This story is by Marius de Kock and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Please don’t do this to me, not now. I beg you!”
I barely made it ten kilometers, and the car decided it had enough. Seven years I tried to run away. How can it be this hard to leave my past behind, the foster home where I grew up, my ex-fiance and his insane family?
Uncle Tim’s diner seems deserted as I pull into the parking area. I reached the only stop before the next town, which is a good 100 kilometers away. My heart sinks at the thought of nobody to ask for a lift. What a mess.
The engine dies on me and I have no steering or brakes. The pavement forces the car to a violent stop. This is what I get for taking their prized 1970-something Alfa Romeo, but I won’t forget the hatred on his father’s face as I sped past with my middle finger in the air. My ex-fiance spoke so much about this car, but I didn’t care to remember the details. I think he likes the car more than me even though it belongs to his father.
An unexpected shock runs through my hands as I slam my palms against the steering wheel. Give me a break. When can I have my happily ever after?
“Come on Abigail, don’t give up yet,” I mumble to myself. I am afraid, knowing my ex-fiance and his father are definitely speeding after me. I slam the door out of frustration and it comes off the hinges. What a piece of junk.
All I have is this sports bag filled with clothes and some sentimental things which I have collected over the years. I was forced to work at the foster home since they couldn’t find me a family. Then came Arnold. Our wedding was scheduled for December this year, but I am not moving from an abusive matron to a controlling husband and his uptight family.
The wind is warm as it softly breezes past me. I peek through the diner windows. The sun might be young in the day, but the angle is wrong and the light struggles to penetrate the inside. The garage next to the diner seems to be in use, filled with all kinds of car parts and a pair of tires in the back. Can it be?
“Hello?” My voice echoes through the room. Silence. A sigh of disappointment escapes me. Guess I am alone.
The bell rings as I walk into the diner. Weird how the place isn’t locked up and cleaned out. The air is stuffy, but no indication of mold or anything which died in the last month. The tables are empty and yet stand ready for new customers. It’s sad if the place did close down recently. I wonder if there is anything to eat in the kitchen while I wait. Time was against me to grab something for the road.
I stumble into a small room at the back of the kitchen, which seems to be the pantry. No use letting these canned food go to waste, so I fill the sports bag quickly. The expiry date reads next year, 2023. I found nothing to snack on.
A shriek escapes me at the unexpected sound of glass breaking. It sends a chill up my spine. I fling the strap over my shoulder, which sends all kinds of painful signals to my brain as it digs into the flesh, but my legs quickly take charge and lead me to the front door.
An old man appears in the doorway which leads towards the back. I have heard uncle Tim is in his early sixties, but this man seems easily twenty years older. He is taller than me by a head.
“Can I help you?” He asks in a tired voice.
“Hi. Sorry, I didn’t know someone was here. My car broke down.”
He glances out the window and his eyes light up, before narrowing and studying me, making me feel guilty. “Who are you, and is this really your car?”
“My name is Abigail. The car actually belongs to—”
“Charl Peringham. I knew it looked familiar.” He laughs. “Don’t look so surprised. He wants me to fix the car, but I don’t want to touch it.”
“His son, Arnold, is my ex-fiance. I am trying to run away.”
He shakes his head. “You do realize he won’t be far behind, with his daddy’s muscle.” He touches a scar on the side of his cheek.
All I can do is look at the floor, feeling mad and disappointed. Should have known I couldn’t run away. I spin around to see three black SUVs suddenly pull into the parking area. My heart is racing. I don’t want to go back.
“Spread out and find her!” Arnold yells as he climbs out of the middle SUV.
Eight men fill the parking area. Hang on, they have guns. I quickly duck behind the counter in fear, hoping they will just take the car and leave.
“Hey Tim!” Charl Peringham yells. “Knock knock!”
I am about to get up when he grabs my shoulder.
“Quick, follow me.”
“No. I can’t drag you into this. I won’t let them hurt you.” I grab a knife and clumsily hide it in my hand. I know Arnold can become abusive.
Uncle Tim looks at me sternly. “You won’t make it two steps outside the door.”
“Arnold won’t shoot me, right?” I reply with tears.
“I’ve seen him do much worse. Quick, come.” He disappears into the next room.
I glance at Arnold, feeling the hatred boil inside. He is two years older than me, aged twenty five with blond hair and slightly shorter. The knife is cutting into my flesh from the clenched fist, then I notice the guns and decide to obey.
I find myself in his kitchen. The room is small, yet very dirty. My eyes cringe at the sight since I only know cleanliness. And the smell. Ugh.
“She died a year ago in a horrific accident, in that exact car. Charl tried to steal my wife, Elana, but I know she stayed devoted to the end. They had an argument, slid off the road and the car rolled over her. He got away with a broken leg.”
“I am so sorry. I didn’t know.”
“Don’t worry, my girl. I will be with my wife sooner than anyone expected. You know, she always wanted a girl named Abigail.”
I can hear the men filtering into the diner and quickly step into a big steel shed. I am horrified as he reveals a shotgun from underneath the workbench.
“Please turn that valve next to you on the wall.”
The valve is cold, but turns easily. I can hear something flowing inside.
“All I have is this.” He pulls the dusty cover to reveal an immaculate ocean blue color on the driver’s side. “My nineteen eighty Chevrolet EL Camino with a full tank of gas to get you far enough from here.”
“I can’t take your car. I don’t even know when I will be able to return it to you again.”
He quickly pulls the rest of the cover off. “My girl, you have to get out of here. We can worry about the rest later.” The steel doors squeak as I help to open them.
I plead with the old man to come with me and yet, deep down, I know the answer. Uncle Tim picks up the shotgun and his smile warms my heart, taking away the fear. “I will be fine, but you need to leave now.” His hand is on the car as he leans close to it, whispering and glancing at me, “Please, look after Abigail.”
It takes some effort to lift the sports bag onto the back of the car. I slide in behind the wheel, noticing how soft the dark red leather seat is and yet firm for its age. The engine roars to life without hesitation. I floor the accelerator, but the car hardly moves. “Might help if you disengage the brake, woman,” I mutter to myself. Next moment I am outside, kicking up dust while the car tries to get away as quickly as possible.
I glance back at the exact moment when the unthinkable happens. A fireball of an explosion rips through the buildings, sending a shock of fear through my heart. I scream. My mind is racing and emotions are taking over, but I have to focus since all this debris is falling around me. Surely nobody could survive such a massive blast?
‘Don’t worry, my dear. I will be with my wife sooner than anyone expected.’ Tears are making it hard to see. The happiness on his face. Uncle Tim was the first person who cared.
Before me lies the open road. A fresh start. I wipe away the tears, but not the memories of uncle Tim. Maybe now I can find my happily ever after.