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Drive inspired by the song, sung by the cars

Who's gonna tell you when it's too late?

Jana stood beside the curb outside the overcrowded bar. She checked her watch again. Dammit, she thought, Craig was supposed to be here 30 minutes ago. She wondered what had gotten into Craig’s head lately. The sound-off he’d had three days ago rang in her head like a bad hangover’s headache. Part of her wondered, for the ninetieth time that day, if things were really going to be okay between the two of them. Going through a fight with one another is hard enough, especially when they were so far apart for the majority of the weeks they’d been together.

She’d been so excited when he said he was coming to visit her. Finally, she had told herself, she would be able to see him and feel his arms around her, and hear him whisper in her ear that things would be okay. But instead, on the first Saturday night they had had the opportunity to spend together in close to three months, he had decided that it was more pertinent to hang out with his best friend Jackson. So Craig and Jackson were hitting the bars, and Jana was left to herself. Never being one to sit at home, she quickly called the girls to plan a night out—a night full of booze, dancing too close, clothing too tight and too sheer, and way too much fun.

They had agreed that Craig would pick her up, though, and now, he was 45 minutes late.

Who's gonna tell you things aren't so great?

“Jana.” Somewhere behind her, she heard a voice. She tried to place the voice, before turning in the misty fog to see who owned the mellifluous tone.

The night was foggy, due to the above average temperatures that they had been experiencing. April was supposed to be warm, but not in the 80’s in Indiana, typically. The humidity in the air turned Jana’s long brown hair into ringlets that fluttered around her face as she turned around.

Surprised, she found her friend Ryder standing behind her. He smiled greatly, showing a mouthful of pearly whites that could have lit the whole town and broken any girl’s heart. However, the feeling was purely platonic between Jana and Ryder. He strode over to her, in his blue button down, and his neat khakis. He could have come from the pages of Abercrombie & Fitch; instead he was coming from the doors of the bar she had exited close to an hour ago.

Jana soon found herself in his arms, being swung around in the night. Ryder held her so tightly, and she didn’t seen to notice the way he buried his face in her thick ringlets.

Jana and Ryder began talking at once, thrilled at the chance to see one another. Truth be told, the two hadn’t seen each other “since that unfortunate Southern Comfort incident,” they remembered together.

An awkward silence fell between the both of them, and it seemed the only thing that was not stagnant was the fog. Ryder finally broke the silence by asking what she was doing outside the bar, when she should have been in the center of the party. Jana slid the strap of her glitzy tank up her shoulder into place, smoothed the front of her low-rise pants, and launched into the story.

You can't go on thinking nothing's wrong

“You can’t think that something isn’t wrong,” Ryder said. “That would be too idealistic for you. I know you. You offer the benefit of the doubt, but you also have reason brewing in that head of yours.”

It was amazing. Ryder and Jana hadn’t seen each other in close to a year and a half, and already, Ryder had nailed down exactly what she was feeling.

The two of them had taken a seat on the curb, close to the bar. Jana wasn’t ready to give up hope that Craig was on his way to get her quite yet. The romantic in her wasn’t ready to relinquish hope. Ryder sat for a long time, sucking on his Marlboro Light, and just gazing at Jana while she fiddled with her diamond bracelet. “What is really going on here, Jana?”

Jana had been dreading this question ever since they’d gotten on the subject. She looked down the street toward campus. She had been dreading this question ever since the fight. Ever since Craig had moved. Ever since he’d accepted that job. Ever since he’d graduated, really.

The truth was that Jana didn’t really know exactly what was going on. She knew that at one point she and Craig had loved one another. They had begun dating on this campus, and they had reveled in each other’s madness. They’d spent countless days skipping class, laying in the sun, and scheduling entire weekends around laying in bed naked together. Until he graduated. That was really when it all started. Craig took a job across the country. He began to worry her, with his long hours, and his frequent forgetfulness where she was concerned. And then it happened. One night, a month ago, she was on the phone with him, and heard a female voice in the background. She’d asked him, and he’d denied everything, of course. With a little investigation, she’d figured everything out.

Her name was Chelly.

But, did she want to tell Ryder these things? Not tonight.

Instead the two of them went back into the bar, disregarding the prospect of her ride from Craig. They had a couple of beers, and talked about other things, over the outrageously loud crowd. They danced, and sang “Sweet Caroline,” and remembered their friendship.

Who's gonna drive you home tonight?

And when Craig showed up to take Jana home, Ryder let him without a fight.

Who's gonna pick you up when you fall?

Craig knew immediately that something was wrong. He asked her about Ryder, inquiring who he was. Jana didn’t feel like getting into it, so instead of telling him he was being hypocritical, she told him the truth: Ryder was a friend she’d met in one of her journalism classes and was someone that she had hooked a couple of her friends up with. She left it at that. They reached Jana’s apartment fairly quickly, as the cops had made their rounds around the college campus and cleared out most of the riff-raff.

Craig opened her door with the key, and allowed her to pass through first. He turned on a small light, and drew her to him. He smelled of slightly stale beer and cigarettes, but it was something that was almost sexy on him. Something about him always made her excited, no matter how tired or upset she was. He drew her into his arms, and rubbed her back with his large hands. She felt his heartbeat beneath his grey and blue shirt, and she felt herself sinking into the comfort zone that had been established so long ago. Craig rested his head on top of her head lightly, and after a minute or so, exhaled.

“Jana, I’m sorry.” It was all he said, and she knew immediately that he didn’t mean about being late. She pulled back and looked him in the eyes, wondering with all her might why she should forgive him. Her face must have given away her thoughts, because after a moment of looking into her quizzitive green eyes, he spoke again.

“I know that you know what has been going on, and I’m sorry. It’s over, and I don’t know why or how I could have become so stupid as to think that I could find better than you.” He paused, but she couldn’t tell if it was for effect, or if he really was choking up. His voice sounded broken when he began, much like a boy hitting puberty and discovering himself.

“You are my all, and I don’t know how I could have almost let you slip away. I’m so sorry. That is really what tonight was about. I needed to talk to Jackson and see what he thought. You and he get to talk a lot more here than I get to talk to you, and I just needed to know if there was hope left anywhere in your heart.”

Jana felt herself melt, as a tear slide down his tanned face. She looked in his shimmering brown eyes, and felt herself give in. She placed her hands ever so lightly on his chest, and lowered herself into his embrace. The first sob was the loudest, then sob subsided to sob, until finally, the both of them were holding onto each other for dear life.

They moved into the bedroom, and she wondered for a split second if this was a mistake. All doubts were quelled when she felt his hands on her. He was gentle, yet passionate, and she knew that things were going to be okay.

Who's gonna hang it up when you call?

After Craig left, with every promise to keep in better touch, Jana believed him. He called her everyday, and she felt like a high school girl with her first boyfriend. She would lay on her bed in her pajamas on weekend nights just to talk to him, and she would paint her toenails on the off-chance that he might surprise her with a visit. She fell in love again, and Ryder watched it from the sideline.

Who's gonna pay attention to your dreams?

Ryder, however, became Jana’s confidante. He listened to her unbridled babble about Craig, about classes, and he watched as her enthusiasm began to bubble over, much as it had when they’d first become friends. Ryder couldn’t help but notice the way Jana’s eyes lit up and her smile widened when Craig called, and deep in his heart, Ryder felt his heart break with every ring of the telephone.

Until one night. Ryder and Jana had decided to sit in and play some drinking games on a Saturday night. Jana in her pink flannel pajama pants, and her pink spaghetti strap tank, and Ryder in his customary khaki shorts and white tee-shirt, as they sat across the room from one another, attempting to sink beer caps in the other’s cup. The phone rang, and Jana jumped, while Ryder’s heart sank to his colon.

Ryder winced as he heard the sound of Jana’s voice go from excited to devastated in three seconds. The phone dropped, and a moment later, so did Jana. Ryder ran to her and cradled her small body in his large embrace while she shook and sobbed.

Ryder pleaded with Jana to know what happened. Finally, Jana looked up to Ryder, with a reddened, tear-soaked face, and her eyes, brims full of tears, blinked and she said, “Craig’s on the phone…Chelly’s pregnant.”

Who's gonna plug their ears when you scream?

A male voice emanated from the phone. Jana, finally harnessing her anger, reaching out a slender hand to pick up the receiver. She cleared her throat, put the phone to her face, and let out the loudest scream either of the men had ever heard. Her fury, unrestrained now, knew no bounds, and Craig began to regret that he had called her. She yelled for over a half an hour, and when she finished, she was hoarse, tired, drained, and she hung up on him.

You can't go on thinking nothing's wrong

Ryder couldn’t think of anything to do, so he got her a cool washcloth for her eyes. He then poured her the strongest drink he could, and she thanked him wordlessly with a look of her eyes. Knowing he could comfort her made him feel worthwhile, and she saw his beautiful smile come through. He kissed the top of her forehead, and found a blanket. The two of them sat nestled in the overstuff couch, beer caps and pieces of Jana’s heart scattered on the floor.

Who's gonna drive you home tonight

Jana planned to take Ryder home the next morning when they both awoke, still in each other’s embrace. Amazingly, Jana seemed normal. She dressed for the weather, and the two of them climbed into her Jeep Wrangler. Partway to Ryder’s apartment, she pulled over and took the top off the Jeep. She turned the radio up, pulled out her cigarettes, and hollered, “I need this today. I’m kidnapping you.”

They drove to a deserted road, and they got out and laid in the field, smoking and soaking up the sun. Jana fell asleep, and Ryder watched the way her chest rose and fell with the soft sound of her breath. He was pretty sure he was in love. She awoke later to find him watching her.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I just realized what you mean to me,” Ryder answered softly.

Pausing, they listened to the radio, radiating softly from the Jeep.

Who's gonna hold you down when you shake? Who's gonna come around when you break?

Ryder took her hand. “You won’t shake, and if you do, I’ll be there to hold you. And I promise, your heart won’t break again.”

You can't go on thinking nothing's wrong

“How can you be so sure that you’re the right one for me?” Jana asked incredulously, if not harshly. “I thought that Craig was the one for me, and he wasn’t. Actually, I wasn’t the one for him, and that hurts even more than knowing I lost him. He sought out someone besides me. How do I know you won’t do the same?”

Ryder looked at her. It was a good question, something that had been on his mind since he’d known her. All those attempts to date her friends had merely been tries to find Jana’s affection. He looked so deeply in her eyes, and he found his answer there. “The reason I’m so sure, is that there is something wrong. Something wrong with Craig, that is. He can’t see the wonderfulness that I see in front of me, because he’s blind. I’m not Craig, and I’m not blind. I’ve been seeing you since I’ve known you. And I promise,” he lowered his voice to just above a whisper, “you won’t be broken again.”

Who's gonna drive you home tonight?