highway

HIGHWAY GIRL

Robert Soul

The drive home so far was quiet and with no conversation. It had been that way for some time when they had to be alone. They both felt that the other would be the first to talk and only if they were ready to argue. He believed she wanted a divorce and had seen it coming and she feared he didn’t love her anymore.

It had started to rain heavily and the husband slowed down as he sped up the windshield wipers. Their sound and the occasional thunderclap were the only sounds inside the car until she spoke.

“I’m tired of going out to eat with them,” she said. “All they do is talk about how well their business is doing. It’s depressing.”

“I’m happy for them,” he said.

“Well, I don’t see why.”

“I’m happy when others are successful.”

She breathed a heavy sigh.

“What’s wrong with wishing others success?” he asked.

“What’s wrong with wishing yourself success?”

That was it. He knew she would try to push his buttons. But was she ready for the consequences?

“I am a success. I may not make the kind of money he makes but I’m happy with what I’ve done. I’m sorry if I don’t make you enough money.”

‘He’s so unhappy in this relationship,’ she thought.

“It’s not about the money,” she said.

He breathed heavily this time and thought, ‘Here we go’.

“You have so much potential. I don’t understand why you’re not doing more.”

“I try to do more every day. Every day I look for new ways to maximize what I’m doing. Every day I try to make more calls and find new leads. You were the one who wanted me to work out of an office and give up traveling.”

In truth, he hated her being alone when he was on the road.

“But you don’t ever talk about doing anything new,” she said. “The only time I hear you on the phone it’s with Gerald Weaver and you’re talking about tee times.”

“Why do you say that? I haven’t talked to him since Friday.”

“And you were playing golf with him all day today. And some time tomorrow you’ll be on the phone with him talking about your golf game from this morning or about playing golf on Monday or Tuesday.”

“I make deals on the golf course.”

“Who did you golf with today besides Gerald?”

“John Andres.”

“And did you make any deals with John Andres?”

The husband did not respond. He just breathed heavily again.

They went about ten minutes in silence.

He hated living so far out but she had to have a big house. She wasn’t the one who had to drive every day. Yes, she complained too about how far she was from everything but she didn’t have to drive at all if she didn’t want to. Her only problem was how far she had to drive for shopping or meeting with friends for coffee. He had to drive every day in bumper to bumper just so she could have a huge house. She can have the house.

They were almost halfway home and it was about midnight. The highway driving wasn’t that big of a deal at this time on a Saturday night, he thought. It was just a little boring and dark. This stretch of the highway was always poorly lit. You especially couldn’t see anything ahead of you under the overpasses, unless it was a night like tonight where strikes of lightning lit up the sky and the highway road.

“Could you please clean the back patio tomorrow? I’ve been telling you for three weeks about this Monday. Cheryl and Jennifer are coming over and I’d like to eat out there. I don’t know what to do with any of that stuff. I really need you to move it and spray everything down, please.”

“Alright,” he said begrudgingly.

‘It’s so hard for him to do anything to make me happy,’ she thought.

The husband had fixed his eyes firmly to the road ahead of them. Visibility was nearly zero with the heavy rain and lack of highway lights so he was extra focused. In the past, on nights like this, when he had to travel for work he would drive through the night and would occasionally see something in the road that made him slow down. Sometimes it was a black trash bag or a piece of clothing that had fallen off the back of a truck or something. When he would slow down he would try to get in the other lane so not to run over it. Every time this would happen he would think about what it would be like if it were a dead body. He didn’t know why he would think this except that when you’re on the road for days and nights out of the week it’s just the kind of thing you do to stay awake. Nevertheless, it was always something other than a dead body. He would drive by the trash or whatever it was as he sped back up to normal speed and that would be it. No dead body.

He had excellent eyesight. His whole life he never wore glasses and never felt through the years that he had lost any of his visual ability. When he was a boy, a family friend was an optician and had given him an eye exam. The family friend had told him and his parents that he had 20/11 vision, which was better than 20/20.

“20/11 vision is when a person can see from twenty feet away what a normal person with good vision can only see at eleven feet,” the optician said.

He always believed he could see things well before anyone else.

Every mile, they passed under another overpass and it would be completely dark in the car for just under a second. The husband started to estimate how many of those they would experience before they had to take their exit. The wife appeared to have fallen asleep.

As they went through another overpass the rain let up slightly, which made the husband feel less anxious. He loosened himself up and stretched his face by opening his mouth and eyes wide. This was another road warrior technique.

About a half mile away from the next overpass lightning struck and lit up the highway. The whole highway lit up, including the highway under the overpass coming up. The husband saw something on the highway just under the overpass in what seemed to be in the lane he was driving in. He slowed but stayed in his lane. His eyes squinted as he peered forward towards the underpass. Just a couple seconds had gone by since he noticed it and they were still quite a ways off but every second his eyes were more trained on the spot where he thought he saw the object in the road.

It could have been a shadow. ‘Soon he would know,’ he thought. But he also thought that if it were a solid object he should be moving into the next lane just in case. So he did move over and just as he did, another lightning bolt lit up the entire landscape in front of them.

This time he was sure it was something large and solid in the right lane coming up. He had slowed down considerably now and there was no one behind him as he checked his mirrors.

The thunder of the lightning had woken up the wife and as she woke she looked out her window and saw the same thing the husband saw as they went under the overpass.

It was a young woman, stretched out, lying down flat on her back in the right lane of the highway. Her hair was long and spread out behind her. Her arms crossed behind her head and one of her knees was bent up. It was the kind of thing you would see under a shady tree at the park, a girl taking a nap, catching some rays on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon.

“Did you see that?” the wife said as she took her husband’s hand and turned around to look through the backseat window.

The husband had pulled off the highway as quickly as he could and yet was a few hundred feet past the overpass. He turned off the engine and turned around to look through the back seat window. Constant lightning strikes made the girl’s body visible but then not visible again.

“What do we do?” the wife asked, although she was not completely sure she had seen what she thought she saw.

“I’m calling the police,” he said as he dialed 911 on his cell phone.

“Can we just go, please?”

“And act like there isn’t a dead body on the highway?”

“No. You can call the police. Let’s just not stay around. I’m scared.”

The wife tried to start the car and he stopped her.

“I want to report a body on the highway…A girl…I don’t know. It’s raining and I can’t really see. We pulled over…”

He had been looking in the rear-view mirror but couldn’t see much since the rain had begun except for when lightning lit things up.

“We are at the intersection of George Bush and…”

The wife had been looking too through the back seat window. She had seen clearly what the husband only thought he saw. There was a man standing over the body.

“There’s a man!” the wife screamed.

“There’s a man and he’s doing something with the body,” he said to the police dispatch.

“He’s walking this way. Let’s go! Come on, Bradley! Start the car and let’s go!”

As the husband turned the ignition key a large popping sound filled the whole car and the backseat window shattered.

“He’s shooting at us,” he yelled at the dispatch.

They were both low down in the floorboard.

“Bradley!”

The husband couldn’t tell that the car had started and it was making a loud grinding sound as he turned it over and over.

“It’s on! Drive!”

As the husband sat up to put the car into gear he saw that the man was at the driver’s side window and he had a gun.

The husband saw the gun but it was the man’s face he looked at. He was a young Hispanic man, not older than nineteen, the husband thought. He wondered for that brief moment how this kid could do such things.

Everything began to happen in slow motion. The husband saw the young man’s face turn from anger and rage to fear and disbelief and he turned to look at his wife. As he turned he saw a flash of light come from the wife’s body and then he turned back to the young man. He was falling with his arms spread out like an eagle as if he was about to fly upside down. He did fly, backwards, and he landed on the highway, dead.

The husband turned back to his wife and she was shaking.

She handed him the gun and he held her close and kissed her and whispered to her.

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