The rain fell rapidly down the window of Tom’s Hyundai Coupe. Mentally he cursed the glowing numbers on the radio that told the hour and minute. He was late and the clock did nothing but drill that fact into his sleepy head. His hand came up to wipe across his tired features. A long, drawn out yawn escaped his lips just before he vigorously shook his head.
“Come on, ol’ boy, time to wake up,” he said to himself. Tom sat up straighter, opened his eyes wide and stared out the rain-slicked window. Soon his lids were growing heavy again and his head bobbed up and down. The sound of a blaring horn and a pair of bright yellow lights coming toward him made Tom jerk the steering wheel, he’d barely been gripping, to the side of the road.
The slickness of the rain, the speed of the vehicle, and the over-correcting of Tom’s maneuver spelled disaster. Immediately he was awake, his eyes were wide in their sockets and his face frozen in fear as the back end of his car swung around and his grip on the wheel loosened, sending him sliding across the seat.
While the car continued to spin out of control, Tom’s life flashed before his eyes. He thought it ironic that it didn’t take too long and how everything seemed to be in slow motion. His back hurt as it connected solidly to the passenger side of the car. The arm rest jabbed at his ribs and he cried out in pain as his elbow hit the door handle. His teeth rattled in his head as the back of his skull met the window. Just as quickly as it had happened, the car stopped moving, the engine died, and Tom started breathing again.
He sat there for a minute, or laid there, depending on how one chose to examine the situation. His tired eyes stared at his legs stretched out before him. He glanced at the seat belt, the metal hook of the unused latch seemed to laugh at him. Tom turned his body around and pulled himself back over to the driver’s seat. His hand came up to rub at the knot forming under his short brown hair. When his fingers came away sticky and warm, he grimaced; he didn’t need light to tell him he was bleeding. A hard knock on his driver’s window made him jump in his seat. Tom turned and stared into another light, this one small but just as bright.
He reached out and felt for the handle of the door, pulled it and pushed the metal open. Timidly, almost not quite trusting his feet, Tom stepped out of the car and let the door close behind him. Immediately he was assaulted by rain drops, but soon those were shielded from him by the person holding the light to his face.
“Are you alright?” a voice asked. The stranger swept the light up and down Tom’s sore figure, before settling it on his face. Tom winced from the invasion to his pupils, lifted his arm and pushed the offensive glare away. The movement, though small, sent his head spinning and he stumbled back against the car. “No, I’d say you’re not.”
Tom groaned, but said nothing as the stranger’s hand reached out and gripped his shoulder. “The phone service is down, or I’d call a truck for you and an ambulance.”
“No. . .that’s not necessary,” Tom replied, telling himself this accident was his fault and he deserved every bruise he felt. “Are you alright? Did I hit you. . . or anyone else for that matter?” he asked as he glanced past the person with the light and looked up and down the deserted road.
“No one else was on the road and my car is fine.”
Tom sighed. “Good. I’m sorry about all this though,” he said and pushed away from the vehicle only to stumble again. This time the stranger caught him with a pair of firm hands, dropping the light and the umbrella they’d been holding. “Maybe I’m a little bruised up,” Tom admitted to himself and then heard the soft chuckle of the person who held him up. He blushed, though it went unseen because of the darkness. He wasn’t aware he’d spoken out loud, nor had he been aware until that moment that the person he’d almost killed, was a female.
“Well, you certainly can’t drive. Come with me. The storms not going to let up anytime soon and I don’t live too far off the main road.”
Tom frowned. He didn’t know this woman yet he wasn’t in any position to refuse her hospitality. With a heavy sigh he accepted her offer with a verbal promise to pay her back for all her troubles. “I’m sure we’ll settle it up later, right now, let’s just get out of the rain. Do you have anything of importance you need from your car?”
Tom turned back to look at his vehicle. It was drive-able, he knew it was, but he also knew the woman was right, he was in no shape to drive. He made a mental sweep of what was in the car and then shook his head, sending a fresh wave of nausea through his system. The woman must have sensed his discomfort because her firm grip on his arm increased. “Good then, let’s go,” she said and gently led him toward her Vauxhall Astra.
Constance Simmons opened the passenger side of her car, helped the young man in and then shut the door securely behind him. She knew she was being stupid. She didn’t know this man. He could be an axe-welding, drug lord, on his way to off some man, woman or child who hadn’t paid their latest hit. Constance rolled her eyes and laughed at herself as she darted back to the man’s vehicle.
She felt the rain continue to beat down on her, plastering itself to her clothing which was already soaked through. She grabbed the flashlight and her umbrella, closed the one, turned off the other and half jogged/half walked back to her car. She climbed in and sighed heavily. “Here,” she said, turning in her seat and reaching into the back. “It’s dirty, but it’s dry.”
A blanket, rough and somewhat smelly, was passed over to Tom. She watched his pale features blanch as the odor of rubbed down horses filled his nostrils. A soft chuckle escaped her lips as she settled it around his wet body. “When we get back to the house I’ll find you something clean. Honest.” Constance’s car had been running and now she swiftly put it into gear, checked her windows and glanced back at her passenger. “Can you buckle up? Or do you need help?” she asked.
Tom hesitated for a moment, recalling how he had sailed across the seat of his car because he hadn’t been buckled. “I’ve got it,” he said. He reached around, grabbed the strap and pulled it across his blanketed form. When the snap was heard, Constance secured herself and then took off.
The drive began in silence. Both occupants very much aware of the other and the fact that they were strangers. “My name’s Tom.”
Constance smiled. “Constance,” she said and turned off the main road. “Are you alright? I can’t really tell if you’re bruised up real bad or not, but you sure were unsteady on your feet back there.”