What’s Yours is Mine
by Rebecca D. Elswick
part 1 of 2
The word avarice floated from the chalkboard, swirled around the room, and became trapped in the dust motes dancing in the sunlight. Pretending to pay attention, Brittany Myerson sat with her head propped up by her right hand. Her long blonde hair curtained her from the rest of the English class. As if the voice was coming from far away she heard the teacher ask, “Can anyone give me a definition?”
“Greed,” answered Mason.
“Coveting what someone else has like, ah, his car,” added Lance.
Like his car.
The sting of those three words snapped Brittany back into consciousness. She knew he was throwing that comment at her! Turning, she stole a look over her shoulder and collided with the mischievous glint in his eyes. And then the big jerk winked! Like his car.
Brittany sat up straight and focused her eyes on the teacher at the front of the room. She didn’t have to turn around to see the smirks on the faces of the rest of the class. They felt like darts being thrown at her back, each striking the bull’s-eye.
When the bell rang, she escaped into the crowded hallway. Friday before spring break was as good as a guarantee that everyone would be in a hurry to get out of there and start the week’s vacation. Today, it was easy to hang around her locker until the parking lot cleared. After Lance’s little stunt, she couldn’t deal with the looks and whispers from the drivers in the student lot. Besides, she was in no hurry; facing seven days at home made her stomach churn.
Slamming her locker shut, Brittany looked around for her friend Frannie. She hoped Frannie had gotten over their argument and decided to ride home with her, but the empty hallway was the answer. Frannie’s hateful words echoed alongside Brittany’s footsteps. She couldn’t believe her best friend had called her spoiled and selfish! Frannie was supposed to understand, but all she’d done was make fun of her for complaining about the car her father bought her. Her face flamed remembering Frannie’s words, “So what if it’s not the one you wanted! At least you have a car!”
Not the one I wanted! Oh, no, it’s worse than that! Daddy knew I wanted a new black VW Bug just like the once Lance rubs in my face, so what did he do?
Hot angry tears blurred her vision as she marched out to the parking lot. Each step drew her closer to never forgiving him. Her hand shook as she unlocked the door of her used Ford Focus. It was the ugliest color of yellow she ever set eyes on, and even though it had been cleaned inside and out, the dull gray interior always looked dirty. Lately, she’d seriously thought about smashing it into a wall. Then he’d be sorry!
Searching her memory, Brittany tried to pinpoint when things began to change. Her father had always promised her a car. For months before she got her license, they’d talked about the car she wanted. They had sat together and looked at Volkswagens on the internet, and not once did he say, “You’re not getting a VW Bug.” They’d discussed convertibles versus sunroofs, leather seats or plush, automatic or manual transmission, and of course, the color - black, the only choice, as far as Brittany was concerned.
Then last month, Lance Cooper got a new VW Bug for his birthday, a red convertible with leather seats and satellite radio. He’d taken her for a ride and she’d babbled on about when she would get hers. God, her face burned with shame just thinking about it!
Now, here she sat with her hands clenching the steering wheel in this piece of shit car. When had it happened? Why had her father changed his mind? Brittany struggled to fit all the pieces together. She remembered her excitement the day she’d gotten her license. She’d rushed home to show it off and he’d admired it, but then he’d said something she hadn’t paid much attention to then but it made sense now.
If you are old enough to drive then you are old enough to respect my judgment.
Brittany couldn’t believe she’d been so clueless! She thought it was just his usual words of wisdom he was so fond of spouting at her. She’d even smiled at him and mumbled her usual, “I know Daddy”.
Since last year when he’d married Lynn, all their father-daughter talks seemed to center around her need to grow up. So, when he said part of growing up is learning what is important in life, and things that are earned instead of given to you build character, Brittany thought it was just more of the same old stuff.
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! She banged her forehead on the steering wheel. He knew she was going to freak when she saw this hunk of junk so he was trying to justify it! He couldn’t use money as an excuse; that was never an issue. He always bought her what she wanted. He’d never disappointed her before, and Brittany knew exactly why he had this time. She did it! She made him do it. Anger consumed Brittany like a raging fire.
The Saturday her father came home with the cars was a day forever chiseled into her memory. It was almost noon when she’d wandered sleepy-eyed into the empty kitchen. A note on the table said be back soon.
Since that wasn’t unusual, she didn’t think anything about it. The thought did cross her mind that her dad had gone to look at cars. Of course, it would be cool if he surprised her with a car, but she knew he’d want them to go together — just the two of them, and surely he wouldn’t take her stepmother if he was going to pick out her car. She had no business meddling in their affairs.
Sitting at the table with a blueberry muffin and a glass of milk, Brittany heard them coming up the driveway honking the horns. She leapt from her seat and flew through the door squealing with anticipation before the cars came to a complete stop. When her father stepped out of a new shiny, black VW Bug, she threw her arms around his neck and danced up and down. “Oh, Daddy, it’s perfect! I love it!”
Before he could reply, she jumped into the driver’s seat and began inspecting the car’s personality. That magical new car smell assaulted her senses and she breathed in its fragrant scent. It had everything she wanted - a sunroof, black leather seats, satellite radio and a flower vase that beckoned for the sunflowers she couldn’t wait to buy.
Looking up she saw her father and Lynn, watching her. One last sweep of her hand over the dash, and she hopped out and ran over to hug her dad again. As she sailed past her stepmother, Brittany saw the tight-lipped smirk on her face. She tried to wrap her arms around her daddy’s neck but he reached out and stopped her. “Honey, wait a minute. I have to tell you...”
But Brittany’s laugh cut him off. “Its okay, Daddy. I know we were going to pick it out together but surprising me is just as cool!”
“No, Britt, you don’t understand.”
Something in his voice got through to her. She stopped; looked from her dad to her stepmother, and waited. Lynn’s cool gray eyes bored holes through her.
“The Bug’s not your car,” he said.
Not your car.
“Your car is over there.”
Not your car.
“Lynn and I thought the Focus would be a perfect first car for you. And later when you go to college we can discuss...”
Not your car.
A rush of wind roared through her head drowning out his words and leaving Brittany cold and numb. Without a backward glance, she walked into the house and up to her room. She spent the day isolated by pain so intense she thought she’d die from it. Late that night, the tears finally came. She cried for every day of her life that she’d had to share with her stepmother. Brittany knew that if he’d listened to her about the car, then it was all over. Lynn had finally done it; she’d gotten what she wanted. Control. She had to do something.
She refused to give her stepmother the satisfaction of seeing her cry and beg for the car, and even though she seethed with anger on the inside, she acted like the perfect teen on the outside. For two long miserable weeks, she’d sat with them at dinner and pretended she was happy with the Focus. Not once did she supply her stepmother with ammunition for her favorite argument: your father spoils you; it’s time you grew up.
Brittany’s ears still rang with the “joke” her father had made at dinner. “Well, Britt, if your old dad suddenly croaks, the Bug is yours.”
And how Lynn had laughed! She’d turned her head from side-to-side making her gold hoop earrings flash in the dining room’s chandelier. Then she’d dared to say, “No, Bill, it would be my car, but of course, I’d give it to Brittany.”
Sure you would.
A month later, Brittany and Frannie were lying on the floor of Brittany’s bedroom laughing at the freshmen pictures in the yearbook. School was out next week and the summer stretched before them. Frannie interrupted Brittany’s giggles by standing up and announcing, “Hey, let’s go down to the mall and apply for a job at the theatre. I hear they’re hiring.”
“No, thanks,” Brittany answered, avoiding Frannie’s eyes.
Acting absorbed in her yearbook, Brittany mumbled, “I’ve already got a job for the summer.”
“What! And you didn’t tell me?”
Brittany snapped her book shut and stood up. “I’m going to do the summer job shadowing program at the Pet Vet Clinic where Lynn works.”
“Have you lost your mind? I thought you hated your stepmother, and now you’re telling me you want to spend your summer following her around!”
Brittany put her hands on her hips and announced, “I’m exploring the field of veterinary medicine. Maybe I’ll follow in Lynn’s footsteps.”
Her words had a challenge to them that made Frannie look sharply at her. “And maybe I’ll go to England and marry Prince Harry.”
Copyright © 2008 by Rebecca D. Elswick