I am trapped in a moving vehicle with a madwomana madwoman who claims to be my mother, although it's never been proven through genetic testing. We are tearing up the
405 at breakneck speed and her eyes seem to be everywhere but on the road ahead. She jets past a lumbering Hummer and cuts off a Porsche without even signaling.
"Are you crazy?" I squawk, as the guy in the Porsche flips her the bird.
"Oh, chill," she says, either to Porsche Guy or me. She yanks down her visor, admires herself in the tiny mirror, and reapplies her lipstick with a flourish.
I stomp nervously on an imaginary brake as she crowds a BMW. "Watch out!"
"Darling, you're so uptight." This time I know she's speaking to me. What's more, I know she's silently adding "just like your father." It's only silent because this is Hour One of my visit to Los Angeles and we have to last eight weeks in the ring.
If I'd known she was deranged, rather than merely flighty, I wouldn't have agreed to spend a second summer with her. Last year, Dad didn't give me a choice before sending me to get to know her on her film set in Ireland, but this time I practically volunteered. Obviously I should have demanded danger pay.
When the Porsche pulls up alongside us, I rap on the window and shot, "Help! I've been taken hostage!"
Instead of being embarrassed, Mom giggles and gives Porsche Guy a flirty wave. He smiles and waves back, continuing keep pace with her. Many have fallen under Annika
Anderson's spell before, but few at this velocity.
"I'm serious, Annika. If you don't slow down, I am calling the cops." I shake my cell phone at her. "And turn your lights on, it's nearly dark."
She flicks on the lights with an exaggerated sigh that's worthy of me.
"Why look at that," I say, pointing to the illuminated speedometer. "We've broken the sound barrier. I'll have a story to tell in Physics next fall."
"Whatever," she says in a tone also worthy of me, reaching for her cigarettes. I snatch them out of her hand and stow them in my purse. "Granny," she mutters.
I turn to stare at her perfect profile. "Pardon me?"
"I said you're a grannya little old lady in a fifteen-year-old's body."
"Sixteen. And I am not uptight. I just want to make it back to Seattle alive. I can't believe this wreck even goes this fast."
"Wreck! This car is in pristine condition. I just had it custom-painted claret."
That would be maroon to anyone else. Mom could afford a nice car, but she chooses to drive this vintage Volkswagen Beetle because it reminds her of the first car she ever owned. In other words, she's clinging to her lost youth. I wish she'd cling to it in something with more legroom.
Screeching to a stop in front of a restaurant, Mom switches off the ignition. The attitude immediately disappears and she recovers her normal personality. I use the term
"Normal" loosely: Annika hasn't seen normal in a very long time, if ever. She is a Grade A diva stuck in a B-movie career and that discrepancy had caused tectonic shifts all over the Earth.
"You're going to love this place," she says, tucking her long blond curls into a tweed newsboy cap and putting on her sunglasses.
"What's with the disguise?" I ask. "Are the police after you for piloting a rocket without a license?"
She surrenders the keys to the valet and leads me inside. "I just want to have a quiet dinner. I hate being pestered by fans."
If Mom really wanted a quiet dinner, I expect we'd be at her house in the Valley rather than at Kate Mantilini's in Beverly Hills. And if she valued her privacy, she'd have asked for a darkened booth along the wall rather than a table in the center of the room. No, the disguise is actually a desperate bid for attention.
One of us has matured this year, and it isn't Annnika.
© Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout