These Simple Scars
Don’t cry. Don’t cry. I will not cry.
Fisting my auburn hair in my hands. I growled under my breath and slammed my foot against the car tire.
Pain pulsed in my toe and I growled again. “Dammit to hell.”
I cast my eyes left and right down the dusty brown road. Fields to my left. Fields to my right. Up ahead in the distance—yep, more fields. But this is how it goes, right? No one ever breaks down at a gas station or an auto repair shop.
Cussing to myself, I rounded my beater and popped the hood, weirdly situated at the back of the car. A small puff of smoke swirled through the air, weaving up my nasal passages and down my throat. I coughed at the acrid taste and swiped my hand in front of my face a few times to clear it. A quick survey of the engine told me everything I needed to know. That I was one hundred percent clueless when it came to cars. I knew zip, zero, nothing. Nothing really looked out of place. Perhaps the white foamy looking stuff around the engine … or radiator … or whatever, may be cause for concern, but it could be quite normal too.
Stretching out my back, and gritting my teeth through the pain, I turned again to stare down the road, mentally kicking myself for a) not owning a cell phone, and b) not paying attention to the road signs. Not that it would do much good without a map. Other than crossing the state line into Georgia a few hours ago, I couldn’t remember a single town name I’d passed through.
Sweat trickled between my breasts, the sun doing its very best to fry my pale skin. Resolute to begin walking toward salvation, wherever that may be, I fished my small bag from the car. I told myself I’d be fine. I’d watched enough Man vs Wild to survive a hike, although I drew the line at drinking my own urine.
Taking a single step forward I froze, hope flourishing like a new bloom in my chest. I squinted a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. It’s said that if you spend too long in the desert, you start to see mirages. Not that I was in a desert, nor had I found myself stranded for days, but you never know. Dust billowed in the distance as a dirty blue truck rumbled toward me. As it approached, I threw my bag back into my car, then waved my arms above my head, praying to the good Lord above that whoever held the wheel would be kind enough to stop. Please stop. Please, please stop.
As the truck closed in on me, it slowed, and I fist pumped. Salvation!
The wheels ground to a halt and I waited expectantly for my hero to emerge. As the seconds ticked by, what if’s started creeping into my brain. The truck windows were blacked out. What if it housed a murderer with a meat cleaver? What if the driver turned out to be a crazy lady like the one from Misery and held me captive until I wrote her a book even though I can just about write a grocery list? Oh my God … what if the Chippendales were on tour and their bus broke so they had to use the sound guy’s pickup. Mmm, now that what if sounded good. Hang on … do the Chippendales even have a sound guy? No matter, knowing my luck, the Chipmunks would probably emerge.
The click of the handle cut through the quiet afternoon as the door swung open. Boots thudded onto the dusty road. Brown leather, worn, leading up to faded blue jeans. The man stepped out from behind the door and I worked extra hard to keep my jaw locked tight. Drooling is never a good first impression. A worn maroon t-shirt clung to his muscular frame, pinching around his sculpted biceps. His angular jaw held a dark shadow, his lips full and kissable. As he walked toward me, his features became more visible. Straight nose, rich brown messy hair almost touching his shoulders, sun kissed skin. One of his thick, straight eyebrows rose as I drank in his hazel eyes.
Oh my God, my panties are on fire.
“You all right?” he asked.
His thick southern drawl really set the fire ablaze.
Oh my God, now I just need new panties.
I dry swallowed, then cleared my throat. “My car broke.” Fuck me. I clenched my left fist, willing my hand not to automatically face palm, though I deserved it. My car broke. Really? Way to sound like a two-year-old.
Mystery hero man blinked a couple of times, shifting on his feet. “Mind if I take a look?”
I puffed out a breath between my lips, steadying my jumbled brain. “Please, that would be wonderful. It’s a classic VW Bug and a bit odd, so the engine is at the back of the car.”
He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth, and I could’ve sworn he was trying to suppress a grin. I ushered him around to the back of the car and planted my hands on my hips while he bent over the hood. His jeans hugged his ass, and I tipped my head to the side, giving it a good ogle. Women can really be as bad as men when it comes to ogling. Certainly this woman could. God, that ass though. I’m pretty sure there’s not a girl on earth that wouldn’t stare at his delectable rear.
“Head gasket,” he said emerging from beneath the hood.
He raised his brow at me again and shook his head slowly from side to side.
I hedged my bets. “Not good?”
“Costly. You’ll need a tow to the local repair shop and, depending on the damage, either a new head gasket or a new ride.”
“Shit,” I mumbled under my breath, earning another eyebrow raise. Well whatever, I wasn’t going to apologize for swearing. Yet it popped out of my mouth anyway. I’m a serial sorrier. Whether it’s my fault or not, I apologize. It slips out as easy as a breath. It’s kind of ingrained. “Sorry. I’m just trying to get somewhere fast.” Well, away from somewhere, but he didn’t need to know that.
“Yeah, you won’t be going much of anywhere. Not in that, anyway.” He pointed at my precious rust bucket, my only real belonging.
Pressing my fingers to my temples, figures rushed through my head. A tow would set me back at least a hundred dollars, depending on how far the repair shop was, and I had no clue what a head gasket was, let alone how much it would cost to replace. Whatever it may be, it all added up to ‘I can’t afford it’. I had cash—a little savings I’d painstakingly squirreled away—but I didn’t want to part with any of it.
“Do you have any idea how much it might cost to repair? I really don’t know anything about cars.”
His muscles flexed as he reached around and rubbed his long hand on the back of his neck. “Look, I don’t want to scare you, but it’s not going to be cheap. You have triple A?”
I shook my head, cringing as I munched on the corner of my lower lip. This guy was going to think me a total idiot, but I simply couldn’t afford breakdown cover … and to be honest the vehicle, though fundamental to me, wasn’t worth that much anyway.
I glanced up at my mystery hero to find him staring at me, his eyes boring a hole into mine.
“I’ll tow you to the auto repair shop, that’ll save you some cash.”
My eyeballs started drying up, I held them open so wide. “You’d do that? For a total stranger?”
I flustered as he held out his hand, my cheeks warming when after a moment of standing there like a dummy, I realized that he wanted to shake mine.
“Garrett,” he said as his warm palm closed around mine, and for the first time he cracked a smile. My heart lurched at the dimple in his left cheek. For some reason, I found it endearing.
“Faith,” I said as I held on for probably longer than I needed. I sure had the queen of awkward thing down pat.
“Now we’re not strangers.”
As he lowered a ramp and hooked my beater up to his dusty pickup, I thanked my lucky stars that he’d shown up. Random acts of kindness … never thought they existed. Certainly, I’d never experienced one.
“Ready?” he asked opening the passenger door.
“Yes, thank you.” I winced as I climbed inside, being careful of my tender back.
Garrett climbed into the driver side and belted himself in, then started the engine. He sat for a moment, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel while staring out the window. I shifted in my seat, the air around us becoming a little … uncomfortable and I only realized the problem when he asked, “Seatbelt?”
I concealed my stuttering hand as best I could as I reached out and buckled up, keeping a neutral pose against the pain the material pressing against my bruised chest caused. Once safely fixed in place, Garrett pulled out onto the road and performed a U-turn. I clenched my hands, my fingernails digging into my palms. One jolt would be enough to send a world of pain through my chest or ribs. I prayed that Garrett was a sensible kind of driver. After a moment of safe cruising, I relaxed.
“Thank you again for helping me out. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”
Garrett kept his eyes fixed on the road. “Not a problem. You got anyone you can stay with in Silver?”
“Silver?” I asked.
“The town I’m taking you to. It’s not real big and I haven’t seen you around before, so assumed you’re visiting?”
“Oh, no. I’m just passing through.”
For the first time since he started the engine, he glanced across at me. “People don’t simply pass through Silver. If they end up there it’s for one of two reasons: they either meant to, or they’re lost. So which one are you?”
I scratched the side of my head—a nervous tic of mine. “Lost, I guess.”
“All right, well don’t worry. The people of Silver are friendly enough, but you’ll have to find a place to stay. Once we’re there, I’ll give you directions to the local motel.”
Shit, shit, double shit. I’d failed to factor in the cost of finding somewhere to stay on top of fixing the car. The car was supposed to be my one woman home for the foreseeable future. Fangrandtastic.
As I struggled to work out what the hell I was going to do, I got lost inside my own head, so when Garrett slammed his door shut, I jumped a mile.
“Yeah, good. Thank you. Just got lost in thought.”
He narrowed his eyes but seemed to accept my explanation. “Well, we’re here. Let me get you booked in and then I’ll give you the address of the motel.”
I stepped out of the car and into a brightly lit repair shop. Grey concrete flooring spread across a vast expanse, splashes of color from the several cars in various stages of being worked on making it appear all the brighter. The scent of oil and grease hung thick in the air. I breathed it in, loving how it cleared my head. Florida Georgia Line blasted from the radio, and though my sore body remained still, inside I was definitely dancing to the lyrics of ‘This Is How We Roll’.
“Watcha got, Garrett?” a male voice boomed as Garrett approached the desk at the back of the shop.
Instead of stopping in front of the desk, like I expected him to, Garett rounded the corner and busied himself leafing through a large notepad.
“Came across her out on the main drag. Head gasket,” Garrett said as he penned something onto the paper.
“Oooo,” the man said eyeing my beater. “Tough break.”
“Maybe.” Garrett shrugged, then directed his attention back to me. “Me and Dylan will take a quick look later and get back to you with the problem and costs.”
The other guy—Dylan—flashed me a megawatt smile. “You’ve no need to worry. We may sound like ‘em, but we ain’t no rednecks.”
I cringed inwardly at the term, whilst also trying to hide my amusement. While Garrett definitely had a strong accent, Dylan’s accent placed him a little further out, maybe Midwest.
“I’m gonna need your contact details,” Garrett said, pen tapping against paper.
I twisted my fingers together. “Umm, well—I don’t have a cell.”
“That’s all right, I can contact you at the motel. Just need your name then.”
“Right. Hudson, Faith,” I said as I watched him scrawl my name down.
“Okay, Hudson Faith,” Dylan said, his ever present grin somehow resembling mischief. “We’ll give you a call as soon as we know.”
“Here,” Garrett slid a small card across the desk. “There’s a map on the back. When you leave here, follow the driveway until you reach the road, then make a left, follow that …”
“Dude, you’re gonna make her walk?” Dylan said.
Garrett’s eyes narrowed, his jaw flexing. He blinked slow, his chest rising in what looked like a little huff. “All right, I’ll give you a ride there.”
What the hell was all that about? The charming guy who’d just helped me out big time, had turned into a sullen ass.
I held up my hands, palms flat out. “It’s okay. I don’t want you going to any trouble.” It sure looked like he would rather be doing anything else.
Dylan slapped his hand on the counter, sending a slight jolt through me. “Of course it’s no trouble. A pretty girl like you in need of help. Garrett would love to, wouldn’t you Garrett?”
Sure didn’t seem that way as Garrett mumbled something I couldn’t quite catch, then roughly unhooked my car and ushered me back inside his truck. Seemed quite the opposite, in fact.