Backseat Driving

headlights-1449254_1920Gigi climbed reluctantly into the back seat of the old Chevy, slamming the door behind her. She watched as her mother settled herself into the driver’s seat and fiddled with the light controls. The windshield wipers flicked back and forth twice. Headlights switched from high to low beam and back, illuminating the yard ahead.

“Can’t we stay a little longer, Mom?”

Another hour would help, if she could distract her mother from the folding card table, groaning with bottles, on the back patio. She imagined the bonfire, ringed by laughing people in mismatched lawn chairs, and tried to project that tantalizing image into her mother’s mind.

“You have school tomorrow,” her mother slurred, leaning forward to better aim the unsteady key into the keyhole and, having finally managed, twisting it. The car sputtered to life, engine revving as her mother pumped the gas.

Gigi settled back into her seat, buckling her belt carefully. She could already feel her shoulders tensing and her back hunching against the strain of trying to will the vehicle to remain between the lines of the road. She was old enough to know she couldn’t actually control the car—or her mother’s behavior—with her mind.

That didn’t stop her from trying.

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