Clarissa slides into the driver’s seat of the car, automatically reaching for the heat and turning it on high.
Might as well get comfy, she thinks bitterly, this could be a while.
She sits back into the worn leather seat and decides to check her messages. However, she immediately closes them with a huff and an eye roll when she sees what they contain.
She knows she should feel grateful that people care. But, they didn’t know her grandmother, and they most definitely didn’t know her. Her Facebook and cell phone had been overflowing with condolences from people who had spoken to her maybe once and had never met her grandmother. She was tired of seeing the words ‘She was a wonderful woman,’ or ‘Thinking of you,’ on her Facebook wall. Not that she wasn’t expecting it, this is the second time a loved one has died in the past four months and she couldn’t help but think that the big guy upstairs was spiting her.
She is pulled from her thoughts when the passenger door opens, letting in the cold outside air. Lexa plops down into the seat, reaching for the seat heater.
“Thanks for waiting; practice kept us later than usual,” Lexa says with an eye roll, a scowl creeping its way onto her face.
“If you hate doing the plays so much, why do you keep doing them?” Clarissa asks, tired of hearing her complaining about it.
“I don’t know, Clary. I just- I know I’ll regret not doing it. I like the theater but not the people,” Lexa explains carefully.
Clarissa nods her head, not really caring for the explanation that she hears every single time she asks, and pulls the car away from the curb
They drive in a relative silence; only the sounds of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers, and Blink-182, bouncing off the slightly frosted windows.
Suddenly Lexa speaks. It’s tentative and soft. She’s testing the waters.
“Jacob texted again today.” She keeps her eyes on her lap and she pushes a stubborn, red curl behind her ear. She flips her phone around and around on her lap, wondering how this conversation will go. Though, deep down, she already knows the answer.
“Lex, I really don’t care what the asshole has to say. He has no-.”
“Clary, we need to talk about it! I know he royally screwed us over, but that’s beside the point. It’s not just Jacob. It’s why you’re so mad that he cares. Hell, why anyone cares.”
Clarissa’s hands tighten around the steering wheel, making her knuckles white, and Lexa knows she’s hit a nerve. Clarissa makes a sudden, jerky lane change, effectively cutting off the black Jeep behind her, and presses down a bit more on the accelerator, breaching seven over the speed limit.
“I know what you’re going to say and I don’t want to talk about ‘what’s wrong with me.’ My mom has been nagging me about it for the past two days. She really needs to find her own way to mourn,” Clarissa bites out.
This effectively silences Lexa for the time being. She looks out the fogged window, biting her cheek, lost in thought. She wants badly to tell her to stop being so selfish. She was mourning too, and it hurt her even more that she couldn’t talk to Clary about it without ending up in a fight. But, this needed to stop. So, she takes a cleansing breath.
“Clary, what’s going on?”
Clarissa glances at her, shooting a questioning look.
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t play naïve; you know what I’m talking about. These past few days, any time someone so much as looks at you, you get snappy.”
Clarissa dramatically releases a breath in a woosh.
“You wanna know what’s going on?” She lets out a bitter laugh. “Here’s what’s going on. My Grandma just passed away two days ago. The man who was like my second father died four months ago and no one understands or can even begin to fathom what I’m going through right now. So please, ask me what’s wrong again.”
The car merges onto the highway and Clarissa presses harder on the accelerator, now going 80. The song shifts.
Lexa scoffs and crosses her arms, sinking lower into her seat. Her resolve flies out the window, tumbling behind the car at 80 MPH.
“You’re being so selfish, Clary.”
Clarissa’s head snaps over to look at Lexa but she remains silent.
“Stop acting like you’re the only one affected by their deaths, because you’re not. Have you even thought about how much Grandaddy is hurting right now? My mom and yours? No. You probably haven’t because you’ve been too busy pushing people away so you can sulk in your own world of self-pity. You know she was my Grandma, too? You wanna know how bad I feel about her dying? Maybe if she wasn’t an hour away from the nearest hospital, she would’ve made it. If she wasn’t watching me in the play, she would still be here today. But you can’t see that I’m in pain, too, because your head is too far up your- Clary!”
The car, now at 87, had started moving into the other lane, where another driver was honking her horn madly at them. Clarissa jerks the car back over, slows down, and pulls off to the side of the road. With wide eyes, she looks over at Lexa, who has her hand over her heart, trying to calm the rapid beating.
“Lexa-,” Lexa cuts her off again with a dismissing hand wave, still breathing heavily.
“I’m not finished. Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that you need to grow up and handle this like the adult you will literally be in less than a year. I’ve been trying to talk to you; your mom has been trying to talk to you, because we’re hurting. Stop dismissing her. Stop dismissing me. Stop turning your nose up at other people’s condolences, even Jacob’s. His beef is with the church, not you; let him be polite. But that’s another rant for another time. Back to the point. Stop pushing everyone away. Angsty jerk is so out of style and so overrated.”
Lexa is breathing heavily when she finishes her rant and Clarissa has tears on her cheeks. She feels like she’s been punched in the gut, but with reality. She knows that everything that Lexa just spewed is true.
“I’m so sorry,” she hiccups, “I didn’t even stop to think about it.”
“Of course you didn’t,” Lexa states smartly.
“You’ve tried to reach out to me?” She’s ashamed.
Lexa nods her head, “Desperately,” she sniffs, swiping under her eyes, “but you just- you weren’t there.”
Clarissa leans her head forward and against the steering wheel, silent sobs shaking her body.
“I was so caught up in how I was feeling, I didn’t even stop to think about you or- oh God. I didn’t even begin to think about my mom. She lost her own mother and I’ve been so-so,” a sob cuts her off, “awful. Lex, I’m so, so sorry. I’m here now. I’ll be here. I’ll listen.”
Lexa lets out a relieved laugh through her tears and reaches across the console, bringing Clarissa into a tight hug.
“I miss her so much, Clare,” she whispers into her hair.
“I know. Me too,” she says. She sits back and grabs Lexa’s hands in hers, giving them a little squeeze before turning back, putting the car back in drive, and pulling back out onto the highway.
The rest of the ride is quiet but no longer tense. Lexa feels a huge weight lifted off her shoulders. When Clarissa pulls her car into her driveway, she is determined. She is determined to make amends with her mother.
Before walking across the yard to her own house, Lexa turns, “I’ll see you tonight? At dinner?”
Clarissa nods, “Yeah, I’ll be there.”
Lexa smiles before turning and heading home.
Clarissa walks slowly up the sidewalk and hesitates before opening the door. She takes a calming breath and pushes it open. Her mom sits on the recliner, looking at photo albums for the slide show that will be shown at the funeral. She looks up when Clarissa enters.
“Hey, how was school?”
“It was fine, boring. The usual.”
She walks across and sits down on the arm of the recliner. She sighs.
“Look, mama. I wanted to say I’m sorry. I’ve been acting rude these past few days- well months, and you don’t deserve it. I just didn’t know how to handle Grandma and Steve’s passing and I took it out on you. I’m really sorry. And, I’m really sorry about Grandma.”
“It’s okay, Sweet Pea. We all have been trying to find a way to cope. I get it. I’m just glad you’re talking to me.”
Clarissa reaches down and hugs her mom.
“I love you, mama.”
“I love you, too.”