A drive to Hollywood

Abbe Schulties

Sam walks out of the house holding her new car keys. She turns the corner and it was the car she’d loved for years. A sleek red Mustang convertible with cream leather seats. She was still in shock that her father remembered this was the car she loved. She gets into the driver’s seat, throws her keys and wallet on to the passenger seat, and moved her sunglasses from the top of her head over her bright green eyes. She connects her phone to the car’s speakers, and puts on her driving playlist, the first song comes on. “You Might Think” by The Cars. A perfect start to the drive. Sam turns up the music and takes off from her home in Calabasas en route to Hollywood. The sun is just starting to set, giving the road a golden hue. Sam realizes this is the first drive without Brandon. She would take him on drives in the warm weather after dinner, they would go on adventures to Malibu and watch the sunset on the beach. They had really in depth conversations and it helped them be incredibly close, despite the age difference.

Sam remembered the last time she’d seen him. It was a Tuesday, after dinner. They couldn’t go out much at the time because he was so sick. Brandon had been begging Sam for hours to go on a drive,

“Pleaseeeeee Sammy! Everyone said the sunset is going to be so pretty tonight!”

“What magical person do you talk to that tells you what the sunset is going to be every night?” She had replied, not looking up from her phone.

Brandon got really close into Sam’s ear and whispered. “I don’t actually know about the sunset. I just haven’t been outside in four days, and I heard everyone cutting their grass for the first time in Spring and I want to smell it really bad. We don’t have to drive if you don’t want to but please take me outside for a little. I’ll keep a secret.” Sam turned to him and grabbed his cheeks, she had watched the color drain from his face over the past two months. He was so upset when he learned that he wouldn’t be able to go to school on Valentine’s Day. He told Sam that it was apparently the “biggest event of the whole 6th grade.”

“I promise we’ll go for a drive, I’ll take you past all the lawns okay?” Sam said softly. Brandon smiled as much as he could muster and nodded. Sam went to go talk her parents, who were in the other room having drinks.

“Mom, I know you don’t want him going out anymore but he’s begging me now.”

Sam’s father turned around, his arm resting on the back of the couch,

“Your mother and I were just discussing this. We know the doctor has only given him some time left, and yes his time will be extended by being away from germs and the outside, but we think that you should take him out for drives more often.”

“Take the convertible honey,” her mom gently said.

So Sam went back into the living room, leaned down to him and whispered, “Grab your coat and meet at the door in five, we have some grass to smell.”

Brandon’s face lit up in the most beautiful way. Sam watched life come back into his eyes for the night. They went for their drive and listened to their playlist. Later that night Brandon had trouble breathing. Sam was asleep and this happened often, so her parents took him to the hospital and just left her a note. By the time she woke up it was too late. She wouldn’t look at his face. Not even at the funeral. She only touched his hand, she can remember thinking,

“It didn’t feel like his hand. His hands held mine really tight. This hand wasn’t holding mine at all.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Sam shook her head to refocus on the highway. Not many cars were on their way to Hollywood at the time. She heard the song end, and transition to the beginning of “Zombie” by the Cranberries. It had been almost two months since she’d listened to this song. Brandon’s favorite.  Sam is very retro, prefers to only listen to music from before the 2000s. The 80s and 50s are her most favorite eras. She influenced Brandon’s taste in music.

Sam turned it down to bring herself back to the present, and checked her rearview again. In the back seat, she saw a small boy leaning against the door looking up at the pink clouds. The boy turned to face Sam.

“Sammy! Turn it back up. I love this song!”

Sam’s jaw dropped. She shook her head and looked for nearest place to pull over. There was no way it could be him. She felt stupid even asking,

“Brandon?” He looked healthy. Not like that night. The sun was hitting his face the same way it hit Sam’s. Showing the faint highlights in his dark curly hair. Sam was in shock, still looking for a shoulder to pull over. The highway was cutting through the side of a hill, Sam turned the music back up slightly, loud enough so it was present, but low enough so she could still hear Brandon. She didn’t dare turn all the way around, she just continued to peek as she finally pulled over.

“Brandon I’m so confused what are you doing? There’s no way you’re here.”

“No Sam, I’m here. We need to talk.”

“What are we talking about?” Sam was starting to shake. She never felt this before, she didn’t understand what was happening.

“You’re shaking. It’s okay Sam. I know you’ve been holding everything in, you’re trying to be strong for Mommy and Dad. But you haven’t let out anything.”

“I-I can’t. Because mom hasn’t left her office since the funeral and dad makes the same food every night and I don’t want to be home and see the things you used to touch.” Sam started to cry. She never expected something like this. She hasn’t cried since she saw her parents get in the car after leaving the hospital. “I can’t stand walking past your room. I slept in it the night after the funeral you know. I felt so bad that I didn’t look at you. So I slept in your bed and snuggled your stuffed animals from deep in the back of your closet. I just feel like I did something wrong Brandon.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong. We both know everyone deals with grief differently. Like when our pet turtle at school died, all the girls were really really sad and the boys didn’t get very upset at all at first. Then Tommy realized the turtle was really gone and started to cry. We all hugged him and told him it was going to be okay. It’s okay to cry Sam. Even if you are strong. I love you, you’re doing a good job.”

Sam never heard Brandon speak like this. He was being incredibly intellectual and saying exactly what Sam needed to hear.

“Brandon come sit in the front will you?”

Sam turned around for the first time to look at him, but there was no one there. She didn’t even need to question it. She knew this came from her imagination. She knew it.

The next song coming on was “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. It was dark now, just a sliver of light left on the horizon. Sam turned the music up so it surrounded her again. She took off, seeing the Hollywood sign lit up in the distance.