I shift in my seat and feel the seat belt press against my shoulder. My meal sits uneasily in my stomach as the countryside flashes by outside and the car leans into the corners. I lean with it and press my hands together in my lap.
“I love the handling on this car, much better than the old one isn’t it?” He turns to look at me, a smile on his face.
“Yes, it’s much tighter through the bends.”
He turns his attention back to the road and my stomach muscles contract in anticipation. It’s like riding a rollercoaster but I can’t scream. The road twists and rises and drops away, and my gut does the same. I hate rollercoasters. My heart is thudding against my ribs, I want to cry, but I don’t cry. He’s enjoying this drive, and I focus on our destination. He’s talking about cars and engines and acceleration figures. It’s as much a blur as the scenery, meanwhile I am here in this metal box travelling at speed. I concentrate on the road ahead, senses straining, alert to any movement outside, any change in the roar of the engine or the crunch of the tyres on the road. I nod and smile when he turns to look at me, checking my response. Please just get me home.
I swallow hard against a wave of nausea, then there is the blessed sign for the city limits and a speed restriction. He slows down but the road ahead is still clear. I sneak a look at the speedo. If he’s angry he’ll go even faster, but right now he’s happy and he doesn’t notice. Now there are more cars around and up ahead the lights are green. We’re bowling along, then the lights change to red and the cars ahead stop. There’s plenty of time to stop. But he speeds up. I dare not look at him but I can hear the sound of the engine accelerating. My mouth is dry and my heart hammers, my pulse roars in my ears and I can’t help my reflex as I press against a brake pedal that isn’t there. He hates that, a little voice says in my head, but I’m wide eyed, staring at the end of my life, hurtling towards me at forty miles an hour. Another voice says this is it. This is how it ends, and nothing flashes in front of me except the cars coming the other way, and the car that is waiting to crush me. The passenger turns and I can see her shaking her head and talking to the driver as we approach, and I think not of injury and pain, but how many things I will not live to see and do. After his third drink I should have insisted, should have taken the keys, but he loves this new sports car more than anything. No one tells him what to do.
“The lights are red, you need to stop.” I try to make my tone light but my voice is tight and squeaky, barely escaping the closed prison of my throat. I shake all over with fear and disbelief and anger.
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
He stamps on the brake and the tyres scream as the car jolts back. I visualise the black rubber tracks behind us, how the police will measure them to work out our speed. Now I can see the woman ahead turned in her seat, mouth open in horror. I close my eyes and wait, thrown forward against my seat belt and my whole body clenched and braced against impact. The car veers and sways as it shudders to a halt, just in time. All around us people are staring in disbelief and the woman ahead might be crying.
“What were you doing?”
“Just testing the brakes, don’t worry. Pretty good huh?” He smiles again, gripping the steering wheel firmly as he turns away and shifts gear. The lights turn green and we’re moving again. My legs and hands tremble and I can’t get out.