Margaret Henderson Smith Margaret Henderson Smith
Margaret Henderson Smith
‘No thanks!’

It’s happened! It’s finally happened! The car’s sitting on the drive in all its splendour with nowhere to go but the scrap yard. Oh, it managed one last enthusiastic spurt in an attempt to sabotage my silver Mercedes and kept it up all day for those poor mechanics in the garage. Just exactly the same as the water leak. Simply refused to perform for these amazingly clever guys. No! It chose to be awkward again. On both occasions it chose to be awkward. Until late yesterday afternoon when it could hold off no longer. Started making horrendous noises for them all. My better-half’s wondering. Waiting for the call. The verdict?

‘Not safe to drive! It needs a new water pump.’ He’s telling me.

My heart sinks. I thought it was curtains for this temperamental has-been!

‘Anyhow, it’s not worth the bother! It’s too big a job for them. It would mean getting it towed somewhere to get it fixed.’

Such relief! My better-half’s seen the light!

‘ So it’s on the back of the bike for you!’ He continues.

‘No thanks!’ I’m saying, going to jelly at the mere thought, thinking how quickly that light went out!

You on the back of a bike?’ He’s laughing. ‘What a joke!’

Oh good, he didn’t mean it! Now, what better news could there be than this? I return to my work. I’m back with Harriet in his silver Mercedes. Writing away. Getting on with the next book. Gathering excitement about a real silver Mercedes whilst my better-half’s slipping and sliding his way down the road to the garage. He’s still got to bring it back. I’m phoning rosy apples’ mummy telling her the news.

‘Are you going to do the showrooms?’ she’s asking. ‘We’ll give you a lift at the weekend.’

I’m thinking of lifts. I’m thinking of lifts almost too scary to mention. Well before The Big 40 this one. Well before I’d aquired enough courage to refuse. Enough courage to say, ‘No thanks!’ Hindsight would have helped, of course! I’m studying away for my OU degree. I like studying away but I don’t like the lectures. The evening lectures. Especially as I’ve not got enough brave genes to drive myself there. Drive myself there in the evening.  I feel I must go should I miss something critical. I meet with a friend. A confident friend. We both sit together. Taking notes at the back sitting together. It’s drawing to a close. Getting quite late. We get chatting to a very nice guy in front. He’s offering us both a lift home. I’m thinking quite fast. It’s the bus or a lift. Both friends together getting a lift. It makes it OK. We’re sitting in the back chatting away as he’s driving along. I’m watching the route. I just hadn’t even thought who he might drop off first. Until now! I’m hoping like anything it’s going to be me. I’m crossing my fingers as we’re talking and chatting. Hoping it’s me. Hoping my confident friend will agree.

He’s moving away from the college and out of the town. He’s asking us where we live. I can feel my heart sinking. He’s heading for the countryside roads. It’s not looking good. I’m starting to panic. He’s well on the route that takes us to hers. He’s chatting away asking about work. He’s turning to me. Asking the question:

‘What about you?’

I’m telling him, ‘I don’t.’

He’s telling us he does! Oh boy! Like how! He most certainly does! I go very quiet as his words fill me with fear.

‘I’m the rat catcher for the whole area!’

We’re sat in the back, glancing each other, my confident friend and I. Then he starts up again.

‘I’ve got enough rat poison in the boot to annihilate not only the whole of the Borough but the population for miles around! 

We’re looking at each other in the back of the car. I’m starting to tremble. He could finish off millions! We go very quiet. He keeps on talking. I’m feel quite sick. We’re getting nearer to hers. He’ll be dropping her off and taking me home. All the way home down those dark country lanes. All the way home down those dark country lanes all on my own with him. All the way home, just me and him and all that he’s spoken of sitting in his boot! 

We get to her road. We get to her house. My confident friend’s waving goodbye. Waving goodbye as he’s closing the door. He’s suggested I sit in the front. He’s turning it round and I want to get out. She’s on her way in and I want to get out! I’m telling him the way and I want to get out! I’m having a struggle to not sound terrified! Not sound as if I want to get out!

He’s driving along these dark lonely lanes. Chatting away. I’m nodding my head. Frightened to death. He’s asking the way. He drives into the road. He stops at the end, then moves along. He’s dropping me off outside our house. I’m being polite. I can scarcely speak. I’m sounding all wobbly. I’m thanking him and thinking I’ll never accept a lift from anyone ever again!

Oh but I do! It ‘s a couple of years later, though. It’s early morning. I’m on my way to the station. On my way to catching the train to the other side of the water. On my way to college. Going through the tunnel again to get to college. I don’t do tunnels, not if I can help it! It takes me lots of deep breaths to get me through tunnels. I’m in a whole year of taking deep breaths to get to this college.

I’m getting in the car wondering about the tunnel. Wondering what’s worse? Being stuck on a train or being stuck in a car in the tunnel. I’m being polite whilst the car’s gathering speed. It’s whizzing along, overtaking cars. Whizzing past buses. I’m being polite whilst it’s whizzing past buses. My heart’s in my mouth. It feels like a speedway. We’re screeching behind them. Slowing right down. Gathering speed. We’re racing along. We’re coming up to the link road. Propped high on stilts! Shooting  past everything. Everything in sight!. Now we’re right on the edge. Almost two wheels, skimming the edge of the dull silver barrier, running its course, framing the drop. I daren’t look down. We’re changing lanes. We’re back on the outside. We’ve shot to the inside. Pelting our way to the start of the tunnel. I’m shaking away. I can barely talk. We’re now in the tunnel. We’ve virtually stopped! Crawling behind cars and lorries and buses. I’m convinced we’ll break down! We’re going too slow! It will all over-heat and the tunnel will flood as the flames crack the roof. I’m feeling like death as we inch our way out. We whizz up to the flyover. We’re back on the edge. I’m looking far down. Down at the city. We’re right on the edge of the drop! I’m feeling all floppy, just like a rag-doll. I’m being dropped off at the bottom of the hill. I’m wobbling away in a surge of relief. I’m being polite, giving my thanks. My legs barely making it to the top of the hill. To the college at the top of the hill. I’m met with a friend. I tell her the story. She opens her bag. Offers me a pill. A tranquilizer! It’s sweet of her but I politely refuse. Like I’ll politely refuse to accept a lift from anyone ever again!

Back to today and I’m still thinking about lifts. Thinking of the call my confident friend made after that lift.

‘Oh you should have got out with me. My better-half could have given you a lift home on the back of his bike!’

That’s what she’d said. The back of his motorbike! I’m trying to decide what would be worse. Haring along on the back of a bike or fearing the worst in those very same lanes. Fearing the worst in those very dark lanes all the way home.

I’m thinking of Harriet and her very first lift in that top of the range silver Mercedes. I’m scrolling down garages to find a Mercedes. All those Mercedes’ that kept popping up. Kept popping up when the car was obliging! Conspiring away to ensure I would get one. They’ve all disappeared! I can hardly believe it! No silver Mercedes’ in sight! Well there’s a few but they’re either too old or far too new. I’m watching the smile spread across my better-half’s face. He’s looking so pleased. He’s looking so pleased because he’s already decided. It’s fait accompli! He’s been scrolling away. Come up with a Jag and not even silver!

‘We need a car and we need it now!’ He’s insisting. ‘It’s this or the back of the bike!’

‘No thanks!’ I’m saying. ’ Anything but that!’

It was all just a dream that silver Mercedes! A flight of fancy along with the rest. I should never have researched it! But how could I not give him one of the best. Nothing but the best for Mr. Sanderson! At least this top of the range, dream of a car, if not on the drive, is still in the story. Which reminds me, I’d better get on. I’d better get on because Harriet wishes she wasn’t sitting in his top of the range Silver Mercedes right now. I’m just wishing I was! 


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