I was supposed to describe a traffic jam, but I got bored and ended up writing this. I don't know how to describe a traffic jam properly, and which point of view to use (should I describe it as a car driver on the road, or is it better to look at it from the point of view of a pedestrian?) I don't think it followed the instructions, but anyway, could you give me some feedback on it and on how I can switch it back to the traffic jam title?
Drumming her slender fingers on the cashier counter, Ashley was unconsciously producing a rhythm, each beat rushing after another, pressing and hastening. Staring at middle-aged cashier with the glamorous Barbie in one hand and a piece of pink wrapping paper in another, she could not help but sighing. She could feel the look of people tired of the long queue burning the back of her neck. She should have just bought the Barbie and wrapped it herself. With a Barbie, a three-year-old girl like Phoebe would not mind Ashley's clumsiness.
Ashley felt in her pockets for her keys, then quickly picked up Phoebe's present and settled it on the backseat. In no time, the car was rocketing on the highway. $100, thirty minutes of wrapping and probably her mother's late arrival were the price of Phoebe's third birthday present- Ashley ran through all those details in her head. It had been a long day. She drove mechanically, imagining the Phoebe's beaming smile while fatigue sluiced through her body like water down rocks.
Ashley had just passed an exit on the highway, when the brake lights of the car ahead hers flared. She slowed, slowed some more, then she had to press down hard. Dusk was already gathering, the sun a dull glow in the overcast sky. As she crested the hill, traffic came to a complete stop, a long ribbon of taillights flashing red and white. An accident. A pileup. She glanced at the gas gauge- the needle pointed at below a quarter of a tank, just enough to return to the suburb, while this line of cars could be here for hours. Ashley felt her eyes burnt; she wanted to cry.
She sat still for a few minutes, glazing outside the car window. The nearest exit was about half a mile back, separated from her by a gleaming chain of cars. She shook her head lightly, and looked at the gift on the backseat. The silvery ribbon stood out from the glossy wrapping paper. She readjusted her body, so that she could feel the satin ribbon, cool and smooth between her fingers. She imagined Phoebe's delicate fingers untying the ribbon and meticulously opening the wrapping paper so that it would not be torn. And her bright eyes when she saw little Miss Barbie! Ashley's face slightly relaxed, a smile lit up her tightened face.
When she turned back to face the steering-wheel, she started to feel uneasy. Her mind drifted away from the traffic jam and came to Phoebe. 'Is she sitting by the window, looking down to spot her mother's black car in the thousands of cars passing by their condominium?' 'Has her party begun or is she still waiting for her mother?' Ashley wondered, and ended up blaming herself for being a bad mother.
No matter what, she would not miss Phoebe's party. After taking a deep breath, she snagged her teeth on her bottom lip and let an instinctive impulse took over. Ashley jerked the steering-wheel, slid off the lane and onto the soft gravel shoulder. She put the car in reverse and then backed up, travelling past the stilled traffic, like a frozen river.
She reached the exit safely, then made a turn and rocketed through the softening darkness. Phoebe was waiting.