#FridayFlash: I Weep Not for Thee
by Tony Noland
Summer had stopped her involuntary sobbing a few minutes ago; the tendons in her neck stood as she worked her jaws, clenching hard. As each lamp went by on the shoulder of the highway, the blue-white light through the passenger window slashed at her, casting misshapen shadows across her distorted face. Flash, flash, flash... she cycled from smooth, silhouetted beauty to clenched, glare-lit fury and back again.
She wiped at her face, pushing the tears away. Her eyes were swollen and her cheeks were raw, but they were dry again. His quilted varsity jacket was far too large for her; the turned-up collar made her head appear oddly small and doll-like.
Dean tried to keep his eyes on the road, tried not to look at her.
The silence stretched as he drove, broken only by the mellow contralto voice of the GPS gently warning him that his exit was coming up in one mile. ETA to Summer's house - eighteen minutes, forty seconds. More than an hour since they left the party at the farmhouse, and she hadn't said a word. She'd gone from stone-faced immobility to weeping, but even that was over now.
He felt he had to say something. He only had eighteen minutes left, and then he would never be able to talk to her again.
"Summer..." he said, "I'm sorry."
She didn't look at him.
After a moment, she said, "So am I." At any other time, he might have called her voice calm or steady. Now, it just sounded... flat.
He took the exit, listened to the GPS talking about his next turn, some three miles ahead.
"You know," he said, "Rick was drunk even before he started on the pot." It had sounded more consoling in his head.
She turned to face him, her jaws clenched.
"So he wouldn't really have been safe to drive you home, anyway." he said. Her face didn't change, but her body fell back as she returned her stare to the road ahead.
He drove on.
The next turn came, followed by a red light. They waited.
"I thought you were going to defend him," she said. "That it was just the booze and the pot."
"Uh, no. No, I don't think I could do that. I mean..." The light turned and he had a moment to choose his words. "Look, Summer, I don't know everything about what was going on there, or how things are between the two of you -"
"- uh, right, but from what I saw, it looked like he was... I mean, that's not the kind of thing you can defend. Especially not with ..." He let it go.
"Not with what?" Her voice was still flat, anger the only emotion behind it.
"Um, with you waiting out in the cold and all. He could have at least... come back for you, I guess. Or said something."
She sank back into the seat of the minivan, seeming to deflate into the folds of his jacket. After a time, she spoke.
"No, I don't think he was thinking about me at all." In a changed tone, she said, "Do you think he'll get frostbite?"
"On his ass. Exposed skin and all that."
"Uh... I don't think it's that cold outside. It's only about forty degrees, maybe thirty five." He looked over at her, decided to risk a joke. "I think Allyson might be in for it, though. She was the one up against the car."
She scowled, and he bit his tongue at his miscalculation. Then, unexpectedly, she gave a snort.
"One can only hope," she said.
He thought about saying more, but his nerve failed him. How many times he'd hoped for just such a situation - Rick the asshole finally screwed up, Summer was distraught and in trouble and he was right there, right there! He was the hero, ready to provide comfort and a shoulder to cry on. Or at least ready to give her his jacket and a ride home. That should be a decent opening, right?
Unfortunately, he thought, things just didn't happen in real life the way they do in movies or books. Somehow, her being boiling mad was never part of the damsel in distress thing. More than an hour, and he had said hardly anything to her.
And in three more minutes he would be nothing more than a reminder of the worst night of her life.
He spent his remaining time trying, and failing, to think of some way to tell her ... something. Anything. He was still trying as he pulled into her driveway.
She sat and looked at her house for a moment. The windows were dark, and only the porch light was burning.
"Thanks, Dean." she said. "For the ride and everything. And for not... for just letting me be, you know? Not ... trying to talk. Or anything."
He flushed, hot. She knew. What a fool he was, of course she knew.
"Sure, Summer," he said. "I'm ... I'm really sorry."
She nodded without speaking, her jaws flexing and clenching. She got out and closed the car door behind her. He watched her go, seeing in the slump of her shoulders what he knew would be a long night for her.
One, two, three steps up to the porch, and she stopped. She stood for moment, then turned and came back to Dean's side of the car. He rolled down his window.
"I still have your jacket, don't I?" she said. "Do you want to come in for a minute? Give me a chance to get a sweatshirt or something, and I'll give it back."
"Sure." He killed the engine and got out. He walked with her up to her porch, and they went inside together.
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