“Uncomfortable Truths” by Kayleen Burdine (Excerpt)

THEY LEFT IN THE MORNING, before the stars had even begun to disappear. The sky that had been purple-blue-black when they first pulled away from the flickering streetlamp just outside Claire’s family’s apartment was now vibrant and alive with the fiery oranges and yellows of sunrise, its reflection settled smack-dab in the center of the rearview mirror like a miniature masterpiece. They had three hours behind them and no particular destination in mind, their duffle bags slung carelessly into the bed of Ethan’s run-down ’82 Ford pickup. The cab was chilly with the last dregs of winter and Claire shivered a little. The heater was busted.

“Alright, screw it,” she announced, propping her feet up on the dash and tossing her book down onto the weathered seat between them. “Uncomfortable truths. Go.”

Ethan turned his eyes from the road for a second, confusion apparent. “What?”

“Uncomfortable truths,” she reiterated, this time more slowly. “Tell me something unsettling about yourself that I don’t already know.”

“Like what?” he asked, still not seeming to understand. Claire sighed.

“Fine. I’ll start,” she fiddled with the radio’s volume until Led Zeppelin faded out to a low hum. “You know those novelty jelly beans people buy as gag-gifts? The really gross ones that taste like mud, earwax, vomit…?

“Yeah?”

“I like the soap-flavored ones.”

“What?” Ethan’s nose crinkled in disgust.

“Seriously?”

“Yup,” she replied proudly. “Your turn.”

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