Eira sat in the Cadillac, keys in her lap. The heat was turning her skin to pools. No, she wasn’t feeling quite solid these days. She couldn’t decide whether to stay or go. As she leaned over the wheel, a thick, black tendril fell across her face. Normally she wore her hair in a bun, but not today. Today she hadn’t bothered. Who was she going to impress? No one in this little, good-for-nothing town. She’d left home to be with Jay, but he was always working. Her sweet Blue-Jay, with eyes as clear as the Caribbean Sea. That’s how she got here, stuck in this bum-fuck, down, dusty town, where the wind made more moves than the people.
She adjusted the rear-view mirror and flipped on her lights. It was daytime, but you could never be too careful. Some cliché her father used to say. She missed him more than ever.
He would have known what to do.
That afternoon had started out like any other. It was meatloaf Wednesday. Jay used to love her meatloaf. She added extra carrots because he was always raving about the benefits of beta carotene. Good for the eyes, unlike so many other things. He always ate the dark end pieces first. The “crusty part,” that’s what he loved. She laughed at the thought of him slicing off the darkened ends like a picky child.
While she was chopping a onion, the call came.
It was her neighbor, Susie. Eira’s stomach dropped as she recalled the words.
“Eira, my dear, I just saw something. You should hear it from me. It’s Jay.”
Now here she was. Sitting in his hot car, trapped like a damn dog. Looking down at her hands on the wheel, she noticed her meticulously groomed nails. She filed them once a week so that they were exactly a quarter inch long, shaped in perfect, cream crescents.
The ritual was finished with a shiny, translucent pink polish. It was something she took great pride in when she had nothing else. Women around town paid attention, held her hands in their own, turning them over and asking with awe, “What’s your secret?” But Jay never noticed.
Her fingernails traced the ridges of key. Unwilling to start the car, her mind drifted back to the painful conversation with Susie.
“Well, Susie, what is it? What about Jay?”
“I didn’t want to be the one to tell you. I’m no snitch, but it’s not right to leave a loving woman in the dark.”
“Spit it out. I’m working on dinner and I really don’t have time for this.”
“I saw him today. Riding around with that girl. I think you know the one. The young blonde. And there was nothing friendly about the look of them. You know, Eira, it’s been going on for some time.”
Eira sighed, “Yes, I know.”
Finally, with a resolved jab, she sunk the key into the ignition. She drove carefully, her hands on the ten and two position, just like her father had taught. The sun was out. At least that was promising. Under different circumstances, it would have been a beautiful day for a drive. Light fled into the car windows, reflecting off everything. She squinted most from the light refracting off her the diamond band on her left hand. Must have forgotten my sunglasses, she thought with a grimace. The light was painful to her light green eyes. Not wanting to risk an accident, she took off the ring and slipped it into her glove box. She was surprised to find that she wasn’t angry or sad anymore. It wasn’t like that. It was a nervousness. The nervousness of not fully knowing.
She was determined to drive around town until she found them. But then what would she do? Pull her car in front of his pickup and force them out, into the open? That would create a certain spectacle. No, she wasn’t sure that she wanted that. She just needed to see them together. That would be enough.
Her stomach tightened as she watched his truck appear on the opposite side of the road, as if by magic. She saw him push the girl down to the floor. Black magic, for sure. Eira knew how dirty that floorboard was. She’d complained about it on more than one occasion. Sometimes she thought he kept it that way to spite her. The spilt beer, pop tart crumbs, and specks of cigarette ash made her cringe. And now that poor girl was lying in it.
Even after he made the girl get on the floor, he continued to talk. She wondered what he was saying. Was he telling her not to worry, that he loved her? Was he yelling at her for getting him caught? Eira would never know. He raised four fingers from the steering wheel as if to say “I see you,” but he didn’t, and the gesture was not enough. He was speeding up now, trying to get away from her. She wanted to stop him, make him aware of this moment. This was an important moment. Eira honked twice, sure to get his attention.
But it didn’t. He didn’t look back as she passed by. She couldn’t make out his blue eyes, only the dull brown hair sticking out the back of his baseball cap. If he had bothered to turn his head, for even one slight second, he would have seen her red luggage crowding the car and wondered why she was driving north.
Alyssa D. Ross is originally from Alabama, but lived for over a decade in metropolitan Virginia. For a year she painted at art school in Richmond, Virginia but then went on to pursue writing. She attained an MFA from George Mason University and is currently pursuing her PhD at Auburn University while teaching American Literature.
© 2014, Alyssa D. Ross