It’s been thirty minutes, a long arduous, thirty minutes. We tried simply opening the door, which didn’t work. Then, we tried to break the windows and sadly, our collective upper body strength did nothing. Escaping was impossible, especially since gravity isn’t on our side. My body pressed against the seat belt, I reluctantly turn toward the stranger next to me. “I can’t believe I’m dying…with you,” I said bitterly choking out the words. My face becomes moist with tears as the realization hits me. I didn’t want the trip to end like this. My mom always said bad things happen around him, I should’ve believed her. She couldn’t understand why I asked to meet the man, but she never wanted to be the wall between my relationship with him, so she paid for the flight and sent me. Let me reassure you, this is no sentimental longing from a lost girl. I was going to tell him every burning word I wrote down on the crumpled piece of paper in my pant pocket. But the stupid phone call ruined all of it, my moment of retribution. The second he answered the call, he missed the subtle bend in the road and we went flying. We shortly landed, wedged between this cliff and an old madrone.
“We’re not dead yet, okay?” he says with a messy look of panic and agitation as he grasps around the various compartments closest to him. “Don’t you have an iPhone like a normal kid?” he says glaring into my golden eyes that unfortunately match his.
“I don’t have one. W-what about yours?!” I reply with the taste of salty tears still in my mouth and the smell of his spilled coffee in my nose.
“It’s in pieces…must’ve flipped out of my hand,” He says closing his eyes tightly as he mumbles a string of words under his breath.
I take the crumbled paper out with trembling hands, I can feel my heart racing as I hear the whistling winds outside of this tin can on wheels. “ I remember being nine when I first asked my mother why I don’t have a dad. I-I remember crying when she told me that you left before she even gave birth.”
“What is this? What are you doing?” he said impatiently.
“I wrote this to you.”
“You’re reading this, now!? We’re dangling over a cliff!”
“My mom taught me not to have any regrets. So, if we die, I want to know that I came to California to do, what I set out to do.”
“…You’ve GOT to be kidding me!” He yells as he massages his face with all the rage he’s held back this entire week. With one deep breath, he looks at me and scowls. ”You and that woman spring this trip on me with less than a day’s notice. I rearranged my schedule, and miss my son’s game, and for what? So I can go on a hike with you. A hike I didn’t even want to do! I think you can spare both of us whatever pre-planned monologue you have,” he retorts.
As he spat those words, a slow but steady creaking sound sends us both clinging to our seats. I stare back down at the lined notebook paper. Every word was written in a calm, thought-out tone. But I can only recite it how I’m feeling right now, which is the exact opposite. I breathe, then grip the paper so hard it might rip. “ As I got older I had questions like: Why didn’t you stick around? Why did you want to abort me? Why didn’t you ever come to visit? As questions swirled around my head, they landed in my heart and pain grew. Now, I don’t want to ask any questions, because I know the answers won’t satisfy me. I’ll tell you about all the things you missed and the things you don’t know. I was born on January 1st, 2007 at 5:15 am. A beautiful woman named Lillian June Anderson raised me to the best of her abilities with the help of miracles and blessings, government aid and jobs, and helping hands from friends and family. She took care of me, taking on her job as a parent and yours. Though this might feel like a sudden meeting to you. I’ve been waiting for this moment for sixteen years.” I wipe my eyes and then take a deep breath right before looking at him. Though he clings to the steering wheel like a parachute strap, his eyes are firmly closed. I can’t tell if it’s because he’s bracing for the fall or my words. Either way, I decide to continue. “ One part of my heart wants to say that we can rebuild our relationship, while another part of me wants to hate you forever. I heard somewhere that you only hate someone you love. So, I chose to not love or hate you. I’m showing you the one thing you’ve taught me, which is indifference. This week will be our first and last time together…sincerely, your stranger.” A few moments pass again, in silence. I clasp onto the rough, leather-covered seatbelt as I look through the front window and down to the roaring waters beneath. The man sitting next to me holds the steering wheel with white knuckles, his eyes closed so tight his forehead wrinkles. He frowns at a twinge of pain before tears escape his weary eyes.
“My dad wasn’t there either, Zoe. I should have…” His words faded as we both looked for the sound that brought us back to reality. The large tree let out a snap which was accompanied by a sudden jot. We look at each other one more time before we hear a jarring crack that sends the car plummeting down. I don’t remember screaming, or what hurt first on impact. But I do remember breathing a sigh of relief, I never wanted to die with regrets like he did.
Aija White landed in a tiny city in Florida and when she woke up she found a pen in her hand. Naturally, she began writing ever since.