We left school in a big white minivan and the leaves were all over the road (orange, brown, yellow, red), the GPS taking Amelia places she had yet to see in my small but winding town—she didn’t know where the road bent up to the Merritt Parkway, gripped the steering wheel with hard white hands, red fingernails, the red the color I always wanted as a child: “I want to work in the lab and wear red nail polish,” proclaimed at the front of the carpet-square classroom, a scrub shirt tied on me like a dress and fingernails magic-marker red—Mrs. Johnson made me wash them and I kept the shirt, slept in it until it was a shirt and not a dress, soft, threadbare, in seventh grade a swim cover-up that no one questioned (you don’t question the girl whose mom is dying, you just let her swim, you don’t talk about that in seventh grade) and we careened past the other cars, with them in the relentless stream. In minutes we would be at the hospital and she would be the only one who cried, student teacher of just two weeks—pretty and blonde in corduroy pants, a white button-up, a black sweater—when the doctors came to tell me it was too late.
Margaret Emma Brandl is a PhD student in Creative Writing at Texas Tech University, where she teaches classes and serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. She has an MFA in prose from the University of Notre Dame, and her writing has been published in Gulf Coast, Hobart, and Paragraphiti, among others.