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It was the sickening sound of a small body being run over that finally sent my hysterical friend over the edge. That thud, the way the car tilted just slightly, and then the unmistakable popping noise that could scare any grown man was what nearly made me join her. It was a quiet night, save for the rushing orchestra of cars whizzing by on the water lined asphalt. Headlights danced off of the dangerous surface as they passed, casting a pool of light just briefly over the back tire. Hissing was a poor description for the heart sinking fist sized hole in the black rubber but being under duress caused my vocabulary to shrivel up.

“It’s a goner,” I tried to yell over the uncaring traffic. If my strained voice made it to the inside of the car, she gave no indication of having heard it. I watched her head bob in what I assumed was her continued rant. Two hours of endless self-pity would crush anybody’s spirits. Hers so happened to strangle mine then moved on to eat my patience alive.

Sliding into the car, I made sure to lock the doors again. The highway was a busy one but I couldn’t shake the need to be safe. Hearing the whining hints of tears made me reconsider where I wanted to wait.

“Lena, I need you to calm down for like two minutes.”

I have no clue what she was going on about at the time but she did stop. Of course, not without choking on a building sob of agony. Why me? Why did I have to be in the car with a psycho?

I had a few other mental questions that filtered in and out of consciousness while I took care of three calls. The first and most important one went to a towing company. I didn’t pay extra money every month to be stuck on the side of a road. Second went to my parents who were unavailable to speak to their daughter because that’s the way the world works and the last one was to the group we were meeting up with. You’d think I would have known better since this trip was school related.

“Do you think he really loves her?” She choked out. The phone had barely moved from my ear. In fact, my hand was still near my shoulder. “But he can’t Reena, he can’t. We were together not him and her and his brother, he’s vile. He’s a turd of the most disgusting kind.” Her voice cracked and so did another one of my now frail nerves.

I placed my hands and phone in my lap. “It’s not all bad.” It was all I could get out before she broke out again.

“No, no, no, no. No! It’s universally horrible. I’m universally horrible.” She doubled over with her face in her hands and lap.

Unsure about the consoling part, I stared at my side mirror. That didn’t last long. The headlights were blinding in the ink state of night. I had to blink a few times to stop seeing spots. With a co-pilot crying her eyes out, I had to be the strong capable one. No hard feat for a Palermo. It would have been nice to have a stable person in my passenger seat though. I barely thought it before she was up talking again.

“What kind of girl cries when she has the fortune I’ve had? Who am I to be so privileged and see flaws in it? That’s what your thinking. Right? Right?”

She looked at me this time around. Her hair, once pulled tightly back in a ponytail that made me envious, was a mess. Strands of hair were everywhere. Her eyes were red and swollen from the excessive crying. Add on the wild, wide eyed look that made me think she was an escaped mental patient and you’d understand why I held up my hands with a firm shake of my head.  “Not at all,” I told her.

Her breathing changed from labored sob holder to worrisome. “There aren’t any holes. It’s all great. Smile, Lena. Be happy, Lena. Wave, Lena.”

She was losing it. The wild eyes hadn’t leveled out yet. They were beginning to unnerve me. I’m not sure if she noticed the way I was sinking into the space between the car door and the seat. Standing outside was looking like the sane idea the longer I was held up with her.

“We’re all robots. All of us! Step, step, step, turn, curtsy, offer a greeting. Why do we play Reena? What’s the point? But it’s not a game is it? No, it’s our fortune. We’re soooo blessed.” She laughed and I cringed. She had definitely lost it.

While she went on about the stupidity of flowers and dreams, I curled myself around my phone and, for the first time in years, prayed. “Pick up, pick up, pick up….” I whispered as quietly as I could to the hum on the other end of the call. If there was ever a time I needed my parents to be parents it was then. They were joke worthy when it came to parenting but they could wrangle people like they were sheep dogs.

For the night, Lena had me doing two things I swore off; asking for help from my parents and asking for help from a higher spiritual power. By the time I did get through to my father, I could add a third – I was crying.

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Prompt: A tire blows out as you’re in the car with someone on the verge of her/his breakdown. Stuck, you’re about to do something you haven’t done in years.

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