Dad was called into work, so I’m picked up by his live-in girlfriend Nina for my bi-monthly visit. Three more years and I can just drive myself. Five more years before nobody needs to worry about visitation rights anymore.
The drive consists of Nina’s greatest hits: Nina saying how I need to stop being weird if I ever want people to like me, yelling at me for resting my arm on the “fuckdamn console”. The one good thing is that she’s playing Back to Black.
I’m a bit pissed this bitch likes something I like. She’s perverting Amy Winehouse, making me question Amy’s quality, since Nina listens to Nickelback and has Buck Cherry’s “Crazy Bitch” as her ringtone for Dad.
“Tears Dry on Their Own” comes on. It’s my favorite song on the album. I can’t help but softly sing along. Apparently, Nina likes the song a lot too because she’s started singing. I think, here’s our bonding moment. Here’s our bridge. I start singing proudly and happily. All the confidence of a girl who was in Songfest the year before.
For three minutes, five seconds, we have this common chord. Things change between us, until the song is over. Nina tells me I was singing too high. The sing-along was a competition without me knowing it.
It would have been better if Nina had interrupted me by asking me who sang the song, and saying I should let the artist sing it after I answered, like usual. I can forgive Nina for the times she made fun of the way I dress and look, she has no room to talk. I’ve ignored the times that Nina has criticized what I ate and how I ate, she chews like a cow and puts potato chips in her ice cream. I have even been working on forgetting the time that she slapped me for telling her she had no room to talk about the way I dressed or ate. It is easier to forget and forgive than let it all go on hurting me. But the singing critique is my breaking point, talking to me like I wasn’t in Songfest.
I unbuckle my seatbelt and I open the door. Nina hits the breaks, yelping. I jump out while the car is screeching to a halt before Nina has a chance to yell, curse, or strike.
Thanks to the narrow roads of rural Pennsylvania I land on a mixture of grass and gravel instead of asphalt, but my whole thirteen-year-old body vibrates on impact like I’m a tuning fork for the Gods.
Nina honks a few times. Honks in the place of swears. Then she speeds off, vanishing from sight.
She’ll be back, I’m sure of it. I’m not sure if I want her to come back. Call me angsty, but I think I’m better off stranded on Old Route 22.
I sting in many places. I don’t know if I’ve broken anything. I’m not ready to move yet.
I can rest until she comes back. Or at least rest my eyes. It’s peaceful here.
Ashley Bach is a native of rural Pennsylvania living in suburban Philadelphia with a black cat named Fortuna. She is currently a student in Temple University's MFA program. Her work has appeared in Eunoia Review, Maudlin House, and Five 2 One Magazine. She is @stopitashleykay on Twitter.