Res­cue Me!

The People's Friend Special - - HOBBIES -

I wasn’t the sort to ask for help. But to­day I had no choice . . .

LET’S get one thing straight. I didn’t go look­ing for sym­pa­thy. I have no wish to play the “damsel in dis­tress”. I was just un­lucky to come back from work to my car and find I had a flat tyre – and not just a bit saggy, ei­ther, but to­tally un­drive­able.

Just then, I felt close to break­ing down my­self.

“You evil minx!” I scolded my hatch­back, giv­ing her a kick to the wheel. “Why are you do­ing this to me?”

I had to set down my um­brella and take off my gloves to dig in my hand­bag for my phone.

Dead bat­tery. Not even enough power to ring the af­ter-school club and beg them to hang on for me.

I leaned on the roof of my trai­tor­ous car, head in my hands, let­ting the rain soak me as I tried to for­mu­late a plan.

I only vaguely reg­is­tered a ve­hi­cle stop­ping be­hind me, and the soft whirring of a win­dow be­ing low­ered.

“Ev­ery­thing all right?” a voice called, muf­fled by the rain and the en­gine. “Need any help?”

Oh, please, I thought. Just let me turn round and see a big van with “tyre fit­ter” on the side.

I al­most couldn’t look. I wasn’t sure I could take another dis­ap­point­ment.

Slowly, I lifted my head, tried for a brave face and ro­tated.

It was a van, all right. But it didn’t say “tyre fit­ter”. It said “florist”. Just my luck.

“I’m not sure there’s any­thing you can do,” I said. “I’ve got a flat tyre, I have no tools, and I don’t have breakdown cover.”

“Hang on,” the voice said, and the ve­hi­cle swung into a park­ing bay.

Out jumped a man of about my own age.

“Spare in the boot?” he asked.

“Erm, yes,” I said. “I ex­pect so. I haven’t needed it be­fore, so I sup­pose I’ve never ac­tu­ally checked.”

“Open her up,” the man or­dered, step­ping round be­hind the car. He didn’t look like a florist, but then what did I sup­pose a florist looked like?

I didn’t much want to open the boot. There was a lot of un­fin­ished busi­ness in there.

An enor­mous stash of card­board toi­let roll in­ner tubes I kept mean­ing to drop off for junk art at the af­ter-school club, for a start.

A pair of crum­pled cur­tains for the char­ity shop and – worse – a bag of my old smalls, which the shop volunteers urged donors to pass on to them for tex­tile recycling rather than just putting them in the bin.

I mean, I’d washed them, ob­vi­ously, but they still weren’t some­thing I wanted a strange man to see!

There was a freezer pouch of bat­ter­ies, too, des­tined for the coun­cil amenity site, and some old ends of paint for dis­posal.

“Don’t judge me,” I mut­tered as I tried to re­move the bag­gage with­out him get­ting a look. “I will get around to deal­ing with all this stuff. I’m just a very busy per­son.”

“Don’t beat your­self up,” the man said. “It’s fine.”

When I’d cleared some space, he lifted the layer of car­pet and there was a fine-look­ing spare tyre.

“Well, it’s OK for tread,” the man said. “But this one’s flat, too. Hope­fully not punc­tured, though. Let me get my foot-pump.”

I glanced ner­vously at my watch.

“It won’t take long,” he as­sured me. “Are you on a dead­line?”

“It’s the kids,” I said. “I’m meant to col­lect them by six at the lat­est, and it’s nearly quar­ter to al­ready.”

“How many of them are there?” the man asked.

“Three,” I told him, won­der­ing what dif­fer­ence that made to my sce­nario.

“No prob­lem,” he said. “There are seat­belts for the driver and four pas­sen­gers in the van. Let’s go. You can show me the way.”

Let’s go? How could I? I knew noth­ing about this chap, other than that he had no­ticed a woman on her own with car trou­ble in the dark and the rain.

That de­tail could mark him out as a preda­tor just as eas­ily as it could a knight in the shin­ing stuff.

“Sorry. Of course, you

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