Orange lights flash past intermittently, showing glimpses of weatherboard houses and empty parks, before the world beyond the car window goes black. Stifling a yawn, I settle back into my seat, blinking sleepily at the inky world as it passes by. It feels like we’ve been in the car for hours and I just want to be in my own bed.
“How much longer now, Mum?”
I hear her sigh before she answers, though dad’s words cut over the top of whatever she has said. “Stop fucking asking. We’re nearly there.”
I turn back to the window with a scowl. I hate this car, and even more, I hate the reason we’re in it. What was meant to have been a family holiday had been a sham; I am still cross over the whole thing. Having been told we were going away for the weekend, it had been a shock to arrive at our destination and find all of my dad’s family there too. Especially given their tendency to argue the moment they are all in the same room. It had hardly seemed an ideal start to a vacation.
I had been right.
Rubbing tiredly at my screwed up nose with the back of one hand, I shift again, turning sideways and curling my legs up onto the seat. Now I can see my sister’s silhouette in the glow of dashboard lights that reach the back of the car. She’s fast asleep, her head lolling about every time we hit a bump and suddenly I’m annoyed. How can she possibly sleep after the way we left that caravan park? Aren’t the awful words that were screamed at our parents running through her head the same way they’re running through mine? Can’t she see the sadness that filled our mum’s face when those people who call themselves our family said such awful things?
I can’t stop hearing them, on repeat, over and over. “You’ve brought this on yourself. It’s what happens when you marry someone who’s beneath you. You should have married a woman who can earn some money instead of someone who just wanted to get pregnant and stop working.”
I mutter a word I know I’m not allowed to say under my breath. Those people are no family of mine. They have no idea how wonderful my mum is. I glare at my sleeping sister, stretch out one foot to poke at her.
She doesn’t move.
I stretch out a second time. Harder now.
I scowl and kick her. The reaction is instant. “OW! Stupid bitch!” Her hand snakes out and she slaps at me, screeching. “Mum, she kicked me!”
“Ow! Mum, she hit me!”
Neither of us notice the violent swerve of the car, too busy in a sudden and brutal slapping match as we each try to hurt the other more. Neither of us hear the sharp intake of our mother’s breath, nor do we notice the cut off curse that shifts to the tired “Girls, please stop”, for we are too busy yelling at one another now.
“How the hell can you sleep after all that?”
“There’s something seriously wrong with you, dumbass!”
We do notice the fury in our father’s voice though. “Both of you fucking stop before I pull this car over.”
Our hands drop to our laps, though I grin as my sister glares at me. It is satisfying to upset someone else. I wish it was my aunt and uncle who were within reach. It would serve them right; they made my mum so upset with their comments. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my dad so angry. It’s no use to hope for such things though, and I smirk at the sound of my sister now muttering soft threats beside me. I feel better, not nearly as bored as I had been since it got too dark to read and my thoughts had shifted to recalling the events of the day. Now that she’s awake, she will remember them too and I won’t be alone. Plus, we both know I won this round – a rare occurrence, given my status as younger sister. Usually I’m not quick enough, not clever enough. But this time she let her guard down.
I return to staring at the blackness beyond my window, oblivious to the way my mother reaches out to rest her hand upon my father’s leg and the way one of his hands leaves the steering wheel to lace his fingers through her own.
More orange lights are ahead – another town. Surely we must be close to home.
Corissa Rieschieck splits her time between teaching, parenting, trying to find self-awareness, and managing all the characters that appear in her mind, focusing it all by writing about the shenanigans that happen along the way. Find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or at www.corissarieschieck.com