The open road was her only friend. That car was her escape from a life she loathed. The few hours’ freedom she got under the tires each and every day was the only thing that kept her going.
She married him young. Too young. But she was a battered, abused child, desperate to escape the humiliation and pain. He promised her that. She took him at his word.
The first few years were fine. He was significantly older than she, but she never thought much of it. But as he climbed higher up the corporate ladder, his hours at home became fewer, her nights became lonelier, and his emotion more detached.
She went from being a young girl trapped in an abusive home by an alcoholic father to a young woman trapped in an emotionally distant marriage, wanted only for sex by a workaholic husband. She was damned if she did, damned if she didn’t.
On the outside, looking in, though, her relationship was perfect. Around others, he was the loving, doting husband, who lovingly kept her in jewels, fast cars, and a beautiful home.
So every day she got in that car and drove. She never intended to return to that house, that prison.
Yet, she did. She always did. She didn’t know how to function in that big world without his hand guiding her, albeit distant and sometimes depraved.
One afternoon, as she grappled with her daily debate of “do I go home or not?” she heard a horrible sound and her car, the one thing in her life that gave her the freedom she so desperately longed for, started smoking. She coasted to the side of the road and started to cry.
She got out her cell phone, thankful for the slightest bit of reception, and reached a tow company. She sat in the car, scared, hoping and praying the tow truck driver wasn’t some freaky old man with a hook for a hand, who preyed on young, naïve girls without a way to run away from him.
She was pleasantly surprised when the tow truck showed up a few moments later, and the guy who hopped out still had both of his hands intact. She couldn’t get a look at his eyes, they were hidden by dark sunglasses, but his face was soft and inviting, regardless.
“Hi, see you’re having a bit of trouble,” he replied.
She twirled her hair, her nervous habit. “Just a bit,” she said, smiling shyly.
His face softened a bit more. “I think I can help with that,” and he smiled.
She asked what he wanted her to do, and he told her just to go get in the truck and enjoy the air conditioning while he hooked the car up.
He expertly got her car up on the back of the truck, and he climbed inside. “Well, let’s go see what’s wrong with this beauty.”
She reached into her purse and griped her pepper spray. He saw her uneasiness and said, “Relax, I promise, I won’t attack you.”
He smiled that easy smile and she melted into a little rich girl puddle right there. If there’s one thing this guy was, it was easy on the eyes.
The two rode in silence the twenty miles to his shop. Along the way, both of them took turns sizing the other up. She was grateful for the dark sunglasses she used to hide the bruises as they served to hide her constant gazes.
When they got to his shop, he helped her out and suggested she call her husband to come pick her up. She looked at him quizzically.
“The rock the size of Mars on your hand sort of gave it away,” he said.
“Oh, yeah. But he won’t care, he’s too busy with work, I’ll just hang out here till you’re done,” she replied, probably a bit more flippantly than she intended.
“It might take awhile,” he replied.
“That’s okay, I have nowhere else to be,” she said. The truth of the matter was, the more he leaned over that engine, the happier she was. It was a damn fine view.
He smiled, reached into the fridge in the back of the shop and handed her a bottle of water. “Then it’s just you and me, sweetheart.” She smiled, taking the bottle of water from him.
She perched herself on a table and watched him work on her car. Every few minutes he’d glance up at her and smile, a move that was making her come undone. She wanted to get to know that smile up close and personal.
“So, what’s wrong with my car?”
He laughed. “Well, you’re all business, aren’t you?”
“Not all the time,” she said softly, crossing her legs.
He took a step closer to the table on which she was perched.
“This car is my life. Fix it, please.”
“Business. Got it,” he said, disappointment on his face. A few minutes later, he announced he found the problem.
“So, fix it.”
“Fix it what?”
“Fix it now,” she said with a smile, uncrossing her legs and jumping down off the table.
“Hey, I charge extra for that kind of bossing around.”
“Somehow, I think I can afford that,” she said.
With each retort, the two inched closer to each other. He brushed her hand as she set her water down on the table.
That touch, brief and minute as it was, sent sparks racing through her.
She slipped off her wedding ring and put it in her purse.
She wasn’t going home.