Miranda held Elena by her hair, a pair of scissors in her hand.
“Get off the phone, right now, you little cow, or Elena gets it.”
“Okay, just let me say goodbye…”
“NOW.” She made threatening snips near Elena’s scalp.
“I hafta go, Darcy. I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”
A small lock of Elena’s hair drifted wistfully to the floor, as if it knew it would never be attached to the head anymore. I grabbed the doll from my sister, and ran down the hall, tears burning. I’m too old to play with Barbies anymore, but this is really it for me. Miranda, at fifteen, has always exerted her dominance over me and at this moment, I hated her. This conflicts with the times I adore her: my talented big sister, the gleaming smile, the legs that seem to stretch to her ears.
I started naming my Barbies when I got them. She came with another name, I don’t remember what it was, because from the moment I saw her she was Elena. She looked the most like me, brown eyes and brown hair. When I unwrapped her at Christmas four years ago, Mom and Dad exchanged glances…
“And would you like to introduce us to…”
“Elena.” I held out window in the Pepto-Bismol colored packaging so they could see. “She is Elena.”
In Ms. Hansen’s car, I blink back tears. The fight with Miranda was the last time I saw my sister. Mom, Dad, who knew where they were right now. And then there was Mom’s new husband, Steve. He was kind, but I wasn’t used to him yet, and I didn’t like our new neighborhood. Darcy was really my only friend. No one looked like me here, no one talked like me, and I felt alone except for her. Where is Darcy now? Where…
Giant splotches of snow come down on the windshield. But they’re not wiped away by Ms. Hansen’s windshield wipers. They smear, like a million bugs committed suicide at once. Wait a minute…it does not snow here. What is on her windshield looks like the soot in the bottom of the fireplace after we’ve spent a rainy day inside.
“What on earth…”
“Ash,” says Ms. Hansen, “It’s just a sprinkling now, but we’re going to have to drive very far, Elaine. Very far. I don’t know when we’ll be able to stop. Jesus, I hope there’s a gas station open in Longtown.”
We’ve wound all the way down the other side of the Heights. The hill is offering is some protection, but just a little, as ash swirls and sways around the car, as if undecided as to which way it will go. The road straightens out here, and in front of us we can see the line of cars. We hardly saw anyone on the road in the Heights…why all of a sudden now?
Ms. Hansen has always been very intuitive. “Most of these people took the Parkway out of town. It is the most direct, but I knew it would be jammed. The people from the Heights probably evacuated early, they’ve got connections. They are miles ahead of us now. “
“If they’re rich, couldn’t they go to the airfield?” I asked.
“Not unless they’re unwise. Airplane engines can get clogged with ash in an eruption. Game over super fast.”
Tears were still burning my cheeks. When I cried, it was silent for the most part. My face gets flushed and my eyes swell, but I didn’t bawl. Dad said I didn’t even cry when I was little. I think Dad is safe; he is far away.
We join the line of cars and Ms. Hansen cuts the engine. “We may have to go on foot from here, Elaine.” She glances down at my Mary Janes. “And those simply won’t do.”