A small whimper of distress was the only sound Merika made as she noticed the car next to hers speed up to pass hers. The driver was exceeding the speed limit, and not being very careful about how he was maneuvering between the other cars. He swerved, as he changed lanes directly in front of her, and barely missed her front fender. Another pulled up from the other side, and a third followed the second. The last one cut her off, and the rear of his car skidded and swayed, before it was controlled. It was clear these people were racing in heavy traffic, which was illegal, but it looked like that wasn’t about to stop them. They missed hitting her car, but it was a close call. None of the drivers paid any attention to the trouble they were causing. Instead, they sped up again, to repeat their performance with other cars on either side of the highway. The recklessness of their driving forced her to move over, to narrowly miss the back bumper of a vehicle that did the same rather than cause an accident. It was an ill-fated move on her part, as she quickly noticed, she was stuck in a turn off lane. Well, she reflected, it fit in with the kind of day was she was having. Her whole week had been a total nightmare.
Merika decided there was nothing she could do about it, as she followed the heavy traffic off the turnpike. She would have to find her way back on to the freeway again, as soon as it was possible. The question was how? She had no idea where she was, and couldn’t find the on ramp. She was going to have to wing it, and hope for the best.
Merika’s mind wandered to where all her problems had started. The month before she had received a cable from her mother, telling her about a medical problem that had suddenly popped up. She immediately took a couple of weeks off from the television show she was acting in to rush to her mother’s side. As her character in the series was due for some vacation time anyway, she figured her absence wouldn’t be noticed. She knew she would be coming back to a full schedule, which meant she would have to work hard when she returned, whether she was in the mood or not. She didn’t care, her mother was more important to her than any job. She had always come first to her mother in the past, now it was her turn to show that she felt the same about her.
Merika was an actress, and for the past seven years, she had played one of the young soap opera beauties on television. Despite her great success, and mounting wealth, she failed to put down roots. At twenty-three, she had few physical possessions, other than her car, and a couple newly acquired kittens, which her mother had talked her into adopting soon after arriving. As her mother had also bought a few kittens of her own, which she had left for her to care for, she was feeling overwhelmed. She had gone from having no one in her life, except her mother, to having four furry bundles of attitude.
Often, Merika questioned what she perceived as flaws in her character. She had no close friends, though people flocked to her wherever she went. Her popularity made her feel unsafe, and that insecurity made her back away from others in ways that most people mistook for conceit. It wasn’t difficult to understand why they might think that; she was petite, blonde, blue-eyed, bright, intelligent and pretty. She realized her looks attributed to her success in the entertainment world, but there was more to it than that. It wasn’t her beauty that kept her in the show, she was a good actress, and she worked hard at her job, perhaps too hard, and that gave her little time to be with others. Her lack of interest in anyone special didn’t help. Instead, she gained a reputation of being a snob because of it. Men fawned on her to no avail and, although she smiled and was cordial to everyone, she continued to form no attachments. For the first time in her life, there was no one left in the world that meant anything to her.
As far as Merika was concerned, her mother had made a brave show of living during her last few days of life. She must have somehow known that despite her actions and appearance the end was near. They had gone shopping, and then spent hours cooking together. These were the type of things, her mother told her, that memories were made of. She explained that in her youth, they had spent a lot of time baking, and she shared all her special recipes with her. Merika found it strange that she couldn’t remember the times that her mother was talking about. In fact, she had few memories of moments spent with her mother at all. To the best of her recollection, she had spent most of her life either in boarding schools, or on a television stage set. The rest of her life was a blur.
Merika was so focused on the memories of the last days she had shared with her mother that she failed to notice when the landscape changed. The car moved onwards, traveling from paved highways, to gravel roads, and then to a dirt trail, that seemed to run into a forest. Her progress was ignored by her, until her car coasted to a stop. Merika blinked in surprise, as she looked at her surroundings, and then glanced at the gauge on the dash, that told her she had an empty fuel tank. It was then that she realized she was in trouble.
“Great, just great.” Merika talked to herself, a habit she had gotten into years before. She always used this method to memorize her lines and to make decisions. For her, the verbalizing of any situation gave it clarity.
Getting out of the car, Merika looked around, pulled her suitcase and the kitten carrier out of the back seat, and continued to go in the direction she had been driving. She didn’t know why she was going there, but for some reason, she seemed to be drawn in that direction. She hoped there would be someone further up the road that had a phone, because hers wasn’t working. In her grief, she had forgotten to recharge her cell phone. There had to be some form of civilization nearby, after all, she was on a road, and all trails led somewhere. Right?