Sharon checked the rearview mirror as she pulled the car to the curb and stopped. There was nobody behind them. Good, she thought, reaching for the radio knob. They'd been listening to music so loud that it pulsed through her head and made her eardrums throb, but now it was time to turn the thing off. With a push of her thumb, she was able to shut up the latest female artist of teenage angst, something that few other people could do lately.
In the passenger seat beside her, Sharon's fifteen-year-old daughter, Missy, grabbed her backpack. A blast of cold air rushed in as Missy grabbed the latch and shouldered the door open.
"Hey..." Sharon said.
Monica turned her head, and hard eyes outlined with thick lines of mascara stared back at Sharon. Her daughter said nothing.
"I know we've had some fights lately," Sharon said. It had been more than just some, she knew. On those days when, by chance, it hadn't been an all-out war, they had each launched a few sarcastic missiles just to keep the other on edge, to keep the DMZ in tact. Sharon hated that the relationship had fallen to this level of hostility, but she didn't know what else to do. Missy wanted to push the edge, and Sharon had long since resolved to never budge. Her own father and mother never did, and somehow now, being a parent herself with all of the sleepless nights and endless worries, it all made more sense. Just look around, she often told herself. See all the troubled kids and detached mothers? And it wasn't like Scott would lend a hand. Outside of the monthly checks, they hadn't seen or heard from him in almost a year. So why should she give in? Give them an inch, her father used to say, and they'll take you all the way to Paris, Texas. Sharon had never been there, but imagined it wasn't a place she would be stranded in.
Monica continued to stare bullets.
"I just want you to know..." Sharon took a breath. "I love you." As Monica narrowed her eyes, Sharon added, "I mean it. I really do love you."
Monica raised a skeptical eyebrow. She bobbed her head once as if to acknowledge that she at least heard the words. She turned to step out of the car, and Sharon stopped her.
"You know," she said, "If there's anything you want to talk about—anything that's bothering you—just say the word."
Monica frowned. "What could possibly be bothering me?"
Sharon shrugged. "I just thought I would put it out there."
A confused look spread across Monica's face. She then turned, stepped out of the car, and closed the door.
As Sharon watched her daughter walk toward the school, she thought about the messages she'd intercepted last night. Yesterday Monica's boyfriend of two months told her they were through, and Monica had texted her friend about the whole ordeal. If there was anything she could do, Sharon knew she would have done it. Some heartaches, though, can't be avoided.
A horn blared. Sharon looked up at the rearview to see the impatient driver staring back her. She stepped on the gas and pulled away, taking one last look at her daughter as she drove away.