By Samantha Fairfield Walsh
Loretta’s breath formed little clouds in the air. They billowed and broke as the empty highway opened up in front of her. She was glad that Mick was driving. That way, she could keep her hands tucked safely in the silk lined pockets of her wool jacket. In the warmth of summer it was easy to open the windows and let the breeze whip its way through the car. She longed for those days. The air in the car hadn’t worked in months and there was no cure for the cold of winter. It seemed to gnaw at her bones. Once it got its teeth in, there was no stopping its endless hunger.
The night, inky black, painted everything in its path and they were alone as far as the eye could see. It was a stark contrast to their lives an hour ago. The holiday party at Stan’s was lively; the whole house draped in so much tinsel that the ratio of human to sparkle made everything seem otherworldly. She hiccupped and immediately placed her hand to her mouth. Maybe she shouldn’t have had that third prosecco. Her cheeks felt flushed. It was unladylike to be making noises like that in mixed company. She glanced sideways at Mick. Had he noticed?
Precisely at that moment, the car bucked and spun as the engine grinded. For a moment, they were weightless. A hot air balloon floating through the sky. Everything seemed to be moving so slowly that it was as if time had stopped. She heard the jingle of the keys as her hands flew out of her pockets and gripped the seat. Then, a thud.
Loretta eyes took in the trees splayed out in front of them. The shoulder of the road. She looked down and saw that there was no bleeding, no bruises, just a pair of trembling hands that she recognized as her own. She felt a hand on her cheek, on the clasp of her seat belt, on the nape of her neck. Mick.
She glanced up to see his eyes staring into her own and the corners of his mouth cracked and crumbled until the tears that poured out of his eyes were followed by a hearty laugh, “Some ride, huh?”
The effort to transform thoughts into words seemed nearly impossible. An effort of Herculean proportions.
She whispered, “What did we hit?”
“I don’t know. Whatever it was, it came out of nowhere.”
“How many drinks did you have at the party? If you weren’t okay to drive, you should have said so.”
“I was fine. I am fine.”
He turned to unlock the door and stepped out. She gripped the door handle and heaved her weight upwards. One foot in front of the other. The gold silk on her pumps seemed out of place on top of the dirty snow. She placed her hand on the hood of the car to steady herself and looked down. There was no damage. No indication of a collision of any kind.
“There’s nothing here Retta.”