The first was a flat tyre. Tim rolled up in good time, wrench in hand, smile in place. “Knights of the Road.”
She laughed with relief. In her forties, bottle-blonde highlights. Hint of desperation that predated, he guessed, the roadside recovery. High heels snagged at the tarmac as she watched him work. He got her going again, all right.
The second one was a dead battery. Tim gave his best salute. “Riding to the rescue.”
Who could resist a gent with a sense of humour?
She was Clare, that one. Hard shoulder, soft top.
When Rita asked how his day went, Tim said, “Terrific.”
She tapped her fingers on the table. Painted nails, metallic-finish. Tough customer, his wife. Not a whiff of the damsel in distress about Rita.
Number three? A faulty fan-belt.
“Pop the lid for me, would you, love?”
He wouldn’t have risked the ‘love’ but she was old enough to be his mum and they both knew it. Proper little goer, though. Lola, believe it or not.
Five and six were twins. It didn’t get much better.
“Your rear end’s gone,” Tim told them. “I’m sorry to say.”
He felt like James Bond, no brakes, touching 80mph.
The roads melted; summer heatwave. Tim tackled overheated engines, got under the bonnet so often he lost count, topped up the oil, deployed his dipstick. A rare old time.
Rita said, “You want to recharge your own battery for a change.”
Bitch. He’d never any trouble getting it up at the roadside. Maybe it was the open air, bitter-sweet smell of bitumen and burning fossil fuels, his role in the rescues. He loved to hear “Lone female breakdown”, “Stranded”, “Priority”. A chance to play the old-fashioned hero, get chivalrous.
This one was wearing driving shoes, the kind with the rubber treads underneath. Sensible. Decent set of legs on her. Dash of makeup, not as much as he liked.
“Hope you weren’t waiting too long,” he said.
“You were very quick.” She had a great smile.
Middle of nowhere. Perfect spot for it.
“I’m Tim, by the way.”
“Let’s get the bonnet up and see what’s causing the trouble, shall we?”
She sat in the driver’s seat, sprang the lid.
Tim had a quick rummage. Never saw the wrench coming. Just heard the rev of speeding air, and the words, “From Rita, with love.”
Sarah Hilary‘s stories have been published by Velvet Mafia, MYTHOLOG, Heavy Glow, Apollo’s Lyre, Twisted Tongue, Four Volts, Neon and the Boston Literary Magazine. Her short story, On the line, was published in the Daunt Books 2006 anthology. She won the Litopia “Winter Kills” Contest in 2007. Sarah lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and young daughter.