Her car was already there, pulled into the lay-by, facing the oncoming traffic. He pulled in in front of it, nosing his headlights to hers, and switched off the engine.
She was indistinct but recognisable despite the reflections in the two windscreens, and for a moment they sat staring at each other across the curved metal of the bonnets, each wondering if the other would get out of their car first. She flashed the headlights, a pale lightning seen obliquely, and he opened his door and slid out of the driver's seat and walked forward to her passenger door. She looked up at him through the glass and gently patted the empty seat next to her. He looked both ways, as if were about to cross a busy road, and got into the car beside her.
The lay-by was on the edge of town, tucked under a breaking wave of full leafed trees, mirrored on the far side of the road, so that they were in a green tunnel with a narrow band of white, like a strip of torn lace, above, enclosed by a parted sea of greenery on the bed of which they attempted their escape.
Hello you, she said, looking at him. Her face was soft, relaxed and welcoming. Her smile was faint, comfortable, not threatening. He smiled at her. A car zipped towards them, sped past, and he got the sense of the pale disc of a driver's face turning to face them as it passed. They sat in silence. What was there to say? What was there to say before what was intended to be said, in preparation for it?
It's good to see you, he said. She smiled more fully. A vehicle shot from behind them, on the other side of the road, towing a chain-saw of engine noise behind it. A desultory rain, fragments of sycamore blossom, whole sprigs of it, fell upon the curved bonnets and the slanted windscreens of their cars.
She was twisted in her seat, one heavy breast cupped by the still fastened seat belt. She had one hand on the steering wheel, and the other, the one with which she had patted gently the dark cushion of the passenger seat to invite him in, was now resting on the handbrake. Her legs, lying not quite parallel, firm beneath the dark sheen of her tights, showed below the taught hem of her skirt. Her feet rested in shadow upon the pedals. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of another vehicle speeding towards them, its sidelights glittering like bright, inquisitive eyes.
He forced his attention away from the blue car, the same colour as Marge's was, and looked into her face. She was still smiling. He should kiss her, he thought, but he should say something first. He could think of nothing to say that was not inane. The weather, work, how the family was, whether or not they had holidays planned.
Are you well?
Yes, and you?
Another vehicle sped towards them, rocking her car as it passed, and a lorry, its metal sides rumbling like muffled thunder passed by in the opposite direction. She reached out and took his hand. Her skin was warm, soft, her grip gentle. He did not want more than this, he realised, not right away. This comfortable, not quite comfortable, anticipation, this acceptance, an invitation, a promise. He strove to define his understanding of his feelings.
It's so nice to be here, he said. She leaned forward.
Her lips were so soft. They touched him like a cloud. He closed his eyes. The car shivered again as another zipped by, hooting its horn. He broke away, turned to see a flash of grinning faces and waving hands vanishing from his arc of vision.
I never thought it would so busy, he said.
Never mind that, she said, leaving go of the steering wheel and pulling him onto her by his lapel. It must be a rat-run, he thought, as she kissed him again. The kiss was long, and intense rather than passionate. He wondered where you would rat-run from, where to? Wondered whom he knew who might know of it, who might use it? Who might take such a short-cut? They broke off from the kiss and she sat back in her seat.
What's wrong? She asked, looking at him.
Then kiss me, she said, and he leaned forward and did so, but his mind raced with the cars that raced beside them. They were full of pale turning faces, amazed at the recognition, of his car, parked so strangely there, so obviously. Isn't that Gerry's car? What's he doing this side of town? Isn't that Gerry? Who's that he's with? Perhaps he's broken down, is calling for help. They would ask Marge. Wasn't that Gerry? Didn't I see Gerry? What would he say? To her? To them?
She had taken his hand, was placing it on her leg. That felt nice. But the cars were passing now as if in a race; as if a starting flag had fallen and the narrow avenue beneath the trees were a chicane that they must navigate, jostling for position. She kissed him more urgently, and he felt her loosen the seat belt, and the freed breast flowed against him like a wave. She breathed in deeply as he took it in his palm.
But the cars were streaming now, one after the other, and her car rocked and shook with each one that passed, as if it were being buffeted by gusts of wind, by a storm, by an incoming sea that was closing the gap between the standing waves of trees. The sycamore blossoms were falling thickly, covering the cold glass of the windscreen, darkening the interior of the car where they struggled to connect.
Headlights flashed upon them through the deepening gloom, and the car bucked beneath them, writhing as they kissed, as if it were driven by an ecstatic love. He felt his fingers feeling for her beneath the skirt, the raw tingling smoothness of her tights, the ridge of their seam like an erect clitoris, but the cars still drove, their headlights blazing through the darkness of his consciousness. The rising tide of traffic rattled through like chariots, galloping horses lashed in furious pursuit. He could not hold them back.
She moved away, settled in her seat, her breathing slightly heavy, her face flushed, her eyes bright. He smiled uncertainly, leaning back against the headrest, as if some high water mark had been survived, a tide had turned.
Shall we meet again? she said.
He thought of Marge then, of the sadness. People should not hold themselves back from each other.
Not here, he said.
© Brindley Hallam Dennis, 2012
Brindley Hallam Dennis is an English writer. That's What Ya Get! Kowalski's Assertions (written in a phoney New York accent) was published in 2010, and his novel, A Penny Spitfire, in 2011. Many of his short stories have appeared, and will no doubt disappear later. He blogs at http://bhdandme.wordpress.com
Rat Run was read by Nilla Watkins on 11th July 2012