They kept the windows rolled up, the air conditioning locked on the coldest setting. While the red trees stood tall and silent, the car’s tires buzzed against the road.
Lizzie spent the drive out of the park doing the same thing she’d done on the drive in. Her eyes were fixed to one spot, digging into it, wondering what it would have in store for her. However, unlike the drive in only a few days prior, nothing outside of the car enticed her. She kept her gaze focused on her mother’s oval face. She almost smiled.
When they were half an hour outside the park, Diane sifted through a pile of CDs tucked away in the armrest with one hand, exchanging glances with the road ahead of her. Lizzie was only able to notice part of each of the covers as her mother’s fingers jogged over the top of them, until they came to one in particular. They plucked the case out and opened it.
“I’m gonna put on some music,” Diane said, already inserting the disc. She paused, just as the reflective silver touched the slot. “That alright with you?”
Lizzie nodded and said yes.
There was nothing reminiscent of her dad in Diane’s face. He and Grandma shared ears and noses; they laughed the same way at the same things. Uncle Mike had the same chin as Dad, when they both shaved, and their bodies felt almost identical in the shoulders when Lizzie wrapped her arms over them. Almost. But Diane didn’t have anything. Not even her eyes were the same color, blue like the bottom of a swimming pool.
A blast of music came from the speakers and caused the both of them to suddenly tense up and go for the dial.
“Sorry!” said Diane, turning it down.
This music wasn’t soft, like what Dad used to listen to. Nor did it lay in the air the same way a plucked guitar string or a piano chord could. Lizzie wasn’t sure she liked it and crossed her arms. But then, after the first song had come and gone, listening a little closer, she understood things about it. She noticed the way any given sound of the song reverberated in her head, the synthetic resonance and the dreamlike texture of the voice behind it. Someone was talking to her. Every section of the song sounded a different color. Lizzie realized her foot was tapping on the side of the carseat.
“Actually,” Diane said, “I’ve got one of your dad’s old CDs in here if you wanted to listen to that—”
“No,” said Lizzie, and for a moment, the two locked eyes. In only a glance, as Diane turned her head and faced her, Lizzie looked into those eyes she didn’t really recognize, that skin that was smooth on the cheeks and pink on the forehead, the face she hadn’t grown up with. Nothing in that smile or that skin reminded her of her dad, yet it didn’t matter. Then Diane looked away.
Lizzie nodded. “I like this.”
Diane put the other CD away and returned to looking at the road. Lizzie watched her head bounce with the beats of the song, saw her tongue curl under her lower lip, tempted to sing along, though she remained silent. She felt a new memory being tied to that face. Inseparable now, the image of that same face pulling her out of the water, saving her, looking at her with big eyes that were all at once ten different emotions, all shouting and unforgettable.
“It’s a little weird, right?” Diane asked.
Lizzie didn’t answer. Instead, she listened more intently to the lyrics and tried to sing along whenever the refrain came around.