A little appreciation goes a long way – and it might just give Debs a push to get out of her rut…
I was listening to the radio in my car. A Country and Western tune was playing, the woman singing about a going-nowhere relationship.
I pictured the singer: big hair, big lashes and an even bigger heart smashed to pieces by a selfish man.
She had my sympathy. My relationship with Rory was going nowhere too, and I didn’t know how to end it…
To add to the doom and gloom it was raining, the water sheeting off the glass.
Switching on the wipers made little difference. The screen fogged up.
A few yards down the road, I pulled into a lay-by to pick up Rory, de-misting the screen as he climbed in.
“Morning, Rory,” I said without looking at him. Checking the mirror, I pulled out into the traffic.
“Pleased to meet you, Debs.”
He wasn’t Rory…
Shocked, I stared at the road, a hypnotic glare of headlights reflected in the puddles.
“Who are you?” I risked a quick glance at the stranger. Dark, wavy collar-length hair, Roman nose… “Why are you in my car? Where’s Rory?”
“I’m Ben. Rory texted me, said he wasn’t going to work today – he’s got flu.”
“Pity he didn’t text me,” I huffed.
But then why would he? We’d done nothing but argue recently.
“I assumed he’d asked you about giving me a lift. I started working with Rory a couple of weeks ago,” he said, embarrassed. “We got chatting and I explained about the bus timetable – the route makes it difficult for me to get to work on time. He said you’d give me a lift.”
“Well, that was good of him.”
I’d dated Rory for six months, long enough to know we were over, but I’m useless at ending relationships and always let the guy do the dumping.
Yet Rory showed no signs of obliging – he might lose his ride to work, after all.
I’d have to do the dirty myself.
But what about Ben? I couldn’t throw him out of the car because there was nowhere to stop.
We splashed on slowly through surface water, the radio forecasting more rain.
“We know what the weather’s like, mate,” Ben said. “We’re driving in it.”
We laughed – something I hadn’t done with Rory for weeks. By the time we reached his office, we were best friends.
“Same time tomorrow, Debs?” Ben asked hopefully.
“OK.” Despite the conditions, I’d enjoyed the journey and was already looking forward to seeing him again.
Usually I had to listen to Rory criticising my driving although he didn’t have a licence himself, or complaining about my parking skills.
Why did I put up with it? He was selfish, just like the Country and Western singer’s bloke…
I checked my mobile. No messages.
Why didn’t you tell me about Ben?” I asked when I called him. “Or let me know you’re not well?”
“I’m too ill to think straight.” He coughed in my ear. “Ben’s spending a fortune on buses and taxis, and you drop me off anyway. I meant to tell you.”
Tell me, not ask me.
“Running you about takes me out of my way,” I snapped. “It makes me late.”
Another row followed…
Ben dropped some cash under the handbrake during his sixth ride in my car.
“Rory’s never given me money for fuel.”
Ben shrugged. “Perhaps he’s being mean to keep you keen.”
“Well, it’s not working.”
“So why keep giving him lifts?”
“Because I thought he was Mr Right and don’t know how to end it.”
“He is Mr Right for somebody,” Ben said. “But you’re Mrs Wrong For Him.”
Later, Rory texted. Pick me up tomorrow. No please or thank you. The Country and Western singer wouldn’t stand for it; me neither.
I’ll collect Ben then pick you up at the café, I replied.
I hadn’t visited Rory – he reckoned that his brand of man-flu was deadly.
“This route is a nightmare,” I muttered to Ben the following morning. “Cones, lights, roadworks…”
“Talking of cones,” Ben said, “that ice-cream van has just pulled over. Nip into that parking space and I’ll treat you.”
“It’s eight-thirty in the morning…”
“I know… but I’m keen, not mean, and you deserve some fun.”
Leaping out, he blew me a kiss. It was raining again, and I’d only just noticed. Funny, that.
After we’d eaten our cornets, I drove towards the rendezvous with Rory, wipers swishing in time to the Country and Western – it turns out Ben’s a fan.
And there was Rory, pacing, looking at his watch, ready to start moaning the minute he got in the car.
I waved, drove through a puddle, and kept going…
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