The following week, Sharon felt as though all was back to normal, at least until Friday’s Advisory Board meeting. During a discussion over some mild unpleasantness in a small African country, Al made a joke about how the U.S. should just bomb them and be done with it. The room fell silent for a few minutes. Al, realizing he had gone too far, apologized and reiterated that he had been making a joke.
“The problem is,” Karen told Sharon at lunch later that day, “I don’t think anyone actually believed he was joking.”
“Al has always had a very dry sense of humor,” Sharon pointed out. “But, no, he may not have been. I guess we’re still dealing with the anger.”
“It’s not going to blow over quickly.” Karen made a face at her salad. “I’m done with this. By the way, been hearing some exciting stuff about your sister.”
“Besides the awesome reviews for her dance?” Sharon asked, with a grin.
“Yeah, like piles of job offers.”
Sharon nodded. “She’s gotten some incredible ones. Last I heard, though, she wants to stay here in D.C. She says she has a place to live here.”
“Good for her.”
“I’d agree, but she’s acting really cagey for some reason.” Sharon shook her head. “She doesn’t sound unhappy, but there’s something she’s not telling me and I can’t figure out what.”
“Well, at least with her in town you’ll be able to see each other more often.”
“Maybe. She gets plenty busy on her own.”
Karen got up. “See you tomorrow?”
Sharon grabbed her phone and scrolled to her calendar. “Why? It’s Saturday, right?”
“Come on, Sharon, you promised.”
“I did not. I said I’d think about it.”
“You said you’d do it.” Karen grinned. “Seriously. It’ll get the guys off your back.”
“And who’s paying for the damage to any vehicles?”
“There’s not going to be any damage.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that.”
“Sharon, that’s exactly why you need to do this. You can’t spend your life living in fear.”
“I’m not living in fear. I’m just… Cursed. That’s all.”
“No, you’re not. So, we’ll see you tomorrow.”
Sharon sighed as Karen left. Karen was, in fact, right. But the last thing Sharon wanted to do was drive. It didn’t matter. The next day, accompanied by Karen, Kira and June, Sharon found herself behind the wheel of Karen’s Toyota Camry, practicing in a mostly empty Metro parking lot at the end of one of the lines.
The reality was, Sharon could drive, as in she knew how. But she had little confidence and tended to react to everything going on around her as if it was all going to blow up at any second. Which, as far as Sharon was concerned, it would.
June wouldn’t buy it and soon Sharon was on the quiet suburban streets, heading out along a two-lane country highway.
“So where are we going?” Sharon asked.
“You need motivation,” June said. “We’re going to Loudoun County and the wineries there. Get us there safely and we’ll buy the wine and Kira can drive back.”
Which Sharon did. The drive was pleasant and only took a little over an hour. Pastures and lush, green hills slid by. June directed Sharon to the parking lot of a medium-sized winery once they reached the Hillsboro area. Following Karen’s instructions, Sharon even managed to parallel park under a tree on the edge of the parking lot.
The four women had just left the car and headed toward the tasting room when they heard a very loud crack and whoosh. They turned just in time to see the tree crash onto Karen’s car, splattering glass and branches all over and breaking the windows of the cars on either side of Karen’s.
“Okay,” said Karen softly. “I’ll buy it. You’re cursed.”
“She did get us here safely,” June said.
“I’ll buy the wine,” said Sharon, pulling out her Blackberry. “And call the car service.”
June looked at the small troop of black-suited Secret Service agents running up.
“You won’t need to do that,” June sighed. “But I could use some wine.”
“So could I,” said Kira, with a grin.
“Nice try,” Karen said, glaring at and nudging her daughter. “How do you explain this to your insurance? I was teaching my friend how to drive and it turns out she’s cursed?”
Others from inside the tasting room were wandering out to the parking lot, including the owners of the cars that had also been damaged and the winery owner. One of the car owners, a tall, beefy man with a red face and balding head began screaming at the winery owner while pointing at the car in front of Karen’s.
“He ought to be thankful that’s not his car in the middle,” someone said.
“Is that Secret Service?” someone else asked.
June, who was wearing a baseball cap over her hair, slid on the pair of sunglasses she’d just taken off before the tree fell over. She nodded and the plain clothes detail slipped around the little group and spirited them away, leaving their suited fellows to deal with Karen’s car and the winery.
The good news was that the incident somehow escaped the notice of the media. The winery’s insurance took care of the damage to the cars, even if Sharon tried to insist that she was technically liable. But even Karen wouldn’t accept that and took the whole episode philosophically.