Huh! Her ex always scorned her obsession to arrive early for appointments. She turned the key in the ignition, and watched the car's display-panel light up like a Christmas tree, before the car's engine coughed, and died.
Damn! And double damn! He wouldn't be laughing now if it was one of his appointments. Her fingers drummed the steering wheel before she tried the ignition again.
"You're the only person I know who arrives for the train prior the one you intend to catch," he'd scorned.
"Better than watching the train disappear out the station from the platform," she'd retorted.
This time when she turned the key, the engine fired, the display panel cleared and the engine roared like a Boeing triple-seven ready for take-off.
She hooked her toe beneath the accelerator, but it didn't move. Not stuck, then. The rev counter threatened to flip off the dial, and she wondered what to do next. If she'd still had her beloved mini, she would've dug under the bonnet and adjusted the accelerator cable. Apparently modern cars used what her ex called a "system maintenance co-ordinator" or something. Well, it needed to get its act together otherwise she'd miss her appointment.
A glance at her watch confirmed she'd lost ten minutes. Time to go. She tasted the bile in her throat as she let the car roll down the garden incline and onto the road. At least her insurance covered roadside breakdowns. She eased the car into gear, and like a greyhound released from its trap, it raced down the road with her foot covering the brake-pedal. At least Someone "Upstairs" had kept the road clear for her.
With a fear born of fascination, she let the car's momentum power it uphill through the village. A touch on the brake allowed it to maneuver the ninety-degree-bend and then the car shot down the country lane like a startled deer. She kept the clutch and brake pedals covered and cursed the so-called maintenance-system, and car designers, to kingdom-come.
Essentials, like composure needed for her scan, flew out the window as she reached town and dropped the car into a lower gear. The engine continued to mimic a Boeing on takeoff and pedestrian shoppers turned to stare. She could almost hear the men's derogatory comments about women drivers, and from the corner of her eyes, saw the women pulling toddlers and young children away from curb-edges. A few pedestrians studiously ignored the furor, and a man began running alongside her vehicle, weaving through the people who'd stopped to stare.
The cars ahead of her slowed to a stop as a driver shoe-horned her Chelsea Tractor into a miniscule parking space. The engine roared, the people stared, she slid the gearstick into neutral and her foot flattened the brake-pedal against the floor. The marathon runner swung open the passenger door and jumped into the car.
Silver-surfer model-of-the-month not-withstanding, she shifted her terrified gaze from the traffic in front of her and stared at him. "What do you think you're doing?" Why, oh why hadn't she locked the passenger door before leaving home?
"Offering my help." He kept his hands on his thighs where she could see them. "I assume you've checked the gas pedal, and it's not stuck?"
"You assume correctly." Sarcasm was counterproductive. Could he help? Would he help? Unaccountably her fear lowered to manageable. She was restraining an out-of-control car, and had a perfect, and she did mean perfect, stranger sitting in her passenger seat.
"Are any of the panel lights showing?" Mediterranean blue eyes ringed with laugh-lines offered reassurance. Had her "Upstairs Management Team" responded to her plea for help?
She shook her head and lifted her foot carefully off the brake after engaging bottom gear. The car slid forward, the engine screaming all the way. "So what do you think you can do to help? I have an essential appointment in…" she glanced at her watch, "…six minutes."
"O.K." He paused, leaned over to study the display panel, then sank back into his seat. "How long will you be?"
"Not long." It all depended on how many other women were waiting for the radiographer. "Five, maybe ten minutes."
"I can wait for you here or collect my car and come back then follow you to the nearest garage."
"Why?" Why would a stranger put himself out, like that? A stranger with a beautiful smile that tugged at parts of her she didn't want to resurrect.
"Because my mother taught me to help a damsel when in distress."
She couldn't prevent the gurgle of laughter. "Thank you." When had the sun come out? "I wish I understood the problem."
"I think it's your battery."
"If the battery's flat, why's the engine revving out of control? Surely it would simply stall?" "Your engine fired, and the maintenance system is struggling to take control and there's not enough energy for it to succeed. When you shut off your engine it may not start again. If so, I'll take you to get another battery. We'll try that option first."
With a minute to spare, she pulled into the surgery car-park, and turned off the engine.
She smiled then slid from behind the wheel, waited for her earth-angel to lock and close his door before heading to the Mobile Breast Screening Unit. She turned at the top of the steps, and glanced down. "My name's Jane."
He raised his hand, "And mine's John."
Not quite Janet and John, but close.
Thirty minutes later, hands linked, they walked out of the motor-spares shop.
"Do you know The Copper Kettle?" John asked as he held her door open for her.
With a smile Jane nodded.
"Care to join me for a cream tea?"
Would she? Of course she would.
Relieved her car no longer dreamt of emulating a Boeing triple-seven, Jane grinned, slipped behind the steering wheel, and turned the ignition key. "Lead on, MacDuff."
The future suddenly looked as promising as the sunshine.
About the Author: Sherry Gloag enjoys reading and is an aspiring writer of contemporary romances, because she like stories with a happy ending. She lives in the East of England, where, like those who may enjoy watching the "Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace", she enjoys watching the changing of the seasons in the countryside.