The Long Drive Home

Basalt rocks by lake

“Are we there yet?’

Valerie hunched her shoulders and pressed her forehead against the passenger-side window. She hated her younger brother–hated being trapped in the back seat with him on this faux family vacation. 

“Not yet,” Her mother popped the lid on the empty Planter’s tin, handing it blindly backward over the seat back. “Have a lemon drop!”

Charlie scooted as far forward as his seatbelt allowed, “Can’t reach. Val-reeee!”

Valerie growled and grabbed the can, shook it to loosen the sticky drops, and handed it to her brother. She was stuck in the back with Charlie, because the front passenger side is the most dangerous spot in the car. Plus, Mom could more easily dole out snacks from the front seat since nobody sat there anymore. That’s what she said, anyway.

Valerie started to feel sick and moved her gaze from the side of the road to straight out the front window, the way her dad had taught her.

Charlie shrieked as a hailstorm of lemon drops flew from his hand, followed by a hollow clink as the can followed suit and hit her shoulder.

“Christ on a cracker, Charlie!”

“Language, Valerie,” Mom’s shoulders slumped.

“I was just sharing,” Charlie’s lower lip trembled.

“Thanks, Squirt,” Valerie slipped off her shoulder seatbelt and bent down to retrieve the can and repack the lemon drops. Brushing the sand off one, she stuck it in her mouth. It was both bitter and sweet.

The car’s tires bumped and crackled over the grass and gravel driveway that led to the family summer home. Around the final bend, Grandpa Johnson stood, waving welcome. Mom jumped out, wrapping her arms around him.

“Where’s Charlie senior?” he asked.

“He’s never coming, Dad,” Mom whispered back.

She whispered, but Valerie heard her anyway.

© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2018)

297 words, exactly, 24 hours (New York Time) to write, edit and submit. Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo 2018. Prompt = “Long drive home”  Go.

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