The Black Widow
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Ignorance truly is bliss. My car pulls away from the curb, my tousled hair dancing in the wind as if our autumn is unseasonably warm. You can’t believe everything you see. In all honesty, it’s not that warm. I have a chill running through my body that I can’t escape. I probably would have closed my car window a long time ago, if I could have, but it’s stuck halfway down. I’m just lucky the raincloud over there is keeping its distance. Lucky. Hah! I’m lucky like that man up ahead.
Look at his tidy pile of leaves. He probably spent his entire morning raking those things into a heap next to the curb and is proud of himself for beating the rain. I smirk at the rotund, older man in his front yard. He hasn’t even had enough time to put away his rake. Instead, he stands there proudly, leaning against the handle and scratching his overfed belly. I can’t resist. Someone has handed this opportunity to me, and I simply can’t pass it up.
My foot presses deeper into the accelerator, thrusting my small car forward. I glare at the old man from beneath dark lashes. His eyes immediately connect with mine, begging me to rethink what I’m about to do. That only encourages me further. I veer toward the pile, blasting through the leaves and cheering with a crazed depth to my voice.
I feel so alive. When the old man stumbles after me, frantically waving his hands with leaves raining around him, I smile harder. A smile. For the longest time, I forgot my mouth could even do that. It feels like my world has shifted, though, and maybe, just maybe things are looking up for me. I force the images of my tormented childhood down, forgetting about my mother’s wasted apologies and the gurgling sound that came from my father’s throat when he drowned before my very eyes. I’ve blown through enough of my life boo-hooing over them. No more.
I carry on down the road, wearing a real smile—not the fake one I wore throughout my unfortunate youth, being spread between perverted foster fathers and overbearing relatives who wanted to make themselves feel better by sporadically treating me like family. No, remembering how I was pawned off to the system never helps. This is why my smiles never last long.
With a deep breath, my smile wilts, but I remind myself that I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m finally free of those people and their unanswered promises. No one’s in charge of my destiny but me. I have to grab life by the balls and make shit happen. Just because my late parents had a few screws loose, doesn’t mean I have to be stuck in my own self-inflicted hell, right? Right?
I pause at a yellow light and proceed into the intersection, flicking on my left turn signal as I make the turn in front of an oncoming sports car. It’s a dumb move. Traffic is thick, and the dude driving the small, black car is in a hurry to go nowhere. He swerves around my rear bumper and lays on his horn. I flip him the bird and hold it there for a few long seconds, completely lost in my own world. I forget to reacquaint myself with the car in front of me. Traffic is now at a standstill.
I quickly jam onto my brake, but I’m screwed. My balding tires argue with the pavement and make a loud screeching noise while my front-end slams into the car in front of me. A loud popping noise is the only warning I have before wearing a face full of airbag. I don’t care if it looks like a fluffy cloud; it feels like a brick wall, and I wonder if I have a broken nose. I struggle to breathe as I push the bag out of my face and clutch at my nose, sighing deeply, choking on the stale air.
Way to go, Clarisse.
“Are you okay?” a man shouts, reaching through my half-open window and tearing my car door from its hinges to pull me free of the wreckage. He thinks my window is broken because of the accident, and I’m going to let him keep on thinking that.
I’m still holding my nose when I collapse into his arms and look up into apologetic eyes. “I’ve had better days,” I admit.
“But you’re alive.”
The corners of my lips quirk upwards oh so slightly. “There’s that.”
He helps me right myself, and I push off of him once I regain my footing. “My bumper didn’t even see you coming,” he says with a smile.
I assess the damage. My scrappy little car is banged up pretty good, but it’ll drive. The back end of his car sits on the ground in a heap of ruin. “Is it true that they can pick that thing up and reattach it?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
“I don’t know. See the way the fender is curled under. That’ll be a hard fix.”
I nod, wondering if I should throw my entire first year of college away and run for the hills. The dark cloud that had been following me finally catches up. My eyes wander to the bystanders who scatter for cover as droplets of rain start to pelt the pavement.
“I can’t afford to fix your car.” I look back to him, trying not to admire his clean-cut military hairstyle. “I’m sorry but I just can’t.”
His eyes sink into mine while he thinks on it, the rain quickly dampening his clothes and mine. He takes my hand to get my attention. It works.
“What do you say we talk to these nice policemen over here and then I take you out for a coffee? I’m sure we can work something out.”