(Many thanks to CambriaRose for her editing this story for me. It sure reads better now she worked her magic on it.)
There is just something about finishing early at work that sure puts a smile on your face, and if it wasn't for the fact I was driving I would also say a spring in my step as well.
Then of course that tantalizing moment gets ripped from your thoughts and stomped on because you had the audacity to even think it. For the life of me I still couldn't think of why I was driving along this particular road. I hate this road, it's far too quiet and absolutely no cell phone signal at all yet here I am. Well, at least I'm not the poor shmuck that has just blown a tire right in front of me, slowing down was a wise thing to do, bits of tire went right across the road.
It also gave me time to watch the woman get out of the car, walk to her front puncture and give it one heck of an impressive kick. Now that was funny. My smile faltered when she doubled over the hood of her car seconds later. That's when I knew I was fucked. I couldn't leave her there like that, my folks didn't raise someone who could do something like that. I sighed before taking my foot completely off the gas and pulling over in front of her car. She hadn't moved, even when I got close enough to hear her crying. I wasn't stupid enough to touch her.
"Ma'am, I understand this is going to be a stupid question, but are you ok?"
She still cried and at one stage I contemplated getting back into my car and leaving her to it. Slowly she turned her head and looked at me. Her eyes were still so full of tears. She pulled herself up off the hood of the car, forgot herself for a second and placed weight on her foot and winced. She almost fell backwards before I stepped forward and placed my hand on the small of her back to prevent her from sitting on the road.
"I think I've broken my fucking foot kicking my car."
The temptation to say 'no shit' was quickly canceled out when I realized I was within slapping distance if I dared.
"Ma'am, I'm going to lift you onto the hood of the car to take the weight off of your foot, ok?"
The only answer I got was a shrug of her shoulders. Not much guidance there but by then I had decided that I had reached the end of my patience with this idiot of a woman. Placing my hands on her hips I lifted and turned her at the same time, her ass hit the hood rather unceremoniously but I didn't care. She drew in breath making a hissing sound as she did. My only response was to place my hand under her legs and lift them onto the hood as well, her back now rested against the windshield.
It took a moment for her to finally look at me. I waited, after all I have half a day off from work and here I am spending it with some woman with a short fuse and what I suspected to be a broken foot.
"The names Erin. So where do we go from here my knight in shining amour?"
"Lady we can do this two ways, by committee or trust. One simply takes longer than the other but the results tend to be the same."
Erin looked longer at me this time, I simply stared back. It was the freckles across the top half of her nose and the top half of her cheeks that seemed to pull you towards her eyes. She had the most intense brown eyes I had ever seen. Finally she shrugged her shoulders and closed her eyes against the sunshine.
"Well I've already tried stupid and all that got me is a busted foot, damn it let's try trust, committees have never been my strong point."
I had to give it to her, she sure had balls when she kept that temper under control. I opened the door to her car and pulled the keys out of the ignition, took her house keys off and locked the car stuffing the key up behind the back wheel and tying it to the spring for good measure. Erin watched saying nothing, even when I handed her the house keys. Once I walked back to my car and cleaned off the mess on the passenger seat, I came back for her, scooped her into my arms and she automatically wrapped her arms around my neck. Another time and place the combination of that perfume she had on and the body she had would have been a man's wet dream.
Making her as comfortable as I could we set off to the hospital. I waited until we were away from that damn road and got some good signal before I called a friend with a tow truck business that would pick the car up and sort out the tire for me. I even leaned on our friendship a little and got him to agree to store the car for a couple of days and no charge. Erin just sat in silence watching me and winced occasionally when my bad driving took us over a hole in the road, other than that she did nothing until the hospital came into view.
Luck was with me when I actually found a wheelchair. It sure made life easier getting her into casualty, even sticking around while she filled in a ton of forms, and then we came one of life's 'oh shit' moment. I'm a guy, what would I need a bag for, so why would I have picked Erin's up from the passenger side foot well of her car when I locked it up and of course in that bag was all the insurance details she needed for the forms. Leaving Erin to fill out what she could I went to check on my friend's progress. He had already picked up the car, the bag was now in his office safe and the wheel changed along with a new tire for the one that blew.
The only down side was that his yard was clear across town and Erin needed to be seen now if the color of her foot was anything to go by. Shrugging my shoulders and reminding myself that I stopped to help so suck it up, I rejoined her. By then of course a whole new list of complications was already let loose, one of the admin staff was sitting beside her. As I got closer I could hear her telling Erin about the lack of parent details and next of kin details. I stopped her there and asked for the form, placed my name and my company address as next of kin and handed her my credit card.
I should have been amazed at how cooperative she suddenly became, even more so when she came back from behind her counter after swiping my card through her machine. For a moment Erin simply sat and watched, waiting for the woman to go back to her station.
"How do you know I'll pay you back?"
I smiled, even Erin caught me smiling. "Your car is a top model and it isn't a rental, so it's either yours or company owned, I know you will. It was my fault that I didn't pick up your bag up and your foot needs attention now, not when I make a round trip across town and back."
Erin was taken away twenty minutes later. Two hours after that a nurse brought her back with her foot in a cast and holding onto crutches as she pushed her up to me in a wheel chair. I thanked the nurse who smiled and left us both sitting staring at each other for a moment before I pulled her bag out from under my seat.
"I had my friend put your bag in a cab and send it over here. That damn bag of yours won't stop ringing. You sure are a busy lady."
No sooner had I finished talking than her cell once again started ringing. I left Erin to her phone call as she explained to the person on the other end where she was and why. When she finally finished she watched as I stood, pulled out one of my cards and handed it to her. Those brown eyes of hers still showed little of what was going on in her head. In another life I would sure like to play this woman at poker.
"Is this were you dump me and go home to the wife?"
Feeling brave for some reason I leaned into her and kissed her cheek, fully expecting a slap to follow for my efforts and greatly relieved when it didn't. As I once again stood Erin gave me a look, partly shock that I had done what I did without even asking and part acceptance that she knew it was time for me to leave. She had her bag back, her lifeline in her hand once again started to ring and as she placed it to her ear, I simply walked away.
The sun had all but lost its battle, dusk had snuck up and even with me shaking my head as I walked to my car thinking that this has been some half day off didn't dispel my thoughts that I had done my good deed for the year. Life took over as it tended to do and my thoughts of Erin and that whole afternoon soon became a distant memory.
For the next three months life became a series of business meetings and traveling to customers. So a very exhausted me walked off the concourse and into the arms of my secretary as she picked me up from the airport. The confused look simply had to give way to my next question.
"What are you doing here, the place hasn't burned down while I've been away has it?"
"I couldn't be that lucky. I got a cab over because I knew you had your car here, let's pick it up and you can drive me back to the office."
Melanie was everything you wouldn't want as your secretary. She gave the boss attitude when she felt he was being a dick 'her words I hasten to add.' But if you gave that woman a puzzle to figure out she would take that challenge and has always seemed to come up trumps. The whole of the logistical side of the office ran through her and I have never had her come to me with a problem she couldn't solve, except this one was giving her some difficulty and I now knew why she had met me at the airport.
"The last ten days I've been getting calls from some woman wanting to talk to you. At first she was ok with you being out of town and she didn't want to talk to anyone else. Yesterday she bounces into the office again asking to see you. I think at one point she was eyeing up your office door."
Although intrigued by her story I had to laugh, the thought of anyone getting past Melanie and into my office, now that I would sell tickets for. Even when I leave my door wide open and people can see me they still take it to Melanie, I put it down to her being territorial.
"So this woman finally shrugs her shoulders and hands me an envelope and I was to tell you thanks."
As curious as I was I could only say. "For what?"
"Damned if I know, I got the impression she isn't the sharing type. She isn't one of your usual girlfriends, this one has taste. Anyway the envelope sits on your desk and I haven't heard from the woman since then."
Even when I asked her to describe this mystery woman it still took me a moment to figure out who she was talking about. The rest of the journey back to the office was done with me telling Melanie the story of how I met Erin. By the time we got back to the office a whole new set of problems were waiting, Melanie ran interference and between us we got everything sorted in time to leave for home, the envelope now at the bottom of a pile of files.
It took another two days before I found the envelope and opened it; a check for the hospital bill was inside along with the card I gave Erin. Even later that day I still debated what I was going to do. Melanie came in with two coffees and sat across from me, watched me for a while and then said, "Ok spill it, something is bugging you."
Even now I wasn't sure my thoughts were worth sharing. Still too scattered and perhaps wistful.
"You've met Erin, what do you think of her?"
Melanie nodded and then gave me that all knowing smile of hers, why was I so easy to read by this woman. But then again its also part of the reason I hired her, her assessment of people has never let her down. She sat sipping her coffee for a moment before answering. The smile that grew on her face just before she spoke told me I was in for some ride.
"You like her, don't you?"
Shrugging my shoulders seemed to be the only thing I could think to do. It wasn't enough for her and she sat waiting, occasionally sipping her coffee as I analyzed her question even more, perhaps more than I should have.
"Well the way she kicked that tire spoke volumes, she has one heck of a temper on her, yet she channeled that temper. Not once did it overflow into any conversation we had."
I had never thought about every aspect of that afternoon. Prioritizing everything into making sure she was taken care of, it was only as I let my thoughts wander did my cheeks get warm.
"I kissed her."
Her cup made it about half way off the table and stopped. Melanie simply watched me and waited that half smile on her face. "Lips?"
Quickly shaking my head I answered. "No, on the cheek. She didn't ask me to and I didn't get slapped for doing it."
Pondering this new piece of information for a moment, she sipped her coffee one final time and then got up off the chair and headed for the door. It must have been a good hour before she stuck her head back into my office.
"If you don't ever want to see her again then cash that check. If you do want to see her again then don't, but I warn you now she won't accept anything but full commitment from you and believe me, she is worth it."
Melanie watched as I picked up the check one final time, that flowing handwriting all too familiar to me since contemplating what to do with it so many times, and dropped it through the shredder. She never spoke as she watched me; I noticed the slight nod and smile before she left me to my thoughts, just went back to her desk when the shredder fell silent. For a moment I did contemplate what I had done and was she worth it, I couldn't have spent more than a few hours with her and said much more to her than I would if she was a friend at a bar for an evening.
Yet in those moments in life when things seem to pause and mentally you have a chance to catch up with what you have done. I did still catch myself re-visiting the vision of her getting out of that car and giving that wheel one heck of a kick. Or even holding her in my arms as I took her to my car and although at the time I chased the thought away before it grew into fruition, a feeling that I could get to like this woman holding onto me like she was and again I caught myself smiling when I did. *******
Life once again got on with itself, I still managed to sneak off early every blue moon and habit still caught me driving along that damn road once in awhile. It took another two months before things went sideways in my life and I still haven't managed to get a handle on it yet, but then again she is worth it. Jo-Anne and I were sat talking in our favorite restaurant when she looked over my shoulder and stopped talking. The shadow cast over me told me enough, the familiar voice above me nailed it.
"Don't trust him Dear, he never returns your calls and he still hasn't paid me one cent in alimony for our little girl."
Jo-Anne smiled and stared back towards me then laughed. Even after all this time that soft voice of hers played like a song in my head. I also went bright red which made Jo-Anne point at me and then she laughed even louder. The chair next to me got pulled away and Erin sat on it her hand extended towards Jo-Anne.
"Erin Ryan, his long suffering sexual plaything and mother of his beautiful baby girl."
That sent Jo-Anne off on another round of laughter as she shook Erin's hand.
"Jo-Anne, his long suffering sister and it seems aunt to a niece I never knew I had."
The handshake paused as Erin realized she had been caught out.
"Oh shit, I see that didn't work."
Jo-Anne once again laughed enjoying watching Erin squirm in her seat for a moment and then said. "I like your entrance, but I think your exit strategy may need a little work."
It was left to me to explain how we met, after that I didn't get a word in edge ways. The monthly dinner between brother and sister turned into my sister getting to know Erin and me grunting in the appropriate places when both of them stared at me long enough for me to realize they were actually talking to me. It was during desert that Erin got the invite to the cook out at Jo-Anne's place.
"I assume you can cook?" Asked my sister. As an after thought to the invite.
"Oh yes, Mom was adamant that we could all cook so we didn't starve at collage and didn't food poison any of our intendeds should any man, or in my brother's case woman, be brave enough to date us."
It was then that Jo-Anne grabbed her bag thanked me for lunch and hugged Erin when she got up to say farewell to her. Seconds later we watched through the restaurant window and she stepped into her waiting cab and was gone.
"I like your sister."
"You don't have to come to the cookout you know. I will make your apologies, she will understand."
Erin simply pulled her own bag onto her lap, rummaged around inside and with a satisfied grin pulled out a diary, flipped it to the relevant page and wrote 'cookout at Jo-Anne's' across the page, emphasizing her point once more by slamming her diary shut. I then shrugged my shoulders and reminded her that she didn't know where my sister lived.
A fatal mistake on my part really, she slapped me across the arm and reminded me that was my fault not hers and anyway she planned to drink at the cookout and I was now the designated driver.
When I looked at her all she did was smile and said, "I suppose you're going to tell me you didn't get the memo now aren't you?"
That intrusion into my lunch with my sister led to us both taking the afternoon off work, well me more than Erin, she still answered that phone of hers when it rang but she did keep the conversations short. Even trying hard not to listen to her conversation I had already figured out she was some sort of music critic. Just goes to show the circles I travel in, I didn't know until later that week just who she was and the clout she had in the music business.
Of course I couldn't resist taking us down that damn road where we first met as well. Erin watched and smiled she even turned to me and assured me she really isn't that violent towards cars anymore. I'm sure she could tell I was relieved. The day steadily eased itself into evening and me feeling brave asked her to dinner tomorrow evening. The change in her was noticeable and for just a moment my thoughts turned all negative, her smile came as a blessed relief.
"I feel I had better mention that my reputation with the male of the species is somewhat rocky at best. I personally put it down to my Irish decent, but then again maybe I'm just making excuses, I'm really not sure. Some would call me a man eater, does that reputation bother you?"
It was strange to see someone place so much negativity upon themselves and for just a moment I thought she was joking. Her stare was constant; Erin was waiting for my answer. Curiosity being what it is, the need to open this topic up was one mistake I made, and the second was truly thinking she was just joking with me. It took me some time to fully realize that she was telling me the truth in the hope that I could deal with it.
"Are you a man eater?"
The small laugh from her made me look away from the road for a second and watch her as she said. "Not literally, no. I have a control thing going on in my head, but I've sometimes taken that need to control things just a tad too far."
I continued to drive us back to her place. It was another mile or two before I had finished processing everything she had said. But it was only when we pulled up outside her apartment block and I had switched the engine off that I felt it was a good idea to let her know my feelings on the matter.
"Do you think it wise that we spend that much time together then? I'm not the controlled type and the aftermath of that encounter could be rather toxic."
Her stare became rather intense, she even nodded slightly as if confirming some thought she had just had.
"Oh I get the feeling your going to be good for me. You know if you take me out tomorrow evening I will automatically class that as a date and an intent on your part that you're in this for the long haul and not just curiosity."
More confused than ever I just had to ask, why I will never know but I did.
"Curious about what?"