‘Liv? Honey, wake up!’ Jennifer banged on her daughter’s door. All she got in response were a few groans.
Behind the door, Olivia was cocooned in the warmth of her blanket. She grabbed a pillow and threw it over her ears as an attempt to block the noise. Of course, it didn’t work.
‘Olivia! You’re going to be late!’ Jennifer continued pounding on the door. ‘OLIVIA!’
She mumbled incoherent words in response. Jennifer sighed, shaking her head. She walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. She’ll come in her own time, she convinced herself.
Olivia stumbled into the bathroom, dragging her feet across the room. Staring at her reflection in the mirror for a few seconds, she shut the bathroom door.
She came out looking nothing like what she was a just few moments ago. She looked at the decorated photo frame on her bedside table before jogging down the stairs. I miss you, Dad. How could you leave me alone?
Breakfast was already on the table when she entered the living room. The room smelled of her mother’s home-made pancakes. They were Olivia’s favorite.
‘Good morning, Mum.’
Jennifer smiled. It always made her happy when her daughter said it first. ‘Good morning, hun. Did you sleep OK?’
Her smile dropped a bit. It was always those one-word answers with her, wasn’t it?
It isn’t anything new, Jennifer shrugged it off. She’ll come in her own time.
Back at the table, the plate of pancakes were getting cold. Olivia looked into her phone, barely eating her breakfast. She scrolled for a bit, ate a bit, scrolled, and then ate again. From outside, a familiar horn honked. Olivia finally looked up from her phone.
‘Alright. Bye, Mum!’
She got off her seat at the table. ‘I’m leaving now. Jamie’s here.’
She grabbed her school bag, gave her mother a kiss on her cheek and left the house.
‘Bye, love. Be good!’
Jennifer watched through the beige curtains as her daughter got into a car with her new friend, Jamie.
Ever since Dave, her husband, died, things had been different. His recent death had been really hard on Olivia. On both of them, really, but one of them had to be the strong one, right? Olivia had completely closed off. She barely came out of her room, talked to her mother – or anyone, really.
But then she found Jamie. They became good friends and she seemed to be happier. Not as happy as before, but… happier. Jennifer was glad that she had opened up again, but she was worried too. She had learnt that Jamie wasn’t exactly a good kid – having a tendency to run off or skip classes quite often.
She had tried talking to Olivia about Jamie before. It had only led to the inevitable – Olivia getting defensive. You don’t get me, Mum! She had just screamed and stormed out on her mother.
She heaved an exhausted breath. Just as the car took off, she went back into the living room and began her daily routine.
‘Hey, Liv!’ Jamie’s eyebrows went up as she smiled brightly. Olivia grinned and waved back excitedly before exchanging hugs.
‘Hi, Olivia,’ Helen, Jamie’s mother, greeted her. She looked at her through the rear-view mirror. ‘How are you doing?’
‘I’m good, how about you?’
‘I’m fine, as well. Thank you.’
They smiled at each other before Jamie and Olivia started talking.
Helen unconsciously smiled at the two teenagers at the back. Jamie had lots of friends, but none of them were like Olivia. She was different.
Helen was aware of her daughter’s rather rebellious nature. She believed Olivia might be an influence on her, for good.
They talked for the entire ride, Helen occasionally laughing at little things they said.
‘Alrighty,’ Helen said, bringing the car to a slow stop. ‘We are here. Have a great day, girls!’
‘Bye, Mom,’ Jamie said, giving her mother a small hug. The two teenagers got out of the car and Helen drove off.
They walked along the lockers, talking about their after-school plans. ‘Hey, so I have something planned for us after school!’ Jamie squealed, looking at Olivia.
‘Ooh! What is it?’ Olivia looked equally excited.
Jamie winked. ‘You’ll find out after school!’
Students rushed around the corridors while Olivia and Jamie walked in the halls after the last bell had rung.
‘Hey, when’s your mom coming? And what’s that plan you were talking about?’ Olivia asked.
Jamie tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. ‘Um, she’s… not, actually.’
Olivia stopped walking and Jamie followed. ‘Wait, what?’
‘It’s part of the plan! I told her we’re having an after school sesh. That’s cool, right?’
Olivia shifted on her feet, feeling uneasy. What if I get in trouble? ‘Uh, yeah.’
But if I say no, she’ll think I’m a wimp. She cleared her throat. ‘Yeah, totally. So, what are we gonna do?’
‘So, my cousin is coming to pick us up. Let’s run away!’ Jamie shrugged. ‘She’ll drive. No biggie!’ She added with a wink at the end.
Olivia tried to process the idea in her head. Me? Running away?
It was not making sense to her. When did she become this person? She was never like this. She’d always been the ‘good girl’ – not a rule-breaker. She never lied to her mother. But today she felt like crossing over to the other side.
Ever since Dad died, Mum’s changed. She won’t care if I run away.
Olivia could see herself becoming someone else – someone who she wasn’t. But she couldn’t make it stop. And she didn’t even try.
‘…Run away? Where?’
A loud, exuberant laughter escaped Jamie’s lips. ‘Oh, my gosh! You should look at your face right now!’
She paused, trying to catch her breath while still laughing. ‘Relax! We’re not running away, of course. We’re just going for a ride! We’re not going forever, we’re just… going away for a few hours, OK?’
Olivia was still uncertain, but she agreed. Might as well do her some good, right? ‘I’ll be right out. I gotta put some stuff in my locker.’
‘OK, I’ll meet you there?’ Jamie gestured to the school gate.
Olivia nodded. ‘Yup!’
She watched Jamie leave the building. As soon as she was out of sight, Olivia leaned on the wall behind her. She let out a few breaths. She didn’t know why she was doing this. But… she wanted to. It’ll be fun, right?
‘OK,’ she whispered to herself. She pulled out her phone from her pocket and called her mother. Jennifer picked it up almost immediately, as if she was waiting for the call.
‘Hi, Liv. What’s up’ Olivia could hear her mother smile. It almost made her feel guilty for lying.
‘I’m gonna be home late today. I’ve got an after-school thingy with Jamie.’ Almost.
‘Oh, OK. Have fun, love!’
‘When will you be home, then?’
‘I’m not sure. I’ll probably be late. Don’t wait up for me, OK?’
Jennifer chuckled. ‘I won’t.’
‘So, uh, how… how was your day?’
‘It was pretty good. I tried my hand at baking. A not-so-great Vanilla Souffle awaits you. How was your day?’ Jennifer replied. She almost laughed at her daughter’s attempt to make conversation.
‘It was alright. I’ve got to go, now,’ she looked out through the gate to see Jamie waving her over. ‘I’ll see you at home then.’
‘Okay, then. Bye, hun. Be safe!’
Olivia tucked her phone back into her pocket. She put on a genuine smile on her face and walked out the school gate. A red convertible was waiting outside for her.
‘OK, woah! I didn’t know you had a convertible! That’s so cool!’
A blonde girl sitting in the driver’s seat began laughing. ‘Thanks! I am Taylor, Jamie’s favorite cousin.’ She said, with a wink and another chuckle. Jamie rolled her eyes but smiled right after.
‘It’s good to meet you.’ Olivia beamed. ‘I am Olivia.’
‘Likewise,’ Taylor replied. ‘Are you guys ready?’ she asked, and they nodded eagerly before getting into the car. She rolled down the windows and all of a sudden, it felt like they were flying. Olivia’s skin tingled with happiness.
‘Hey, where’s the music, you guys?’ Olivia screamed against the wind. Taylor chuckled and turned up the radio, blasting Classic by MKTO.
Olivia and Jamie look at each other in sync and grin. I don’t know why I didn’t want to go before.
The speedometer hit 140, and the wind grew stronger and louder. The car rocked slightly with the gust of the wind. Olivia couldn’t remember the last time she had had this much fun.
‘Baby, you’re so classic!’ They all sang along to the song. Taylor glanced into the rear-view mirror, smiling at the sight of the two girls laughing. She liked Olivia. She rarely liked Jamie’s friends, but Olivia was different.
She sang the solo line, her voice cracking in between. She almost laughed at herself.
‘I told you guys I can’t sing to save my life!’
Loud laughs escaped their mouths. This is fun. Mum doesn’t get me.
Olivia screamed above all the noise after a while. Her eyes were shining with excitement and happiness. ‘Hey, can we pull down the roof?’
Taylor looked back with a grin. ‘You read my mind.’
Suddenly, a blinding light from the front glared brightly on their faces. A blaring honk gave out a deathly warning.
‘Oh, my God, Taylor, watch out!’
Piercing screams drowned the loud music.
Taylor’s eyes snapped wide open. She tried to turn the car wheel over. It felt as if time had stopped. As if the car was floating. Everything slowed down for a moment and Olivia saw her life flash before her eyes.
Suddenly, the paused time started again. The car swerved across the road, coming to a skidding stop with an ugly screech.
Taylor let out a relieved breath. ‘Holy- That was close! You guys OK?’ A few chuckles escaped her pale lips.
‘Yup!’ Jamie said.
When she didn’t receive a reply from Olivia, she looked back to see her frozen – her back was pressed to the seat. Her eyes were filled with fear and shock.
Jamie chuckled. ‘You can relax, Liv. We’re fine now.’
Before they knew it, Olivia exploded. ‘We could have nearly died! How are you laughing right now?! I- I- Are you crazy?!’
Her heart was beating so hard, she thought it would jump out of her chest anytime.
Their eyes went up wide when they saw tears escaping her eyes, slipping down her cheeks. Olivia was too caught up in her anger and shock. She didn’t realize she had begun to cry. Taylor unbuckled her seat belt and got out of the car, pulling Olivia out of her seat.
‘Hey… we’re OK, now,’ she said, trying to comfort the 14-year-old. ‘It’s all gone… You’re okay. I promise.’
Taylor and Jamie exchanged a look. An uncertain look. They weren’t sure of what to do.
Olivia buried her face into her palms, whimpering softly. The radio played quietly in the background. I… I want Mum. This was the first time in a really long time that Olivia had missed her mother.
‘I… I want to go home,’ she finally said after a while. Jamie and Taylor looked at each other. ‘Wait, Liv, are you sure? This was just a small thing… We could still go on!’ Jamie tried but Olivia shook her head. ‘No. I want to go home.’ I want my Mum.
‘Oh, OK. Alright, then. Let’s… let’s go.’
They got back into their seats, this time, Jamie sitting in the passenger seat. They buckled up before Taylor began driving again. The atmosphere was silent and maybe even a little awkward. You could even hear a pin drop. Jamie and Taylor occasionally whispered a few things to each other, but that was it.
Back in her seat, Olivia closed her eyes. Lights. Horns. Screech. She opened them again. Memories of her father came rushing into her mind. Dave had died in a car accident only about 7 months ago. This incident only brought back a vivid memory of the dreadful phone call from the hospital at 1 am from the day he died. She shook her head, wishing she could forget all about it.
‘I’m sorry I ruined your plan,’ she spoke after a long time.
Jamie looked at her from the passenger seat. ‘No, it’s OK! We’ll go on a road trip some other time.’
Taylor agreed. ‘How are you feeling? Are you better now?’
Olivia nodded. ‘I’m fine.’
She looked out the window, drowning out the other sounds. She hadn’t felt like this in a long time. The last time she cried was when her dad died.
All I want right now is to go home.
As soon as the car came to a stop, Olivia felt the urge to leave everything and run off to her mother.
‘Um…’ Jamie began, while she turned back to look at her friend. ‘We’re here.’
‘Thanks. And I’m sorry, again.’ She replied, but her eyes were already looking out to her house, searching for any sign of her mother.
‘I’ll call you later. Thank you, Taylor.’
Without waiting for a reply, she threw open the car door and dashed into her house. She took out the keys in a haste, her heart beating faster and faster by the minute. She heard Taylor and Jamie take off behind her.
She finally got through, busting the door open while yelling, Mum!
Olivia threw her shoes off her feet and tossed her bag onto the ground. She rushed around the house, frantically looking for her mother. ‘Mum?’ She called out but there was no reply. There weren’t any lights turned on in the house.
She ran up the stairs with loud thuds and bolted into her mother’s room. And there she was, cuddled up in her blanket, watching a movie. Olivia let out a breath. ‘Mum.’
Jennifer towards the door, her eyes lighting up at the sight of her daughter standing in the doorway. ‘Oh, Liv! Hi! You’re-’
A rib-crushing hug cut Jennifer off short.
Olivia ran towards to Jennifer and put her arms around her. Jennifer laughed. She was happy. ‘Liv?’ She asked slowly. ‘What’s… up?’
She was confused. But happy.
‘I love you, Mum,’ Olivia whispered, her hold on her mother tightening. ‘I love you,’ she repeated.
Jennifer’s cheeks lifted up, and her eyes sparkled with happiness. The bright, cheerful smile never left her face. Hearty, exuberant chuckles left her lips.
‘I love you too, Liv. I love you more.’
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