Sabrina said goodbye the way you would when you were off to the market to pick up milk and eggs. Casual. Nothing in her voice, her wave, her turning the ignition on the ’99 Saturn suggested that she would never again return to 745 Bridgeneck Lane. Who knows, maybe she would. With a wrinkled face and a tattooed passport she’d drive by on her way to the city. She’d point to the old colonial and inform her companions that she once split her chin open jumping from bed to bed in the 3rd floor attic. See that small window at the top, that’s the one.
Sabrina wasn’t exactly sure why she was leaving, she only knew she had no reason to stay. Her boyfriend, Mitch, had been the last of the reasons to hang around, but she was tired of him telling her what not to wear (pants), how not to style her hair (up) and where not to show her love for him (anywhere in public). There were so many rules. She was sick of the rules. Her daddy’s rules were far more arbitrary than Mitch’s. One day it was fine to ask if he had seen the baking sheet, the next day it would land her face down on the mattress with a forearm to the neck.
She drove down the interstate with the radio on. Sabrina loved this song. She cranked the volume up to 10 to drown out the wind’s tone-deaf whistles. Bobbing her head out the window she sang to the passing headlights; bugs shot down her throat, she gulped the thick air and swallowed the humidity right down into her belly. Her appetite for freedom was insatiable.
The path was hers for the taking. She thought about heading north to see Wendy; she left town three months ago. She found a job at the laundromat that paid 25 cents more than minimum wage. A real business! Sabrina shook her head and laughed. She knew Wendy had it in her.
Going north was a bad idea. Wendy was starting over fresh. If Mitch or Daddy came looking for her, Wendy would be their first call. I can’t drag her into this mess, she thought. Besides, she was already headed south on the interstate.
Sabrina looked bleary-eyed at the dashboard. Gas gauge was nearly at the red warning line. She kept driving but kept an eye out for fuel signs. If she got gas and drove all night she could make it across the state line. The idea filled her with adrenaline. She had never been to another state!
Visions of rich and warm desert colors dissipated when she spotted a sign: next exit 23 miles. Shit. She had to get out here and search for gas. She reluctantly followed the off ramp. It was late, she didn’t know the area, and she wasn’t sure what she would find. A left, a right, and a few miles ahead she spotted the fuel pumps. That wasn’t so bad!
She thought about Wendy as she pumped her gas. They were a pair to be reckoned with back home. Giggling through mass at church on Sundays, swaggering through the streets on Saturday nights; they were a sight to be seen even at the grocery store. Wendy was no smarter, no prettier, no more desperate than Sabrina and she had escaped. Just as they had always planned.
Yes, just as they had always planned. They were meant to do this together. Wendy understood that Sabrina couldn’t leave three months ago with Daddy being so sick, throwing up yellow, green and pink shades the color of Easter eggs. He couldn’t even swallow a bite of toast without bringing up more bile and blood.
But now, now she was ready. She had decided “today is the day” and walked out with the Saturn keys in her hand, the highway on her mind. She started the car, turned around and headed for the northbound interstate entrance. If she drove all night she would make up the ground she lost heading south and probably arrive at Wendy’s by daybreak.
She wondered if Mitch had noticed she was gone. They didn’t have plans to see each other tonight and she expected Mitch to spend all night at the pool hall in town. His brother Ray was home, back from his long haul as a truck driver. They loved to spend the night running the tables at Sharkeys, thinking their dumb lanky asses were something out of the Color of Money.
Daddy would surely not have noticed she was gone. He had been up all day and the night before, working in his “lab”; mixing concoctions of white powder meant to optimize both high and profit. No one had yet complained about the baking soda content but he kept his stuff pretty pure. After a long day like that he was sure to sleep straight through to dinnertime the next day. She left him a plate in the fridge but forgot to leave instructions to warm it up. He hated his food cold.
The radio interrupted her thoughts, begging to be noticed once again. Tracy Chapman; late night DJs were so original. Sabrina turned the volume back to 10 and sang.
driving, driving in your car
The speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
And I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone
Sabrina drove for hours after that song ended, but as she pulled in the familiar driveway those lyrics still played in her head. Independence and autonomy always took a back seat to tough choices and responsibility. Even in a fast car.
745 Bridgeneck Lane.
Freedom had tasted good but it wasn’t something Sabrina could stomach every day.
This piece is a work of fiction written in a moment I was inspired to tell a story. ‘Cause being a mommy requires you to make up a lot of stories. Consider this practice.
If fiction is not your thing, you can read my post at Skinny Mom discussing what I do when my kids just won’t share. I’m there every Wednesday as Taskmaster Mom.