By: L. Wilder

I hadn’t been driving long when it started to snow again. Since the roads were already covered in ice, it was difficult to keep my car from sliding off the road, but I wasn’t taking my foot off the gas for a little snow. I’d just I made it into town when I saw a car coming in my direction. I suddenly had an urge to call out to them, to plead for them to help me, but I knew that wasn’t an option. I wasn’t the person everyone thought I was. So many lies had been told, mountains and mountains of lies, and no one would believe that I wasn’t the happy, little homemaker I’d always pretended to be. As I pressed my foot against the accelerator, I glanced up at my rearview mirror, praying that no one was following me. To my relief, there was only darkness behind me.

After an hour of being on the road, I started to settle into the drive, and I found myself thinking back on a time when things were different—a time when I had a family I could turn to, a mother and father who loved me, a brother who always had my back, and friends I could actually trust.

My mother was standing at the kitchen stove with her curly, dark hair and a bright smile on her face, and I could almost hear the comforting sound of her voice as she turned to me and asked, “How was your day, sweetheart?”

I was fifteen years old, and I’d just come home from school. We didn’t have a big, fancy house, but it was a place we were proud of. It was home. With mom waiting for my response, I sat down at the table with a soda and a handful of crackers. I gave her a heavy sigh, then said, “It was going pretty good until Maddie and I got into a big argument at lunch.”

She turned to face me and leaned against the stove as she crossed her arms. “Argument? About what?”

“Honestly, I don’t even know. She was asking me what she should wear on her date with Jason on Friday night, and then she started telling me I should go out with his best friend, Brady. I don’t like Brady … like not at all, and when I told her that, she got mad about it.”

From the time Maddie and I had met in pre-school, we were inseparable. When I wasn’t at her house, she was at mine. Mom always said that she was like her second daughter, so she simply offered, “Maybe you should try talking to her about it.”

“I tried, but she won’t listen.” I took a sip of my drink, then continued, “She is so wrapped up in Jason that she thinks everything about him is so wonderful, including all his knucklehead friends.”

“It’s her first boyfriend, Ellie. Just be patient with her and try not to be too judgmental of him or his friends.” She gave me one of her looks and added, “I’m sure you can find something good about him.”

“Jason is a douchebag, Mom.”

“Ellie! Young ladies shouldn’t talk like that.”

Just as she’d gotten the words out of her mouth, my father walked in. He was covered from head to toe with dirt, and from the expression on his face, I could tell he’d had a rough day. “What’s going on in here?”

Mom shook her head as she said, “Your daughter is sounding more and more like her brother every day.”

“That’s not necessarily a bad thing.” Dad teased. “Joseph has a good head on his shoulders, just like his father.”

“His father doesn’t say the word douchebag, does he?”

“That depends.”

“Thomas!” Mom scolded.

Dad turned to me and said, “Ellie, you know better than to talk like that.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

He kicked off his muddy boots and lowered his overalls, leaving his dirty clothes in a pile by the back door like he always did, and then, he sauntered over to Mom at the stove. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the cheek. “What’s for dinner?”

It seemed like my parents were always touching one another. They were high school sweethearts, and it gave me hope to know that they were still in love after being together for so many years. Mom looked over to him with affection in her eyes as she replied, “Stew and cornbread.”

“Sounds good. You know how I love your stew. I’ll go take a shower.” On his way out, he shouted, “I hope you added lots of potatoes this time.”

“I added plenty. I promise.”

By the time my father had showered and changed, my older brother, Joseph, had made it home from football practice. We all gathered around the table for dinner and shared our day with each other as we ate. Joseph and I cleared off the table, and while I was at the sink washing dishes, he came over to me and asked, “What happened with you and Maddie today?”

“You heard about that?”

“Jason was bitching about it at practice. Said Maddie was all torn up about it.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah. So, what were you arguing about?”

I sighed. “She wants me to go out with Brady.”

“Brady? That guy’s a real asshole,” he grumbled as he put several dirty glasses in my dishwater. “Why would she want you to go out with him?”

Brady was a senior, and while I didn’t know him very well, I knew enough to know he wasn’t the guy for me. He was a linebacker on the football team, big and burly, and while he was good-looking, he was arrogant as hell. Since he played football, Joseph knew exactly how he was, so I had no doubt that he’d understand my reservations about going out with him. “He’s friends with Jason. She wanted us to double date or something. I told her that I didn’t want to go out with him, and she got all pissed about it.”