It was one of those god-awful early springtime evenings where all you want to do is just boot the pedal to the metal, get yourself home and have a good old drink in order to forget about all the shit that you had to wade through during the day in order to pay the bills and keep the wolf from the door.
Near freezing again despite it being mid March, the rain falling so damn hard that you could actually see it bouncing off the tarmac in little explosions as you drove gingerly through rush hour traffic, the windscreen wipers turning the blurry world into a not so blurry world every second or so, the sweep of the blades turned up to top speed so that the thud-thud-thud of the blades competed with the rattle of the torrential downpour against the metal roof of the car. I had to turn the stereo up just to hear it, and that's saying something when you're listening to ACDC's Razor's Edge.
It took all my concentration just to maintain my distance to the glowing tail lights of the car ahead – if you rear end somebody in these conditions then you could kiss goodbye to your no claims bonus and I really didn't need that worry on top of everything else right now. I had enough on my plate what with the pressures of work during yet another recession, an increasingly messy divorce, not to mention keeping myself financially afloat while juggling the upwardly spiralling expenses of daily life, family law lawyers and an eye-watering consent order that made me seriously wonder if I should have employed a more expensive solicitor after all. Well, I mused, when you do things on the cheap, you sure as hell end up paying the price over the longer term.
Much like the owner of the car pulled over to the side of the road with its hazards on, I noted. Poor bastard, stood beside it under an umbrella while the driving rain and stormy winds tried to turn it inside out. Then, as I got closer, my fatigue numbed brain registered a vague familiarity with the number plate on the silver Fiesta. The car came from the bottom of my own street, near the corner shop, I dimly realised.
My foot lifted off the throttle without me even consciously willing it to do so, and I cruised past, glancing to the side to see that the forlorn figure by the roadside was indeed the woman that lived in the old house two doors down from my mates Brian and Sian. I racked my brain for her name, but it wouldn't come. And then I was past, leaving her standing forlornly in the downpour as I made my way home to my nice warm house less than a hundred yards from where she lived.
Guilt. That's what hit me. Some people would have just laughed and carried on. Some would have swerved at the puddle forming in the gutter near where she stood, cruelly attempting to soak her even further. Most people just didn't bother giving her a second glance, such is society these days. As I drove on, putting more distance between myself and the stranded driver, getting closer and closer to my own home and the microwave oven and the fridge stocked with Carling, I noted that the guilt refused to subside and instead grew more and more insistent.
"Fuck." I spat, as Brian Johnson half growled, half screeched his way through the final bars of Thunderstruck. I shook my head at the coincidence then I indicated right into a cul-de-sac, three point turned my Zafira, and then rejoined the main road heading back toward work. I passed the woman again, still standing there in the rain, and went all the way around the roundabout half a mile further on before doubling back homeward once more, pulling my car in just ahead of the broken down Fiesta.
See what I mean about buying cheap, only to have to spend more later on? Ford. Found on roadside Dead. A mechanic had once told me that as he laughed at my misfortune as he continued to quote me an outrageous estimate for a replacement clutch for a three year old Mondeo. Fixed or repaired daily. That's why I drove a Vauxhall.
Yeah, all right. Stop laughing. So far it has been a great little car. A little too big for me now that I'm single again, though.
I got out of the Zaffy, instantly regretting my decision as the rain immediately plastered my hair to my forehead and glued my shirt to my shoulders, I dragged my coat from the back seat and pulled it on as I hurried to the stranded driver's side.
"Avondale Street, right?" I asked as she eyed me up suspiciously, then her face changed. Maybe she recognised me. I was just a face to her, somebody who may have smiled at her or nodded to her while I walked my dog, or more likely she remembered me as some complete asshole who had leered drunkenly at her over Brian and Sian's garden fence when they was having one of their weekend barbecues. Which in these days of global warming was an almost annual occurrence down here in Cornwall.
"Yeah." She eventually said. "I know you. Black Labrador, right?"
"No." I said, grinning. "I'm just his owner. Lewis is at home wondering why dinner is late and chewing on the table leg by now I expect."
She blinked long and hard at that. Okaaayyyy. "Problem?" I asked. I was going to say "Lovely evening for a walk." But something told me she wasn't really in the mood for levity. In her sodden but sensible shoes I doubted I'd be up for much of a laugh, either.
She shrugged. "The AA are on their way. Should be here in five minutes."
"No point in me having a look, then." I frowned. Thank fuck, I didn't say out loud. What I knew about cars could fill a post-it note. On one side. And there'd be room for doodles. "What happened?"
Another nonchalant shrug. "Bloody thing started to make crunching noises, then it wouldn't go into gear. Now I just get a grinding noise when I try to change up or down."
Now that sounded expensive. I winced, the best expression of sympathy I could muster. "Look, it's pissing down here. Come and wait in my car until the AA arrive."
"I though we weren't supposed to stay in the car just in case another vehicle hit it?"
"That's why I'm a good thirty feet in front. If something hits the back of your car, we'll be fine in mine." I explained.
Her hesitation lasted a split second, and while we were walking back to my car I felt another emotion – regret. The woman was going to get my passenger seat soaking wet.
"Jesus Christ, of all the fucking days for this to happen." She whined as she put down her umbrella and slid into my car. I'd heard women swear before – plenty of times. These days all teenage girls do is communicate by swearing and text messages, usually mixing the two together, but coming from her it was a bit of a shock. If you're of my generation then you might remember listening to squeaky clean, chaste and lovely Whitney Houston (rest in peace) using the word 'fuck' in the movie 'The Bodyguard' and felt shock that such a vulgar word could come from such a mouse like celebrity. This was just such a moment.
Women in their mid thirties are supposed to be a little more adult about the use of such an adjective, or so I assumed. Okay, some women you learn to expect it, like the ones with a fag in hand and a pint of cider in front of them down the bottom club on a Saturday night, or the fat cows pushing prams around Primark in professional chav shoplifting gangs, but not this smartly dressed, bespectacled, professional looking lady. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a dirty word now and then, but I prefer it kept between the sheets, personally.
"How long have you been waiting?" I asked.
"Half an hour," She said, glancing at a dainty gold watch on her wrist. "The AA man said he'd be here by now."
"Things tend to drag on days like this. Traffic's heavier at this time of day, people drive slower because of the weather, accidents snarl up the roads because some idiots don't drive slower because of the weather and screw rush hour up for the rest of us. He'll be here soon enough."
"I hope they can fix it. I need that car tomorrow."
Don't hold your breath, honey, I managed to choke back, giving her a sympathetic smile instead. Crunching, grinding noises and a locked up gearbox? Dream on. Even someone with my miniscule mechanical knowledge could work out that the odds of that car getting back on the road for tomorrow weren't very promising. I'd get better odds gambling on Lewis Hamilton for the 2012 Formula One title. And that's a pretty dumb thing to be putting your money on with Jenson Button on top form.
"Thanks, by the way." She said, breaking the silence. I'm not one of life's great conversationalists. I'm quick with a quip, but keeping a discussion going isn't one of my strengths. I find it really hard work thinking of the next thing to say. My ex-wife used to say I had a minimalist approach to human interaction and she was probably right. I guess that comes from being a bit of a solitary guy, working on my own, living by myself for years before marrying, and now back by myself after failing at the marriage lark because I was much happier living by myself. Probably because we ran out of things to say halfway through the damn honeymoon. How women can sit there and talk for hours on end totally baffles me. "No problem." I eventually managed to mumble. "I drove past you once." I continued, impressing myself with my repartee. "I recognised your car first, then you as I slowed down, so I turned around and came back."
"it's a silver Fiesta." She said, surprised. "There's like a billion of them."
"The number plate." I explained. "I pass it every morning on my way out."
"I have this game I play by myself to keep my brain from falling asleep while I drive." I said, trying to fill the silence. "I make up acronyms from the three letter sequence. My company is big on acronyms."
"So what does mine mean? SHB?"
Oh fuck. This was embarrassing. I could feel myself reddening as she turned to look at me. I made a show of glancing into the rear view mirror, willing the AA repair man to arrive. They called themselves the fourth emergency service, and I sure as hell needed them right fucking now to pull me out of the hole that I had just dug for myself. Beam me up Scotty, dammit!"
I smiled weakly. "Ah, it's silly."
"Even better." She laughed. It was a nice laugh, too. I racked my brains trying to think oif something to say. I couldn't tell her that the three letters meant Sexy Hot Babe. That would totally kill the mood, send her shooting out the door and running for the hills. I shook my head from side to side and screwed up my features as I desperately stalled for time, my brain working feverishly with the letters scrabbling around between my reddening ears.
"Oh come on. I could do with a laugh after today." She pressed.
"Schwarzenegger has biceps." I finally blurted. Oh God, ground open up and swallow me down now. That was so lame. I knew it. From her face, I could tell, so did she.
Before she could say anything I saw the flashing amber strobe lights pulling up behind her care. Ten seconds too fucking late, I raged. "They're here." I told her and we both bailed out of my car and into the raging storm.
Twenty minutes later we were both back in my car, somewhat worse for wear, and she was not very happy about that. No way was her car going to be on the road for a good while, the AA man had shrugged apologetically. Could be the clutch, could be the gearbox, could be both. Maybe even the flywheel, he'd said. It would have to be trucked to a garage, he told her. And he could do that right now before the garages closed for the night, or he could take her to her destination and leave the car there for her to sort out the recovery. But he couldn't do both. Not at her level of cover, he explained. Sorry and all that.
I thought that was a bit off, personally. I thought they could take you to the nearest garage, then take you home, but maybe things have changed. He wasn't actually an AA man. As the AA were too busy with a surge of breakdowns they had called in a local recovery service to meet their response targets, Maybe these freelancers operated to slightly different rules, but whatever the reason behind the confusion she ultimately ended up back in my car, steam rising from her clothing, not to mention coming out her ears.
"I'm Jim, by the way." I said as I pulled off into the stream of traffic, leaving the AA wannabe to load her Fiesta up onto the flatbed of his truck.
"Jo," She replied distractedly. I remembered that she said she really needed the car for the next day and decided to shut my gob, leaving her trying to figure out how she was going to work around that. Maybe she was panicking about the cost of a gearbox. A refurbished one could cost near half a grande. I drove on in silence. Well, aside from the hammering of rain on the roof and the dull thud of the windscreen wipers. The ACDC CD remained muted. She didn't look like a rock chick. "Goodbye & Good Riddance to Bad Luck" didn't seem quite appropriate at that time, either.
I glanced her way occasionally as I drove. There was a reason why I had given her car the monicker 'Sexy Hot Bitch' for the SHB in her registration plate. She was a nicely built specimen of womanhood. Mid thirties, short brown hair with a hint of artificial red tinge, long narrow glasses that she made look incredibly sexy the way some women do with spectacles. Not skinny, but not fat, either. Full figured, I guess you could call it, with a nice set of curves hidden beneath her wet clothes, and I'm talking bust and hips there.
A sensuous mouth and deep green eyes highlighted her face, and her pale complexion seemed to flouresce the muted red gloss on her lips. She reminded me a little of Kate Bush in her Red Shoes phase.
All too soon the drive was over, having passed by in almost total silence, and I pulled up outside Brian's house. She looked up suddenly from her mobile phone where she had been busily composing a text message, surprised to find herself home already, and hurriedly gathered together the things she had retrieved from her car before the pretend AA man could tow it away.
"Thanks." She said with a half smile as she got out of the car and braved the ten yard dash to her front door.
"No prob..." The slam of the car door as she closed it behind her cut off the rest of my response. Ah well.
I drove up the hill, parked across the road from my house because one of next door's three DSS financed death trap bangers was parked right outside my front door, and glanced at the damp passenger seat. Idly, I put my hand on the fabric to test how wet it was, and felt a comfortable warmth through my fingers from where Jo's ass had warmed up the seat.
Strangely, for no conscious reason that I could think of, I allowed my hand to linger there a while, until the temperature stabilised. Then I headed in and poured myself a drink.
Schwarzenegger has biceps? Doh! I slapped my forehead as I tossed my car keys onto the dining table and made a bee line for the mini bar – which the less alcoholically indulged amongst you might instead call a refrigerator – pausing only to ruffle Lewis' fur while he wagged his tail expecting walkies. He could forget that tonight.
Sexy Hot Bitch
Super Hot Babe
Stunning Horny Bint
Sucking Her Boobs
Scrumptious Heavy Breasts
Stretching her bra.
Stripping her bare.
Jesus, they were coming thick and fast now, like my semen when I had fantasized about Jo last summer, I recalled, but I still couldn't fucking use them, I laughed out loud as the ring pull on the can succumbed with a short, loud hiss. I didn't bother with a glass, just necked the top third of the can down without breathing, then slammed it down on the kitchen worktop and opened a can of Chum for Hamilton.
Spanking her butt.
I rolled my eyes, feeling myself beginning to stiffen at the mental imagery my wordplay was creating.
Stroking her body.
Screwing her box
My prick was getting harder and fucking harder. I distracted myself by rummaging around the freezer, then slammed a TV dinner into the microwave, taking a long pull from the can that drained it down to halfway while the turntable turned and the magnetron fan roared.
Shagging her behind.
Slamming hard buttfuck
For fuck sake stop it! I commanded myself, then flicked on the telly to catch what was left of the news while waiting for dinner to ping. I settled down for the night, eventually running out of SHB acronyms when I got to shaving her bush. Emmerdale was endured. Corrie was switched off. An old film, Maximum Overdrive, came on one of the Sky channels around 9 o'clock, and as I was settling in to enjoy the deaths of dozens of Americans on a malfunctioning highway drawbridge the doorbell rang and Lewis jumped up from under the dinner table and padded out into the hallway.
Outside stood Jo, umbrella held aloft. I blinked in surprise. Lewis sat on his haunches, not wanting to venture outside tonight, his tail sweeping the laminate hallway flooring enthusiastically as he looked up at her, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth and panting.
I knew just how he felt.
"You must really like standing out in the rain." I smiled. "Come on in, quickly." I told her.
Jo closed down her umbrella, shook it wildly to shake off the worst of the rain, then padded in, leaning over a very excited Lewis who, I suspected, might be leaking pee onto the floor as she proceeded to stroke him vigorously.
Boy, I knew just how he felt.
"I just thought I'd better say thank you properly for what you did today." Jo said as Lewis weaved in and out of her jeans clad legs. "I was a bit distracted when I got out of the car. It's been playing on my mind."
"That's all right. I'd be exactly the same I expect." I nodded. "Drink?"
"It's not like you have to drive home, is it?" I pointed out, not sure if that would actually be funny or not from her perspective. I really am a social ignoramus. That's a direct quote from my bitch of an ex-wife, incidentally. Fortunately Jo smiled and gave a little polite laugh.
"Oh, don't get me started on bloody cars." She warned me. "I've had a right shit of a night."
Women and swearing again. They really should keep it confined to the bedroom. "Any news?"
"On my car? No." She frowned. "Haven't heard a thing. I've been trying to beg and borrow a car for tomorrow, but I've been hitting brick walls all night. I may have to turn to crime and steal one the way things are going. I can't get a hire car in time, and they are way too expensive anyway. Taxi fares will cost more for a day than I bloody earn!" She complained.
"Yep. I could probably manage by bus after tomorrow, but that's going to mean I'm up earlier and home later because I have to change halfway and then there's another half mile walk through God only knows what weather to the office. And I can't do that tomorrow. What a bloody nightmare."
"White, red, lager or vodka?" I asked.
"Fuck it, I'll have a vodka. I could do with a stiff one after the day I've had." I almost choked when I heard her say that, but my mind is quite often in the gutter. "Any coke?" She enquired hopefully.
"Coming right up." I smiled. "Take a seat. Hamilton, behave." I admonished him before he could start shagging Jo's leg.
I knew just how he felt. I'd definitely give her a stiff one any day.
"I thought you called him Lewis?" Jo piped up.
"When he's good he's Lewis, when he's getting told off I call him Hamilton. He knows the difference. "
She still didn't seem to get it.
"He's black and when he was a puppy he was so bloody fast I could never catch him while I was trying to house train him." I explained. "So I named him after my favourite Formula One driver."
"Ah." She said, laughing. "I thought it was an Inspector Morse and his sidekick sort of thing."
"I'm not that much into television." I confessed, handing her a large vodka and coke. She took a long sip and gave me a thumbs up.