Lucy had been dreading this day for weeks. She was flying out to attend a family wedding in California and her husband, Adam, was unable to take her or attend due to his previous work commitments. In his place, her mother-in-law, Grace, had insisted she drive her to the airport, which was about an hour away. Lucy had accepted the offer reluctantly, not because she didn’t appreciate the help, but because she and Grace had a strained relationship.
Lucy had always felt that Grace had overstepped boundaries. It was the constant way she tried to control Lucy’s life, making unsolicited suggestions about her career, her marriage, and even, on some occasions, her choice of clothing. Lucy had tried to be polite but it was hard to keep her emotions in check when Grace continued to poke her nose where it didn’t belong.
As they drove down the highway, Lucy tried to keep the conversation light, but Grace was not in a chatty mood. She had on large black sunglasses that concealed her eyes and a scarf that kept her short hair tucked under it. Her hands were tightly on the wheel, and her lips were pressed firmly together.
They drove in silence for a while before the car started to make a strange noise. Lucy glanced at Grace in alarm, and Grace muttered something under her breath. The car shuddered and slowed down, and then came to a complete stop.
Grace tried to start the car again, but to no avail. It wouldn’t budge.
“Great. Piece of crap,” she said, more audible this time.
Grace slid her glasses of her nose and placed them in the holder atop the ceiling. She then leaned down and pulled the lever that popped open the hood, she got out of the car and crossed to the front, peering down into the engine. Lucy got out too, and looked around the empty stretch of highway nervously. They were in the middle of nowhere, and she couldn’t remember how long it had been since they had passed another car or even a gas station.
Lucy watched her mother-in-law, who seemed to be lost in thought. It was clear to Lucy that Grace didn’t know what to do, but the silence between them became more uncomfortable with each passing second. Finally Grace came around the front of the car, to the passenger's side, looking grim.
“Looks like we might be in trouble. The engine is completely dead.”
A knot formed in Lucy’s stomach as Grace’s words settled in. She had a flight to catch, and she couldn’t afford to miss it.
“Can’t we call for help?”
Grace shook her head, the scarf falling slightly from the motion freeing her blonde hair. She help up her phone. “We’re out of cell range. I think we’re on our own for this one.”
Lucy sat down on the side of the road, feeling helpless. She couldn’t believe this was happening to her. She had been so anxious about the trip, and now this. Looking to Grace, who was pacing up and down muttering to herself, an idea struck.
“Grace,” she said tentatively, “Maybe we should try to fix the car ourselves.”
Grace stopped pacing and looked at Lucy, surprised. “What do you mean?”
“Well,” Lucy started, standing up, “we don’t have any other options. Maybe we can at least try to see if there’s something we can do to get the car going.”
Grace looked skeptical, but then threw up her hands. “Oh what the hell, worth a shot.”
Lucy stood and walked to the car. She tucked a lock of brown hair behind her ear and looked into the engine bay. As she gazed down into it, she realized had no idea what she was doing, but she remembered her father showing her how to change a tire when she was a teenager. Maybe there was something they could do, even if they just tried. She peered curiously at the engine.
“We might need this,” Grace said from beside her. “I use it sometimes to find my car in the dark when I’m on my way home.”
She procured a small flashlight that was hooked on the end of her keychain. Lucy raised an eyebrow, the woman was resourceful. Grace turned it on and pointed it at the engine. The two got to work, peering at each section with careful eyes, searching for anything that pointed to an issue to be solved.
They worked together, Lucy asking Grace for advice, and Grace murmuring here and there what was supposed to be plugged in and what didn’t need anything. Lucy started to learn that Grace’s father had been a mechanic growing up, and she knew a little bit about cars, but not enough to do more than speculate on the issue.
Lucy felt a sense of accomplishment, not only for doing something she had never attempted before, but that she and Grace were actually getting along without any underlying animosity. She felt a grudging respect building for the woman as they probed through the car. Maybe together they really could fix this thing.
Another ten minutes had passed before they struck luck. They finally found the problem. It was a loose wire that had disconnected from the battery. Lucy and Grace looked at each other, exchanging a triumphant raise of their brows. Grace laughed a melodic sound that Lucy realized she had never heard before. She smiled, and curled the wire back around the battery.
“Go see if it starts up,” Lucy said, taking a step back from the car.
Grace complied, sliding into the driver's seat and sticking her key in the ignition. With a deep breath she twisted her wrist and the car roared to life. She laughed again, and Lucy joined in. The two of them stood there laughing and soaking in the moment before Grace glanced down at the digital clock on the car’s dashboard.
“We’ve gotta get going if you want to make that flight!” She called, sticking her head out of the open window.
“How much time do we have?”
“Enough if I speed,” Grace replied with a waggle of her brows.
Lucy wasted no time. She grabbed the top of the hood and slammed it back into place. She trotted around the side of the car and slid into the passenger seat.
As they drove towards the airport, Lucy felt a sense of gratitude towards Grace. She had never realized that Grace was actually a kind person, who was just trying to help in her own way. She had always seen Grace’s actions as interfering, but now she saw that the woman was genuinely trying to be a part of her life. Perhaps there was more to her than she had previously thought. She smiled when she caught Grace’s eye and wondered how different their lives would look now they seemed to be on the same page.