Another bout of hard rain whipped through and my left foot slipped into the culvert. It came back missing its shoe. I leaned against the car, clutching the tools, trying to stop the horrid feelings coursing through me. I had no more anger to rely on, only hopelessness.
"You look like you could use some help," a male voice called. I looked up, my glasses blinded by rain. I didn't know who it was. I could only sob, covered in mud and show my tools. I didn't want to be helpless, but my mind was surrendering to it all. You can't fight the world.
"We'll start with the jack," the man said, and took it from my hands. He was taller than me, that much I could tell. He moved confidently to the front as another dousing came from the clouds. I followed him, my sock trying to leave itself in the mud. "Stand away from the side in case it slips," he said as he kneeled into the mud trying to find a secure place for the jack.
"Thank you," I said, remembering my manners. "Thank you," I said louder, certain that my first attempt was lost in the rain. He looked back at me and I saw a smile between the droplets running down my lenses.
"Wrench," he said, holding out his hand. I put the wrench in it and he affixed it to the jack. He began raising the car. "Crappy day for a flat tire," he observed. I nodded though he wasn't looking at me as he concentrated on the jack. I wiped my glasses with my wet finger. He had dark hair, soaked through. His shirt and pants were a mess now but looked expensive. The one shoe I could see was brown leather and not something found at Next. My saviour was some kind of executive, probably on his way to work. I sucked in a breath and forced my helplessness away.
"That should do it," he said rising with the wrench. I took it from his hands, trading it for a smile.
"Thank you," I said again. I couldn't believe I had lost it. An executive doesn't collapse at the first sign of trouble. In nine years, I needed to be a rock of confidence. He smiled back, the rain running off his nose and past his strong chin.
"You lost your shoe," he said, pointing at my sock.
"It's been one of those days," I said, trying to ignore the loss. I moved to the tire and inserted the blade end of the wrench into the slot of the hubcap as the manual had said. It popped off and I pretended it didn't surprise me. He was there to catch it before slid into the culvert. He watched as I went at the first lug nut. I pushed down on the wrench and it didn't want to move. Hesitantly, his hand moved next to mine and we pushed together. The nut relented. He removed his hand and let me finish. He stood there in the rain, holding the hubcap and collected lug nuts one at a time. To be honest, his presence gave me strength. His desire not to push the poor woman out of the way and do it himself was nice. He moved from saviour to helper without a thought. I was smiling when I finished the last lug nut.
"I'm Ella," I said as I handed him the last nut. The rain was beginning to let up again.
"Oliver," he responded.
"Thank you for stopping," I repeated again. I lifted the tire off the car and it bounced in the mud. I longer cared about the mud that splattered on my ankles.
"You said that already," Oliver said. I looked up at him. He was smiling at me, almost laughing as I struggled to wheel the flat tire off to the side. He made no move to help, which was strangely helpful. I lifted the dinky donut tire and struggled it onto the bolts. He moved behind me. I suspected he meant to catch me if I started to slide into the culvert. Most helpful. He handed the nuts to me, one at a time, and I screwed them on hand tight. The rain was beginning to cooperate and became more of drizzle. He handed the wrench back to me and I cranked the lug nuts tight. I turned to see him loading the flat tire in the trunk. No communication, just optimized performance that limited the time we needed to be in the rain. I liked Oliver. I moved to the front of the car, inserted the wrench into the jack and began undoing what Oliver had done. He met me there and watched as the car came down. "You handled that well," he said. I could hear the humour in his voice. He was having fun with me. I laughed.
"I am glad you stopped," I admitted as the jack slowly folded back to its rest position, "I was letting it get to me for a moment there." I looked up as I detached the wrench. He held out his hand and I put the wrench in it. I grabbed the jack and we carried them back to the trunk and threw them in. He closed the trunk and turned to me.
"I think you need to rush home, Ella," Oliver said, with a sly smile. I wasn't sure what he meant. Was he giving me a command? I don't take well to commands. His smile changed when he saw my confusion. He leaned closer.
"I think you are a bit more beautiful than you intend right now," Oliver said, his smile growing again. I stepped back as the realization hit me. I looked down and quickly covered my breasts. The rain had made my blouse and bra see-thru. The cold rain had woken my nipples. Traitors. Oliver laughed sweetly as he backed toward his car. "Absolutely beautiful," he repeated as he opened the door car. A sleek black Jaguar that he seemed to fit into well. Red-faced, I headed back to my car and put my soaking wet muddy body on my clean seats.
I looked in the rear view mirror and saw him there. Oliver was waiting to make sure I got back on the road. I smiled. Beautiful he said. He looked pretty good himself. I smiled to the world and waved to Oliver as I got back on the road. Beautiful. I liked my breasts being beautiful. Thank God I didn't know him. I wouldn't have been able to ever face him again. That was, by far, the best worst experience I ever had. That smile of his was so honest. He wasn't just trying to make me feel good. He meant it. My breasts just got promoted to my favorite body part. Sorry calves, you just got demoted.