“Chris, cut it out!” I shout, knowing the wrath of retribution will be mine for calling out my brother. “Mom, he’s hitting me!”
I feel the car jerk right as my mother glances over her shoulder and back at me, her steeled blue eyes pushing me back against the seat. “Molly, how many times do I have to tell you that when you keep picking on your brother, he will defend himself?”
“But…I didn’t hit him!”
“Molly! Did you or did you not poke him in the ribs a minute ago?”
Damn, I didn’t think she saw that. Oh well, deny. “I didn’t-”
“Molly, don’t lie. I can watch both of you by looking in the rear view mirror.”
Defeated, I quit the defence, instead choosing to turn and stick my tongue out at my eight year old brother.
“Mom, Molly stuck her tongue out at me!” Chris squeals, the rat.
I tug on a lock of blonde dangling curl. “You look like such a girl.”
“Too! Look at your hair – girls hair!”
“Mom! She said I look like a girl. Tell her I do not!”
“Eeeeeeeeenough!” roars our mother, this time not turning around. “The two of you are driving me nuts. Molly, stop telling your brother he looks like a girl. You are the one who said he looks cute when his hair covers his ears.
“Can’t we ever make the drive to Aunt Carly’s in a peaceful way, where both of you get along, and failing that, manage to find other things to occupy your time besides tormenting each other – and me?”
“He started it!”
The car swerves slightly right and slows, gliding up a ramp until we brake at a stop sign. “Why are we stopping?” I wonder.
“I need coffee. I need a break. I need to pee – and so do both of you.”
“I don’t have to pee!” I protest.
“Me either,” my brother seconds.
“All right. Please stay here. And lock the doors until I get back.”
“You are leaving the car running?” I question. “What if the car starts like… rolling?”
“Is that a problem?” My mother asks me. “Finally, I would have quiet. Now just be good and don’t touch anything until I get back.” Mom clambers out and walks off towards the rest area building, leaving Chris and me alone. She returns three minutes later carrying a steaming Styrofoam cup of coffee.
“I have to go to the bathroom!” Chris declares the moment after Mom buckles up.
A loud exhale sounds from the front, sounding like a moose in rut. “Chris, I just asked you_”
“I didn’t have to go before. Now I do. And can I get something to drink too?”
“Molly, can you take him?”
“Me? No way I’m going in the boys room!”
“I don’t want you to go in the boy’s room. You just turned 13, you are big enough to take your brother inside, and he is big enough to go in the men’s room by himself.”
There is no sense in arguing this one. “Come on baby girl, I’ll guard you from the evil forces in the restroom.”
Inside the building, I point towards the restroom. “Go in there, don’t talk to anyone, do what you have to do, don’t touch anything except the sink, and make sure you wash your hands!”
Now I have to go. I duck into the ladies room and do my thing, emerging to find Chris waiting for me. On the walk to the car, I tell him he doesn’t really look like a girl; I don’t know what’s come over me.
The drive resumes, and all is quiet for an hour. Chris nods off while I read Twilight. Occasionally I twist my attention towards the outside, watching trees parade by, waiting for the right spot; the place that I feel is so beautiful.
The time of serenity ends when Chris’ head slumps onto my open book. Lifting his head off and shifting him upright, he mistakes my assistance for belligerence. “Mom, Molly is picking on me again!”
“What! Your head was on my book, and I moved you off. Besides, you would get a stiff neck if you stayed folded over like that.”
Surprisingly, Mom says nothing, not one word. She clicks on the stereo and pushes in one of her cd mixes, turning it up, louder than I’ve ever heard before. Ooh, I like this song! I set the book aside and start seat dancing, watching as the trees give way to a spectacular view of water and forest and mountains, the water disappearing at the edge of the roadway. It is a long drop to that water.
The view extends for almost a mile, with one sharp bend in the interstate as it curls around the shoreline a hundred feet below.
Dancing still, I can see Mom getting into the music; her shoulders keep time. The minivan accelerates as we move downhill, towards the curve. For once, Chris is quiet, awed by the natural world beyond the work of humans. I love the feel of speed, the pulse of music, the rhythm of family, where now even my brother starts to find his groove.
Faster and onwards we roll, towards the curve, ready to use centrifugal force and slingshot around the curve.
I look at my brother, smiling. In the reflection of the rear view, I see a wide smile hanging by a nose below faraway eyes. I glance lower and see the speed. “Mom!” I shout as we reach the curve, the car unbending. “Mom!”
Loud music gives way to louder heavy metal, crunching and screeching as it is bent and torn. Rapid deceleration pulls Chris and I forward, following our mother, who takes a face full of airbag.
And then nothing, nothing but the feel of an elevator removing weight from my body.
I think I heard myself screaming. I know Chris was. Mom, Mom was singing, even after the car sank into the deep murky water of Pumitukew Lake.