Every mile or so, I glance to the clock in the middle of the dashboard hoping it will stop. Stop making me later than I already am.
The final mile along Shoreacres Road, with the windows rolled down to air out the smell of too many Marlboro Lights, I can hear the woodland creatures begin to stir and can smell the morning moisture from the trees and the grass and the great lake.
The last part of the driveway is with car lights off and engine hushed to a gentle roll, to where I park (outside the garage) and tiptoe into the kitchen – straight to the fridge – for an easy fix for the munchies.
With a kosher dill already half-eaten in one hand and leftover pasta in the other, I turn to head upstairs and see a light coming from under the door to the adjacent den. Regularly enraged by city-sized electricity bills, Dad enforces a very strict Lights Off Policy and regularly patrols the house, making sure it’s in full blackout mode before climbing into bed.
Seeing the lights coming from the den means only one thing, Dad is still awake… and waiting.
Perched on his favorite sofa, surrounded by portraits of his five, ungrateful children, he’s been watching for headlights through the large, paned window overlooking the front circle.
Growling at the dark, empty driveway.
My plan is stealth flight, but before I have a chance to make it up the first step, Dad rumbles, strong and low, “Anne Elizabeth.”
“Shit,” I whisper after the half-chewed pickle bite heads reluctantly toward my now knotted stomach.
Setting down the food no longer offering any comfort and opening the door to the den, I see Dad – arms crossed – sitting with his legs up on the sofa. Staring straight into my bloodshot eyes.
“Daughter, do you know what time it is?”
(I certainly do.)
“What on earth have you been doing until five o’clock in the morning?”
And without warning, the truth comes pouring forth. I tell Dad about hanging out with friends and making ribs, and taking those ribs to the drive-in movies to eat while watching zombies.
I tell him about the beautiful night and the roaring fire at the edge of the silky, smooth lake; about the moonlight so bright we could see our toes when wading in the cold, clear water.
I told him everything… nearly… and then I asked, “What are you still doing up?”
Confounded by my truths and the question, having to recalculate his intended tongue-lashing, he replies, “I’m just waiting for your sister to get home.”
Equally confounded by what just happened, already moving swiftly toward the kitchen, I nearly scream from excitement when I call out, “Okay. Good night.”
Grabbing the pasta from the counter, I head up the stairs, pausing to look for headlights through the hall window, just above where Dad remains on watch, but only see the sky turn brighter through the silhouetted trees.
Mia doesn’t stand a chance.