Avoid the subject. Calvin thinks as he pulls the car into the driveway. Just don’t talk about it. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.
He puts the car in park, but such a move is premature. The door to the house is already open and Rachel is halfway to the car.
Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. He repeats as she opens the passenger door and climbs in with him.
They sit in silence until they merge onto the highway.
“You look good” he begins cautiously.
“Well, good morning to you too”
“I’m kidding, dummy. You’re not so bad yourself. Could use a shave though.” She teases. He shaved yesterday. There’s barely scruff on his face, but Rachel misses nothing.
“I shaved yesterday!” He runs his hand down his face. There’s barely any-”
“I miss nothing” she interjects with a level of sass known only to come from her.
“Ain’t that the truth” he announces with a sigh.
“Speaking of the truth…,” She looks at Calvin with a smirk. She’s going to ask, he thinks. But then she changes the subject with, “Not this exit, the next one”
“So, what did you decide about school?” He changes the subject. Take the bait, take the bait.
“Community College. 2 Years. Then Juilliard. Major in Playwriting”
“You think you can make it in?”
“You think I can’t?”
“That’s the spirit!” Calvin declares with a smile.
“And Cole’s uncle is married to someone who works there. He thinks I can get in easier.”
“Works there? Like a janitor?” he teases. Anything to stay away from talking about it.
“She’s a department chair. Math, I think.”
“Math? At Julliard?”
“It’s more important there than you think!” She protests.
Calvin changes lanes again. They’re now tightly wedged between a red eighteen-wheeler in the front and a minivan in the back.
“So, Calvin…” Rachel ventures back.
Here it comes. Play it off. “What?”
“Don’t play dumb. You know what.”
“You really do”
“I really don’t. How are you and Cole?” he dodges, changing the subject again.
“We’re fine.” Her annoyance is clearly visible.
“What do you want me to say? ‘I’m pregnant, Cole’s the father, and we’re getting married?’!”
He shrugs, “It’s more detailed then, ‘we’re fine’”
“Well, at least it’s true. We’re fine. He’s just been…”
“Been what?” says Calvin, alarmed. He’s struggling to keep his eyes on the road now.
“Been avoiding me. I think. Maybe not. He’s just canceled dates three weeks in a row. He says it’s because of the new job, but I think he’s seeing Jane on the side”
“That cheerleader? The one who…”
“Was obsessed with you in 8th grade? Yeah, her”
“He’s making a mistake”
“Of course, he is!” Rachel slaps him. “But I don’t want to get all up in his business if it really is just work”
“How sure are you?” he signals to take Exit 145 off the highway.
“Well, Jesse heard from Katie that Wendy…Nope, next exit.”
“Yeah. They’re both called Roosevelt but one is Roosevelt Street and the other is Roosevelt Drive.”
“Why did they name both the same thing?”
“Why are you asking me? And are you going to tell me about the thing yet?”
“About what?! You keep saying that but I don’t know”
“You had something to tell me yesterday. But then mom and dad started fighting and you got involved and then you got kicked out”
“I honestly don’t remember”
“It seemed important”
“Well…I’m dropping out of school.”
“Right, and that’s why mom and dad were fighting…cuz no one knows why the hell you would turn down a full ride to med school to be a teacher.”
“I had a change of heart”
“Please. There’s more to it than that”
“I honestly couldn’t see myself…doing that…”
“Making tons of money?”
“No. Well I mean, in a way…”
“Bringing pride and honor to the family?”
“No! It’s just… all the blood…”
“Please, you’re not telling me that my brother, Calvin Gregory, who ran into that building to help those people after that idiot drunk plowed his truck through the windows of that grocery store, is afraid of blood?”
“What do you want me to say? I don’t know what changed! I quit med school and that’ s that. Whoever they give my scholarship to will need it a lot more than I will.”
Rachel doesn’t answer. She’s resumed looking out the window. He’s avoiding it again! I’m never going to get it out of him. She thinks. She notices the truck ahead of them beginning to swerve slightly as Calvin resumes the conversation.
“Look, I’m sorry. I just, need to do this myself ok?”
No! No! It can’t be happening already! I need more time. Rachel’s heart rate accelerates. She has to get his attention now.
“No. NO. You can’t do this yourself! Please! Let me help! Let me in!”
“Just tell me what’s going on!”
“Rachel! What are you talking about!? I don’t-“
The truck skids, Calvin tries to hit the brakes but its too late. They slam into the side of the truck. Rachel reaches out to Calvin as his head goes through the windshield. She’s screaming as everything goes dark.
“Rachel…Rachel…” a voice says soothingly, “Rachel…”
Rachel’s eyes snap open. She’s in her room. In her bed. Her father is in the chair next to the bed. It all comes back to her.
“It happened again, didn’t it?”
“Yes…but Dad… you don’t understand! This time he was going to tell me!” Rachel says excitedly. She starts to get up. Her father leans back in his chair, concern on his face.
“Rachel, it’s been 4 years, you can’t hold onto it anymore” He reaches out and holds her down, her blood pressure needed to stay lower. Calm her down, He reminds himself.
“I have to know!” tears are coming down now.
“Know what?” He pushes. But he knows the answer. It’s part of the recovery process…
“Why he didn’t tell me before”
“Tell you what?”
“That I would never talk to him again”
“He couldn’t tell you. It wasn’t his fault; the driver was drunk, there was nothing you could do!”
“But he was going to! I just know it! So, I could at least say goodbye…”
“He couldn’t have known Rach”
“There’s no way-”
“This time I was in his head! He had something to tell me!”
“Rachel, it was just a dream. If he had something to say he couldn’t say it, and that’s ok. He would want you to move on”
“Then I should’ve told him to exit sooner. To not be on the highway”
“There were no exits on that road Rach. You guys were in the middle of nowhere, the nearest exit was ten miles from where the accident was. There was no way out of the way when that truck flipped.”
“There had to be something.”
“No way out but through. You’ve got to push this behind you. Calvin wouldn’t want him stopping you”
“Julliard wouldn’t take me”
“Calvin wouldn’t want that to stop you either. And Cole said they might look into you again”
“That’s right. Cole. He’s still loves me. He wasn’t with Jane”
Like what you read? Or didn’t? Please leave feedback in the comments. I’m new at this and hoping to grow as a writer and storyteller. Thanks!
Written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: There Is No Exit.