Monday, March 26, 2012

Dashboard Warning

There it was again – that annoying bleep warning the person in the passenger side wasn’t wearing a seat belt – but there was no-one in the seat, and no way to stop the noise. She meant to fasten it before she set off, but she had forgotten, what with everything else she had to do. The mechanic at the garage had said he couldn’t find anything wrong with it, blamed a loose connection and suggested she should stop putting her heavy handbag on it. Then he charged her fifty quid for the privilege. You could almost hear the ‘silly woman’ tagged onto everything he told her. If Pete had been there he would have given the stupid grease-monkey a piece of his mind and warned him if he wanted paying he’d better do the job properly. But Pete wasn’t there any more, was he? Pete would never be there again.

Tears welled up as she remembered the day the police turned up on her doorstep. She knew she broke down when they told her: refused to believe the news. She could not recall anything else clearly. Her life had been a blur since then, and she had drifted through it with no clear direction. Now and again a challenge faced her, like the annoying car warning, and she had to concentrate long enough to solve it. That only served to remind her how Pete had handled all the mundane details of life. He had guarded her against the world so she never needed to do anything for herself.

She thought about the envelope that stood on her mantelpiece at home. The solicitor gave it to her on the day he visited to say that Pete had written a will leaving everything he owned to her. He also left a letter, the man said, to be given to her after the funeral. She couldn’t bear to think that he had planned even beyond his death, and she had placed it, unopened, behind the clock, and never touched it in the six months since. She could not face reading his words, hearing his voice in her head.

She saw a slip road ahead and turned into it instinctively, before her eyesight was completely blurred. It was the entrance to a service station and she pulled into a parking space and turned off the engine. That ended the annoying bleep and allowed her to weep freely. She was oblivious to the stares of other motorists who passed the car, and cried until she was spent. Afterwards, she toyed with continuing her journey immediately, but decided a coffee and a visit to the ladies’ room might help her to feel better. As she entered the café building a young man opened the heavy glass door for her, but there was something odd about the way he did. He held it open for just a fraction longer than was necessary, and lifted his arm much higher than needed for her to pass below.

At the coffee stand she ordered a cappuccino and turned down the waiter’s offer of anything else.

“You sure?” he asked, looking over her shoulder, and looked sulkily back at her when she snapped: “Positive!” She supposed that working all day at a motorway service station might make anyone strange. After the coffee she headed for the powder room and encountered a group of teenagers, who were about to leave. As she entered the tiled area she noticed some shocked looks, followed by giggles and she heard: “What’s he think he’s doing?” as the door closed behind them.

“I guess I must look fairly awful after the crying then,” she thought, and headed further into the room. As she did, she caught sight of her reflection in one of the over-lit mirrors and saw a tall figure behind her. She turned to apologise for closing the door in the person’s face, but she was alone. “Tiredness, that’s what it is. You need to see a doctor for some sleeping pills.” She finished her freshen-up and left.

On the way across the car park she noticed something odd about how people reacted to her. They all seemed to look at her and then look up slightly, above her shoulder, as if someone was following her, but she knew there was nobody there. Back in the car she remembered to fit the seat belt across the passenger side and for the remainder of her journey all was well. No more lights and bleeps disturbed her and she arrived home without further incident. Once inside she noticed the envelope over the fireplace and made up her mind that tonight was the time to open it.

She had prepared the coals and paper before she went out so all she had to do was set a match to it before heading to the kitchen to make herself a meal. It was well alight by the time she returned and she set her plate down on a small table before reaching up for the envelope and settling onto the sofa to absorb the growing warmth.

“Be brave,” she told herself. “How much worse can it be?” Pulling open the flap and unfolding the contents, she caught a hint of Pete’s smell: a blend of his natural odours and aftershave. Rather than distressing her, it brought calm with it and she smiled. She began to read.

“My Darling,

If you are reading this then I must have passed on. I’m sorry. I never wanted you to have to cope alone, but we are not masters of our fate and something must have happened to me. If it had been in my power I would never have left you. I would have stayed at your side for eternity.

You have been the best thing about my life and even if I had to sacrifice everything else, I would have fought to keep you. I love you. I always shall.



She gave a shiver as she finished. “Actually it wasn’t love, sweetheart, it was domination,” she said out loud, “and haunted lover stories never end well.”

Then she screwed up the paper and threw it on the fire.
This WAS going to be a love story. It WAS inspired by the fact that my car developed this fault today.
There's no other truth in it.


Sandra Davies said...

Hmmm ... I do know stories have a habit of going off on their own, but ... this one certanly caught me unawares.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anne .. certainly Pete takes us along with him ... an interesting read .. and I do hope the beep is fixed and if it isn't the seat belt will be forever done up!

Cheers Hilary

snafu said...


Stew said...

is it a haunting? Or is it technology? Who can tell anymore.