I was shocked and stunned and a little heartbroken. I spluttered something like,
“What? You—? But! You don’t know how to—”
“I said get in.”
She cast an irrefutable upward glance at me. I started to climb into the passenger seat thinking I might die soon.
She had brown calfskin gloves on. Gloves? Where did she get those? And that ridiculous leather aviator’s helmet? She was cute, but this was a little bit silly.
Meanwhile, her dad was standing there in his tee-shirt all approving of this. I looked at him with a look of incredulity; he grinned widely with a rampant cigar in his teeth, his thumbs hung in his suspenders. I half-consciously noticed several tattoos on his husky arms, some symbols I didn’t recognize, and some of the designs marred by brutal scars and zipper-style stitch marks.
The engine was running. I still looked at her like she’d stolen my ice cream cone.
“Ringo gave it to me to drive,” I sulked.
She revved the engine and looked down at my lap.
My heart was racing. I thought Officer MacAdoo would be appearing at a sprint out of the trees at any moment. I fumbled the buckle of the seatbelt together. Then I looked up Mr. St. John again and shouted over the roar of the engine,
“Sir, please don’t tell anyone about this caaaaaa—!!!”
She rocketed forward down the macadam greenbelt, through the light forest that veiled our neighborhood. Second gear, smooth as glass. The engine bellowed gleefully of its happy mood, playful as a Labrador puppy. Dimity easily navigated the curves despite the road being only five feet wide. She thrusted across the wooden bridges over creeks and rivulets, popping the clutch like pro, the steering wheel spinning to her command with preternatural dexterity, a devilish grin turning up the corner of her mouth.
Flying out of the undergrowth and leaping onto the street, she flung the car like a ragdoll, the rear end whipping sideways, wheels spinning out beneath us before snapping back. We must have lifted four inches into the air when we jumped a small construction berm to hop a median from the main avenue onto the six-lane highway. She jockeyed in and out between the other cars, heedless of our mandate to keep it on the down low. In record time we escaped the suburbs, the city streets, the central arteries. We burst across the last city bridge to land on the now familiar highway back to the barn where Ringo had first taken us.
I felt my esophagus closing when, free from the city obstacles, she put the pedal to the floor as I had never dreamed of doing earlier that day. I darted appalled glances at her thinking at any moment she would feel our speed was sufficient and stop accelerating. But one glance at the speedometer and I saw she had passed one-hundred and ten and was still climbing.
My cynicism about religion began to wane. A new zeal for divine intervention dawned upon my pounding heart. She topped out at one-hundred and forty and the engine’s voice like trumpets of Judgment Day harrowed the cornfields in every direction. It was too loud for me to talk to her, the wind in our faces too biting, the electricity in my spine too distressing to form a sentence.
All the while she never took her eyes from the road, never smiled beyond that initial sideways grin. Her upper body strength necessary to fling the wheel, to counter the centripetal force on our bodies, her legs jerking in flash on the clutch and gas—she was like a machine driving a machine. On the long straightaway to the barn, she seemed to relax as if the excitement were over.
We saw a single headlight ahead burning against the approaching dusk. It appeared to be moving exceedingly fast as well because it was only a second or two before it passed us at incredible speed. But we knew instantly who it was. It was Ringo on the motorcycle.
Dimity broke her speed and slowed as quickly as possible to a halt while we waited for Ringo to turn around and come back to us. She turned off the engine. We sat there in silence listening to the ticking of the cooling engine and the mechanical shuddering of a horse calming after a long sprint. The ring in my ears gave way to the sound of the gentle breeze and distant dogs barking. I wiped away the tears that had streamed along the side of my head into my ears. Finger by finger, she started to remove her calfskin gloves. Speaking slowly, as if each word were its own sentence, I said,
“How can you drive like that?”
She was more beautiful than ever, and more fearsome. Her blonde hair caught the setting sun and the shadow of her nose highlighted her bronze skin and freckles. She pulled strands of hair out of her face and behind her ears. It occurred to me that I didn’t really know her at all.
“I’ve been driving since I was five,” she said in that honey-soaked drawling Australian accent, “including a little racing.”