There are a million ways to start a story. Being who I am, I’ll start by stating the obvious: I, Chevelle Davis, was named after a car.
The reason for this is simple: my mother’s love. Not her love for me, — had I been in her shoes, I most definitely wouldn’t have named my first and only child after a car that had been defunct for twenty one years.
The issue that landed me with my name is the fact that my mom loves so easily. She gives out free portions of her heart like flea-bitten puppies in a Walmart parking lot. It doesn’t matter what or who it is; if she sees the slightest bit of good in it, there’s a good chance that it has a place in my mother’s heart, which is always full to bursting.
One of the first things to receive Anna-Lou Davis’ all-consuming love was a 1977 Chevrolet Chevelle. Given to her on her sixteenth birthday by her father, used car salesman Billy Davis, the car was manufactured the same year she was born, and had changed hands too many times to count in its previous sixteen years. Once the keys were handed over to Anna-Lou, however, it was clear that its fate had finally been sealed. My mother was going to drive that little green Chevy to its very last mile.
From then on, she set out to do just that, driving it to every one of her many destinations.
First, it came with her when she moved out of her parents’ house, leaving the backwoods Tennessee town she had grown up in for a liberal arts school in North Carolina. Then, it drove her to every social function that caught her fancy during that time. Finally, it lead her to my father, Dawson Pike, a college dropout who just so happened to be staying over at the apartment of one of Mom’s girlfriends.
From the time they met, it was clear that my mom was no longer driving her own heart. Dawson was exactly the type of guy that her parents would never want their daughter to be with; perhaps that was part of what drew her to him in the first place. He was far less ambitious than my mother was, with no particular career aspirations. The way Mom tells it, he was enough of a sweet talker to bend the story, making himself look a bit less like a slacker. He knew exactly how to lure girls like Mom into his trap; all he had to do was tell her that he was waiting for a dream to catch him. Already putty in his hands, my mother was ready to stay by his side while he did just that.
At that point, her heart was divided fifty-fifty between her car and her man. Dawson now reguarly accompanied her on her escapades, regularly taking up residence in the Chevelle’s passenger seat. Between the frequent rides they took together and the other sort of escapades they had in the backseat, it shouldn’t have been that surprising when Anna-Lou found herself pregnant in the middle of her junior year. Unfortunately, Anna-Lou was very surprised, — unpleasantly so.
True to his ways, Dawson offered a fix to the mess they had gotten themselves into, — an impromptu shotgun wedding. Being as devoted to him as she was, my mother quickly accepted. Unfortunately, she was in for yet another unpleasant surprise when dad never showed up at the altar. Apparently, he had decided last minute that he’d take to California to start up a music career, — at least, that’s what the letter he sent Mom shortly after his disappearance said. It was only after he had knocked up his girlfriend that dear old Dad discovered that his dream was to become the next Bob Dylan. Great timing, Pops.
Luckily for Mom, she was able to get support during her time of need. The same friend that she met Dad through got her a waitressing job, probably as an unspoken recompense for introducing her to the loser. Despite their anger upon discovering their daughter’s pregnancy and failed engagement, my grandparents got her hooked up with off-campus housing, following her inevitable dropping out.
A few months later, I was born. As soon as my mother saw my face for the first time, she christened me after the one thing she had left: her car.
Eighteen years later, I stand in the hallway of the home the two of us have lived in for the past decade, staring at a picture of the two of us in front of the little green vehicle. Looking at the toddler version of myself in my mother’s arms, I wish that she never invited my father into that car.
Okay, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic. Still, I can’t deny that I feel kind of miserable, knowing that that little girl had no idea that she had **** near no future. Sure, she might have been the smartest kid in her kindergarten class, and yes, she could write a better themed assignment than all the other kids by the time she entered the second grade. If you asked any of her teachers, they’d say that her academic future most definitely seemed bright. As she grew up, everyone said that she’d have no trouble getting into college one day.
If you want to know why that wasn’t the case, all you have to do is look at the next couple of pictures on the wall. You’ll notice a definite pattern.
My mother and her friends, smiling as they tried to keep their hands of cards hidden. My mother and an elementary-aged version of myself, standing outside of a Vegas casino that I was much too young to go inside of. (Don’t worry. It was just a staged photo op.) My mother inside of that same casino later, concentrating hard on the slot machine in front of her. My mother at yet another gathering with friends, guarding a stack of brightly colored plastic chips with a vigilance that she must have learned while in Vegas. The more I look, the more I want to go back to the picture of us in front of the car.
As much as I love her, there are many things I resent my mom for. Aside from spending most of our money to feed her bad habits, I’d say that the biggest one is hanging her gambling pictures on our walls.
My self-pity fest is interrupted by her hand on my shoulder. I turn around to find my mom, giving me a guarded grin. The look of guilt in her eyes says that she knows exactly what I’ve been thinking. When she opens her mouth, however, her voice is clear of any remorseful feelings, light and care-free.
“Darling,” she drawls. “Miranda called. She says she’ll be here to pick you up any minute. Do you have all your bags?”
She pulls her hand back, her small grin transforming into a full-blown winning smile. The lack of imperfection in her face makes it clear that her drug of choice isn’t of the chemical sort. She’s still young and beautiful, able to pick up any guy at the game table, should she take her eyes off her winnings. Though I’ve inherited her strawberry blonde hair and green eyes, I’m sure I’ll look much older when I reach that age. I’ll probably blame the stress that I felt at eighteen.
I nod, forcing myself to smile back at her. Lately, that’s gotten a lot harder than it should be. “Yes ma’am,” I say. “They’re on my bed.”
“Alright, then.” She turns around, blonde curls bouncing on her shoulders as she heads back down the hallway. Just when I think that she’s leaving me alone to continue focusing on our tragic family history, she turns back around and asks me one question she has absolutely no right to ask. “You have enough money for the road, right?”
While the sound of those words coming out of her mouth make me want to scream, I continue to fake my polite smile. “Miranda’s got it covered,” I say. “We’ll stop at the bank if we need anything.”
The mention of the bank causes her to pale slightly. Now she forces a nod before turning around, more than likely for good this time. Good.
Rather than continuing to stand there and dwell, I turn toward my bedroom, walking to get my bags and the meager bit of cash that I had on me.
My best friend will be here any minute, ready for us to embark on the adventure we’ve had planned out for most of our lifetimes. I was more than ready to join her in high tailing it right out of this joint.
My name is Chevelle Davis, and this just might be my last long drive.
Miranda pulls into our driveway exactly ten minutes after she called. Without even looking, I recognize the sound of her bus rolling up the gravel. I would know the rumble of that engine anywhere.
I sling the strap of my overnight bag over my shoulder and head towards the front door. Fancying myself as a good daughter, I track Mom down before I leave the house.
Finding her digging around the scarcely stocked pantry, I lean in to give her a one-armed hug and a kiss on the cheek, inhaling the last breath of her fruity perfume that I’ll get for a couple of weeks. “Miranda’s here,” I say. “Love you.”
“Love you, too,” she replies. She turns away from the can goods on the shelf, hope glimmering in her pale green eyes. “Call me later?”
An odd sense of guilt hits me, seeing the sincerity in her eyes. “Of course.” I lean in to give her another hug before stepping out of the pantry. “I’ll give you a ring the first time we stop somewhere.”
“Thanks, sweetheart. Drive safe.”
I wave to her before I finally close the front door behind me. With that, I allow my Good Daughter smile to fade away, a near scowl settling on my face as I walk towards the bus. This is how the summer after graduation begins. I expected a hell of a lot more.
I fling the passenger seat to the bus open, sighing as I climb inside. Miranda drives a teal Volkswagen bus named Sadie. I am a girl with a car name, and she has a car with a girl name. It’s one of the many things that makes Miranda and I so perfect together. I’m peanut butter, she’s jelly. I’m Penn, she’s Teller. I’m Lennon, she’s McCartney. There’s seldom a time when we’re not together, and it’s best that way.
We’ve practically been Velcroed to one another ever since Mom and I moved into our neighborhood ten years ago. We had only been there for an hour and a half before an eight-year-old Miranda pranced up to the doorstep, offering us a plate of handmade cookies, courtesy of the Daley family. Ever since I opened the door to that smiling, freckle-faced girl, I had felt a lot less alone. And as long as Miranda was there, I wasn’t alone. She was my best and most loyal friend, the practical soulmate that I wasn’t sure I deserved.
I still think of her that way as I open Sadie’s passenger door, only to be greeted by a kind smile on Miranda’s lovely tan face. If good genes were a gamble, Miranda had hit the freaking jackpot. Half African American and half Native American, she had her dad’s dark complexion and her mom’s plentiful freckles, her beautiful jet black curls falling halfway down her back. She has an elegant sort fo beauty, so gorgeous without even trying. If I didn’t love her so much, I suspect that I’d be pretty jealous of her.
“Good morning, sunshine,” she says. She reaches into the cup holder, retrieving a steaming Starbucks cup. She holds it out to me as I climb into the seat, shutting the door behind me. “I brought you a latte.”
“And I love you a latte.” I took the cup gratefully, taking a long sip. Though it was already plenty hot outside, the warmth of the coffee was comforting, already making me feel a bit more energized. I pulled away from the cup, reluctantly returning it to the cup holder to fasten my seatbelt. “Sometimes I swear you’re Batman, Randi.”
“Really?” Miranda giggled as she shifted into reverse, backing out of the driveway. “What makes you think that?”
“You always come save the day right when things are getting ****** for me,” I reply, picking the latte back up. “It’s like I’m subconsciously sending out your personal bat signal or something.”
Though she could be laughing at the bat signal joke, Miranda’s face is overcome with a look of concern in response to my second comment. “Uh oh,” she says. “What happened?”
I shrug. “Nothing really happened. Just… thinking about the mess that Mom got us into.” By ‘us,’ I most definitely mean ‘me.’ I can’t tell Miranda this, however, for fear of looking like a selfish *****. It affected her, too, if in a less direct way.
Miranda’s frown deepens. “Chevy,” she chides. “I thought we talked about this. You can bring it up all you want when we get back home, but not while we’re on this trip. Stop being such a killjoy.
“But ‘killjoy’ is my middle name, Miranda dear.” I widen my eyes, feigning innocence. “Are you suggesting I not be myself on our one and only roadtrip together?”
Miranda shakes her head, obviously unimpressed by my dramatics. “If you don’t stop complaining, I’m turning this car around and leaving you at home.”
That’s more than enough to shut me up. I lean back in my seat, listening to Miranda’s choice of CD as I finish off my latte. She opted for early Beatles today, — Please Please Me, I believe. As we head toward the coast, I keep my mouth clamped shut. Though I might want to complain to Miranda about the unfairness of life until my face turns blue, I know very well that this summer just might be the last one we spend together. I wouldn’t miss on that, even if it meant sewing my lips shut.
Since Miranda and I were in middle school, we’ve planned to have our own senior trip, following graduation. Designed by Miranda after watching her older sister graduate, we vowed to take to the highway as soon as we escaped our local school district for good. It would be our last hurrah regarding our high school education, but not for our friendship. On the contrary, it would be our first foray into our adult lives, in which we would become sophisticated socialites, traveling the world together and living our best lives.
We spent our eleventh summer dreaming up our plan. We’d finally fly the coop of McNowhere, North Carolina, travel the whole country all summer long. We’d sightsee and enjoy fine dining and fall in love with the boys of our dreams somewhere along the way. We mapped out every single one of our dream destinations, written in colored pencil, including, but not limited to: Los Angeles, New York City, and, after much debate, Las Vegas. (I argued with Miranda that it wasn’t as interesting as she thought; I had already been a handful of times, and I couldn’t even go inside most of the buildings there. After reminding that we’d be eighteen by the time we graduated, she got me to include it. I did so, if begrudgingly.)
As we got older, our game plan changed dramatically.
At the age of thirteen, we omitted the part about meeting men on the trip, considering that Miranda had fallen head over heels in like with Nash Myers, the boy who sat in front of her in English class.
At the age of fourteen, we removed Nash from the equation and put the other guys back in, considering that Nash had turned out to be an ass.
When we were fifteen, I finally convinced Miranda to do away with Vegas for good, considering that, at that point, the mere mention of it practically made me throw up in my mouth.
At sixteen, Miranda added quite a few museum-based destinations with the coming of her artsy phase. I added the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Both of us dreamt of somehow making it to Hollywood and making it big, earning the money that we were beginning to desperately need. (Though I’d never call her out on it, I knew that Miranda’s family was plenty well off. She was only including herself to keep me from feeling so bad.)
Finally, at seventeen, we just about called the whole thing off. How could we live up to our childhood dreams when my mom had washed all of our (my) money right down the drain, and Miranda would be the only one going to college, after all? It just seemed so impossible, and, even if we could do it, it would be so painful. How could I possibly have a good time while kissing both my best friend and my hopes and dreams goodbye?
Still, when Miranda knocked on my doors with her UNC acceptance letter in her hand and tears in her eyes, I knew that wouldn’t be fair. Once we had ingested an entire tub of cookie dough ice cream, she turned to me, brown eyes glistening with tears and misplaced hope.
“So,” she started, “where do you wanna go?”
In that moment, I knew for sure that we couldn’t push it all aside. Not completely. I shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe the beach?”
And so we’re going. Three cheers for depressing road trips.