I’m always on the prowl for interesting, current topics to cover in my blog, and most of the time I get my ideas from what’s trending on social media. Over this long weekend, it seems like everyone’s posting about food, family, and travels. So in the spirit of road tripping, I’m posting a short excerpt from my upcoming book Waking Under Water (due out later this month). This piece is all about the joys of traveling long distances with the people you love most. Feel free to share one of your memorable moments!
We’d been driving for hours, snaking our way through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. It felt like Pennsylvania was on the other side of the world, and for some reason, this drive felt ten times longer than the one at the beginning of the school year. The worn interstate had one too many potholes, and the small hybrid jostled us around at every new crack in the road. My forehead banged against the passenger-side window too many times, and finally, with the last bump, I pulled away from the glass. I leaned back against the seat and stared blankly at the road ahead.
“Did you hear me, Mia?”
I flipped up my sunglasses, widened my eyes at her, and turned back to the window.
“You’re not going to answer me?”
I clenched my jaw and shook my head. A slight rust taste lingered in the back of my throat, and I swallowed to try and get rid of it.
“Fine.” Mom huffed, then continued. “I said we need to make another appointment with Dr. Carnessi.”
“I heard you.”
“I don’t understand what’s going on with you or how to fix things. I thought Galt Academy would be good for you. I hope they give you a second chance.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I already told that to you and everyone else a thousand times.” I slipped my earbuds under my hair, slouched in the seat, and turned on my iPod again. Mom droned on, and I tapped up the volume to drown her out.
Finally, Mom stopped talking about the “incident.” I watched the swaying windshield wipers clearing away the dots of rain. It hadn’t let up one bit. Rain had been pelting the car the entire trip from Tennessee, but I wore my sunglasses anyway. Even on restroom and fast-food breaks, I wouldn’t take them off.
I pulled the lever on the side of my seat, but the stupid thing didn’t want to cooperate. I yanked it again—it didn’t budge one inch.
Mom leaned toward the radio dials and held down the Seek button. The digital glow of numbers flittered from one station to another. She let off the button. Then on again. On again. Off again.
“You don’t have to hold the button down. Just tap it once and let it go,” I said.
Mom pulled back her finger and then smoothed a few strands of her dark and wild mane behind her ear. A few wisps fell back down around the side of her face. I remembered how I used to play with her thick curls as a little girl.
I slid my sunglasses down on my nose and turned to study her. A thick, dark liner shaped her pewter eyes and a hint of blush warmed her cheekbones, but she looked tired, and the puffy bags under eyes couldn’t be hidden under any amount of makeup. When we had left earlier that morning, I had crawled from the bed to the car still in my pajamas. Mom, on the other hand, had emerged from her hotel room like a runway model headed to the airport in trendy jeans, a fitted top, and leopard-print wedge sandals. She looked beautiful. Then Dad called, and her face turned back to a sad shade of gray.
Mom settled on a station that played country-pop music. The high-pitched, nasally voice of the latest country sensation filtered through the speakers, her lyrics competing with the Arcade Fire song in my ears.
I plucked an earbud out. “I hate this song.”
She didn’t flinch.
“Oh, sorry.” She reached for the Volume button and hit the down arrow key two times.
“Thank you.” I pulled on the seat’s lever again, this time slowly, cautiously. It worked. I pushed back into the seat with the whole weight of my body and reclined as far back as possible, almost into the back seat. “How much longer?”
I thought the lecture was over for the day, but Mom piped up one more time.
“Last year when you ran away, it was so hard on all of us. I thought you had put all of this behind you,” she said.
“Mom, please stop.” I popped my earbud back in and turned up the music on my iPod…