A Good Runner: Part Twelve

This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 765 words.

Trevor worked hard for the rest of the year, even going in on Saturdays for extra pay. By the time he was celebrating the new year of 1965 with his granny, he had managed to save almost five hundred pounds. He gave the old lady fifty of that, which seemed like a fortune to her, but that was to soften the blow when he told her he was thinking of moving out.

Shirley had left the local tea rooms long before. Valerie the owner had told him she was living in Oxford, with a travelling salesman who was a regular at the tea rooms. He had just shrugged at the news. Trevor was a man who accepted bad luck as his lot in life.

With spring coming, Nigel White was determined to get rid of his daughter’s car. There had not been a single enquiry from the newspaper advertisement, so he resolved to put up some postcards in local shops and post offices. They were a lot cheaper, and more likely to be seen by people in Witney. He took the canvas cover off the car, removed the battery, and charged it up. Sure it would start and run for any potential buyer, he wrote out some cards and paid for them to be in the windows with all the others.

After helping his gran get some shopping one Saturday morning, Trevor noticed a newly-refurbished shop front. What had once been a dusty old ironmongers was set to become a new taxi office. They had a sign outside, stating ‘Drivers Wanted. Apply Within’. When he had dropped off the shopping at home, he walked back and stood outside the shop. Working as a taxi driver appealed to him as being a lot more comfortable than hauling roof tiles day in, day out. So he went inside.

“No, we don’t have taxis for you to drive mate. This is a private hire company. You supply your own car and insurance, we get the work for you, and take a percentage. You need a decent car with four doors, it must be undamaged, and nice and clean. Come back and see me when you have one, show me the taxi insurance papers, and you can start the same day”. Despite his disappointment at the company not supplying cars for him to use, he couldn’t get the idea out of his head as he ate dinner that night with his gran.

It wasn’t until Tuesday when he spotted the postcard in the window of the corner shop. ‘1963 Consul Cortina. 4-doors. Very low mileage. £400’. He asked the shopkeeper to write the phone number down on a piece of paper for him, then walked to the phone box on the corner. The man at the other end gave him the address, and he agreed to go there and see the car late on Saturday afternoon when he had finished work. It was in a very posh part of town where Trevor had once cleaned windows.

The house was suitably impressive, and the doors of the double garage were already open when Trevor arrived. The shiny green Cortina was in one half, and a grey Rover P5 dominated the other half. He didn’t have to knock, as the elderly man came out as soon as he stopped to look at the car.

“She’s a good runner you know, and such low mileage for a sixty-three car too. Have a look, the door is open. Only six thousand miles on the clock, you won’t find a better one. The spare wheel has never been used, no MOT required until next year, and I have charged the battery for you. There is still a few gallons of petrol in the tank too”.

Remembering he was supposed to haggle, Trevor really couldn’t be bothered. Everything the man was saying was true, and compared to the cost of the newly revamped Cortina model, this one was a real bargain. He hadn’t said much, and the man took that as hesitation. “If you like, I can get the keys and give you a drive around. I am insured to drive it on my policy”. He was back in two minutes, and invited Trevor to jump into the passenger seat. They headed away from the town centre, driving on the country road in the direction of Poffley End. After ten minutes, he pulled into the space next to a farm gate.

“Well young man, what say you?” Trevor smiled.

“I’ll take it. I can bring the money on Monday evening, after I have sorted out the insurance”.

A Good Runner: Part Eleven

This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 741 words.

Trevor Clemence.

There was little choice for Diane but to reurn to her family home in the small town of Witney, in Oxfordshire. She explained away her resignation by telling them that she had not got on with her colleagues, and had an idea to go to work in Hong Kong, where teachers were usually in some demand. In fact, after only one week at home, she managed to secure an interview with an agency in London that was happy to forward her details for a vacancy on their books. Within a month, she was packing to leave, using the last of her salary to buy an airline ticket.

The house in Essex had been rented through a local company, and that rental income would cover the mortgage costs and management fees. As for the green Consul Cortina, she gave the keys and paperwork to her father, and asked him to sell it for her.

Nigel White had little interest in cars, even though he could drive, and owned a smart Rover car. He placed a classified advertisement in the local weekly newspaper, offering Diane’s low-mileage car for offers around four hundred and twenty five pounds. Then he parked it inside his double garage, and more or less forgot about it.

Trevor Clemence was a man who hadn’t had that much luck in his life. He was fired from a carpentry apprenticeship for always turning up late for work, then had joined the army at the age of eighteen. He didn’t even complete his training, as after knocking out a drill sergeant with one punch on the parade ground, he was thrown out. Not long after, he managed to get work helping a window cleaner in Witney, and he was allowed to drive the van on learner plates, eventually passing his driving test first time.

His boss let him use the van outside of work, and he soon met Shirley, who was working in a roadside cafe on the A40 nearby. They married when Trevor was twenty-one, and went to live with his widowed grandmother in the town. Two years later, the man he worked for offered to sell him the window-cleaning round, and negotiated a weekly payment to cover the cost of buying it, and the old van that came with it. Trevor was very pleased with himself. He now had his own business, and he was only twenty-three years old.

Bad news arrived in the shape of the winter of 1963. With the weather so bad, most of his regular customers didn’t want their windows cleaned. Trade dropped off alarmingly, and his weekly takings were reduced by half. Plans to start a family had to be shelved, and Shirley was unhappy about that. Then one afternoon as he was on his way back from cleaning the windows of the vicarage in Minster Lovell, he crashed the van in a country lane, after skidding on ice.

There wasn’t enough money to pay for the repairs to get the van roadworthy, and with no van, he could only do the windows of a few local shops that he could walk to, carrying the smaller ladder. It wasn’t long before he had lost the majority of his customers, and he had only paid off less than half the money he owed his former boss. Shirley was working at the tea rooms in Witney now, but her wages were barely enough to buy the shopping, and pay their share of the bills. His grandma only had her old age pension, so the new year of 1964 was a dismal prospect indeed. Faced with no alternative, Trevor had to give up the business, and get a regular job.

All he could find was work as a labourer for a local roofing company. They would pick him up in a lorry at the end of the lane every morning, and he spent all day carrying roof tiles up and down ladders, after unloading them from the flatbed at the back. At least the work was regular, even though it was tiring and monotonous. By the end of that summer, he had managed to pay off his debt, build up his strength, and had tried to talk to Shirley about renting their own place and starting a family.

Her attitude surprised him. “To be honest, Trev, I’m pretty fed up. Don’t think I want kids after all. Not with you, anyway”.

Three weeks later, she was gone.

A Good Runner: Part Ten

This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 764 words.

The next morning, Diane woke up determined to break her fast-growing addiction to spending time with Connie. When the knocker sounded on the door just after eleven, she stayed inside, not answering. Connie would obviously know she was at home, as she would have seen the car parked in the lane. But she had to be strong, and not let the girl in. She had her new job, her cottage, the car, and too much to lose.

Peeping from a bedroom window upstairs, she could see Connie standing by the gate next to her bicycle. It seemed she was playing the waiting game, but Diane could play that too. Evetually, the girl tired of waiting, and slipped a note through the letterbox before riding off. ‘Came to see you, but no reply. I will try again tomorrow. C. XX’.

The following day, Diane made sure not to be home, driving to the estuary at Mersea Island, and spending the day reading in the sun. Then the day after that, and the next day too. By the end of that week, Connie apeared to have given up trying, and despite some pangs of guilt over encouraging her, Diane was greatly relieved.

As usual, the teaching staff returned a few days before the end of the holidays. There was some preparation to be done, reviews of exam results, and other general admin to get out of the way. Diane was in before everyone else, hoping that her enthusiasm would be noticed. When the headmaster came into the staff room, she expected some compliment about how well her classes had done in the exams, or praise for arriving long before the others. But he wasn’t smiling.

“Diane, can you follow me to my office, please?”

She sat across the desk from him as he removed some papers from a drawer. “I have a letter here. I am not going to show you it, but I will outline what it contains. It is from Mrs Reilly, the mother of Constance Reilly. You know Constance of course?” Feeling cold in her stomach, Diane nodded.

“She alleges that you have been -shall we say- intimate with her daughter in an inappropriate fashion. Inviting her into your home, driving her around in your car, buying her gifts, making affectionate and flattering remarks to her, and on one occasion even kissing the girl. It seems Constance told her mother she wanted to move out and live with you because you were in love with each other. As a result, the girl has been removed from this school by her parents, who are in the process of moving out of the county to an undisclosed location. I thought I should give you the chance to tell me your side, Diane.”

Her brain was spinning, and she was sure that if she had eaten any breakfast that morning, she would certainly have vomited onto the headmaster’s desk.

“I did invite Connie in for a cold drink on a hot day, but only after she had cycled to my house without being invited. I once gave her a lift home in my car when the school bus broke down, but never drove her around as the letter suggests. Yes, I bought her a novel back from holiday, but only because I know her family is not well off financially, and Connie is truly a bright star as far as literature is concerned. I wanted to encourage her interest in books and art, but when she tried to kiss me, I immediately realised she had misunderstood, and have not seen her since”.

The look on his face told her he hadn’t believed a word.

“You are lucky that the parents have not chosen to involve the police, and so far I have not passed this on to the education authorities. I have replied to the letter in a personal capacity, and given my assurances that you will no longer be teaching here. I suggest you resign immediately, or I will have no alternative but to suspend you pending a formal investigation into your conduct”. He slid a sheet of plain paper and a pen across the desk. “Please write the resignation letter now, giving some kind of reason why you are unhappy here. Maybe you cannot settle in the area, or want to go abroad to teach? I don’t care what you write, but you will write it”.

As Diane was driving home in tears, she knew the cottage would have to go, as she could never afford the mortgage with no job.

The car too.

A Good Runner: Part Nine

This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 724 words.

When it was time for Connie to leave, Diane toyed with the idea of asking her to stay and share the ham salad she was having for dinner that evening. However, that might mean her cycling home in the dark, and there were no lights on the old bicycle. Instead, she called to the girl as she got on the bike. “I will send you a postcard from Yorkshire!”

The drive north was very pleasant in her shiny green car. She had washed and polished it before the trip, making sure to check the oil and water when filling up at the garage in Fordham. With her small case secure in the boot, she took the scenic route, not arriving at the bed and breakfast until very late in the afternoon. It was not the first time she had been to Haworth, or that same bed and breakfast, and it felt familiar as she walked up the driveway carrying her case.

At a gift shop the next morning, she found a nice postcard of the Bronte’s house, and a paperback copy of Wuthering Heights. Both were intended for Connie, though it suddenly dawned on Diane that although she knew where the girl lived, she didn’t actually know the postal address. They would have to wait until she returned home to Essex. In a tiny bookshop, she was delighted to find a postcard with a reproduction of The Lady Of Shallot on it, and she tucked that inside the copy of Wuthering Heights for Connie to use as a bookmark.

Arriving home four days later, Diane thought about driving to Connie’s house to deliver the gifts. But she had no idea how long her mother would be away, and that woman might have not thought it appropriate for a teacher to visit the house. Probably best to leave it until school resumed in September.

She didn’t have to wait until September.

The knock on the door startled her as she was reading. The post had already come, and she was expecting no visitors. Connie was propping the bicycle against the front hedge as she opened it. “I came by each day to see if your car was back in the lane, Diane. My mum came home yesterday, but she doesn’t start back at the pub until Friday evening”.

Perhaps she should have asked why the girl had come every day. Perhaps she should have told her she was busy, and she would see her at school soon. But she didn’t.

“Oh, do come in, I have a gift for you”.

Handing over the book and the two postcards, Diane seemed flustered and awkward. By contrast, Connie looked confident and assured, radiant in a simple pink dress, her hair fragrant and flowing. “Silly me, I forgot to get your address, so I brought the postcard home. There’s another one inside the book for you to use as a bookmark, I think you will see why I chose it”. The girl looked like she might burst into tears. “I have never had such a thoughtful gift. I will treasure the cards and book always, I promise you”.

Putting the book down on the coffee table, Connie stepped forward and kissed Diane full on the lips. It was a kiss that was neither too brief, nor too long. And it was a kiss that sent a delicious shudder up Diane’s back. She stepped back quickly, resisting the urge to follow up with a kiss of her own. “Let’s have a cold drink. Look at the book, I have written inside the cover”. In the kitchen, Diane was trembling, and she held on to the old stone sink lest she fall over. With her heart racing, and her head spinning, she had to stand and regain her composure before going back with the drinks.

Connie was sitting with the book on her lap, open at the blank page where Diane had written on it.

‘To my dearest Connie, a girl with the brightest of futures. Diane. XX’

Choosing to sit opposite the sofa on a ladderback chair, Diane knew she could not trust herself to sit next to the girl, close enough to feel the warmth of her body.

Once Connie had left, a wave of relief swept over her, and she poured herself a large glass of wine.

A Good Runner: Part Eight

This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 728 words.

Diane White had never had a boyfriend. It wasn’t that she didn’t attract men, if anything she attracted far too much attention from them. All of it unwanted. From her early teens, she was aware of being attracted to women, at a time when it wasn’t possible to be open and honest about such things. She once tried to talk to her mother about it, and that was dismissed with a smile. “Oh girls always have crushes, darling. You will grow out of those, trust me”.

But Diane didn’t grow out of them.

At university, she found a soul mate in Francesca, another fan of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and anything written by Jane Austen. They spent hours discussing the characters and plots in great detail, and it wasn’t long before Diane was sure that her friend loved her as much as she loved the raven-haired bookworm. Then she returned from the first Christmas break full of news about losing her virginity to a boy she had long admired, and Diane was devastated. She was even more devastated when Francesca left university in the spring after confiding that she was pregnant, so was going to get married.

After that, Diane stopped bothering. She had heard of clubs where women who liked women went, but she was far too embarrassed to go to one of those. Instead, she dedicated herself to the brightest girls, as soon as she became a teacher. As well as being determined to be modern in her outlook and to encourage the same in others. Now she had met the brightest girl of all, the true gem that was Constance Reilly.

If she was allowed, she would change that girl’s life for the better.

That summer was warm, and Diane was busy with the older pupils who were taking crucial examinations. Although her job was far from arduous, the long summer holiday couldn’t come too soon for her. Not that she was heading off to some exotic foreign destination. Her plan was to tidy up the garden at the front of the cottage, then perhaps drive up to Howarth in Yorkshire, to immerse herself in Bronte country whilst staying at a small bed and breakfast for a few days.

On the second week of the holiday, she was using some clunky old shears to trim the privet hedge at the front when she heard a voice behind her. “So this is where you live, Miss”. She turned to see Connie, standing by an old bicycle. The copper hair was released from the usual long plait, and completly covered her shoulders. In a green summer dress she looked older than her fourteen years, and her gaze was mesmerising. For a moment, Diane wondered if the girl had followed her some time, to discover where she lived, then Connie spoke again.

“My mum has taken my brother and gone to visit my granny in Winchester. I didn’t want to go all that way on the trains, so stayed here. I got mum’s old bike out and pumped up the tyres, and I have been riding around the village and the area. I hadn’t really seen that much of it before”. The girl looked hot, so Diane did the decent thing and invited her in for a cold drink. As she prepared some lemon squash in a jug, Connie wandered around the snug living room, staring at the books and framed prints. “This painting is so lovely, Miss. I have never seen anything like it”.

She was looking at a large print of The Lady of Shallot, by Waterhouse. The young woman in the painting has long ginger hair, and both Connie and Diane could not fail to notce the uncanny resemblance to the teenager. Passing a glass of squash, Diane was excited to show the girl a book of paintings that included that one, and Connie sat attentively as each page was turned on her lap. “Oh Miss, they are wonderful. I have never seen anything so lovely”. Diane smiled. “Look, while you are here, and school is finished, why not call me Diane? Miss makes feel feel old and frumpy. But just here though, never in school”.

As another page was turned, Connie turned and stared at her teacher. “Diane is such a lovely name. Perfect for a lovely lady”.

Diane could not stop herself blushing.

A Good Runner: Part Seven

This is the seventh part of a fiction serial, in 724 words.

On the drive home, Constance was very chatty. “I like this car, Miss. It’s much nicer than my dad’s old car. I think that’s about fifteen years old. I know he had it before I was born because he took my mum to hospital in it when she was having me. Not that we ever go in it much these days, as he’s in the Army. At the moment he’s in Aden. That’s near Saudi Arabia. We used to live near Farnborough, and only moved here two years ago because he changed regiments or something”.

Diane drove carefully, having to force herself not to keep looking round at the girl. “Is that why you sit alone? haven’t you made friends in the past two years?” There was a considerable pause before she answered.

“All the others talk about is pop groups or boys they fancy. They read fashion magazines and stick posters of groups and film stars on their bedroom walls. That doesn’t interest me. I like books, and art. And they tease me for having ginger hair, so I keep myself to myself. I have to look after my little brother too. He’s only four, and my mum works some evenings at the village pub. You might have seen her behind the bar, Miss. Her name is Carol”. Diane shook her head.

“I don’t go to the pub, and I don’t have a television. Like you, I prefer to read. Have you ever read any Russian classics, Constance? They are not on the syllabus, but I think you would like some of them. Look out for Anna Karenina in the school library. If you can’t find a copy there, I will lend you my one”.

As they got closer to home, there was another question. “How old are you Miss? You seem too young to be a teacher”. Diane smiled. “I will be twenty-five next birthday. Next week in fact. It’s my birthday next Tuesday”.

The girl directed her once they got to the village, indicating the small row of houses that were the only council houses there. Stopping outside one in the middle of the row, Diane was surprised to see how shabby it looked. Dirty net curtains hung in the windows, and the front door was badly in need of repainting. She turned and looked at the girl, who was staring intently at her. “Miss, please call me Connie. Everyone does, and it seems funny hearing you say Constance”. As she reached over to the back seat for her bag and opened the door, Diane replied.

“Okay, Connie it is from now on”.

Relaxing in her cottage with a glass of wine, Diane stroked the expensive hardback copy of Anna Karenina sitting on her leg. She had known exactly where to find it of course, as organising her bookshelves was something of an obsession. She wondered what Connie would think of Count Vronksy and Anna, but had no doubt that the girl could manage the complex novel that ran to over eight hundred pages in her copy. It had also occurred to her how strange it seemed for the daughter of a soldier and a barmaid to become so invested in literature. That made her different indeed.

A true gem.

The rest of the week seemed to fly by. Having the car meant Diane was able to get in early and get things arranged before school assembly. The next time she had that class for English, she called Connie back into the room as the pupils were leaving at the end of the lesson. Producing the heavy book from her desk, she handed it to the girl. “Please be careful with it, I have had it a long time. But there’s no rush to give it back, as you can see, it is very long”. Sliding it into her school bag, Connie smiled. “Thanks, Miss. I will be very careful with it. It will be in my room, well away from my brother”.

The school bus didn’t break down again, leaving Diane with no excuse to offer Connie a lift home. Every afternoon as she finished at school and the kids had already left earlier, she found herself wishing that there was no bus service for them.

That thought always made her drive the car a little faster.

A Good Runner: Part Six

This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 715 words.

Diane was the youngest teacher in the school. Her fashionable short hair and even shorter skirts gained her a lot of attention from male members of staff, and most of the boy pupils too. It wasn’t long before Clive Symonds, the physical education teacher, was sniffing around. “Some of us go to the local pub for drinks on a Friday, will I see you there? Or if that’s not your thing, I do know a nice Italian restaurant in town.”

She snapped back, her tone sarcastic. “I doubt your wife would be comfortable with us meeting in a pub or going for a meal together, Clive”. As she spoke, she gently tapped the large wedding ring on his left hand.

It was the last time he asked her.

Some of the braver boys risked a wolf-whistle when she took her turn at playground duty, but she knew better than to make a big thing of it. At their age, every woman under thirty was desirable, so she let it go.

Growing up in the male-dominated atmosphere of the time, Diane had quickly learned how to cope with the so-called banter, and often blatant sexual innuendo. If anything, Essex was much more relaxed than London, where she had once had to report a colleague for daring to slide his hand up her skirt. Diane was a political animal, a young woman who had opinions and a sense of self worth. She had soon discovered that made men uncomfortable.

The pupils were of mixed ability. She taught classes aged from eleven to seventeen, and was already well-used to finding the special pupils. In London, she had called them her ‘Gems’. Those special ones that really got it, the pupils who read for pleasure, not just because it was on the syllabus. And in a class of fourteen year-olds in Essex, she found the brightest gem of all.

Constance Reilly had ginger hair the colour of copper. She parted it in the middle, and wore it in a plait that reached halfway down her back. In class, she sat alone near the front, the other kids apparently avoiding her company. Her green eyes seemed to follow Diane as she walked around talking. That girl read the Brontes for recreation, and she knew Jane Eyre back to front. Interestingly for Diane, she also got it. She knew what it meant, what it was about. Her hand went up at every question posed to the class, and the others took down their hands when they saw hers appear.

As far as Diane was concerned, there had never been a school pupil like her. It was as if she had been born in the wrong time. She also understood Jane Austen, and even Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Diane had to stop herself running the entire lesson based on Constance’s remarkable literary perception. And she had to stop looking at her as she spoke to the class.

Keeping her eyes off of Constance was becoming a problem she could do without.

And it was undoubtedly reciprocated. Whatever was going on in the classroom, Constance kept her gaze fixed on the teacher. Diane felt herself flushing with embarrassment every time she locked eyes with that unusual girl. Whether the rest of the class had noticed became progressively unimportant. And Diane found herself looking forward to those mornings of double English when that class appeared.

Sitting quietly in her cottage in the evenings, Diane found herself wondering what Constance would make of her lesson plans. She could never remember a time when someone so young understood literature so completely. But not everyone in the same class was up to the same speed, and she had to allow for that, albeit increasingly reluctantly.

Only a few weeks had passed, when one day after school, the school bus had broken down. Diane saw the irritated pupils hanging around as they awaited replacement transport. Constance spotted her green car, but did nothing. It seemed to be the decent thing to do, to stop and ask.

“Where are you heading for? I live near Fordham”.

The girl’s smile sent a tingle down Diane’s back.

“Fordham, Miss? That’s where I live”.

Without asking the other puplis in the queue, Diane leaned over and flicked open the door.

“Okay, jump in”.

A Good Runner: Part Five

This is the fifth part of a fiction serial, in 746 words.

Diane White.

Once the funeral was over, and the life insurance had paid out, Edna reckoned she could just about manage. Brenda would be leaving school in eighteen months, so more money would be coming in after that. Mike’s boss had been very kind. He arranged to have the car driven back and parked outside the house, and the men gave Edna a brown envelope with fifty pounds inside, money that had been collected by donations from all of Mike’s colleagues.

The car had been outside for just two days, when Don Cullen knocked on the door. “I was wondering about the car, Edna. I could take it off you hands if you want. Not as if you are going to drive it, is it? I can give you cash, how does three seven-five sound?” Edna hadn’t been interested in the car, but she did know how much Mike had paid for it, as she had to add some of her own small savings to make up the total.

“That’s not enough, Don. It was almost seven hundred, and that was at the end of last summer”. Don nodded. “Okay, but think about it. Like I said, I have cash”.

The next Saturday, Edna took the bus to the Ford dealer, and asked if they would buy the car back. The man was nice, and told her the truth. “New cars lose a lot of money in the first year, Mrs Hollingsworth. I know how much your husband paid for it, but I couldn’t offer more than four seven-five I’m afraid”. Edna nodded. That was considerably more than Don had offered. “Okay, I am happy to take that, as long as you can collect it”.

Two men turned up at three that afternoon. One handed her a cheque for the agreed amount, and she gave them all the paperwork Mike kept in a kitchen drawer, and both sets of keys. As they were leaving, one of them turned to her. “Sorry to hear about your husband, madam. Don’t forget to cancel the insurance”.

Diane White was a modern woman. She had completed her teacher training at the end of nineteen-sixty, and after three years of teaching in a school in London, she wanted to buy her own house. Prices in Essex were more reasonable, so she had applied for a job at a school in Colchester, and been successful. Once she had her starting date, she put down a deposit on a two-bed cottage near Fordham, then decided she would need a car to travel the ten miles each way to school. Despite passing her test when she was twenty-one, she hadn’t had enough money to buy a car, and hadn’t driven since.

She saw the half page car dealer’s advertisement in a local paper, and it included a car that seemed ideal. ‘Ford Consul Cortina. 1963 model, four doors, low mileage, Green. £600’.

Being a teacher was a the sort of job that allowed her to get credit, and she had enough for the deposit in her savings account. The salesman treated her like an idiot, but she was used to that. So she wiped the smile off his face with an offer. “I will give you five-fifty for it, and take your credit payments scheme. I know you make money on that, and I can give you a cheque for the deposit now. Say no, and I will walk away and buy a Vauxhall I was looking at earlier”.

They shook on the deal.

When the finance had been approved, Diane was able to collect the car the day after she moved into her new house, and four days before she started at the new school. It was a lot nicer than the car she had learned to drive in, her dad’s old Standard 8. On the way home from Chelmsford to Fordham, she really enjoyed the easy steering, and smooth gearchange. And now the bad weather had passed, it felt great to drive around the country lanes on that bright morning in late April.

The first day at her new school, a few heads turned to see the young woman get out of the smart green car in the car park. In the staff room, it was mentioned by all the male teachers that she was the only female teacher with her own car. Even the headmaster had something to say.

“Well well, our new English teacher has her own car. Times really are changing”.

A Good Runner: Part Four

This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 754 words.

Mike spent all day Sunday polishing a car that he had only picked up the the previous day. Edna took him out a cup of tea, and he stood back, admiring his work. “Look at that love. Like a mirror. I reckon I could shave looking at that bonnet”. But the change in the weather soon put an end to any plans for more day trips. As it became colder , Mike got up earlier for work, as he wanted to let the car engine warm up before he started driving. “They say this modern engine oil circulates quickly, but I’m not taking any chances”.

Edna loved her husband, but before a month had passed, she was already completely fed up with hearing about that car.

That November, everyone was shocked at the news that nice President Kennedy had been shot in America. Edna shook her head as they watched television. “What’s the world coming to, when even the president can be killed in his own car?” Mike wasn’t listening. He had his head in a car magazine, trying to decide which spotlights to buy to fit on the car. “Extra lighting never hurts in winter, Edna love. Especially when it’s foggy”. Brenda was upstairs listening to her new Beatles record, ‘She Loves You’. Even Edna had to agree that it really did sound just like a lot of screaming.

The winter that year was the worst since forty-seven. Snow and ice were both a real problem right into the new year. Edna was worried about Mike driving in such bad conditions, and she couldn’t relax until she heard the car pull up outside in the evening. For Mike, that bad winter meant he would cover the engine with an old blanket at night, so he didn’t have starting problems the next morning. And when he had read the evening paper, he went outside in the cold and spread it over the front windscreen, to stop the ice forming on it overnight.

By late January, there was no sign of a let-up, and Mike had started to drive Brenda the short distance to school, so she didn’t fall on the icy pavement.

One lunchtime at work, Edna was in the staff room eating her sandwiches, when the manager came in. “Edna, there are two police officers here asking for you, I will bring them through”. His face looked solemn, and Brenda felt a cold chill run up her back as she dropped the sandwich back into the metal tin she used for her lunch.

One was a man, very tall, and holding his police helmet. The other one was a policewoman, and she did the talking. “Mrs Hollingsworth, I’m afraid there has been a terrible accident. It’s your husband. We have come to take you to the hospital”. Edna stood up, her lip quivering. “That bloody car, I knew it. He’s had a car crash, hasn’t he?” The police lady shook her head. “No, nothing like that. Something happened at work, and his boss called an ambulance. He told us where you worked”.

In the police car, Edna asked the question. “How bad is it, please? Can you tell me what happened?” The policewoman was sitting in the back with her, and held her hand. “It’s very bad. I’m sorry to tell you he has been killed, and we are taking you to identify him. He was working under a lorry and the hoist failed, apparently. It came down on top of him and crushed him”.

She couldn’t speak, let alone scream or cry. It seemed unreal, like a bad dream she would soon awake from. It wasn’t until some medical person pulled the white sheet back from Mike’s face that her legs went, and she knelt on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. The young policewoman was very caring, and held onto her until she regained her composure enough to walk back to the car. “There will have to be a post mortem. That’s always the case in industrial injuries”.

As far as Edna was concerned, she could have been talking in a foreign language. Staring out the window at people on the street as they drove her home, she had a strange feeling. They would go home tonight, to their wives or husbands. But her husband would never come home again. She resented them that good fortune. Then she thought of Brenda, and turned to the policewoman.

“Can you drop me at Broomfield Secondary School please? I have to go and get my daughter”.

A Good Runner: Part Three



This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 710 words.

Edna knew her husband was home when she heard the sound of the car’s horn on the street outside. She rushed upstairs to get Brenda to accompany her outside to see the new car. Mike was standing next to the driver’s door beaming like a toddler on Christmas morning. He called out to them. “Fetch your handbag and lock the door, we’re going for a drive!” With Brenda in the back, Mike set off, immediately, breaking into a running commentary as he drove along.

“Listen to that engine. Purring like a cat. In fact, you might have trouble hearing it, it’s so quiet. And the gears, syncromesh you know, not crunching like when I was in the army. And the indicators, built-in, no floppy arms poking up at the sides”. Realising he was heading south, Edna looked perplexed. “Where are we going, Mike? I thought we were going round the block. I was just about to start to get dinner ready love”. Mike was laughing. “Forget that, we’re off to Southend. We can have fish and chips on the seafront when we get there”. Stopping at a traffic light, he turned to his daughter. “What do you think, Brenda? Don’t you love it?”

The girl shrugged. “It’s a funny colour, and the inside smells like plastic. Makes me feel a bit queasy dad”. Raising his voice, Mike made his point firmly. “I suppose you thought I should have got a white one? Well they’re ten a penny. You won’t see many others in this colour, I can tell you. And if you’re going to be sick, I will take you home now. Don’t you dare be sick in this car, you hear me?”

When the seafront at Southend appeared in the distance, Edna was relieved to be soon getting a break from Mike’s endless chatter about the car. How much you could get in the boot, how it used just so much petrol, and how it was so easy to fix, he could do all the servicing and repairs himself. As he was parking near the pier, she thought that she must now know as much about a Consul Cortina as anyone in England. Except Mike of course.

No sooner had they strolled just far enough to the first place selling fish and chips, Mike was heading to the counter to buy some. “Find a bench or somewhere to sit. We won’t be eating these in the car. I don’t want it smelling of fish and vinegar”. He was so keen to get the food eaten and get back in the car, Edna was left with indigestion, and Brenda wasn’t allowed to waste time having an ice cream.

On the way back there was less traffic, and Edna was scared as Mike speeded up. “You’re doing sixty, Mike, I can see it on the dial”. He just laughed. “It’ll do more than that, love. Just wait until we get on some of those major roads down in the West Country”. Edna couldn’t remember ever going so fast, not even in a train, and she reached out to push her hand against the dashboard. “Slow down, Mike, I don’t like it”. Easing back to forty, Mike shook his head. “You’ll get used to it, love”.

By the time they got back home, it was almost dark. Brenda rushed inside to go to her room and listen to her new record. It was the hit from Gerry and The Pacemakers, called ‘I Like it’. She was pushing her luck, as she had played it so many times on Friday night, Mike had called up to her that if he heard it one more time he would come up there and snap it in half. Don Cullen from three doors away wandered up as Edna was getting out. “New Consul Cortina eh, Mike? How’s she run?”

Delighted to have someone to brag about his car to, Mike grinned. “Jump in, Don. I’ll give you a run into town and back. She’s a good runner, quiet as a mouse”. Edna made her excuses and headed inside, knowing she could not have stood hearing any more about how wonderful the car was.

Mike didn’t get back until gone ten, when Brenda was already asleep.