She couldn’t see very well. The rain just wouldn’t stop. It had been pouring for so long that she could almost forget that there had been a time when she hadn’t had to run the windshield wipers on high, when she hadn’t had to squint to make out the tapering gray band of highway ahead. Its relentless pounding thundered in her skull. It was just the kind of rain she didn’t like—not the light spring rain that made her think of flowers, or the slightly more intense showers that signaled puddles and dripping leaves. This was the driving, heart pounding kind of rain that you could tell was just waiting for you to arrive at your destination before it would ease up. She darted her eyes briefly away from the road to check the clock on her dashboard. No way she’d make it on time, and Joe was always angry when she was late. She clenched her jaw in frustration. Of course, whenever she needed to be somewhere on time, that was always when this kind of thing happened. She still had at least another two hours before she was due at the house, but if the conditions worsened at all she’d have to pull over. That would impact her ETA significantly.
It struck her that she was slightly cold. She reached over to turn the heat up and was momentarily distracted by the glitter of the diamond bracelet that adorned her right wrist. It had been her last birthday present from her mother, from when her parents still lived on Magnolia Street in Centerville. That had been the last time her family had all been together, and the last time she’d made the trip home. But after her sister moved to Colorado (“Halfway across the country, for goodness’ sake!” her mother had said) and her dad moved out, she no longer enjoyed her visits home. I’ll go home next month, she told herself, but she knew that she wouldn’t. Besides, her mother had never approved of Joe. Not that she could blame her after the things he’d said last time he visited. But still.
The steady thrumming of the engine calmed her thoughts. Soon she would arrive. The door would fly open beneath her fingertips, and the living room would glow with warm, yellow light from that new lamp she’d bought for Joe. He’d told her it was quite impractical, and what had possessed her to buy it anyway? But she’d told him... Well, she hadn’t said anything, but she’d thought a lot. But he was right, she supposed. It had been pretty expensive, and he hadn’t asked for it. She sighed, her fingers drumming a rhythm on the steering wheel. She detected the faint rumble of thunder up ahead and cursed under her breath. The sky was black, as was everything else, though it was far too early for that. The sun still ought to be up.The rain seemed to be warping all laws of nature. She laughed briefly at that, but the sound was so foreign and strange in her small, protected bubble while the wind and water raged outside. She did it again, and this time it sounded less carefree and blithe, more hysterical. She felt her heartbeat in her chest. Boom. Boom. Her heart was like the engine of the car, steadily pushing her forward, faster and faster, toward her destination. The pressure she exerted on the gas pedal increased slightly and the car shot forward through the night.
The car hadn’t been her choice. It had belonged to Joe’s ex-wife. A red, sleek automobile, not her type at all,with black leather seats. It even had a bumper sticker that said, “Wine Not?” which for the life of her she had never been able to get off. She never felt comfortable when she was driving it. It was just so cold and remote. The seats were the type you slide off of, and the whole car smelled like cigarettes, no matter how much you opened the windows. Not that she’d be doing that now. The rain was falling in sheets, breaking upon the pavement and the windshield with incredible force. Her visibility decreased even further; she could barely see the road at all.
Fear and anticipation propelled her forward now, and in her agitation she increased speed again.
Joe would be furious. He was probably calling her cell now. In an instant she realized she’d left it at work. His calls would be ringing through to the empty office, and on Monday she’d have so many messages to go through. It was really ridiculous that
She cried out as a dark shape suddenly loomed in the road ahead of her. She yanked the wheel to the left desperately and slammed on the brakes.
The wheel turned. Her heart pounded in her ears.
The shape grew larger. So fast. In a flash, it occurred to her the car was still sliding forward and hadn’t turned. She screamed and threw her weight onto the steering wheel, hands slippery with sweat.A horrible keening sound filled her ears. Lights flickered at the edge of her vision.
Joe didn’t love her. He never had. And in the car with her hands scrabbling at the steering wheel and the rain and the fear, she knew it.
Then everything grew very still and quiet. Silent. Her car seemed to barely move forward, to drift, not skid.She realized the screech had been her brakes.
She stared ahead through the windshield and she saw that the rain had cleared too, and right in front of her, peering out of the blackness, was a set of large, wide eyes.
Her headlights illuminated two circles of chestnut hide, moving rapidly up and down with every breath.
The doe gazed at her, then blinked, its long lashes sweeping downward in a fluid arc. She realized she’d been holding her breath in awe of it.
As she exhaled, the animal started and disappeared from view, bolting into the trees as the rain resumed pounding.
Her car slowly came to a halt. The squealing of brakes receded, leaving only their echoes in her ears. She stared ahead, then numbly reached a hand toward the door and stepped out into the rain. Looking out toward the forest, she saw no movement in the trees, and looking back at the road, no battered carcass. She touched her heart, feeling the rapid rise and fall of her breathing. She took a step back and lay across the hood of the car, heaving deep, relieved, hiccupping sobs. Lifting her head to the sky, she closed her eyes and let her tears mingle with the rain.
Rose Kosciuszek is sixteen years old and lives in a pretty small town in New Hampshire called Weare. Singing is her passion, but she also loves to read, go hiking, play instruments (clarinet, piano, and ukulele), and of course, write. She's good at debating and arguing, and she's thinking of being a lawyer.