But I couldn’t find my voice as we sped past a yellow sign signifying curves ahead.
“Seat belt, sweetie,” she said, her voice frayed, and I grabbed the strap and buckled it over me.
The right tires went off the road on the first curve, and she overcorrected, sending us onto the opposite shoulder. She was saying something under her breath, not meant for me, a prayer. “I begged you to help me find her, Lord. Now that I have, dear God, don’t take her away from me.”
Tears burned my eyes. My parents had lied to me. Someone did love me. Someone did want me. It was the best gift I’d ever been given.
She did better on the next curve, but I saw his headlights behind us, closer than before. Please, God.
The road straightened, lightning showing a long stretch ahead. The wind was letting up, the rain now falling down instead of blowing to the side. Easier for her to drive. Easier for him to catch us.
We flew like a desperate bird with a predator on its trail, the road sounds changing as we sped through an underpass. A hundred feet ahead, there was a second tunnel that we whipped through so fast I didn’t notice the momentary blocking of the rain. A blink, we were protected. Another blink, and we were back in the weakening storm.
I twisted again in my seat to watch as he entered the first underpass. He was driving so fast that I fancied I heard the engine over all the other sounds, revving, straining. He sped back into the open, and that was when it happened.
His car slid, the right tires leaving the road like ours had done, but he didn’t seem to notice. The vehicle continued racing forward but at an angle now, in a line that would take it straight into the bridge abutment.
“Please, God,” I whispered over the pounding of my heart. “Please.”
Maybe he tried to steer away. Maybe he didn’t care. Maybe God had hold of the wheel. I didn’t know.
But one thing I did know as his car crashed into tons of concrete, as it exploded into a brilliant, breathtaking ball of flame, was that my terror had ended, and my life—my real life, the one I was meant to live—had just begun.
My father was dead.
Tears of joy ran down my face.
—Excerpt, The Unlucky Ones by Jane Gama
Sunday evening, Mila got a call from Ed Lawrence. As she wandered down the hall to talk, Sam watched her until he felt Jessica watching him. Their dinner plates were stacked in front of her, and she was pushing a few leftover peas around the top one with a fork. “He’ll probably fire her. He’s kind of heartless that way.”
Sam figured she was right but didn’t want to jinx anything by agreeing out loud. One of the good things about Jessica, though, was she didn’t need a response to continue the conversation.
“Though, I have to admit, when you have a small business and an employee takes off unexpectedly, it’s not always heartlessness. I can manage the store alone if I have to. It just means I’ll be busier and customers may have to wait a little longer. But when you need a working body riding that mower or using that trimmer, it’s harder to make do. Which doesn’t make Lawrence any less a jerk if he fires her. Where’s the loyalty? The appreciation? It’s sure not in her paycheck or the benefits she doesn’t get.”
Sam shifted his attention fully to Jessica. “You always argue both sides of the story, or only when you’re upset about something?”
Putting the fork down, she sighed wearily. “I’m not upset. Just…worried.”
He had to admit, he was still flustered by the fact that she’d so obviously pushed him and Mila together. Giving them privacy, providing condoms… He was thirty-five years old, and his mother didn’t want to hear that he had a sex life, much less do anything to facilitate it.
But since coming back from visiting her neighbor, Jessica had seemed as satisfied with how things had gone as he and Mila. Almost. No one who hadn’t been in bed with them could possibly feel as satisfied as they did. But maybe reality was settling in with Jessica. Maybe she’d gone from oh-great-day-Mila’s-not-a-virgin-anymore to oh-dear-Lord-Mila-might-get-her-heart-broken.
He reached across the table to hold her hand. “I would never hurt her, Jessica,” he said, putting all his sincerity and trustworthiness into the promise.