Rear View Mirror The Contemporary Romance
What better place, with the deer outside her door and the fresh sea air blowing across the peak of the hill? Did the deer still wander the island? Could she look out at sunset and find warm brown Bambis grazing on the wild field grass? She swung around impatiently, focusing on a small speck on the counter. Of course there would be mice.
No cat in residence. An empty rural house. Certainly there were plenty of spider webs, clinging to the rafters. Not dressed in a white skirt and sweater, clothes that had cost her two weeks pay! The sun warmed her face as she stepped back outside. Wonderful smells. Cedar and maple. Frogs out back in the pond. A bumble bee cruising past. Did the ducks still come to nest at the edge of the pond each year?
When Julie was ten, he had been a quiet, infallible nineteen. Or had he forgotten? If she really was going to stay, she had better get the ferry across to Nanaimo before the stores closed. She stopped half-way between the house and the car, her eyes trying to see around the corner of the path. Were the ducks down there on the pond? She took one step towards the path, felt her shoe sliding on the loose soil. She bent to take off her shoes. David, as always, was right. If she left now, she could buy jeans and sneakers in Nanaimo. Cleaning supplies, too. If she hurried, she could be back to see the sun set.
She closed her eyes, warmed by the echo of old sunsets.
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She breathed in deeply and felt lighter, freer. Tom and Julie. They had been friends more than lovers. Even the marriage had not been momentous enough to leave lasting pain. Silly to stay away all these years. She started her little car, humming as she reversed down the drive. She had never forgotten the shape of this drive. She could still speed backwards down it, her hands instinctively controlling the shiny little car. She could hear the grass in the middle of the drive rushing against the underside of her car.
David changed gear and urged the old dump truck over the peak of the hill. This time was different, though. His brother Pat wanted to surprise his new wife. David was smiling as the burdened dump truck started to pick up speed on the gravel road. David was not a fanciful man, but he could easily picture Molly and Pat bent over a small baby sometime in the future.
It would be nice to have more kids around the place. The farm seemed so empty now with Stanley gone to university, working summers in the city. He frowned as he turned onto Mountainview Lane. He had chased some hikers off last week. He shifted into third gear and squinted against the sun, suppressing the familiar irritation.
Abruptly, he slammed the shift lever down to second. Not enough time. Too close. Slow motion horror, no time at all. His loaded truck. Twelve yards of gravel. Threshold breaking. He pulled down another gear. The engine screamed. The brakes. If he lost control of—surely whoever it was—.
Little red car, hurtling onto the road. He jerked the wheel. So small. Inconsequential bit of red metal. Hit the ditch, try to ride it—somehow, miss that car. He felt nausea rise up, could see smashed red metal after the impact. The car, backing towards him! A bloody tourist, ambling around, looking at the trees instead of—.
His front wheel bit the ditch. David heard the scream of gravel, knew with sickening certainty that he would skid, moving sideways, ripping up the ditch and skating towards that car! He stepped desperately on the throttle, trying for forward momentum to regain control, pull off the road. The wheels caught. Heavy truck. Impossibly small car. No one in the car would have a chance if—.
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He saw the red car jerk with the impact, changing direction. Inertia carried both vehicles another twenty feet along the gravel. David fumbled with the door, but it would not open. He slid across and out the passenger side. His feet hit the gravel. Heartbeat, breath, then bleeding—first aid procedures scattered through his brain as he tore around the front of the little car. It had to have been a hell of a blow. The whole back end of the car was caved in. The driver—. Julie saw the truck in her rearview mirror and the tuneless song on her lips died to nothing.
She tried to brake, get into first gear and moving , away from it, but there was no time. Monstrously big. Massive dump truck. Only a total idiot went screaming out of a driveway without even looking! Her eyes were frozen on the rear view mirror, watching the hulk grow larger and larger. Then, suddenly, it slewed sideways.
Life in the Rearview Mirror
She had a terrifying vision of the truck pulverized against a tree, the driver dead. The gravel pit at the end of Mountainview Lane was on McNaughton land. It had to be David in the truck, coming from the pit. Why else would a truck be…? She would live the rest of her life knowing she had killed David. She heard the scream and it was her own voice. Then she felt the impact. The truck slammed into the side of her car, slewing sideways, taking her on a wild ride of suspended terror.
They would both die. She and David. Finally there was nothing but the echo of screaming metal and her own voice fading into the settling dust on the road ahead. She was still staring into the rear view mirror when he strode around the front of her little Swift—alive. He was alive. She tried to free her fingers, could not seem to move anything. The door jerked open so quickly, she had the illusion she would fall out. She heard the urgency in his voice, tried to turn to look at him. The nightmare would not release her: the truck splattered against a big old tree, David slumped motionless over the wheel.
When his hand closed on her shoulder, she managed to turn to look at his face. Her first thought was that he had not changed at all, but of course he was older. He was tall, broad, his face marked by the sun and the wind. He was wearing a battered baseball cap as a shield against the sun.
Black curls twisted to freedom around the edges of the cap as his eyes raked grimly over her body.
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She felt a shudder go through her. Any minute she would get words together. His hand moved, exploring her shoulders, her arms, impersonal over her breasts as they probed for a sign of injury to her ribs. She wondered how his touch would feel if she were the woman he loved. She almost caught his hand back when he drew it away.
He was right about the shock. It was years since she had succumbed to fantasy about David McNaughton. She supposed that he was always there, in the background of her mind, but the dreams had stopped forever the day he told her about Sandy. I want you out of here. The steering wheel was in his way.
He was touching her so carefully. Anyone else might haul her out, but of course David would think of the possibility that shock might mask pain. David always did think first. She swallowed, staring at the twist of dark hair that escaped the fabric of his shirt where it was open at his throat.
He was so close. What had come over her? After all these years! He crouched down in front of her, thigh muscles bulging in his battered old jeans. The lines at the corners of his eyes were deeper than they had been, but his eyes were that deep brown, still framed by heavy dark lashes. Yes, he was older. The cleft in his chin was deeper, sharper, and there were threads of silver among his black curls. She closed her eyes, heard the sound of an eagle somewhere. He felt hard and strong beside her, holding her. He swung her into his arms and she felt dizziness as he hurried across the road, carrying her.
She had no idea where she thought he would take her, but in the end he deposited her on a big old tree stump at the edge of a clearing. She felt so strange, disoriented. His arms around her, holding her safe. He ignored her question. She heard him come back a minute later, the gravel crunching under his boots. At any moment this could turn into an unpleasant scene. He was staring at her, that old look, somewhere between worry and anger. He was wearing old faded jeans and a sleeveless sweatshirt that left the muscles of his arms hard and prominent.
I damned near did. More like stupidity! Dark man. She felt the old, breathless fear of childhood. Running up against David, holding her own, driven somehow to make him angry. Damn it, Julie! When are you going to grow up? She shivered and hugged herself tightly. Do you ever think? She shook her hair back, felt the curls spring free around her shoulders.
She got to her feet impatiently, kept moving to cover the sudden unsteadiness. Damn the man. He made her feel like an irresponsible teenager again.
Some of us have to work for a living. He laughed, but his eyes were hot and black. The sun overhead, beating down summer. As if there had been no time between. And before that, all the way back to her thirteenth birthday. She grimaced and made her voice quiet, but the anger was still there, boiling up. And what the hell do you think insurance is for, anyway? I can believe that. She saw his fingers curl, as if he wanted to shake sense into her. He shrugged. You and your damned relatives own half this island. She exploded, landing on her feet on the field grass with a soft thump, pacing away, then back, unsteady in her city shoes.
Gentleman farmer! She broke off, knowing from the look in his eyes that he would not hesitate to shake sanity into her. She could still hear the echo of her own voice from the trees. Hysterical, raging, screaming at him. She shook her own hair back, finger-combing it and finding it wildly tangled. He shook his head abruptly. She pushed damp hands down along her skirt. You could have been killed. I know it! She knew that, too, but could not say the words with his eyes watching her, criticizing what they saw. Her fingers clenched in on themselves and she managed to calm her voice.
So I made a mistake. I can look after it. She grimaced. Why did you call? To get me charged with careless driving? Like looking before you cross the street. Predictably, he was right. Go home to your wife. She knew she was being unreasonable, but somehow he did that to her. Whenever she saw criticism in his eyes, heard censure in his voice, something deep inside her snapped.
Happy birthday, Molly. Drive three thousand miles in a tearing hurry to rescue a cat! No one but Saul would have the nerve to demand such a crazy favor. No one but Molly would be gullible enough to agree. Impossible to resist his enthusiasm as he rushed through instructions. Then pack.
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Molly remembered every one of the five times her father had marked her birthday with extravagant gifts. Gifts, growled Aunt Carla, instead of apologies for the other times when he had simply forgotten. He had telephoned the day after her twenty-sixth birthday. Sitting in her Ottawa apartment, Molly had closed her greenish-blue eyes and listened to his voice, had felt pleasure sweep over her.
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She had learned years ago that anticipation too often led to disappointment. She knew her father loved her, knew it was not realistic to expect a great artist to have everyday virtues. Enough that Aunt Carla and Uncle Gordon had invited her to dinner at their apartment in Toronto; that Thomas, the man she had been dating lately, had brought flowers. Incredible that Saul should call, beyond belief that he should casually- over the telephone- tell her he was giving her a home, a place of her own.
A dream. It had taken Molly six days of driving, sleeping in rest areas and economy motels, to reach the Pacific Coast. Driving forever, it seemed, but finally the coast had come. The water. The ferry. Sitting in her gold van on the car deck of the ferry; Molly finger-combed her shoulder-length black curls and waited for the ramp to go down on Vancouver Island. She remembered other adventures, excitement tumbling into worry and disaster. Nothing new in that. For a while. Molly thought she must have been about five years old that day, all wide eyes and black, curly hair.
She knew she was seven when they went to Athens. Eight in London. Eleven in Mexico City. Twelve in Montreal, where it all stopped. Geographically stable. So why, after fourteen years of living quietly first in Toronto, then in a shared Ottawa apartment- why was she letting one telephone call from Saul send her driving off into the sunset? Why, when she had vowed that she would never drive off the edge of the world for anyone again? Sensible, if it were not for the cat Saul had left behind. Carla had suggested the S. Sometimes he took them back, often he failed to pay for them.
Molly had given up her share of the apartment in Ottawa, yes, but she could always go back, find another place to live. Careful, but not paranoid. Even if the cabin turned out to be a hovel in a swamp, she would enjoy the adventure. She followed the flow of cars without a clue of where she was. Ashore now. Vancouver Island. The City of Nanaimo, yes, but where in Nanaimo?
She could find her way around Ottawa and Montreal and Paris, but this was foreign territory, three thousand miles from home and she was exhausted. Last night she had stayed at an economy motel on the outskirts of Vancouver, had spent the night listening to a screaming battle in the next unit. When dawn came, she had packed up and gone for breakfast at an all-night restaurant, then found a drive-in tourist information centre. She had tried to sleep on the ferry, but there had been a rough chop and Molly had felt vaguely nauseated all the way from the mainland to Vancouver Island.
Where was Saul now? Why could he not have waited? Met her? Six days driving and if Saul had not been in such a crazy rush he would have waited for her before he took off for his mysterious destination. Or given her directions. Molly laughed, knowing how impossible that was, how typical the whole thing was of her father. Who else but a crazy artist would tell her to come, urgently, then totally neglect to give a few basic instructions.
Your house now, Molly, but look after the cat. Molly swung the steering wheel to the left and followed a green car through a controlled intersection. Had she just turned onto the Trans-Canada highway? These British Columbians had a nerve, calling it the Trans-Canada highway after interrupting it for a ferry crossing of Georgia Strait. Where the devil were the signs?
Could you turn off route 1 to that other ferry? Or- Gabriola Island. It must be an Indian name.
Objects in the Rearview Mirror
Or was it Spanish? Yes, Spanish. She knew so little about it. A gulf island nestled against Vancouver Island. Ferry service to Nanaimo. Mild climate. Beautiful, Saul had said, but Saul could see beauty in anything. Her home. How could she say no when Saul suddenly offered her a home of her own. And a cat, for crying out loud, when she knew nothing about cats. Trust Saul to call it a gift, then add that business about the cat, making it impossible for Molly to delay coming. A cat named Trouble. Aunt Carla, always so calm and cool, had turned wild when Molly told her about the house.
Saul Natham had been a charmer from his infancy, but Carla had memories of more than once when her older brother had left her in the middle of a mess, and himself miraculously free of trouble. Saul Natham was trouble. Always had been. If he wanted to leave her a house and a troublesome cat, Molly knew she simply had to accept. For all her reservations, she could not resist the growing excitement.
Her own home, a log cabin among the trees, in walking distance to the wild Pacific Ocean. No downstairs neighbors to complain about the smell of her paints. No landlord to raise the rent. A place in the country. She had no idea why it fascinated her so. Molly Natham, who had never lived in a city with a population of less than half a million! She had no clear picture of life in the open, only a hazy fantasy. Quite probably, she would suffer cabin fever within twenty-four hours. No directions, but enchantment promised if she ever found the place. Perhaps she would stay forever.
The island children would tiptoe past and whisper about the strange old maid who painted dinosaur pictures. Molly would go for walks, smell the evergreens and watch the deer. Her own place. Not a condo eleven stories above the ground, as she had been thinking of buying lately, but a real cabin with real land and real trees, her own plot of dirt.
She had not told anyone how the dream excited her, not Aunt Carla or Uncle Gordon. Certainly not Thomas, who had stared at her with accusation when she announced she was leaving. Probably no man would. She was as restrained in her relations as her father was extravagant. Better that way. Saul was an extraordinary artist, but his life was all tragedy and ecstasy and crises.
Molly needed tranquility, which let out greatness and falling in love. Gabriola Ferry. Molly saw the sign too late. She was in the wrong lane and the traffic was too heavy to change. She turned right at the intersection, meaning to double around, but found herself driving uphill heaven-knows-where, with no chance of doubling back.
She kept trying to turn right and right again, to retrace her steps, but in fact it took her fifteen minutes to find her way back to the street with the sign. Six days driving. Eight days since Saul had called. Had he left the poor cat alone? Surely he would have found a neighbor to look after it? Were there neighbors? Yet they have a unique feature.
The lenses on these spy glasses have a special coating that allows you to look straight ahead and still see what is going on behind you. Stylish and great for walking and biking. You won't need to turn your head to see if a car is coming. It'll be like you have a rear view mirror with you. Have you ever thought you were being followed? Now, no one can sneak up behind you. These spy sun glasses make a great novelty gift!
I've been listening to this song my Missy Higgins quite a bit lately and thought I should add it to my photostream. On this picture I cropped and lightened. I also used the cross process setting with Picnik. The word "Love" backwards in this picture was a reflection of my shirt in my rear view mirror. Explore June 9, Better to invest your time taking pictures than waste it just waiting impatiently for the red light to turn green. Come on a trip of love, laughter and spiritual awakening.