Chapter 2 – Dead Dreams

What made his Mustang GT look so cool, he thought, were the black rims. With the bright red of the body, the standard silver rims would not have looked right. Every time he got into the car, he glanced at those black rims. He knew he could afford a more expensive car, including the more expensive sports cars, but he loved Mustangs, and he loved red muscle cars.

He was not a convertible kind of guy, so the hardtop suited him just fine. So did the power and the guttural growl of the V8 engine. The feeling that if he only pressed hard enough on the accelerator, the pony might just fly. The feeling of driving his favorite car, lost deep in thought, either soothing classical or grinding rock blaring through the speakers. Heated leather seats. Leather steering wheel. Heated exterior mirrors. All the bells and whistles. But it all came back to the engine and the power.

On this morning, his mind long ago forgot the power of the Mustang, now snarled in an unexpected traffic jam on a surface street. It was common for 23rd Street to be a hassle, but something was wrong. This felt more like the six weeks he spent in northern California with his company. This was real traffic, and no one was happy about it.

After ten minutes of rolling a few feet and stopping, repeatedly, Donald came upon the hazard. A brown Kia Soul sat stalled, serving as a four-wheeled traffic cone in the right lane. Most drivers in the left lane showed courtesy and allowed those stuck behind the disabled car to blend in, on an every-other-car basis. No one, it seemed, possessed the needed courtesy to stop to help the driver. With cell phones in the possession of even small children, motorists helping other motorists seemed to be something of the past. On this busy Monday morning, drivers were more concerned about arriving at work and clocking in on time.

Donald took it upon himself to help the stranded motorist. He came to a stop behind the Kia just as the driver stepped out. Donald froze, his gaze locked on her as she moved toward his car. Not wanting to appear foolish, he broke the gaze and exited his own vehicle.

The brunette’s image began burning into Donald’s memory from the moment he saw her. He tried to push aside his mental observations to hear her words, but focusing posed an instant challenge.

“Thank you! Thank you so much for stopping!” Her soft voice caused Donald’s heart to begin melting inside his chest. “It won’t start. I’ve tried and tried. What should I do?” Her question was punctuated by a painful expression on her face, which settled into her dark brown eyes.

Donald hesitated. Before he allowed his eyes to delay his reaction further, he managed a reply. “Get back in the car. Put it in neutral and I’ll push you. Steer it up the curb, and take the car to the right until you feel the left wheels hit the curb, then stop. It’ll be okay for a little while with part of it on the sidewalk, but that’ll get you out of the road. Got it?”

“Okay.” She turned and trotted back to her car. Donald stood and watched, unable to look away from the way her beige slacks hugged her legs and hips. With the cut of her blouse, he could not miss that she had a great figure. ‘That’s why she bought that outfit, now isn’t it?’ he thought with a grin.

Once he coached her through turning the steering wheel to the correct angle and she mastered the street curb, the rest progressed smoothly. He built up a little speed, she turned the wheel, the car climbed the curb- and scraped the fender on the curb in the process- with both right-side tires before the car straightened, to remain parallel with the street.

They met on the sidewalk. “Whaddya think I should do?” the striking brunette asked, a certain helplessness permeating her tone. The light breeze blew straight into her face, just enough to kick up her hair a few inches. Instead of hanging to her mid-back, her long, big curls lifted into the air.

Donald stood motionless, mesmerized. His eyes flitted between her inviting dark eyes to her dark brown hair flowing behind her to her perfectly shaped pink lips that he just noticed. If life were acted out on a stage, her walk up song would be Robert Palmer’s Simply Irresistible.

“Well…” He stalled for time. Something about her high cheekbones highlighted her gorgeous face- but those lips! ‘She asked me a question,’ he thought. ‘What was it? Something about doing something?’

“I probably shouldn’t leave it here by itself, should I?”

“Oh, uh.” Donald’s brain re-engaged. He realized he should answer before he began acting like an abject fool.

“I’d suggest you stay here. It won’t be long before a tow truck will be by. Or you can call one. But you’ll be better off to stay with the car and just go in to work late.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. You’re right.” A sudden thought captured the stunning young woman’s mind as she shot out her right hand toward him. “I’m Lucy Thorp.”

“Oh. Hi. Nice to meet you. I’m Donald Nuss.” He shook her hand as if it were sculpted from expensive crystal.

“I’m your damsel in distress, but my hero’s not even breathing hard.”

“That’s ’cause you drive a little box car,” he said with a laugh. It worked; she laughed, too. Her smile lit up her face- and his eyes and heart. His insides reeled. He could feel his pulse throughout his body.

“Well, next time I’ll have to buy one of those big pickups. You can push one of those.”

“Yeah, no thanks.” They laughed together again. As he tried not to stare at her, he realized that an awkward moment of silence developed. “Hey. Listen. I gotta get my car out of the road. I’m still blocking a lane here.” He did not move. He looked like a hotel bellboy hinting that he was waiting for a tip, but he wanted nothing from her except more time to enjoy the view.

“Oh. Okay. Well, I have to thank you later.” She again turned and trotted in her three-inch heels to her car. He again watched her go and come back to stand in front of him, business card in hand. “Call me at… well. Here. Shoot. Call me at work today and I’ll give you my-” She scanned her card as she spoke haltingly. “E-mail me. That’ll be easier. Call or e-mail me and I’ll give you my phone number and personal e-mail.”

Donald smiled a warm, triumphant smile. “I’ll do that,” he promised. He knew he could not- would not- mess this up.

She looked at him and paused. A broad smile crossed her face. “Okay then. And thank you again.” She reached out her hand and they shook for a second time.

“I hope your car’s cheap and easy to fix.”

“Yeah. Geez. It’s practically brand new. Thank you!”

Donald walked back to his car and spotted the faces of two different drivers. They did not understand the glow that lit up his face, and they did not care. Within seconds, the Mustang rumbled to life and, with a quick wave to the dark-headed, dark-eyed bombshell who had just stolen his heart, Donald once again headed off to work.

Standing on the sidewalk, in front of her car, Lucy Thorp watched him go. She spoke to herself, with no one close enough to hear her words. “Well now, am I just the luckiest girl around?” She stared as the Mustang disappeared, still lost in thought. “Donald Nuss. What are the odds? Lucy, you’re ahead of schedule.”