Back Seat Driver

“The road was a ribbon of moonlight…”

Like Noyes’ highwayman, Laurie came “riding—riding—riding” but the road she traveled more closely resembled the steel bars of a prison than a ribbon. She knew she could not go home. There was no escape beyond this road.

Words had been said.

Pieces of the past had been resurrected, memories acting as an unwanted Lazarus now squatting in their shared space.

Her necklace had found its way into the garbage disposal. There had been no explanation—a mystery. That the necklace had been a gift from a former lover lessened the mystery, but it wasn’t the necklace that had led her to take the seat behind the wheel.

It was the words. Words that could not be repossessed. Words that assured she could not go home.

Susan had stayed home after the fight. Susan always did what she was supposed to and right now women were told to stay home.

There was no official curfew, but nighttime was considered the most dangerous. Two women had disappeared, their bodies later found. Smiles had been carved into their throats, screams escaping directly from their voice boxes with no use for the mouths that had been sewn shut.

Two bodies had been found: one short of labelling the murderer a serial killer.

Little more had been disclosed. Secrets were necessary for matching the random confessions to the actual criminal. And secrets, along with swallowed truths, had been necessary for keeping Laurie’s relationship afloat.

Only there was no floating on this road. Only driving and more driving.

Laurie knew that Susan had seen the belongings that had been piled on her backseat. The pile had been there long enough to become partially disclosed beneath wrappers and coffee cups and the jacket that had been too warm to wear this early in the season. Laurie had wanted to instill doubt in her partner. She no longer wanted to be taken for granted. She had also wanted to convince herself that freedom was but a choice, hers for the taking. All she had to do was get in the car and drive.

They were both too mature to be playing these games, but whenever they tried to talk through a problem, the words formed into a monster, a threat.

There were no businesses, no homes, no signs of life on this empty road. Laurie again remembered the poem she had been forced to read in school so many years before:

For the road lay bare in the moonlight;

Blank and bare in the moonlight;

And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.

When had her heart last throbbed for Susan? Their relationship had been incredibly passionate in the beginning. Then it had devolved into the beige existence that Susan seemed to prefer. Laurie needed more. Maybe that was why she was on the empty road despite the cautions. Maybe she wanted to worry Susan into a frenzy that would result in a rekindled passion. Maybe she could go back home after some time had passed and there was space between them and the words. Susan, who was so orderly, would manage to sweep those words away. Susan would make things tidy again and Laurie would swallow truths just as if her mouth had been sewn shut by an insane killer.

But the words they had said were heavy enough to require two people to vanquish them. Susan would not be able to tidy them alone and Laurie wasn’t sure she would ever be ready to face the words. She considered that she might never go home.


That thought did not bring freedom. It brought sadness, desolation. She was growing tired of relationships dying over things unsaid. She would make this right. She would own her part of the fight; she would expose the secrets she had been keeping hidden. She would take the pile of possessions from the back seat and put them in a permanent place in the space she and Susan shared.

Laurie sniffed, plump tears crawling down her cheeks.

“Here,” a man’s voice said from the darkness of the backseat. A hand with bloodied fingernails handed her a tissue.

∼ Elaine Pascale

© Copyright Elaine Pascale. All Rights Reserved.

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