The horn sounded again.
Zelda huffed. “That man. I guess you’d better scoot. Have fun!”
Once out the front door, Jessica took her time, slowly meandering down the front steps. A stone path led to a white picket gate. A dented blue pickup truck waited on the other side of the garden fence, twitching like a racehorse at the starting post. Grinning impudently, Jessica paused in the middle of the path to glance back at the house she’d scarcely noticed the day before.
Her expression froze. The similarities to her childhood home were everywhere. Same white siding, green shutters, and dormered upstairs windows. A wide wrap around porch. A porch swing. She half expected to see her father come strolling around the corner of the house, a whistle on his lips, her mother waiting on the top step, poised to jump playfully into his arms...
“You’ve got two seconds to get in this truck, brat.”
Jessica couldn’t help flinching at the barked order that shattered her reverie. Taking a steadying breath, she turned and continued towards the truck, her step quickening just enough to satisfy the vehicle’s occupant. Ethan scowled blackly as she fiddled with the door handle, an awkward one-handed attempt, given that her other hand held the salad bowl. “Oh, no, don’t budge,” she said sweetly. “I can open the door myself.” When the door creaked open on rusted hinges, she looked aghast at the cluttered cab. “Are you going to clear a spot for me, or were you expecting me to sit on your lap?”
His stony expression didn’t alter as he shoved some loose papers and odds and ends onto the floor and slapped the torn vinyl seat. A cloud of dust flew upwards.
Even as she was having second thoughts, she hauled herself into the cab and gingerly sat down. She scarcely had the door closed when Ethan tromped on the gas pedal and sent the truck tearing down the drive, loose gravel and bark kicking up in its wake. The unpaved, well-traveled road twisted and turned through oak and eucalyptus trees for what seemed like a mile, and Ethan was obviously bound and determined to hit every pothole and bump along the way. Her teeth were rattling in her head as she clutched the salad bowl with one hand and clung to the door handle with the other. When they finally reached the relatively smoother surface of the main road, she took several long, deep breaths to soothe her scattered nerves. She gave him a sideways, irritated look.
“Who taught you how to drive? Mr. Toad?”
Ethan looked straight ahead as if he had blinders on. His shrug was cavalier. “Hey, you’re the one who insisted on tagging along.”
She mutely counted to ten before responding in an even tone. “Just because you’re miserable doesn’t mean you have to make everyone else feel miserable too.”
“Who says I’m miserable?”
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