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We Are the Brennans



The grinding noise and vibration of the rumble strips under her passenger-side tires snapped Sunday to attention. Getting behind the wheel had been a bad idea. She tightened her grip at ten and two. Then she worked her eyes a bit, blinking and widening them, because a passing “Construction Ahead” sign briefly doubled. Her exit was coming up, just a few more minutes. She checked her speed and nudged the accelerator. Denny used to tell her the cops looked for cars going too slow, a sign of drunk driving.

She’d ordered an Uber, but the estimated time of arrival kept getting pushed back. Probably some Hollywood event going on, which always played havoc with the traffic. At some point she looked up from her phone to realize she’d been left alone with the bartender. That’s when she rushed out of there and decided to chance it.

It had been a last-minute invite that afternoon. Mia—or was it Maia?—another waitress who’d only been at the diner for a couple months, asked Sunday to come out for her birthday. She almost said no and went home. Like she did most nights. But if she went home she would open the email from Jackie and stare at the photo again, and that thought was too damn painful. She wanted to be anywhere other than her lonely apartment that night. So she’d gone to the annoying hipster bar with the LED ice cubes to attend a birthday party for a girl she barely knew.

She leaned forward in the driver’s seat and slowed her speed. This work zone was tricky. There were tight lines of orange barrels along both sides of the road, shifting lanes around in some random way. The lights on top of the barrels blurred and blended with the electric speed signs.

That bartender must have thought she was flirting with him because he’d been chatty, offered some cheesy compliment on her dimples. But she’d only been watching him pour her drinks, trying—and failing—to keep count. It was probably mixing alcohols that had put her over the edge. Denny would shake his head and call her an idiot. Her brother always said that was just asking for trouble.

Early in the night she’d had a get-to-know-you-better talk with Mia/Maia, and afterward Sunday had just wanted to quiet her mind for a while. Mia/Maia was turning twenty-four that day, soon to complete her graduate degree, and had recently gotten engaged. The diner job was just a stop-gap because her real life was about to start. Everything Sunday learned about the younger woman was a by-contrast commentary on her own life. If Jackie’s email had started her down Regret Road that morning, the conversation with Mia/Maia had sped up the trip.

When the world started to spin in a scary way, along with her stomach, she cursed herself again for drinking so much. What the hell had she been thinking—she knew better. She looked for a place to pull over but there was none. She didn’t know what the hell this road project was about, but her car was pinned in between the barrels, which seemed to be taking her through a maze. The swirl of lights and painted lines in the wrong places on the road only made it harder to thread the needle. She bumped up against one of the barrels on her right side and the car jerked back and forth a bit before she steadied the wheel.

All she had to do was make it home. Her exit was up ahead, though it was difficult to spot the turnoff among the sea of orange markers. She’d drink a gallon of water, down a couple ibuprofen, and head straight to bed. No detour to the laptop. No opening Jackie’s email again.

When a concrete barrier materialized before her out of thin air she slammed on the brake with both feet. She heard the roaring squeal of tires, felt the violent resistance of her old Toyota as the seat belt dug into her chest and shoulder. But she knew it was too late.

Another Denny-ism came to her: “You have fucked this up on a grand scale.”

Then she slammed into concrete and everything went black.

Copyright © 2021 by Tracey Lange

We Are the Brennans
by by Tracey Lange

  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Celadon Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250796210
  • ISBN-13: 9781250796219