Time passed. Persistent Smith lay in the dark of the capacious and surprisingly comfortable boot and listened to the muffled male voices coming from the passenger compartment. He didn’t hear it all but some of what he heard fit in with what he already knew and the rest he simply accepted as true.
Then the voices fell silent. Into that space an awful thought intruded: Heidi. Smith’s mouth hung open in an agony of silent dismay. Heidi. They were supposed to meet, he’d let her down, abandoned her. She’d– What would she think of him? Smith had a very good idea. This was Bad, very bad. Bad Thinking, Bad Dating. Bad Lifestyle Choices.
The Hand came out, he couldn’t help it. Frantically Smith silently pinched his lips together. The Hand studied him with an expression of profound disappointment and Smith knew he had let everyone down badly.
This level of worry and guilt was exhausting. Smith groped for his drink bottle then stayed his hand. He knew he drank when he was nervous, drinking too much here would be worse than a poor choice, it could be disastrous.
He listened to the sounds of the vehicle. The steady powerful beat of the engine, the thrum of exhaust and rush of tyres on the road formed a soothing harmony. Every now and then the car swung gently to one side and back again as it overtook slower traffic or negotiated a bend. Smith closed his eyes. What was done was done, there was nothing he could do to change it and it was his responsibility to put it right. All he could do was hope it was possible, and try.
Changes in the motion of the car woke him. They had slowed, the vehicle moved more actively now, turning, braking, and accelerating. The passengers were talking again, but their voices were indistinct. Outside there were sounds of other vehicles: cars, motorcycles and buses. Once the car was stopped for several seconds and Smith heard the beep-beep-beep of a pedestrian crossing. They were in another town. Wherever they were going it felt like they were getting close.
Very thirsty now, Smith opened his bottle of orangeade. Guilt-ridden thoughts of Heidi returned, orangeade sprayed into his face. He jerked back and knocked his head on the boot lid.
The car lurched from side to side, then steadied. Smith loosened the cap more slowly. The gas hissed out steadily. He lay back and sipped his drink.
To be continued…