• jill macdonald

Sidetracked - Brynn, You're Making This Up

Brynn fidgeted with the lighter in Celeste's car. It was the one thing that did not work in the Jag, everything else purred and was polished. She never let anything litter the floor or the dashboard, her lipsticks and creams were stored in cases in the back seat.

"Stop it." Celeste took the lighter from her hand and clicked it into its tight metal slot.

"I should take up smoking."

"You don't enjoy being lightheaded."

That was true. When she drank, which was rarely, Brynn could not finish a beer before a headache formed in her forehead and she had to eat something salty to counteract the effect. "But I could muscle through. Isn't that what you did?"

Celeste adjusted the rearview mirror to reflect the corner of her eye and carefully removed a particle of dust without smearing her mascara or eyeliner.

"Aren't you supposed to be driving?"

"I am."

Brynn tested her seatbelt as the Jag surged forward. It was a mistake to question her friend's driving. It was a mistake to question her friend's driving. They passed the outer limits of town under an open blue sky that had no horizon, it merely shimmered and beckoned. Brynn visualized her friend’s perfectly manicured toes pressing the gas pedal closer to the floor, she wore open-toed sandals, loosely bound to her feet by linen ribbons. All forms of catastrophe that never manifested, Celeste was an excellent driver. Brynn held her breath Celeste slipped the car into fourth gear and the roar of acceleration smoothed out, rumbling and content. They flew down the highway in a giant silver cat, two women, boxes full of expensive Hungarian cosmetics and Brynn’s laundry stuffed in the small back seat.

"When are you coming back? I’m going to visit every two days, except when I have deliveries, you should come with me.” Celeste’s voice was a stream, it flowed without stopping and lulled a person into agreeing with whatever she said. The direction water took always made sense, it was a natural event.

Brynn nodded and relaxed into the contours of the passenger seat. It wasn’t comfortable, but she was used to it by now. They cleared the plateau above the river. Far below, brown water boiled and gurgled in horrendous boils of swirling water. “I can’t swim,” she said.

Celeste reached over and patted her thigh. “I know. So don’t go in the water.”

“What if I want to wash?”

“Use a cloth, sponge bath and do it naked. Look, you won’t throw yourself in the river, those are just thoughts we have. Think about something else if you feel it sneaking up on you.”

“Naked?”

Celeste sighed. “Get past the naked. You’re such a prude.”

Brynn looked at her friend’s profile. Fine lines radiated from the corners of her eyes, and her throat showed the beginnings of aging, but she was stunning, she had a tired, vital beauty, her lifeforce radiated lust for things that weren’t necessarily good for her but she did not resist and that set her apart. “What do you see in me, Celeste?” She reached for the lighter and her friend slapped her hand. “I’m serious. This camping trip is about that – I don’t want to travel and I’m tired of people telling me I should.”

“So, you’re hiding instead.”

“It’s not hiding.”

“It is hiding.” Celeste cracked her window open and smelled the air. “I’m not judging.” Then she reached for a cigarette.

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