Darlene regarded the Christmas decorations in her local grocery store glumly. She hated this time of year. Absolutely hated it! All it did was accentuate the sadness that she always carried in her heart like a heavy lead balloon. As a kid she had enjoyed the holidays as much as anyone else but all that had changed three years ago when her husband, Steve, had died in her arms of heart failure. She sighed, fighting back the tears that welled up in her eyes and threatened to spill down her cheeks. She wasn’t going to cry in the check-out line! Not in front of all these strangers!
The box boy stuffed the last of her groceries into the bag and Darlene hurried out, her head down, her shoulders beginning to shake. She got into her car, her hands trembling with the grief she tried to suppress and yet couldn’t. She let her head drop onto the steering wheel and allowed the tears to come. She missed him. She couldn’t help it. Even after a few years, there was still a big hole in her heart that just wouldn’t heal.
Oh, Stevie…she thought to herself, not for the last time. If only we had had more time together…if only your heart hadn’t been sick…if only…
Darlene violently brushed the tears from her cheeks and started the car. She didn’t want to go down that road again. She had to get home, unload the groceries alone without help and get some dinner for herself. The very idea depressed her beyond belief.
She turned the key in the ignition and maneuvered out of the parking lot. She made to turn right, but the car suddenly had other ideas. It turned left. It shocked her so much she just gaped. Then the gas pedal depressed itself and the car began speeding up and driving itself. Darlene sat back and watched in shock as the car continued to steer, turning down streets she was unfamiliar with, stopping and starting without assistance from her, wondering where on earth her car was taking her and why. For some reason she felt no panic but a few times she caught the shocked glances of people in other cars as she half-heartedly smiled and waved at them as her car turned a corner without her assistance. Once or twice she gripped the steering wheel and tried to steer the way she wanted and to brake but the car was completely unresponsive. Why fight it? She thought to herself and sat back to watch what would happen. A half hour passed, then 45 minutes and the car was on the main highway heading north. Before she knew it, she had nodded off to sleep...
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