“It’s too early for this shit,” he said as smoke trailed from his flared nostrils. Wayne tightened his grip on the steering wheel until veins protruded from the knuckles of work-weary fingers. He’d taken time off from the tire shop to give Brandy a ride to a doctor’s appointment that morning. She threatened to tell her father about their mistake if he didn’t take her, whether he liked it or not.
They drove south on Highway 65 in Wayne’s primered Camaro with bondo-patched rust spots, its original paint color a mystery. The exhaust system’s howl echoed down the highway and bellowed as much noise pollution as the black fumes from its oxidized tailpipe. He flicked a spent cigarette out the window with bravado, red sparks spiking off the pavement as the butt narrowly missed a BMW’s hood in the adjacent lane.
Brandy folded her knees in front of her in the passenger seat, her dirty hair pulled up into a ponytail with red curls escaping its bonds to protrude out one side. She pushed the loose strands behind her ear and rubbed her jaw. That bad tooth hurt so much she didn’t know which was more important – a pregnancy test or going on to the college clinic where the students worked on your mouth for free.
Neither one of the pair had much sleep after partying the night before. They’d been up half the night, and Wayne’s temperament showed it.
Their clandestine meet-ups usually took place off the beaten path under the cover of darkness — either out in an undetectable farmer’s field long left fallow with no livestock to upset, out in “the boonies,” or even further on a little-used dirt road in the middle of nowhere, so far out they called it the “boontoolies.”
Hiding in a copse of trees by the field the night before helped the small group feel safe staying out of sight of any passersby. Any likelihood of a County Mounty patrolling there was slim to none.
At either place they’d build a quickly extinguishable campfire for enough illumination to light up, get high, and then get gone as soon as possible. Such a short party served its purpose to self-medicate. No socialization necessary for that purpose. That sort of thing could stymie a buzz superfast.
In the car, Wayne rubbed a bloodshot eye with the back of one hand, and she noticed the chewed down stubs of his nails framed by yellowed fingertips. His thumb was wrapped in soiled tape that hadn’t been changed since bloodying it with a lug wrench the week before.
“Why did that asshole, Stevie, show up last night? Listening to his mouth run is even worse than yours.” From the look on her boyfriend’s tired face, Brandy sensed it best not to say anything else and piss him off even more. He gave his head a violent shake to wake himself up, jerking the wheel in the process, and Brandy grabbed the door handle to steady herself.
“If that wasn’t bad enough, now I’m up at the ass crack of dawn taking you somewhere. I’d think you can get your old man to fix your car so you can drive yourself.”
“I thought you might want to find out the results with me,” she replied softly. Giving him a sideways glance, she read his opposing feelings on the matter.
He sniffed. “Huh. You think we’re playing house or something?” The tip of his right ear was turning that crimson tinge that always appeared when Wayne got mad. “I don’t care what your daddy says, this ain’t happenin.’”
She flinched at the timbre of his voice. It sounded just like her father’s did before he would reach out to slap her. “Why don’t you just shut up the rest of the way? I can’t deal with this shit so early in the damn morning.” He looked down at the blue Bic while he lit another smoke, and the car inched toward the median with his attention elsewhere. They nearly crossed the highway dividing line.
He took the first drag off his cigarette and blew a long gray plume out one side of his mouth while talking out of the other. “You’re sadly mistaken if you think I’m havin’ any part of this business. If it’s positive we’re headed right to that place on 47th Street and bustin’ through that string of people with the protest signs. They can yell at us all they want, but you’re gettin’ rid of it.”
Brandy put her flip-flopped feet back down on the floorboard and stared down at the tiny bump in her middle. At such an early stage, the expanse barely pushing out the waistband of her cotton shorts. She closed her eyes to shut out his words and rubbed her swollen jaw to concentrate on the toothache instead of the pain in her chest. Even though the reality of what Wayne and her dad would both expect weighed on her, she knew better than to ever let her dad find out their predicament.
Wayne said, “It’s none of their damn business anyways. Those ol’ bitches at that clinic can kiss my ass. I don’t care what’s in their Bible. You’re going in there if I have to drag you. That’s what’s next, girl.”
She rolled the window down a little in hopes the wind might carry her just a whiff of woodsmoke from the embers of a fire somewhere. They had fun in that field the night before, or at least it seemed like fun. Brandy wished they could go back to the party and get high again.
Image: Jessica Lucia via Flickr
*Studio 30+ writing prompt – copse