My Mom calls me back as I’m following the police car with Margaret in it. The officer said the station was 10 minutes away and we’re driving straight down a two-lane road with no street lights. We should be there shortly.
Mum’s update is that she managed to track down my dad, who promptly tracked down a friend who doesn’t live far from Dinwiddie, Virginia (my theory that all Black people with degrees know each other extends beyond my generation) and that man just so happens to have a neighbor who is a bail bondsman— but that guy isn’t home yet.
She keeps asking if Margaret is okay, and I don’t know if she is because I’m not with her. When the police car drove by me to take the lead, I saw she was in the front seat, not the cage in the back. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
“Have you called Margaret’s parents?” she asks.
Shit. I haven’t. I’ve known Margaret since I was 13. We went to high school together. And while her parents think I’m a nice enough girl (and know my parents), they also think I’m a bad influence on Margaret, even if I’m only three days older than her.
This isn’t the first time we’ve gotten in trouble together, but nowhere near to this degree. It’s been more standard stuff, like missing curfew—by hours on the drive back from King’s Dominion (we hung out in the parking lot talking to boys)--- or the time we, sober, brought Margaret’s car back wreaking of champagne one New Year’s Eve.
The short version: My bestie, Tariq (if you read the book version of A Belle in Brooklyn, yes, that Tariq) and his friends rented a hotel suite for NYE one year and Margaret and I were invited to the party. We scored a bottle of champagne— because we couldn’t go empty-handed— which caused us to leave for the party late. We’re in such a hurry that Margaret picks me up with her head scarf still on. I hop in and put the bottle of champagne on the floor by my feet.
So we’re driving on the highway—speeding and weaving—trying to get to the party before midnight and realize we’re not going to make it before the clock strikes 12.
“We’re not gonna make it!” Margaret whines at 11:58.
“We’re together. We can toast!”
I reach down for the bottle that’s been sliding all over the floor, and tear off the foil. I begin to untwist the wire and before I’m done… POP!!!!
“OhmiGod, OhmyGod, OHMYGOD!!!!” we’re screaming, not in unison.
There's champagne everywhere, inclding the the driver’s side of the windshield. Because of the way I was holding the bottle—rule one: away from my face— champagne exploded all over her side. Margaret can’t see shit.
She turns on the wipers, and that doesn't work for obvious reasons. Then she simultaneously slams on the brakes and whips off her head scarf. I grab the scarf and lean over her to wipe down the window.
We miss curfew— again, of course— and tell her parents that we gave some drunk girl a ride home and she spilled her cup in the car. They’re not stupid. And the car smelled like champagne for a month.
“Can you call Margaret’s parents?” I ask my Mom, attempting to pass the buck.
“Nope. You’re making that call.”
So I hang up with my Mom, and dial Margaret’s house. I’m praying her older brother, Tommy, answers and can pass the message along to the ‘rents. Tommy is like 25, and in his heyday, was more mischievous than Margaret and I combined. To my knowledge, he was never arrested for anything though.
The phone rings in my ear.
I don’t even know any one who’s been arrested. Pulled over? Sure. But arrested?!
“Hello?” It’s Tommy. He’s groggy, because… it’s 4AM.
“Hey, Tommy, it’s Demetria.” There’s no right way to say, “your sister’s been arrested”, so I just blurt it out. “Margaret is fine. She’s been arrested. Margaret is fine.”
In some business class, we’d talked about how to deliver bad news. Loosely, it’s say something nice, say what you want to say, then say something else nice.
“What?!” That wasn’t Joseph. It’s Margaret’s mother, who also picked up the house phone.
She has the same questions Mum did. “Is she okay? Are you okay?” I fill her in on the important details: We were speeding. We got caught. Margaret’s been arrested. We’re on our way to the police station in Virginia.
“Let me speak to Margaret,” she demands.
Uhh… “Margaret… is….” Oh, Geesus. Her mother is going to freak out. “Margaret is in the police car. I’m following it.”
Silence. I hear a phone hang up (that was Tommy). “You girls…” Margaret’s mother says. “Where are you?”
I fill her on the additional details, including what Mum said about the bail bondsman. She says she’ll call my mother and to keep her posted.
We finally make it to the police station. It’s a small room with a bunch of wood desks. There’s another officer there, and when they officers fill him in on what we’ve done, he looks at the cop like “these two?”
Margaret—who seems perfectly fine— and I are seated in comfy chairs against a wall, waiting for what’s next. The officer calls “the judge” who can’t be bothered to come in for the obvious reason that it’s 4AM. He does, however give an amount for bail. Margaret will be processed and go to jail until someone posts bond to get her out.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
The phone rings at the police station. It’s my Dad who’s claiming responsibility for Margaret and I. The officer tells him Margaret’s going to jail and they will let her out as soon as bail is posted. He asks the officer to put us both in jail.* I know because the officer chuckles and says, “No, sir, we can’t lock her up too.”
The officer shakes his head and hangs up. He looks at Margaret and I with a look that conveys, “I can’t believe ya’ll did this.”
After a moment, he asks, “where were ya’ll going so fast?”
I take the lead as if an excuse will make a difference at this point. “I had to go to the bathroom,” I lie. “We were trying to get to the next exit or find a rest stop.” The truth: it was a game to see how fast we could get home, just sounds incredibly dumb now.
“You do know that there are deer on that highway?” the officer asks.
We did, in fact, not know that deer were on the friggin’ highway. The highways where we are from do not have no damn deer. Why would I even think of deer? On a highway?!
“You’d both be dead if you hit one going that fast.”
I did know that. Where Margaret and I are from, the back roads have deer. If you hit one going more than 40mph, it will total your car/truck. Everyone gets that warning from their parents the first day they get the keys to the car.
We don’t know what to say, so we say nothing.
The officer sighs heavy and stands. “C’mon, honey, I have to take you to the jail.”
I look at Margaret wide-eyed with my mouth hanging open. This is not how our trip was supposed to end. We should be right outside Maryland by now, close enough to home that we don’t have to look at the signs to know where we’re going because we know those highways like the clichéd back of our hands.
I don’t know what to do or say or…anything. If Margaret has a thought, an emotion, a feeling of any sort about any of this, she’s not giving it away. Maybe she’s in shock too.
“Margaret?” I ask. I need her to say something.
She shrugs like, “what can be done?” and follows the officer to the door.
I watch them like I’m watching this and not a part of this. It’s like everything is moving in slow motion. Then my brain kicks in and I follow them out the door.
We have to drive to the jail. Margaret gets in the front seat of the police car as I ease behind the wheel of my car to follow them.
“Fuck Fuck Fuck…. Fuck, FUCKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!” I yell at the windshield as I drive.
In only stop cursing because my phone rings again. It’s Mum. “Your father just talked to the bail bondsman. He will meet you at the jail.”
I feel a small sense of relief. I figure Margaret will only have to go to the jail, but if he’s there when we get there Margaret won’t have to be in the jail.
I tell her that we’re driving to the jail now.
“Deme-tri-a….” I can hear it in the way she says my name that she’s about to unleash a holy wrath the likes of what I’ve never heard before, upon me. I brace myself for it. I have it coming. I asked for this one. I wait for it.
“Take care of Margaret. I want you both home safe," she says.
That’s it? I thought I couldn’t feel more like shit. I wish she had cursed me out instead.