Jake reminds us, “Drive safe. Watch out for assholes,” while Sherman barks and Brent waves.
Then, in an accented voice, Brent shouts, “Bye-bye—have fun stormin’ the castle.”
And we hit the road.
• • •
Within the first twenty-five miles, Sofia’s driving takes about ten years off my fucking life. It’s not that she’s a bad driver—the opposite, actually. She drives like a female Dale Earnhardt. I just wish it wasn’t my car she’s playing NASCAR with.
“Whoa!” I yell, bracing my hands on the dash as she rides straight up the ass of the truck in front of us, only to change lanes at the last minute, almost nicking the front bumper of a minivan already there.
“You’re like an old woman!” she complains, yelling above the noise of the open top, her hair whipping around like Medusa’s snakes on methamphetamine.
“And you’re like a soccer mom late for practice!” I yell back. “Slow down and enjoy the driving experience—because believe me, after today you’ll never have it again.”
Her mouth opens wide in an unrepentant laugh. Then she messes with the buttons on the steering wheel, activating her phone’s playlist that’s wirelessly connected to the speakers. And out pours Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” one of Sofia’s favorites.
I can’t help but watch her and chuckle as she belts out the song, loud and shameless, swerving her head and bopping her shoulders. I’ve seen Sofia fired up, stubborn, determined, and turned on. But adorable—that’s a new look for her. And I like it. Very much.
Her expression turns sultry as she meets my eyes quickly while singing, “Rolling like thunder, under the covers . . .” I don’t have to wonder what images she’s seeing in her mind—whose images, because I know it’s snapshots of us.
When the song ends, I slide my own phone into the jack, hooking it up to the speakers.
“Hey,” she objects. “Driver picks the tunes!”
“Actually,” I correct, “shotgun controls the music, but I was being benevolent. We’ll take turns—quid pro quo.”
She nods and I scroll through my songs until I find the one. “Now this is a song to cruise down the highway to.”
And the unmistakable voice of Elvis Presley fills the car, singing “Burning Love.” I nod my head in time to the beat and snap my fingers—as close to dancing as I’ll ever get.
Sofia laughs. “You can take the boy out of the South, but you can’t take the Elvis out of the southern boy.”
I point my finger her way. “That’s very true.”
I feel her smiling eyes watching me as I sing, “’Cause your kisses lift me higher, like a sweet song of a choir . . .”
Pushing the hair away that threatens to strangle her, Sofia asks, “Did you name your daughter after Elvis?”
I grin, remembering. “We just liked the name—thought it was different, but pretty for a little girl.”
“Did you have a boy’s name picked out too?”
With a nod, I explain. “Henry, after Jenn’s granddad, or Jackson, after mine.”
She’s quiet a moment, shifting quickly and not holding back on the gas pedal. Then she asks, “Family’s important to you, isn’t it, Stanton?”
“Of course. When it comes down to it, family’s the only thing you can really count on. Don’t get me wrong—there’ve been days I wanted to bury my older brother alive. You’ll meet him, you’ll understand why. But . . . he’ll always be my brother.” I pause, then voice the thought that’s been tickling my brain since I opened that envelope. “That’s why I’m surprised about Jenny. She’s always been solid, you know? True north. I can’t believe she’s being so . . . fickle.”
Sofia’s voice is soft, but loud enough to make out above the wind. “Maybe she just really missed you.”
Before I reply, the speedometer catches my eye. “You better slow down, Soph.”
She brushes me off. “Don’t worry, Granny, it’s all under control.”
“The highway patrol might disagree with you, Speed Racer.”
No sooner have the words left my mouth than a siren screams from behind us, flashing lights on our tail.
Sighing but unworried, Sofia pulls over to the shoulder.
“I don’t want to say I told you so, but . . .” I let that hang while Sofia busies herself in the mirror—patting her hair, pulling her top down a bit, and pushing her tits together. “What the hell are you doing?”