The deserted highway was lit only by our headlights as the car sped towards Toronto. It seemed that no one else had planned to drive back to the city after consuming copious amounts of turkey and potatoes. They’d probably given into their need for alcohol, a coping mechanism to deal with their family, a remedy I had to do without.

“Oh god, he texted me!” my eighteen-year-old sister cried from the passenger seat, staring at her phone in distress. The blue light of the screen illuminated her horror, reflecting the message in her wide green eyes. “He wants to get together this week! I’ve been putting him off since September. What do I do?”

“Just end it, Soph. You guys haven’t spoken in weeks. You just started university. You don’t have the time. Graeme’s a good guy, he’ll understand,” I sighed. It was the same conversation we’d been having for the past two hours during Thanksgiving dinner, when we weren’t discussing our cousins’ lack of social skills or our grandmother’s religious outbursts. The issue had been brought up weeks ago in a Skype conversation between the latest gossip—both familial and celebrity—and her recommendations for TV shows that I would never have the time to watch. I had long since exhausted my interest in the topic. “It’s better to do it sooner than later.”

The younger girl shifted in her seat, resting her sock-clad feet on the dashboard, and glared at the YouTube commercial blaring through the car’s Bluetooth. We’d had to pull into a gas station twenty minutes earlier to connect the system with her phone. “But how do I do it? I don’t want to have to figure out meeting up and then be like ‘Yeah, we’re done’ in the middle of it.” She waved her hand dismissively. She reached over to turn up the volume once the familiar lines of “Remix to Ignition” began to stream from the speakers. I cringed at the song choice but said nothing. It was the same song she’d played all summer, yet it still managed to make her grin. I’d grown sick of the song months ago, but her enjoyment seemed more important than my irritation.

The fluffy, white head of Maya, our Havanese, popped up from beside Sophie’s thigh, whimpering softly as she glanced between us. We both instinctively reached to pet her, assuring the small dog that everything was all right and we’d be home in a couple of hours. With what sounded like an annoyed grumble, the dog settled back onto the floor beneath Sophie’s seat. The disturbance reminded the younger girl of the dog asleep in the backseat. Glancing back, she saw Bacaradi, her Wheaton Terrier, sprawled across the seat in the same position she’d assumed the moment the car had started moving.

Distracted by the dog, my reaction to turn off the high beams was slowed as oncoming headlights came into view. I called out an apology, though there was no way the other driver could have heard me. Blinking my tired eyes, dry from wearing contacts all day, I forced myself to watch the road more closely. My busy day of travel, running errands, and appeasing my family was taking its toll. I glanced at the can of Coke in the cup holder, but then I pulled my eyes back to the road. It was already eleven, far too late for caffeine if I ever hoped to sleep before my second act the next day.

“I know it seems shitty, but texting him is probably best. I mean, he lives two hours away, so having him come to the city just to dump him would be way worse. And you’re both so socially weird that neither of you is willing to talk on the phone.” I flipped on the turn signal as a construction site narrowed our lane, sliding effortlessly across the newly paved road in the darkness. “He already texted you. That’s the perfect opening. Just tell him the truth: you’re really busy with school and hockey, and golf, and you don’t think you can balance a relationship on top of it, but you still want to be friends.”

Sophie groaned and threw her phone into her lap. “I guess. I just don’t want to ruin our whole dynamic. I loved hanging out with Graeme, and Justin, and everyone else from work this summer. I don’t want that to be ruined by all this. What if they don’t want to hang out next year?”

I could see the fear in her eyes. This was more than just whining about a break up; she was truly afraid. I could tell that meeting people her own age on the lake was far more important to her than her feelings for a boy. Finally, she’d had people to water ski and tube with, since I had never understood her desire to be whipped around behind a boat tethered only by a thin, knotted rope. Finally, she’d had people to marathon Pitch Perfect with while I was off travelling or at our mom’s. Finally, Sophie was returning to the social girl she’d been before the anxiety struck. I knew that was far too good to lose to the end of a two-month relationship.

I nodded mournfully, my mind wandering to the aftermath of my own failed relationship. Even after six months, I was still experiencing awkward parties and stilted conversations with people who had been more my friends than his. Though my ex and I had slid smoothly from our year-long relationship into friendship, our friends seemed incapable of such an easy transition. I could only hope that her teenage coworkers would be more mature, or at least less interested in the fallout.

“I’m sure it’ll all work out. They’re your friends, too. And he was your friend before you guys started going out. It may be awkward for a bit, but you have, like, eight months until you have to worry about that. I’m sure by then everyone will be over it.” I tightened my grip on the steering wheel, hoping that I wasn’t preaching falsely.

The song ended and the car grew awkwardly quiet. Sophie chewed on her lower lip, eyes tracing the text. Her shoulders caved towards her chest as worried wrinkles creased her forehead. The image shone with a desperation I hadn’t known she was capable of.

With a gesture reminiscent of my mom, I smiled softly and reached over to pat my sister’s leg. “It’ll be okay, Soph.”

She glanced at the hand on her leg. I worried that she might brush it off as she had our mother, but a small smile spread across her lips. In that moment, I felt like she trusted me; like she had faith in my advice and hope that things would work out. I believed that I was able to help comfort her. Helping her feel better, even just for a moment, made the stress of the day worth it.

I replaced my hands on the steering wheel, a triumphant grin on my face. “Why don’t you put on another song? It’s way too quiet in here.”