THE WRITTEN WORD
by Mickey Minner
“I called the body shop in Hamilton. They said if I came in first thing, they could probably have it taken care of by the end of the day.” Melissa didn’t need to look to know how Dillon was responding to the news. They were sitting in a booth in the Lakeside Café sharing an early breakfast.
“Mel, we have plans,” Dillon said quietly, realizing their planned weekend camping trip was not going to happen. “I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks.”
“We can do it next weekend.”
“I can’t closed the shop next weekend. It’s the start of the summer season.”
“What do you want me to do? Drive around with ‘slut’ scratched across the hood all summer?” Unlike her wife’s quiet tone, Melissa’s voice was rising. “That would do wonders for the town’s reputation.”
“I’m not asking you to wait until the end of summer. But can’t you wait until after. We’ll be back in the woods the next few days. No one will see it but us.”
“I’m going to Hamilton today. Its bad enough I have to drive forty miles with it plastered across the hood.” Dillon remained silent, her disappointment clearly etched on her face. “Why don’t you go to the campsite and I’ll come up when I get back. I should be there tonight. Tomorrow morning at the latest.”
Dillon shook her head. “There’s no point to doing that.”
“You don’t think I’ll show up, do you?”
“You’ve already made up your mind not to believe me so why bother asking?”
Dillon looked at her wife trying to read what was behind the eyes glaring back at her. Melissa finished off the coffee in her cup before slamming it down on the table and scooting out of the booth.
“What?” She barked the word at her wife.
Melissa paused long enough to take a deep calming breath. It wasn’t Dillon’s fault things were so screwed up. Was it? Wasn’t it? “I will.” She leaned over and placed a tender kiss on her wife’s forehead. “Go up to the campsite. I’ll meet you there. I promise.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Dillon watched Melissa leave the café and walk to her truck. Within moments, she drove out of the parking lot and turned onto the highway.
Julie had watched and listened to the exchange from her table on the opposite side of the café. She muttered to herself as she pulled enough money out of her purse to pay her bill.
“Is something wrong with your breakfast?” the waitress asked, unable to understand what her customer was mumbling.
“No. It was delicious.” She handed the waitress the check and payment. “Keep the change.”
“Thank you, ma’am. Will you be back later for lunch?” the waitress asked while she attempted to mentally calculate the amount of the generous tip.
“No. I’m leaving this morning.”
“That’s too bad,” she said sincerely. There weren’t many who tipped as well as this customer did. “It’s going to be a nice day. Too bad you can’t stay and enjoy it on the lake.”
She smiled. “Yes, isn’t it? Maybe I’ll take a short walk along the shore before I go since I’m not in any hurry.” She stood and walked toward the door. “Dillon?” she asked when she passed the booth and saw the look on the writer’s face. “Goodness, you look like you lost your best friend.”
Dillon slipped out of the booth before reaching into her pocket for her wallet. She checked the ticket then placed enough money on the table to cover their breakfasts and the tip. “I think I have,” she said as she turned away from Julie and left the building.
“It’s a crime how she treats Dillon.”
“I’m sorry?” The waitress looked up from the table she was setting. “Did you say something?”
Julie smiled innocently and shook her head. “No. Have a nice day.”
“You too,” she said returning to her chore but she kept an eye on the woman as she left. “That’s a strange one,” she muttered when the door closed leaving her alone.
“Looks like you finally screwed with the wrong person.”
Melissa frowned at the smirking woman dropping uninvited into the chair opposite her. “Nice to see you again too, Angie.” After leaving her truck at the body shop, she had walked to a book store a few blocks away hoping to spend a few hours catching up on the latest photography magazines. Instead, she was confronted with one of her conquests.
“At first, I wasn’t sure that was your truck. But when I got closer and saw… Well I must say it’s nice to see you’re actually advertising your true nature. Although, I do think you would have done better to have it professionally painted. Or did your wife do it?”
“Give it a rest.”
“So are you going to tell me who had the gumption to do what I’ve been considering for weeks?”
“I don’t know. It could have been anyone. Even you.” Melissa returned to her reading.
Angie shook her head. “Tell me why Dillon hasn’t kicked your ass down the highway by now. Damn, do you know how lucky you are? Anyone else would have sent you packing months ago but, for whatever reason, she continues to believe in you.”
Melissa raised her eyes to peer over the top of the magazine at her unwanted companion. “Hardly.”
“Not only are you a slut but you’re a dumb slut.” Angie leaned forward so she wouldn’t be overheard by a couple of women perusing the shelves of books behind them. “If she didn’t, you’d be history. Most women would give their first born to have a woman like Dillon. You’re ruining a hell of a good thing.”
“What if I am?”
Angie shrugged and dropped back into the overstuffed chair. “It’s your life.” She watched Melissa who was doing a poor job of acting like she was reading.
“You planning on staring at me all day?”
“I’ve got a few hours to kill. And you’ve obviously got nowhere to be. So, what say—“
“How long do you plan on making her pay?”
“It’s too bad you couldn’t have enjoyed her success and let her do the same.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t I?” Angie pushed herself up out of the chair. “You know, you’d do everyone a favor if you’d just admit you’re doing this as some sort of payback.”
Melissa rolled the observation around in her head as she watched Angie walk away. Why am I acting like such a fool? Am I doing this to get even? She keeps asking me to talk to her. Why don’t I? What am I afraid of? Angie is right about one thing, anyone else would have booted me out a long time ago. Why hasn’t Dil? The answer came to her almost as soon as she thought of the question. Because she still loves me. She tossed the magazine onto the floor. “And I still love her.”
Melissa glanced at the dashboard clock. It was mid-afternoon and she was less than fifteen miles from Lake Como. A quick stop at the house and she could be at the campsite before dark. Luckily, it had been a slow day for the body shop and the repairs were finished shortly after noon. She had paid the bill and drove her truck out of the work bay before the newly applied coat of paint had a chance to dry. She knew the fresh finish would most likely be ruined by dirt and other windblown debris on her drive home but she didn’t care. It was time she and Dillon talked. And she wasn’t willing to let another single wasted minute go by until that happened.
She eased off the accelerator as the truck approached a series of sharp turns and was half way around the second curve when she saw the car. It was well over the center line and headed straight for her. “Get over,” she screamed. The mountain highway had no shoulder and Melissa didn’t think she could avoid the car without crashing into the trees that crowded close to the road. “Damn it. Move over,” she screamed at the other driver who seemed to be making no attempt to return to the proper side of the highway.
Melissa jammed the accelerator to the floor hoping to race past the other car before it made contact. She steered the truck as close to the edge of the road as she could. “Please,” she begged the truck to cooperate. She thought she was past any danger when the other car veered just before it crashed into the truck’s side. But just as she began to relax her death grip on the steering wheel she felt the front tire drop off the road’s hard surface onto much softer ground. “Oh, shit!”
The drag created by the tire sinking into the dirt set the pickup into a spin. Melissa felt the passenger side of the truck begin to lift off the ground. She pressed both feet on the brake pedal trying to kill some of the truck’s momentum before it rolled completely over. But it was too late. She had been moving too fast and the road was too narrow. All she could do was hold on and pray as the she listened to the squeal of the tires and the horrible screeching of crumbling metal.
The pickup skidded across the highway coming to rest on its side with the top of the cab smashed against the trunk of a tree.
“Hey, are you okay?”
She wasn’t sure how long she had been sitting in the road when the car pulled to a stop a few feet from her and a man got out. The truck’s windshield had shattered in the crash and Melissa had crawled through what was left of it. On shaky legs, she moved clear of the twisted wreckage not wanting to be close if the engine caught fire. When she reached what she considered to be a safe distance she’d collapsed to the ground, her whole body shaking uncontrollable. “No,” she said, her voice quaking. “Could you call the sheriff?”
“Phone won’t work here,” the man said kneeling beside her. “Maybe I should drive you into Hamilton. You look like you need a doctor.”
“No. Please, I can’t go there. Can you go get Scooter? Tell him…” Tears started to pour from her eyes. “Tell him I need to get to Dillon. I don’t want her to think…”
“You’re not making any sense. I can’t leave you here.”
“Please. Dillon won’t believe… She’s…”
A second car pulled to a stop on the highway. “Shit. What happened?” A young man eyed the wreckage as he approached them.
“I’m not sure. I need you into go to Lake Como and get the sheriff. Tell him we need a tow truck and an ambulance.”
“No. No ambulance. I’m not going to Hamilton.”
“Tell the sheriff she must have taken a hit to the head,” he called to the young man who was already seated back in his car. “I’ve got some blankets. Let me get them and you can lie down,” he said after the other car left. When he received no response, he stood and walked to his car. Opening the trunk, he removed a pair of blankets and a first aid kit. Not that he thought it had what the woman needed but he could at least try to clean up some of her more seriously bleeding cuts. “Are you hurt?” he asked spreading the blankets on the road beside her. “I mean other than the obvious cuts?”
“I think my arm is broken.”
“I thought so too.” He had noted the odd angle her right arm was twisted in. “Anything else?” When he tried to ease her back onto the blankets, she slapped away his hands with her good one.
“I don’t have time for this.”
“It’s going to be a while before anyone gets here. You should try to calm down.”
“Calm down!” She glared at him. “Some lunatic just drove me off the road. And now my wife will never believe I was going to keep my promise. And you tell me to…” Melissa clutched at her head. “Oh, shit. I think I’m gonna… Oh, not good,” she moaned as the trees began to spin around her.
“Close your eyes and lay back.” The man placed his hands on her shoulders and guided her back onto the blanket. “We could use some water.”
“I’ve had a gallon jug on the floor of the cab.” She groaned. “If it’s still in one piece.”
“I’ll check.” He left Melissa and walked to the wreck. Broken glass crunched under his boots as he peered through the opening left by the missing windshield and saw the plastic jug. It was a long stretch but he managed to reach into the cab and retrieve it. He returned to Melissa and tore a corner of blanket free then poured water over it. Gingerly, he placed the damp cloth on her forehead. Then opening a package of gauze, he wet it and used it to wipe her face clear of blood and dirt.
“Ow,” she cried out when the gauze came into contact with a growing bruise. “Damn, that hurts. Try to miss the owies, will ya?”
He grinned at her childish comment. “Sorry. That’s a little hard to do.”
He silently inventoried the numerous cuts and bruises that he could see. “It’s not too bad. But it ain’t exactly good either. Hope you don’t have anyplace special to be in the near future.”
“There is one.”
“I guess you could say that. I was hoping to save my marriage.”
“Damn.” He poured more water on the piece of blanket and returned to his work.
The scream of a siren announced the arrival of Lake Como’s sheriff at the accident scene.
Scooter ran to his cousin’s side. “Damn it, Mel, what happened?”
Not bothering to answer the question, Melissa grabbed the sheriff’s arm. “You’ve got to send someone to find Dillon.”
“What are you talking about?”
“She’s out at our campsite, the one by the waterfall. She’s expecting me to show up there. You’ve got to let her know why I can’t. You’ve got to.”
“Dillon’s not at any campsite.”
“Yes, she is. We were supposed to go together. You know we always go camping the last weekend before tourist season. Stupid me, I decide I have to get the damn truck taken care of instead. But I told her I’d meet her there tonight. You’ve got to send someone—”
“Mel, Dillon’s at the shop. I saw her sweeping the walkway when I headed up here.”
“She didn’t go?” Melissa asked in a soft voice. “She didn’t believe me.”
“Do you blame her?”
“I love her. I was going back to tell her that.”
“Is that what happened? Did you lose control?”
“She said something about another car forcing her off the road,” the man informed the sheriff.
“I’m sorry, you are?”
“Don Cameron,” he told the officer. “I don’t know how long after the accident I came by but I did pass a sedan heading the opposite way. “Didn’t notice any damage on it but wasn’t really looking.”
“Thanks, Mr. Cameron. Let’s get Mel taken care of then you can give me the details. Ambulance should be here soon.”
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