by Heather Bell Adams
The trees along Butler Road were covered with ice. Carrie turned up the heat, not bothering to ask Mick if he minded. She settled back into the leather seat, waiting to see if her adjustment would make any difference. As expensive as this thing was, you’d think the heat could work better. She remembered when he came home from the dealership, flipping the keys around his fingers, over and over again until she wanted to scream. Tonight the only sound was jazz on the car stereo, turned down so low that it came and went, every once in a while the sound of a saxophone louder than the rest. Mick gripped the steering wheel with both hands.
Sometimes it was as though they lived on different planets. Some days she felt like she was being tested. She had to sit in a straight chair under a bright light. On the other side—on her planet—there was calm blue water. You could lean back and let go.
She twisted a strand of hair around her finger. It smelled like smoke from the party. At least they weren’t too far from home. Just a few more miles and she could wash off the smoky smell and climb into bed.
Ka thump. Something rammed against the front of the car. Mick slammed on the brakes with a loud screech. Carrie leaned forward with her hand on the dashboard.
What was that? Outside the window, she could see only a few leaves blowing in the wind.
“What do you think that was?” She looked over at Mick.
“I don’t know. Maybe nothing.” He shrugged.
“Nothing? You’re kidding, right? You’re worse off than I thought you were.”
“Oh, please. You of all people?”
“Mick, I’m serious. We hit—something hit the car.” His eyes were red. How had she not noticed? “How much did you have to drink anyway?”
“I don’t know.” He sighed. “Couple beers maybe.”
“Nice try. I saw you doing shots with that guy from sales. I don’t know how many. But shots, Mick.”
“I’m surprised you noticed. Seemed like you were pretty wrapped up in whatever bullshit story Cal was spinning. Laughing and laughing.”
“Well, there’s nothing funny now. We have to see what’s out there.”
Mick turned off the car. He squinted, looking out the front window and then the side.
“I don’t see anything, do you?” It was like something in him had broken. He sounded scared, almost like a child.
Carrie got out. She stepped carefully around the shiny spots on the pavement in case they were ice. She looked back, where Mick sat in the car waiting. She held her breath as she looked around the front of the car. Would she see a patch of fur, bloody around the edges? Oh God, what if there was an arm or a leg, something belonging to a person? But all she saw was asphalt, black and solid and looking like a second chance.
Heather Bell Adams lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. She has published essays, poetry, and flash and short fiction. She can be reached on Twitter @Heatherbelladam.