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Amber Learns to Drive

Sometimes people are able to save themselves when everything is stacked against them. 

Take a moment to get to know Amber. We think you’ll like her. 


Amber Learns to Drive by Rose Lee-Delgado




It was freezing, so Mickey left the car running for Amber while he went in to make a buy. She wouldn’t have come with him tonight if she hadn’t been hungry. No school today, so after Mickey and her mom left that morning she was stuck in the apartment all day with nothing to eat but some stale crackers she found.
           
When they finally came home, they headed for their bedroom and shut the door. After Mickey came out, Amber went in to ask her mom about dinner, but couldn’t wake her up. She told Mickey she was starved, and he said okay, he’d take her for a burger and fries, but first they had to stop so he could buy some meth.

*

Mickey brought her along when he made a buy a few weeks ago, saying he wanted company, but later he drove out and parked by the lake and started touching her. She said he shouldn’t, but he kept on and then he unzipped his pants and said to suck it. She said she didn’t want to, but he said she’s getting all grown up and sucking a man’s dick is something grownup girls do. Besides, think about all he’s done for her and her mom, like paying the rent and buying things like those sneakers Amber’s wearing. If she’d just try it this once, they could go for ice cream.

They were all alone and she was afraid to say no again, so she started doing it, but pretty soon he pushed down on her head and it made her gag so she had to quit. Mickey said next time it’ll be easier, and now we can go for ice cream, but she just wanted to go home.

He said not to tell because people wouldn’t understand, and if she told, someone from the state might come and take her away, or maybe they’d make him move out. Then she and her mom would be on the street because her mom couldn’t pay the rent. That’s if anyone believed her, he said.
     
That night in bed she kept thinking about how she almost threw up, and why did he say something about next time, if she only had to try it this once?
  
When Mickey left the next morning she told her mom Mickey was bothering her and she didn’t want to be alone with him. She hoped her mom would just say she’d tell Mickey to leave her alone, but her mom gave her a dirty look and said she didn’t want to hear that kind of shit because she already had enough going on, and anyway, Mickey was taking care of them so Amber better not cause trouble. Besides, Amber was thirteen now or had she forgotten, and maybe it was time she handled a few things on her own. If Mickey’s bothering her, what’s wrong with telling him to stop?

Amber tried keeping away from Mickey, but when her mom went in another room he’d touch her and whisper things, like how hot she was. She didn’t want to cause trouble so she’d just move away and maybe say don’t. Then he’d pretend his feelings were hurt, and pretty soon he’d do it again, like it was a game.

She thought about running, but she didn’t have any money, and besides, where would she go? She had a dad somewhere, but she hadn’t seen him for years and didn’t know where he lived.

*

Amber wished she hadn’t come with Mickey tonight even if she was starved. She knew Mickey would drive out to the lake again, and she wondered what would happen if she ran this time, but then she started looking at these two big Harleys right in front of Mickey’s car, still sitting where they were when Mickey pulled up and parked. They were close to each other, up against the curb.

She guessed they belonged to some guys who were inside the house where Mickey was. She wondered if they were bikers. She’d seen stuff on TV about bikers, big tough guys who liked to beat people up, always riding Harleys.

Even if they weren’t bikers, she thought they’d get real mad if they found their Harleys all smashed up because Mickey’s car ran over them. Would they blame Mickey, or would they blame some girl Mickey says was in his car but who isn’t there now?  Mickey, she thought. It was his car, and he was the one who left it running. If they got mad enough, they might hurt him so bad he wouldn’t feel like doing anything to her tonight, maybe not for a long time.

There was a thick row of bushes across the street, and she thought she could run and hide behind them before anyone came out when they heard the crash. She’d have to walk home later, and she wouldn’t get the burger and fries, but that’s okay. She had school tomorrow, and they’d give her breakfast.

She felt scared, but this was her chance, so she slid over behind the steering wheel and made sure the door was unlocked so she could get out fast. Then she released the handbrake, the way Mickey did, and then she reached with her foot and pushed the gas pedal all the way down. The motor got so loud it made her even more scared and she almost stopped, but more than anything in the world she needed Mickey to leave her alone, so she held the steering wheel tight and kept pushing the gas pedal all the way down and looked over at the house to make sure they weren’t coming and then she moved the shift lever to drive, the way Mickey did. 

*

It was too cold just to walk, so Amber began running again, slower this time. For a while she kept thinking about Mickey running down the street, those two big guys chasing him and yelling stuff, saying they were going to kill him. She wondered if he got away, and then she started getting scared, like what if they really did kill him?

But then she remembered driving Mickey’s car and making it crash into the Harleys, and that’s what she thought about the rest of the way home. That, and how good it felt to handle something on her own, like her mom said she should. 
   

The author is a social psychologist living in the Pacific Northwest, now writing short fiction. Rose Lee-Delgado is a pseudonym.