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ELEVEN YEARS, TWO MONTHS, SEVEN days.
The last time I had physical contact with a blood relative.
The fingers of my left hand drum against the steering wheel and my right hand grips the stick shift. The urge to shift into First, slam the gas and hightail it out of the dismal gray parking lot pulses through my veins.
I force my stiff fingers to release the gear stick. Music could take the edge off, but the bass from the speakers vibrates in a way that could draw attention to my car hiding in the employee-only lot. From here, I can watch the visitors enter and exit the social services building.
Ninety minutes ago, my mother walked in. Now I need to see her walk out. With each intake of cold air, the itch to leave grows. So does the itch to meet her.
The heater died a half hour ago, and the engine stalled twice. A few more things to fix on the growing list. In need of a new resistor, the heater will be a cheap fix.
My cell rings. Without checking the caller ID, I know who it is, yet I answer anyway. “Yeah.”
“I see you.” Annoyance thickens my social worker’s Southern accent. “She’s waiting.”
My eyes flicker to the corner windows close to her cubicle and six feet from my car. Courtney draws the shades and places a hand on her hip. Her ponytail swings from side to side like she’s a pissed-off racehorse. Fresh out of college, she was assigned my case back in June. I guess her boss figured she couldn’t jack me up more than I already am.
“I told you not to schedule a visitation.” I stare at her as if we were in the same room. What I like about Courtney? She stares back. She’s one of three people who have the guts to hold eye contact with an inked seventeen-year-old with a shaved head and earrings. The second one is my best friend. The third...well, the third was the girl I loved.
Courtney sighs and the ponytail stills. “It’s Christmas Eve, Isaiah. She showed early and brought you presents. She’s waited patiently for a thirty-minute visitation that should have ended forty minutes ago.”
Waited. Patiently. My neck tightens and I roll it from side to side to keep from blowing steam at the wrong person. “Ten years.”
I throw those two words at her every time she mentions my mother. Courtney drops her chin to her throat. “Don’t do this. She had her reasons, and she wants to talk to you.”
I raise my voice and pound my hand against the steering wheel. “Ten years!”
“It could have been fifteen, but she was a model prisoner,” she says, as if that was a concession on Mom’s part. “She wrote you once a week.”
I glare at Courtney through the windshield. “Then be her social worker if you’re up her damn ass so much. She’s been out for over a year and she’s just now coming to visit.”
“Isaiah,” she says with defeat. “Come in. Give her a chance.”
I place one foot on the clutch and the other on the gas. My engine roars with anger and the car’s frame vibrates with the need to run. Third Street ends at the social services building and my parking spot gives me a straight shot to the clear strip of road. Give Mom a chance? Why should I? When have I been given one?
“You have no idea what she did,” I say.
“I do.” Courtney softens her voice.
“I’m not talking about why she went to prison.” I shake my head as if the action can dispel the memory playing in my mind. “You have no idea what she did to me.”
“Yes, I do.” A pause. “Come in. We can work this out.”
No. It can never be worked out. “Did you know that the lights on Third Street are on a timer?” I ask her. “And that if you hit the sweet spot speed you can cruise the entire strip without hitting a red?”
Courtney bangs her fist against the glass. “Don’t you dare!”
I rev the engine again. “Ever hit a quarter mile in ten seconds, Courtney?”
“Isaiah! You’d better—”
I hit End and toss the phone onto the passenger seat. Focusing on the red light, I shift into First as my foot hovers over the gas. Speed. It’s what I crave. I can race the emotions away. The light turns, I release the clutch and my body slams into the seat as my foot crashes down on the gas.
Is it possible to outrun memories?
WAITERS IN WHITE FRANTICALLY STEP out of my way as I race down the hall. The expensive art on the wall becomes a colored blur the faster I go. My breath comes out in a rush and my dress ruffles and crinkles against itself. I’m creating too much noise and garnering too much attention. None of that is good when I’m trying to make a quick getaway.
My heels dangle in my right hand and I lift the hem of my shimmering blue-gray ball gown with the other. Cinderella ran away because her coach was going to turn back into a pumpkin. I’m running away because I’d rather be knee-deep in axle grease.
Rounding another corner, I enter the desolate hallway near the country club’s kitchen. The sound of the crowd laughing and the rhythmic beats of the jazz band become muffled the farther I run. A few more steps and I’ll be home free in my sweet, sweet Mustang.
“Gotcha!” Fingers slide onto my arm and I experience whiplash. My hair stings my face as it flies forward, then back. One hand-curled spiral strand of blond bounces near my eye when it breaks loose from the jeweled clip holding the sides of my hair.
My twin brother turns me to face him. A hint of laughter plays on his lips. “Where are you going, sis?”