Here and not. Red and black. One moment there, another gone. Her face in the glass. Disappearing in the light of oncoming headlights, reappearing in the dark of outside. Gone again. The window kept her face for its own. Good, it could keep it. Back, the window didn’t want it either.
Red’s reflection stared through her, but the glass and the darkness didn’t get her quite right, blurring the details. The main features were there: the too-pale glow of her skin and the wide-set dark blue eyes that weren’t hers alone. You look so much alike,
she used to hear, more than she cared to. Now she didn’t care to hear it at all, even think it. So, she looked away from her face, their face, ignoring them both. But it was harder to ignore something when you were trying.
Red shifted her gaze, looking instead at the cars in the lane beside and below. Something wasn’t right; the cars seemed too small from up here at her window, but Red didn’t feel any bigger. She watched a blue sedan edging forward to pass, and she helped it along with her eyes, pushing them ahead. There you go, bud. Ahead of this thirty-one-foot-long metal can, speeding down the highway. Which was strange when you thought about it; that you traveled down
a highway when high
was right there in the name.
“Red?” The voice opposite interrupted her thoughts of lowways and highways. Maddy was looking at her through the dimmed inside lights, skin screwed up around her sandy-brown eyes. She gave a small kick under the table, jabbing Red in the shin. “Did you just forget we were in the middle of playing a game?”
“No,” Red said, but yes, yes she had. What had they been playing again?
“Twenty Questions,” Maddy said, reading Red’s mind. Well, they had known each other all their lives; Red had only gotten a seven-month head start and she hadn’t done a lot with it. Maybe Maddy had learned to read her mind in all that time, more than seventeen years. Red really hoped not. There were things in there no one else could ever see. No one. Not even Maddy. Especially not Maddy.
“Yeah, I know,” Red said, her eyes wandering to the other side of the RV, to the outside door and the sofa bed—currently sofa—where she and Maddy would sleep tonight. Red couldn’t remember; which side of the bed did Maddy like again? Because she couldn’t sleep if she wasn’t on the left side, and just as she was trying to read Maddy’s mind back about that, her eyes caught on a green sign outside in the night, flying over the windshield.
“That sign says Rockingham, aren’t we getting off this road soon?” Red said, not loud enough for anyone at the very front of the RV to hear, where it would have been more use. She was probably wrong, anyway, best to say nothing. They’d been driving on this same road for the past hour, I-73 becoming I-74 and then US 220 without much fanfare.
“Red Kenny, focus.” Maddy snapped her fingers, a hint of a smile on her face. It never creased, though, Maddy’s face, not even with the widest of smiles. Skin like cream, soft and clearer than it had any business being. It made the freckles on Red’s face stand out even more, side by side in photos. Literally side by side; they were almost the exact same height, down to the highest-standing hair, though Red’s was dark blond where Maddy’s was more light brown, a shade or two separating them. Red always had hers tied back, loose bangs at the front that she’d cut herself with the kitchen scissors. Maddy’s was untied and neat, the ends soft in a way Red’s never were. “I’m the one asking questions, you’re the one with the person, place or thing,” Maddy prompted.
Red nodded slowly. Well, even if Maddy also liked to sleep on the left, at least they weren’t on the bunks.
“I’ve asked seven questions already,” Maddy said.
“Great.” Red couldn’t remember her person, place or thing. But really, they’d been driving all day, setting off from home around twelve hours ago, hadn’t they played enough road trip games? Red couldn’t wait for this to be over so she could finally sleep, whether left side or right. Just get through it. They were supposed to arrive at Gulf Shores around this time tomorrow, meet up with the rest of their friends, that was the plan.
Maddy cleared her throat.
“And what answers did I give, remind me?” Red said.
Maddy breathed out, an almost sigh or an almost laugh, hard to tell. “It was a person, a woman, not a fictional character,” she said, counting them off on her fingers. “Someone I would know, but not Kim Kardashian or you.”
Red looked up, searching the empty corners of her mind for the memory. “No, sorry,” she said, “it’s gone.”
“Okay, we’ll start again,” Maddy said, but just then, Simon stumbled out of the small bathroom, saving Red from more Organized FunTM. The door bounced back into him as the RV sped up.
“Simon Yoo, have you been in there this whole time?” Maddy asked, disgusted. “We’ve played two whole rounds.”
Simon pushed his black, loosely waved hair away from his face and held an unsteady finger to his lips, saying, “Shh, a lady never tells.”
“Shut the door, then, jeez.”
He did, but with his foot, to make some point or other, almost overbalancing as they hurtled along the highway, changing lanes to pass. Wasn’t their exit soon? Maybe Red should say something, but now she was watching as Simon waded forward, leaning on the tiny kitchen counter behind her. In one awkward motion, he slid onto the booth beside her, knocking his knees on the table.
Red studied him: his pupils were sitting too large in his dark, round eyes, and there was an incriminating wet patch on the front of his teal-colored Eagles shirt.
“You’re drunk already,” she said, almost impressed. “I thought you’d only had like three beers.”
Simon moved close to whisper in her ear, and Red could smell the sharp metallic tang on his breath. She couldn’t miss it; that was how she knew when her dad was lying to her, No I didn’t drink today, Red, I promise.
“Shh,” Simon said, “Oliver brought tequila.”
“And you just helped yourself?” Maddy asked, overhearing.
In answer, Simon balled both his fists and held them in the air, yelling: “Spring break, baby!”
Red laughed. Any anyway, if she just asked, maybe Maddy wouldn’t mind sleeping on the right tonight, or for the rest of the week. She could just ask.
“Oliver doesn’t like people touching his things,” Maddy said quietly, glancing over her shoulder at her brother, sitting just a few feet behind her in the front passenger seat, fiddling with the radio as he chatted to Reyna in the driver’s seat. Arthur was standing just behind Oliver and Reyna, now shooting a closed-mouth smile as he caught Red’s eye. Or maybe it was actually Simon he was smiling at.
“Hey, it’s my RV, I have a claim to anything in it,” Simon hiccupped.
“Your uncle’s RV.” Maddy felt the need to correct him.
“Weren’t you supposed to have a driving shift today too?” Red asked him. The plan was to share the drive equally, among the six of them. She had taken the first two-hour shift, to get it out of the way, driving them out of Philly and down I-95 until they stopped for lunch. Arthur had sat with her the whole time, calmly directing her, as though he could tell when she was zoning in and out, or when she was panicking about the size of the RV and how small everything looked from up here. Mind readers everywhere, clearly. But she’d only known Arthur six or seven months; that wasn’t fair.
“Reyna and I swapped,” Simon said, “on account of the beers I’d already drunk.” A wicked smile. Simon had always been able to get away with anything, he was too funny, too quick with it. You couldn’t stay mad at him. Well, Maddy could, if she was really trying.
“Hey, Reyna’s really cool, by the way,” Simon whispered to Maddy, as though she had some claim over the coolness of her brother’s girlfriend. But she smiled and took it anyway, a glance over at the couple, picture-perfect, even with their backs turned.
A break in the conversation; now was the time to ask before Red forgot.
“Hey, Maddy, about the sofa bed—”
“—Shit!” Oliver hissed up front, an ugly sound. “This is our exit right here. Move over, Reyna. Now! NOW.”
“I can’t,” Reyna said, suddenly flustered, checking her mirrors and flipping the turn signal.
“They’ll move for you, we’re bigger, just go,” Oliver said, reaching forward like he might grab the wheel himself.
A screeching sound, not from the RV but from Reyna, as she pulled the hulking vehicle across one lane. An angry Chevrolet screamed on its horn, and the guy at the wheel threw up a middle finger, holding it out the window. Red pretended to catch it, slipping it into the chest pocket of her blue-and-yellow-check shirt, treasuring it forever.
“Move, move, move,” Oliver barked, and Reyna swerved right again, making the exit just in time. Another horn, this time from a furious Tesla they left behind on the highway.
“We could have just come off at the next one and worked it out. That’s what Google Maps is for,” Reyna said, slowing down, her voice strange and squished like it was working its way through gritted teeth. Red had never seen Reyna flustered before, or angry, only ever smiling, wider each time she checked in with Oliver’s eyes. What was that like, to be in love? She couldn’t imagine it; that was why she watched them sometimes, learning by example. But Red should have said something about the exit earlier, shouldn’t she? They’d made it almost all day without any raised voices. That was her fault.
“I’m sorry,” Oliver said now, tucking Reyna’s thick black hair behind her ear so he could squeeze her shoulder, imprinting his fingers. “I just want to get to the campsite ASAP. We’re all tired.”
Red looked away, leaving them alone in their moment, well, as alone as they could get in an RV with six people, thirty-one feet long. Apparently that extra foot was so important they couldn’t round it down.
The world on her side of the RV was dark again. Trees lined the road, but Red could hardly see them, not past her own reflection and the other face hiding beneath it. She had to look away from that too, before she thought about it too much. Not here, not now.
The truck in front slowed as it passed a speed limit 35 sign, its brake lights staining the road red ahead of them. The color that followed her wherever she went, and it never meant anything good. But the road moved on, and so did they.
Oh wait, what was it she needed to ask Maddy about again? TWO
A strange yawning in Red’s gut, the sound hidden by the wheels on the road. She couldn’t be hungry, could she? They’d only stopped for dinner at a rest stop a few hours ago. But the feeling doubled down, twisting again, so she reached out for the bag of chips in front of Maddy. She removed a handful, placing them carefully in her mouth one by one, cheese dust coating her fingertips.
“Oh yeah,” Simon said, standing up and sidling out of the booth, heading toward his bunk beyond the mini-kitchen. “And youse all owe me seven bucks for the snacks I got at the gas station.”
Red stared down at the chips left in her hand.
“Hey.” Maddy leaned over the table. “I’ll cover you for the snacks, don’t worry about it.”
Red swallowed. Looked down even farther to hide her eyes from Maddy. Not worrying wasn’t a choice, not one Red had anyway. In her darkest moments, those winter nights when she had to wear her coat to bed, over two pairs of pajamas and five pairs of socks, and still shivered anyway, Red sometimes wished she were Maddy Lavoy. To live in that warm house as though it belonged to her, to have everything they had and everything she didn’t anymore.
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