Her long, white dress billowed around her. Mascara raced down her face, her eyes frazzled, and a tear formed as she took off at a dead run. Her brother tossed her his set of keys. She caught them in midair and didn’t even break stride. She peeled out of the parking lot, as a spray of gravel pinged a Mercedes, two BMWs, and a Lexus. Through the open window, the wind whipped her hair. Her green eyes were fixed at a distant point on the horizon. Her gaze was just a bit above the dashboard, as she slammed the pickup truck into second gear. A string of curse words emitted from her lips and smacked the wheel. The cup holder beside her held a plastic cup filled with spit, and she picked it up now. Tobacco juice flowed from her lips, and into its predetermined location.
Elisha Crimson flipped the air conditioner on high, even though it was only sixty degrees outside. She honked her horn, gestured with her free hand, and merged into the passing lane. A silver car swerved in front of her, and she screamed and pounded the steering wheel in agony. This time, she neglected to salute the idiot behind the wheel with a cell phone pressed to his ear.
Her eyes flipped to her rearview mirror, and the sea of cars behind her in an intricate rainbow of colors. The trail of cars resembled a python, and the road in front of her was a never-ending façade of red taillights. An accident loomed up ahead, so she slowed down. Two cars—neither one moving—in the right-hand lane were both torn to shreds in twisted metal and crumpled bumpers. Her mind raced, and adrenaline shook her right hand.
She grabbed the cup beside her and spit another glob of juice.
She’d nailed second gear within five hundred feet of the parking lot, and third came soon after. Fourth proved a bit more of a challenge, but now that was behind her as well. Her lips moved at a constant, steady pace, and the cup beside her filled quickly as well. The pouch stuffed between the passenger seat and her own was a third gone.
She hadn’t smiled since this morning with her hairdresser and sister in the same room, as her mother waited in the room next to hers. Elisha flipped the radio low and her voice high. A rapper spoke about life in the ghetto.
She held onto the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white, and her joints ached. A song came on the radio that reminded her of him, and she turned up the volume loud enough to rattle the frame. With the windows rolled down, the sound traveled toward the trees on either side of the highway. A motorcycle engine roared behind her, and she pushed the pedal all the way to the floor. She smacked her lips and tapped her forehead. She kept thoughts of her fiancé, her wedding, and the family she left behind to herself and slammed down the lid. She discovered a ball cap within arm’s reach and thumped it on her head.
She floored it around an old Porsche and a Mercedes with custom wheels. She held one thought and then another—What would her family think? How could this be happening to her? Was her fiancé okay?— collecting them like stamps and compartmentalizing each one in her mind until such a time when she could gather them whole and shove forward with her life.
She’d known Ronnie’s past would catch up with them one day, but now was not the time for second guesses.
She kept one eye on the horizon and her goal in mind. Her whole world changed when a car pulled out in front of her. She veered to the left, the pickup nearly coming up on two wheels, the center of gravity shifting with brute force. And then she shoved the pickup hard to the right, as the center of gravity changed once again, and the whole cab moved and shook around her. The wind whipped through with blazing speed, and her knuckles locked against the wheel. She pinged to the right and careened to the left like a ping pong ball through a maze.
Steam rose up around her, and she hoped it wasn’t her own. She bit her lip and drew blood, and even managed to swallow a little of the chewing tobacco. Coughing and gagging and sick to her stomach, she had no idea how to continue onward. Only that she had to. If she failed, she couldn’t deal with the consequences.
She had insisted on a big wedding filled with a dessert buffet, two guitars, one ice sculpture, three photographers, and one deejay. Had she scaled back, she might have found herself in a different predicament than the one she currently found herself in the middle of. The voice on the radio called her a liar.
She discovered love at eighteen when it bit her on the ass and decided to hang around. The fucker, Ronnie Washington, had smiled at her, and her knees buckled in the heat and humidity. Unable to string a coherent sentence together for five minutes, she waited for him to walk away. But he didn’t. Ten minutes later, he asked her out, and she said yes before she gathered what remained of her senses. Six years later—the best six years of her life—he still asked her out, the romantic bastard. Sure, the ups and downs sucked, and he charmed her with all five of his senses, but dammit she loved him anyway. She loved him with her entire body, and still that didn’t seem like enough. Now, in her brother’s pickup, with her whole world abandoned at the golf course, and her fiancé kidnapped in a black piece of crap with four wheels, she shed more water beneath her eyelids.
If she failed to push forward with everything she had, she never stood a chance at success. Sure, she had failed at almost every corner and streetlight. Sure, failure pointed the barrel of its gun in her direction. But failure didn’t stand a chance this time. She’d find a way to succeed, even if it meant she exhausted every last possibility. Even if she didn’t have a damn clue how she’d do it.