Freedom River

Pickles. Don’t forget pickles. She had run through the grocery list so many times that she didn’t even need to look at it anymore. That way, if she lost it in the parking lot or at the store, it wouldn’t be a problem. Anything to avoid having to leave the house a second time this month. Sour cream. Hamburger Helper. Miracle Whip. Bologna. Lucky Charms. Apples. Pickles. She had the store’s layout memorized, including the locations of all the restrooms, in case of another anxiety-provoked Irritable Bowel Syndrome attack.

The sound of the car radio suddenly slashed through her thoughts like the machete of that ski-masked lunatic in one of her daughter’s disgusting horror movies. She glared at the girl in the passenger seat, wondering how it could be possible that she created her. The wild curly hair; the piercing blue eyes; the all-black wardrobe; the laidback personality; none of it came from her. A living reminder of the man who betrayed her and left her alone to raise this unwanted stranger of a child. The girl sighed, her brief smile now stifled, and turned the radio back off. Her hope for a rare pleasant trip now dashed, she turned toward her window, rolled her eyes at the thought of another grocery shopping disaster with her mother, and then closed them tight.

Sour cream. Bologna. Sour cream. Bologna. Sour cream….goddammit.  She could already feel the cramping deep in her gut. Might as well just turn around and go home. No. Get it together. She took a deep breath and closed her own eyes. Sour cream. Bologna. Hamburger Helper. Sour Cream. Bologna. Hamburger Helper. Miracle Whip. Sour cream. Bologna. Hamburger Helper. Fuck. By the time she gave up and opened her eyes, there was no time left to react. A half-second later, the car plowed into the guard rail and it gave way as if it were made of cardboard.

Her hysterical screaming filled the car as it sailed over the edge and free-fell into the rust-colored river below. The girl next to her made no noise at all. She simply stared ahead in silent terror, mouth and eyes agape. Typical. The impact was jarring, but was not as forceful as she had feared. Then, panic. As the bulky Oldsmobile bobbed around on the surface of the water, she frantically started rolling her window down, then changed her mind and started rolling it back up. Down. Up. Down. Up. She sobbed as the car began to slowly sink.

The girl was frozen in fear, motionless. At a moment when most newly teenaged kids might cling to their mommies, she held tight to the car door, as far away as she could get. The screaming and crying on the other side intensified as the cold, dirty water began to seep in. Still, she sat silent, watching. Throughout her childhood, she had tried with all her might to imagine herself as an adult and she had never been able to. Maybe this was why; growing up wasn’t in the cards for her.

Her mother, a lifelong smoker, didn’t last long once the car was fully submerged. Her frantic, exhausting attempts at forcing her door open the whole way down certainly hadn’t helped her case. Now, the girl watched her lifeless face through a filter of filth colored water. Once the car had been resting on the river bottom for as long as she could bear to hold her breath, she pushed open her door, the water pressure now equalized. Thanking Mythbusters, she kicked off the side of the car and propelled herself to the surface, where her first breath of freedom awaited.

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