If You Can't See My Mirrors, I Can't See You, fiction by Caroline Coyle at Spillwords.com
Jorge Ramirez

If You Can’t See My Mirrors, I Can’t See You

If You Can’t See My Mirrors, I Can’t See You

written by: Caroline Coyle

@CarolineMECoyle

 

“For fuck’s sake,” growled Frank, “we’re going to be late.”

The car slammed to a halt, Helen, sitting in the front seat, also slammed to a halt. The dog, Sadie in the back seat, slid into the footwell with an indignant yelp.

Directly in front of them was an enormous articulated lorry, its brake lights red with warning.

“It’s OK Frank, we won’t be here long.” Helen’s voice was soothing from years of practice, not sympathy. “The sat nav doesn’t show any traffic jams and we left with plenty of time to spare.”

As always, she thought wearily.

To the left of her, she could see an old green car with bikes tied onto the roof rack. In the back seat, two children were bouncing and waving their arms in the air. Helen stared. It was all so familiar and yet so lost, now their own two were at uni. The driver, a man who looked to be in his 30s, caught her eye and she looked away apologetically, fearful of intruding into his limited personal space.

That’s the trouble with being stuck in traffic, she thought, especially in the middle lane of a motorway, there was nowhere to look, nothing to see. At least, if we were on the inside lane, I could look at the fields or cows or sheep. And, on the outside, I could catch glimpses of the faces travelling the other way. Happy that they weren’t caught up in it or perhaps horrified that they were heading back this way later on.

Frank drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, both the speed and volume increasing as his frustration grew.

She twisted in her seat and stroked the dog. Sadie was an old girl now, content to sleep for most of the day so long as she had company. Helen wished she could achieve that kind of simple happiness.

“Right, that’s it! We might as well give up and go home. There’s no way we’re going to be there on time.”

Why was he so angry?

Twenty years ago, when they had met, Frank would have turned up the music, relaxed back into his seat and deliberately charmed her with his conversation. Now, approaching middle age, he seemed to have developed tunnel vision, focused on the most mundane of irritants.

“But, Frank, we’re only visiting a stately home. If it’s closed when we get there, we can go for coffee, visit the gardens. And anyway,” her voice hardened, “we can’t go anywhere. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re stuck on a motorway.”

She clamped her mouth shut. Why had she risen to it?
The traffic on the inside lane began to move slowly.

“Oh can’t we?” His eyes narrowed and his chin jutted forward.

Without turning on the indicator, he began to try to edge into the inside lane. There was no room, but that didn’t stop him. Inch by stubborn inch, he forced the cars to veer slightly from their chosen path and grind to a halt. A flurry of beeping horns seemed to cheer him on. Until, eventually, he had enough room to make his way onto the hard shoulder.

Once there, he hesitated.

Helen, who had covered her face in an agony of embarrassment, said,

“Frank, what on earth are you doing? Get back onto the motorway. We’ll get in trouble.”

There was no response.

She looked at him, his hands a death grip on the steering wheel, his face rigidly expressionless and, with a sigh, turned to stare unapologetically into the green car, full of life.

Unexpectedly, Frank made a noise, somewhere between a groan and a cry. She looked at him again, more closely and, this time, could see a reflection of the man she loved. His terror that she would leave him and the knowledge of what he had become.

“It’s OK, it’s OK,” she murmured, as though to a child. With difficulty, she prised his hands off the steering wheel, covered them with her own and pulled his head onto her shoulder.

Through the driver’s window, she saw the man in the green car gesture for them to move back into the lane and, eventually they did.

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