you wearing long sleeves?â I say. âAre you the fashion police?â âItâs like a million degrees outside. Youâre the only person in western Michigan whoâs wearing long sleeves right now.â âIs it weird being in a car with me?â he says, like weâre having two completely different conversations. âWhen you assume things about me and try to pretend thereâs a friendship where there is noneâyes.â âThis is the same road,â he says. âJust a couple miles up is where the accident happened. You can still find glass and little pieces of metal. Have you seen it? The big white cross on the side of the road someone put up? The pile of wilted flowers and ratty old teddy bears?â I donât say anything. I donât want to say anything. I donât want either of us to say anything. I want him to stop talking. âSay something,â he says. He doesnât get it. What is wrong with him? âWhy are you talking about it?â âWhy arenât you?â âJust take me home.â We drive in silence for the next two miles, in the opposite direction of where the accident happened. I push him out of my mind. I keep my eyes on the road, adding up the numbers on mailboxes in my head. When he pulls up outside my house, I grab my bag and get out without saying anything. When I slam the car door, itâs not as loud as I hoped it would be. âI have created a masterpiece!â Mom declares when I enter the kitchen. The counter is covered with cutting boards and the rejected parts of vegetables. The smell of something baking fills the room and I am suddenly grateful. âWhat is it?â âEggplant, heirloom tomato, basil, and zucchini tart, with a dollop of cashew cream and toasted almonds. Youâre just in time.â I set my bag down and wash my hands, get plates and silverware and glasses out. âTo what do I owe this honor?â Mom says. âIâm hungry.â We eat and I listen to Mom rattle on about her day. She manages not to say anything mean for the whole meal. Iâm glad sheâs in a self-absorbed mood tonight. She doesnât want anything from me. After dinner, she says sheâs going to paint. âBut you havenât painted in forever,â I say. âI know, isnât it wonderful!â For now it is. But I know what this mood inevitably leads to. I know it is only temporary. Alone in the house while Momâs in her studio, I canât figure out what to do with myself. I call Grandma to see if I can use her computer, but she comes up with some excuse why her whole house has to be off-limits because sheâs tired and doesnât want company. I watch TV until boredom morphs into exhaustion. Alone in the dark house, my sleepiness gets the best of me, and I start imagining the walls are closer than normal, the ceiling lower, like they are slowly closing in on me, moving when I blink. Strange sounds seem to emanate from the corners, from places just out of sightâa soft knocking here, a muted creak there. I decide that hallucinations are probably a good indicator that I need to go to sleep. So I read in bed until I canât keep my eyes open. I turn out the light, relieved this stupid day will be over as soon as I fall asleep. In the place between awake and sleeping, the thought drifts through my mindâis life nothing more than this? Just killing time with distractions until itâs over?
âKinsey, you didnât have to be so mean to him.â I am holding the car together with my hands. My muscles tense as I keep it from flying apart. It is up to me to keep everything together. Always. âHeâs a good guy. Really. Give him a chance.â The mannequin of Hunter is in the backseatâlifeless, stiff plastic. He cannot help me. The thin metal in my hands buckles. âSlow down, Camille!â I say. âThe wind is too