Staring out the car window, Olivia continued humming along, her head pulsing to the rhythm. She and her father had cleared the city about 20 minutes before; the seemingly endless sight of buildings, row houses, strip malls, concrete and asphalt finally giving way to nothing but empty rolling hills of grass and the straight line of highway stretching out in front of them. It felt like all that crap was actually going to be left far behind.
“Where are we headed, baby girl?” her dad asked. Olivia was the navigator for this escape. She pulled her gaze from the window and focused on the maps app on her phone.
“Um, State Highway 106 north to Wallisburg Falls, and then on to Sioux Falls, Dad.”
“Lots of falls on this trip. Are we on the lam because you have problems with your balance, Liv?” he laughed.
“Very funny, Pops.” Olivia sighed and turned her attention back to the window and the empty grasslands rolling by. Not even a stray dog to capture her attention. Her father was still chuckling to himself as she closed her eyes and leaned her head back to lose herself in her thoughts.
Olivia listened to the tempo the pouring rain beat on the roof above her head, her boyfriend Hector’s bluegrass record playing softly from the living room. What a poser, she thought to herself as he flipped the record to listen to the other side. He’d only taken up bluegrass nine days ago. Before that, it was ska. Before ska, a blessedly short stint of folk punk. She blew him off when he tried to explain that he was finding himself through exploring lesser known musical genres.
The record started to skip, playing the same two notes over and over. Olivia put up with it until she couldn’t take it anymore, and screamed at Hector to turn that off before she stabbed him in the eye. He paid her no mind. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before getting up from the bed. A short sharp scream distracted her, and she took a step to the window to look out and see what she could see. She gasped. Peeking through the window, her surprise turned to horror as she realized what she was actually seeing.
Hector was lying on the ground with a knife sticking out of his eye socket.
The car hit a bump in the road, making the CD skip and forcing Olivia to come shuddering back to the present. She slapped the radio, turning it off. That song sounded too much like Hector’s stupid bluegrass. Too close for comfort.
“Good morning, sleepyhead,” her dad smiled at her.
Olivia grunted in response. “Where are we? And why were you listening to a CD anyway instead of the radio? You can’t get news reports from prerecorded music, Dad.”
“I haven’t heard a thing all night, Liv. Got sick of waiting, so I put the Bee Gees in. Because we’re staying alive,” he winked at her. “Not like poor old Hector.”
“Stop the car. Now!” she screamed.
Olivia threw the door open before the car was stopped and vomited on the shoulder. She hung on the door, breathing heavily, hair swinging in her face. Finally, she sat up and glared at her father.
“Don’t ever say his name. Not ever.” The fire in her eyes spoke volumes more than her words.
“Lighten up, Liv. You know it’s not the first time we’ve had to move quick. Remember Marcus?” He gave her a pointed look.
“Marcus got what was coming to him, Dad. It’s not the same thing at all, and you know it. How long until we get to South Dakota?” she asked.
“Another hour or so. Maybe less if I could get back on the road. You done puking?”
Olivia slammed the door and threw her head back against the headrest. “Lay on, MacDuff.”
Her father handed her a napkin to wipe her face as he pulled back onto the road and floored it.