Car Trouble

The car spluttered, choked, and died. She coasted to the shoulder. Of course this would be the day she had car trouble. Everything hinged on the meeting, and Evelyn had hoped to arrive early, refreshed and, at least outwardly, calm. But as the other cars drove past her, drivers honking their horns in disgust, she simply wilted, put her head against the steering wheel, and began to cry. “Why me?” she moaned. This had become her daily litany of the past several months.

The sun warmed the back of her neck as the tears fell into her lap, and she remembered how Paul used to push her hair aside and kiss her neck, his carpenter fingers rough but his lips gentle against her skin. Why had it all gone wrong? They had been so happy, so in love.

Evelyn smiled faintly, thinking about the time they went to the zoo. They’d only just started dating and had both called in sick, spending the day wandering past the animals, talking and holding hands. And falling in love. Her favourite exhibit was the condors. They watched as the male soared from the top of one tree across the enclosure to a branch on the other tree, landing next to his mate. The two birds put their heads together and sat that way until Paul finally said he wanted to go see the penguins. Evelyn read on the placard that condors mate for life.

But what she remembered best was how they could have fun together, no matter what they were doing. There was the time she’d tried to make that Christmas rum cake. The recipe called for vegetable oil. Evelyn, never particularly attentive while in the kitchen, mistakenly used vinegar instead. Or the time they’d first done their taxes together. Normally a chore, somehow they’d spent the entire time in fits of giggles.

Shortly after they’d gotten married, Evelyn read in the paper that the female condor had died. She went back to the zoo several times after that. The male never perched on the branch where he’d sat with his mate, their necks intertwined.

Evelyn lifted her head, staring vacantly out the window. She no longer saw the passing cars, lost in the past as she was. She opened the door and stepped out of her car, looking toward the oncoming traffic. Vehicles whizzed by, office workers getting a late start on their commutes.

Evelyn thought of the laughter she and Paul had shared. She thought of holding hands with her husband, fingers intertwined. She noticed a lorry in the distance, about two hundred yards away. Evelyn saw the condor, the graceful spread of his wings. The lorry neared, moving quick and sure. One hundred yards away now. She remembered how the bird glided effortlessly through the air. Fifty yards. She thought of Paul’s smile. Twenty yards. Their last kiss. Five yards. She stepped into the road. Quick and sure.

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