Driven From Grace

The time doesn’t travel too quickly in the car. Not too fast, not too slow--in perfect rhythm with my thoughts and Dad’s driving; scattered, yet steady.

The morning sun pours through Dad’s side of the car, sending glorious golden rays along his seat and onto my leg. It warms me, but I don’t really notice. I’m too busy thinking about how it’s all going to go down. Will we cry? Will we laugh at each other? Will one of us want to kiss without the other knowing it, and produce an awkward situation?

No wonder I was single for fifteen years before he came along.

There’s a comfortable silence in the car. Aside from the quiet playing of one of Dad’s CD’s, and the gentle hum of the Ford zooming down the highway, there is no sound.

In my head though, the artillery of millions of questions explode against my skull. It’s almost painful.

Before I even know it, we’re passing a sign that tells us we’re nearly at the American border. My heart leaps into my throat, but I swallow it back down, a palm clinging to my chest in an attempt to keep it pinned there.

Dad must think I’m having a stroke, because his hand is on my shoulder.

“Grace? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” I whisper, shrugging it off. If this is how I respond to a highway sign, how will I survive seeing him, and being in his arms? I think I’ll keel over and die right at his feet.

“If you don’t want to do this, we can go back--”

That suggestion throws me. I turn to my Dad, and he’s already trying to pull onto the shoulder. “What? No. I don’t want to go back.” the words are strangled, like I’m trying not to cry. In truth, I’m trying not to punch him in his stupid, fatherly face.

“Gracie, listen to yourself.” he tries to reason, and I do admit I hear the hysteria over the thunder that now encloses me. Still, I’m relentless.

“No, Dad.” I breathe for a moment, and my vision starts to clear. We’re pulled over now, the other cars zooming past, the odd driver looking over in our direction. I gather, recollect--and then I go on the mother of all tangents.

“I’m going to be brutally honest with you. I can’t think of a moment in my life where I’ve ever been this terrified. I’m glad I haven’t eaten anything yet today, otherwise I would’ve puked back at that overpass coming into Niagara. But you know something? I don’t care. Because there’s nothing I want more than to keep driving to Ohio, get to Canton, and then be whisked off by the man I love.” I pause here, because I see Dad visibly recoil; I know he isn’t used to me using that term. “I’m willing to be terrified, to bear with it, until I’m with him and I realize that there’s nothing to be afraid of!”

Dad watches me as I pant, out of breath from my speech. It’s a pretty good one, I think. Anthony would be proud. “Do you really think you love this guy?”

“I know I do. I’ve known that for at least a year now, Dad. And so has he. And why am I getting this talk now? We’re ten minutes from the border, for Christ’s sake!”

“So you’re sure you want to do this?”

The way the question is phrased makes it sound like I’m the one who just pulled us over. And I begin to wonder… “Are you sure you want to?”

Ha. He wasn’t expecting that. When it comes to reading the ones we’re close to, it’s obvious that the apple didn’t fall far from that ragged, stubborn-rooted tree. He sighs, his large hands gripping the steering wheel. “I’m not sure.”

That throws me off. “Why? You aren’t the one meeting the one you love.”

He chuckles. “No, that’s true… but I am meeting the one my daughter has her heart set on. I’m driving to another country to meet him. Don’t you think that that could be a little daunting for me?”

“Dad… I’m two months shy of being seventeen.”

“I know, and I’m still not prepared.” he says, smiling and shaking his head. He gazes out the windshield, as if looking at some unseen being. “Where did little Gracie go? She used to steal my sunglasses and wear them around the house, singing Disney tunes and laughing all the while. She was so innocent and carefree.”

The memory-lane drivel is a little touching, I admit. I soften my tone in defeat. “She’s grown up, Dad. Just as you raised her to do.”

He smirks. “Is that what I’ve been doing? Setting you up for this?”

“Pretty much.” I reply, seeing that while it sounds as if he regrets it, I know he does not.

“It’s amazing, really…” he starts, running a finger along the steering column. “I always predicted you’d have a few guys in your life that you’d be interested in, try them out, change your mind… the typical teenage-girl process. Actually, I didn’t think you’d really find anyone until you were in college.” He looks at me, and I see that through all the years his eyes have not changed with age. “Now, you’re sixteen--”

“Soon to be seventeen--”

“And you’re already prepared to be a bride. To flee home, move in with this guy, get married, make babies…” he winces a bit with a tone of sarcasm at that last part. “You already know you want all those things, and more importantly… you know you want them with him.

I nod in agreement. I couldn’t have put it any better. “And why is that bad?”

He laughs. “You’re ready to walk down the aisle… and I’m not ready to be the one giving you away.”

I laugh a bit, too. It’s all uneven and imperfect, the situation. And still, now that it’s happening, I couldn’t picture it going any other way. “The first step is driving, Dad.” I say, nodding to the road before us, stretching on toward the late-morning horizon. “And look how far you’ve made it already! You’re halfway down the aisle… maybe a third. I’m not backing out. And neither are you… otherwise, tell me now, and I’ll get out and walk.”

He groans a bit. “Don’t be ridiculous, Grace.” he says it sternly, but I see a smile tugging at his mouth. He turns to the wheel and puts the car back into gear, before slowly merging with the rest of traffic.

I smile, and turn my gaze back to my window; the skies are grey in the rearview mirror, but they are clear as glass above the vast concrete before us. It’s a good sign, and it puts me at ease.

Sunshine in February.

The End

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