The day Catra got her car was the same day Adora officially pulled out of school. It wasn’t a pretty car, but it sure was zippy and Catra seemed to love it almost immediately.
That night, they went for a drive.
Catra was a speed demon. She liked to drive fast, and Adora, exhilarated from the near-death experience, could only sit in silence and wonder. The city lights blurred together, flashing by as they zipped down side roads and hopped on and off the highway. There was music, but they couldn’t really hear it over the rush of wind through the open windows.
It smelled like summer. Oh, it smelled like summer and cheap beer and Catra . Adora closed her eyes for a moment, enjoying the momentum, it scrambled her brain. It felt like those summer nights they spent together after their respective shifts. Light-headed and oh so, so happy even through the stress and misery of their everyday lives.
That car was salvation.
The wind rushed and rushed and they sped and sped. Catra’s hand rested on Adora’s thigh, and Adora could think of nothing else but the warmth of her hand and the rumbling of the engine.
Catra’s hair whipped around her face, a devilish grin on her face only interrupted every now and then when she had to move her hair from her lips. She’d glance at Adora, let out a laugh, and turn back to step harder on the acceleration. Adora was floored by that look in her eyes, a look she’d never seen before, of freedom and happiness. Each eye a different color, but both held that wild look, expressing a soul and emotion that can never be restrained.
They stopped on a hill overlooking the city. Catra laughed, springing from the car to pounce onto the hood of the car and watch the lights twinkle in the distance. “C’mon Adora!”
She could only follow. She couldn’t resist, not when she said her name like that.
Adora sat beside her and Catra wrapped an arm around her shoulder. It felt so nice. So comfortable. Like home.
The air was clearer, but all Adora could smell was Catra. And as drunk as she felt, their kisses only tasted of strawberry chapstick and vanilla ice cream. No cheap beer or grilled foods, just the sweetness of Catra’s lips and the warmth of her hands cradling Adora’s head, ruffling her hair, tugging on the collar of her jacket.
Elation, that’s the word. She’d never experienced this feeling before, this utter elation in her chest, the fluttering in her gut, the dizziness. Adora was on top of the world. She belonged here. She could do anything, be anyone, so long as she had Catra and that car and those sweet, sweet kisses.
But that night had to end, and she was back home. Catra left her on her doorstep, one last kiss, and the rumbling of her engine down the street and around the corner.
Shadow Weaver was asleep in the armchair of their home. Beer cans strewn about the side table, the TV still played whatever shitty television show Weaver had been watching. Adora collected the cans to be cleaned, crushed, and then taken to the recycling center for an extra few cents. The dishes needed cleaning. Weaver had gotten takeout again, so there were only a few. Adora could handle that well enough.
She came down from the clouds about as quickly as if she had fallen from the sky herself. Back to reality. Bills to pay, a “parent” to care for, a job to work. No more school though. She could sell off her old textbooks now, maybe make an extra buck or two.
But while she was washing the dishes, she thought back to Catra’s eyes and the wild and free look, that bright smile. She could never get enough of that, she desperately needed more. She needed to see that smile on Catra’s face again, like she needed water and air and a place to sleep.
They needed to leave tonight or they’d live and die this way. Trapped and stranded and torn apart.
Adora finished the dishes, chanced a glance at Weaver one last time. Her scarred face relaxed and soft. But Adora knew when she woke that face would harden, those eyes would glare at her and worse those lips would curl and yell harsh things at her about herself, about Catra, about Catra, about Catra.
She needed to get out. They could drive into the city, get jobs and work their way through life. Together they could survive. She just needed to convince Catra.
She spared no more time, she packed a go bag, just the basics, and she left, not even stopping to lock the door behind her. She wouldn’t be coming back.
When she reached Catra’s street, she could see the car sitting out front. She only had a few minutes before Catra would be leaving for her night shift. She needed to be quick. She had to hope Catra would see what she’d seen. That they’d be happier without these shackles.
Adora had just reached the car by the time Catra opened the door to leave. They stood in a standoff, Catra eyeing Adora’s bag with unease.
“Come with me.” Adora broke the silence. “Catra, please .”
“Where would we even go?” Catra closed the door fully, stepping towards Adora, she stopped just out of reach. Keeping her distance, Adora could tell Catra was already building up her walls.
“Into the city, we could get jobs, we could be free of this place.”
“We wouldn’t have anywhere to go in the city, Adora. We can’t just uproot our lives.”
“We can ,” Adora insisted. “Can’t you see it’s all sucking the life out of us? We will die here if we don’t leave.”
“We have so much to do before we can just leave-”
“No,” Adora shook her head. “It has to be tonight. It has to be now.”
Catra stared at her, face carefully unreadable. But Adora grew up with her, she knew that look, that look that was preparing herself for abandonment. “Adora,”
“Please, Catra,” Adora was begging. She bridged the gap, seized Catra’s hands in both of hers. “Please, just come with me. Together we can make it.”
They lived out of the car for nearly a year. Catra had a harder time finding work, but Adora worked at the market. She was just a checkout girl, but she knew if she kept going, kept at it she could get promoted. She knew the assistant manager was looking for more work, and she could get that promotion if she just worked for it. They were just barely surviving as it was in Catra’s car. But that car was their salvation.
Catra grew bitter as the rejections came fast and frequent. But Adora wouldn’t give up on her. Wouldn’t leave. They needed each other. They needed things to change and their best bet was with that car.
Catra was bitter, but at night they laid in the backseat of that car, hands clasped tightly. They dreamed and dreamed and nothing could stop them anymore.
They got lucky eventually. Adora scored her promotion, and Catra managed a position as an apprentice at a local tattoo shop and when she wasn’t apprenticing, she was pulling in extra hours in front-of-shop. She would stick to piercings until they could save up enough for inks and a machine. Then she would work her way up to artist.
They lived out of that car another year longer, alternating between sleeping in the backseat and at the local shelter in the wintertime. As Catra was able to save money, her mood improved and Adora could feel the tension relieve from her shoulders every time they touched.
When they moved into their apartment, Adora sat on the floor and cried.
Catra let her have her moment, but eventually joined her on that floor, arms wrapped tight around her shoulders. Adora was home again and the relief poured out of her.
They slept that night right there on the floor.
It wasn’t easy. There were fights, there were arguments. They struggled together when Adora took on a second job in retail and then took on her GED. They fast approached their limit, and then backed down again. They could make it, they could make it.
Catra proposed on a random night. They had spent the night tiptoeing around each other, each one afraid the other was angry. But Catra was nervous and Adora too anxious over an impending deadline for night school. It was three in the morning by the time Adora made it to bed. She assumed Catra was asleep by then. But then she was laying on her side, looking into those mismatching eyes with a ring in her hand between them.
It was an easy decision.
It wasn’t easy, when they decided to sell Catra’s car. It was old, it wasn’t running as well as it could be. Years of neglect out of necessity left it in a worn down state. But they could sell it off for a few bucks and put it towards a wedding. At least for a small ceremony with their friends, their family. Adora was emotional, but she kept it in check. Catra would surely tease her, even if just a little.
That car had been their salvation.