"We're gonna get arrested."
"No, we won't."
"Oh because you know so much about breaking the rules."
"Shut up." I gripped the steering wheel of my car, glaring at the street in front of me.
From the backseat of my car, my best friend Leanne groaned. "Come on! Sadie, let's go back to the dance!"
"Please? Pretty please with a cherry on—"
"Aw," Ben, Leanne’s boyfriend, teased. "Is Sadie actually doing something for herself now?"
I gave him a sharp look. "We're here to do something impulsive, stupid, and crazy."
Ben crossed his arms. “And being at prom isn’t stupid and crazy enough for you?”
“You forgot impulsive.”
Leanne groaned and kicked the back of my seat with her pink heels. “Sadie! I’m bored!”
Rolling my eyes, I turned a corner rather sharply. “Stop complaining, I’m driving. Besides, if you really didn’t want to come, you didn’t have to get into my car and put those seatbelts on.”
“But you’re our ride out of here, remember?”
I parked my car on the side of an empty street and turned to give Ben a death glare. “Yes, and just how classy is that? You ask Leanne out to prom and you don’t even have a ride?”
He waved it off. “You’re here and you’re a decent driver, so why not?” Ben grinned. “Come on, lighten up! We’re supposed to be having fun! It’s the end of senior year, live a little.”
I slapped the steering wheel, causing it to honk. “I’m trying! What do you want me to do?”
Leanne fussed with a chunk of her fluffy pink dress. “Get some food.”
“And that’s impulsive and crazy how?”
She gave me a piercing glare. “Look, I don’t care okay? I came along with you to have some fun and because I didn’t want to abandon my best friend at the dance.”
She had a point. I sighed. “Fine, okay. I’m sorry. I just don’t feel like I’ve really done anything fun this whole year.” I leaned my head against the window. “I mean, I’m supposed to be having fun. I just don’t feel it.”
The mood in the car dampened silghtly as a few cars passed us. Streetlights flickered lazily as the digital clock on my dashboard glowed midnight. Prom had been nothing like I'd expected it to be. Not only had all the photos I'd taken turn out weird, but I'd also run into him. James. Leanne and I had been warming up to the dance floor when he'd bumped into my shoulder with his new girlfriend. He'd given me a wry smile, his hand clutching his girlfriend's waist. She was completely oblivious to the exchange between James and me, her eyes only seeing him. James winked at me and turned to kiss her pink lips. I'd looked away, feeling naked and vulnerable, staring up at the bright revolving disco ball that hung precariously above my head. After he brushed past me and dissappeared through the crowd of jumping and shimmying seniors, I had lost all motivation to stay at the dance. I rubbed my eyes tiredly, cursing myself as my hand came away with some of the eyeliner I was wearing.
What else could go wrong? Looking into the rearview mirror, I tried to clumsily fix my makeup. My heels were starting to pinch my feet and the stupid peach-colored dress was making me feel like a tightly wrapped roll of sushi. I wasn’t happy. Maybe it was just the hype of the night that got me into thinking that perhaps I’d actually be able to relax and have some fun. Senior year had gone nothing like I’d planned. Absentmindedly, I toyed with the windshield wipers, turning them on and off, on and off. Maybe it really had been a bad idea to come out here, I don't know. All I knew was that I couldn't be in a stuffy room full of beautiful, happy, and excited people. But even if I wanted to go back to the dance, it was too late to return; prom was scheduled to end at midnight exactly. I knew there was an after party downtown at one of the clubs, but I knew he'd be there, so I’d told Leanne I didn’t want to go. Even though she’d said she wouldn’t go either, I knew she desperately wanted to dance some more.
“Hey, Sadie!” Leanne jumped up and shook the car.
“I dare you to go ninety miles per hour down this whole stretch of road!”
Ben and I whipped around to stare at her. “What?”
She giggled and gave a cute little shrug. “You said you wanted to do something crazy right? Well isn’t this impulsive, crazy, and stupid?”
“It’s a bit too stupid for anyone to do.” Ben shook his head and settled back into his seat. “Besides, even if it weren’t dumb enough already to go speeding down a street like this, Sadie wouldn’t do it.”
“Why not?” Leanne demanded, crossing her arms. “Sadie can do whatever she wants.”
“Yeah, but when has she ever done anything like that?” Ben gave both of us dubious looks. “I mean, seriously, Sadie hasn’t done anything outside of the safe box ever since she and James—”
“Ben!” Leanne snapped, eyes darting to gage my reaction.
He shut up, but looked unhappy to do so. I knew he was only staying quiet for Leanne’s sake, but I knew he was right. The most courageous and biggest move I'd made in the last few months had been breaking up with James. And now, I hesistate in doing anything else just because I was afraid of losing more than I already had. Staring out into the empty road, I felt my palms begin to sweat and my heart beat a little bit faster. From where we were parked, I could say that the Garden Pavilion, the ballroom that prom was held in, was just further down a couple of blocks. This stretch of road was the beginnings of a highway, and all four lanes of traffic were empty. A couple of streetlights flickered impatiently, waiting for me to make a move. Should I do it? If it was just me in the car, maybe I would just rush the whole stretch of road, but I had my best friend and her boyfriend in my car.
Peering down the road, which seemed to be stretching farther out with each passing second, I felt my heart jump to my throat. I gripped my steering wheel in a tight grip. Should I? Glancing over at Ben, I could see him smirking at me. He thinks I won’t do it, I realized. That did it. I've had enough of people belittling me after what happened with James. Glaring at my spedometer for a brief second, I shook my head and cleared it of all rational thought. If I didn't do this now, I knew I'd chicken out and play it safe. I was done hiding under the covers; I wanted to be free. Slamming the gear shift into drive, I stepped on the accelerator and burst forwards. The street ahead of me wasn’t too long, but it was just enough of a stretch that I could reach a high speed and maintain it before reaching the turn that would take us back to the Garden Pavilion.
I idled in the middle of the road, praying to God there wouldn't be a news report later that night about three seniors who had died from a car accident. Noticing my slight hesitation, Ben unbuckled his seat belt in a show of defiance. A unbidden image of James laughing at me invaded my mind. When I looked over at Ben, grinning at me in triumph, his image overlapped with that of James belittling me. Gritting my teeth, I lifted my foot off the brake and slowly pushed down on the accelerator. I'd show these people. The car hummed to life, easily propelling us forwards. Leanne bounced in her seat, albeit restrained by her seatbelt.
“Faster! I said ninety!”
“I’ll get there!” I grimaced and nearly flattened my foot against the accelerator. “Here we go!”
The car burst into high speed, knocking Ben back into his seat with a vengeance. I started laughing. The needle on my speedometer rose dramatically, wavering on eighty-five before climbing up to ninety.
“Whoo!” Leanne shrieked and lowered her window, letting in a whirlwind of air that gusted around us.
I felt myself scream with glee as I felt the car twitch and lose its straight direction for a moment. Ben was gripping his seat in terror, wide-eyed like a gaping fish. The rush of cool night air battered my neat updo I had for prom as the streetlights flashed past us. It was like a vortex of space that was barely able to keep us in its continuum. We throttled at too great a speed to be held in a confined space. The speed, the lights, the chaos of wind inside the small car rushed my senses. Was this what freedom felt like? I felt like I was being sucked into the center of gravity. It was exhilarating.
I felt alive.
The turn of the road rapidly rushed to meet us.
“Stop!” Ben shouted, scrambling to grab his seatbelt. “We’re gonna crash!”
I laughed manically. “No we won’t!” Lifting my foot off the accelerator and pressing on the break, I managed to slow down enough to make a wide turn back onto the road that lead to the Garden Pavilion. The spedometer read seventy-five and it was rapidly decreasing. I swithced back to pushing down on the accelerator, craving that crazy rush of freedom. The Garden Pavilion was in my sights now, its glowing lights was just a few blocks away. I could hear a few shrieks and hollers from the prom goers who had left the pavilion. Their faces were all a blur from my windows and their voices were a pop of sound and nothing more. Limos and fancy new cars moved over to give me space. I was free! Finally free! All I ever wanted was to feel truly alive and free. And this was it. I finally felt like I was breathing, moving, living. I didn’t care about anything anymore. I could fly.
“Sadie I think that’s a person!”
“Stop! You’ll hit him at this rate!”
I slammed on my brakes and skidded a good three-hundred feet before the smell of burning tires confirmed the car’s complete halt. Panting a bit from the thrill of flying so close to the ground, I looked around. Ben quickly took the chance to slam my gear shift into park. “I don’t see him! Who was it?” My mind was spinning, dizzy with excitement.
Ben was sweating profusely as Leanne leaned forwards to look through the windshield. “He was right there! Oh! See? There he is!”
Shaking my head, I shakily unbuckled my seatbelt and opened my car door. I stepped outside, laughing at Ben who was still clutching his seat in terror. Walking around to the front of the car, I looked around and didn’t see anyone standing near my car. A group of seniors leaving the prom eyed my wild discheveled appearance as they walked away to their cars. Just as I was about to accuse Leanne and Ben that they were liars, there was a small groan at my feet. I jumped back as I realized the person I’d nearly hit was lying on the ground. “Hey, are you okay?” I bent down to gauge how badly shaken the guy was.
The boy lifted his face up to look questioningly up at me. I reeled backwards, shock and panic seizing my heart. It was him. The tormentor of my soul, the ghost of my past, the devil’s spawn, the nightmare in my sleep, the ex-boyfriend who wouldn’t let go of the impossible: it was James. His hazy green eyes stared blearily into mine. He was drunk and he’d merely fallen over from his lack of balance. I stumbled backwards and fell facing him. Blindly, I wondered where his girlfriend was and why she wasn't helping him. My heart thudded with the heaviness of painful memories. James tried to sit up, but was too intoxicated to do anything but lie on the ground. He gave me a slow smile, extending a hand towards me. I couldn't breathe. How many times would it take for me to look at him, someone I thought I knew so well, and not feel a thing? When would I be able to stop feeling panicked and frightened every time I look at his eyes?
Those bottle-green eyes never wavered, never changed in the whole year I’d been with him. When he would hold me close and whisper, “I love you,” his eyes never changed. When he would push me down and throw me across the room, his eyes never changed. When he would watch everything I do and hold me back from talking to my friends, his eyes never changed. When he would grab me and growl, "You are mine!" his eyes never changed. When he would look at me and beg for another chance, his eyes never once wavered. And now, his eyes still hadn’t changed. His piercing green eyes bore through my eyes and into my soul. The sound of a car door slamming from behind me, was distraction enough to pull away from James’ eyes. I turned to see Leanne standing outside the car, walking up to me. She paused for a second when she realized the person we’d almost hit was James. The look on her face said it all—we should have hit him.
“Come on,” she said, pulling me to my feet. “We’ve still got the night ahead of us.”
Numbly, I followed her lead and slid back into the driver’s seat, shakily buckling my seatbelt. Ben was unnaturally quiet, giving me space. There was a slight ringing in my ears as I took deep gulps of air. I switched gears again, this time not as nervous as I had been before. The trembling in my hands began to stop, giving me a feeling of stability. I carefully drove around James so as not to hit him. Leanne rolled down her window and flipped him the finger as I focused on my breathing. All I could see where those bright green eyes, staring unflinchingly at me, possessing me. I shook my head. Breathe. The traffic light in front of us turned green, blinding me temporarily with its glowing color. It was then that I realized it was ninety times that you would face someone before letting go of the horrors they wrought. Ninety times would you cry over a broken heart and shed a new tear each night. Ninety times would you end up picking yourself off the ground, building yourself up to fight once more. Peace settled into my heart; the worst was over now. Gripping the steering wheel with a death grip, I drove past the light, letting out a breath of relief. I wasn’t under his watch anymore. I was free.
Peering into my rearview mirror, I gave Leanne a small smile. “Downtown?”
Ben and Leanne exchanged a look before turning back to me with grins on their faces. "Let’s go! But, you have to do something for me.”
“What is it?” I kept my eyes on the road.
Leanne buckled her seatbelt as Ben hurriedly did the same. Confused, I managed to glance at both of them with a curious look. Leanne smiled and tapped my shoulder.
“Let’s go ninety.”
© Copyright 2016 Jezebel Aries. All rights reserved.
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