Authors: Ivy Sinclair
Where My Heart Breaks
By Ivy Sinclair
Copyright 2013 Smith Sinclair Books
Cover Image by
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It sounded like an explosion from the rear of the car, and I yelped in surprise. The steering wheel jerked out of my hands as the back end of my Honda Accord began to fishtail violently. My car veered across the yellow line and into the oncoming lane of traffic. Immediately I grabbed the wheel again wrenching it to the right feeling the car’s resistance. Luckily there wasn’t another car in sight along the endless stretch of two lane highway. It was just me, my car, and a canopy of green tree branches overhead that blocked out most of the brightness from the afternoon sun. It extended as far as I could see.
My heart pounded in my chest as I maneuvered the car to the shoulder. Even before I reached the supposedly safe stretch of road, I heard the telltale thumping of hard rubber and metal on the pavement. I groaned. Carefully bringing the car to a halt, I drew in a deep breath and looked in the rearview mirror. Thank God there was no one behind me to witness my little blow-out or possibly become another victim of it if I hadn’t been able to control it. Of course, I didn’t think I had seen another car in at least ten minutes.
I popped the door open and climbed out of the driver’s seat. The heels of my shoes clicked on the blacktop as I moved around to the back of the car to inspect the damage. As I expected, the rear panel of the driver’s side sat several inches lower to the ground than the rest of the vehicle. The tire puddled around the base of the wheel rim. I didn’t know a lot about flat tires, but it looked to me like that tire wasn’t going to be saved. It seemed like a fitting analogy for my prospects on life at the moment.
Hating the fact that I felt so stupidly awful about myself, I mentally called up one of my last sessions with my therapist, Dr. Kreger. She said I needed to work on my optimism and feelings of self-worth. I stared at the tire and tried to dredge up something positive. I didn’t panic when the tire blew, and I handled the situation calmly and without collapsing in hysterics. Yet.
Of course, it helped that I was traveling on a backwoods road in the middle of nowhere North Carolina as opposed to rush hour traffic in downtown Baltimore, but I decided to give myself a mental brownie point nonetheless. I was sure Dr. Kreger would be pleased. Now the challenge was that I had no idea how far I was from my designated summer prison, and the empty highway offered little comfort that help would arrive anytime soon.
I went around to the passenger side of the car and pulled my cell phone off the charger. The display hadn’t changed for the last hour. There were no bars showing a signal at all. For the hell of it, I tried dialing my Aunt Patrice’s number anyway. Greeted with nothing but silence, I threw the phone back onto the passenger seat. Then I went back around the car and glared at the flat tire for several long minutes weighing my options.
Patrice told me several times to print a map off her website with the directions before embarking on my trip. In my infinite wisdom, and with complete confidence in modern technology, I ignored her suggestion. That was why I had barely an inkling of how far it was to the next town or any sign of civilization. GPS apparently required the ability to connect with the satellites in space, and that gave out on me just like my phone over an hour ago. The mileage signs I expected to see were few and far between. The last town I cruised through, probably thirty minutes ago, was so small that I doubted it even had a garage. The idea of walking back there in the sweltering Carolina heat, even with the leafy cover overhead, was less than appealing.
My options were running out fast. I could wait for someone to pass by and hope they’d stop to help me. However, Millie and I watched enough horror films our freshman year of college that my stomach clenched at the idea of asking for help from a stranger. I gained valuable self-survival wisdom from those flicks. For example, I knew that was how girls like me ended up cut up in little pieces and buried in a shallow grave in the woods.
I shook my head with a wry grin. That would be something to bring up to Dr. Kreger the next time I saw her. I’d tell her my diagnosis was that my skepticism about human behavior stemmed from an unhealthy obsession with B-rated horror movies. She’d probably have a field day with that. Then I remembered I wouldn’t be seeing Dr. Kreger for the rest of the summer and my dark mood returned. It wasn’t that I enjoyed admitting the fact that I had issues, but instead it was just another reminder that my summer was screwed.
I returned to my short list of options. There was only one left. I could attempt to change the tire myself. I was a modern, independent woman. I understood the tire changing process in theory. How hard could it be? Swinging my eyes from one empty lane of traffic to the other, I sighed. I might as well get on with the inevitable.
I opened the trunk and pulled out my two suitcases. I was as surprised as my mother that I packed for the entire summer in them. Of course, she threw away the majority of my clothes when I moved back in with them deeming them inappropriate. I didn’t have that many left other than what I managed to snare from Millie on her brief visit to my house at the end of the term before she headed back to New York.
The rest of the trunk was empty which didn’t seem right. Then I remembered the salesman saying something about the hidden compartment underneath the floorboard. I felt around the coarse carpet fabric until my fingertips identified the outline of the compartment’s lid and I pulled it off. Sure enough, it revealed a small spare tire and an assortment of tools. That was the moment I began to question if I chose the right option.
“Man up, Kate. Time to put your big girl panties on,” I said to myself to pump up my ego. “One thing at a time. Let’s take everything out and see what we see.”
I have the bad habit of talking to myself out loud when I’m stressed. It can be creepy and disturbing, but realistically at the end of the day, I’ve done far worse. I wasn’t going to be committed for talking to myself. At least, Dr. Kreger hadn’t said she would commit me for that. Yet.
The tools came out first, and I put them in neat order on the ground behind the car next to my suitcases. The tire proved to be more awkward to manage, and as I hauled it out, wobbling on my heels, and set it down against the car, I saw a streak of black appear across the front of my white linen mini-skirt.
“Dammit,” I swore. I was not dressed for tire changing festivities. I borrowed the skirt from Millie, and she’d be pissed if I ruined it. I took a deep breath and shoved that thought aside refusing to be baited by the universe into a bad mood. I had a tire to change.
I reached an impasse once again. I stood there with my hands on my hips and looked back and forth between the tire and the tools wondering what to do next. One of the tools looked vaguely familiar and so I picked it up. It was heavier than it looked, but I was pretty sure I had identified it.
“You need to jack the car up, dumbass,” I said to myself.
I took the jack around the driver’s side of the car and knelt down, wincing at the small gravel pebbles that dug into the skin of my knees. I had no idea where the jack should go, but I looked around the tire rim and then peered underneath the car hoping that some kind of big neon flashing sign would give me a clue.
That’s when the low rumble of an approaching vehicle reached my ears and my heart leapt into my chest. It was coming from the opposite direction. I scrambled to my feet. As I watched the blue pick-up truck slide past me, I couldn’t make out anything but the silhouette of the driver. The driver was definitely male judging by the size of the shadow inside the cab. I was torn between running after the truck or just keeping my cool and hoping it would continue on its course.
I turned my head to follow the track’s path. It was about a hundred yards away when I saw the brake lights come up, and the truck slowed to a stop. Then it swung around and made its way back in my direction.
“Shit,” I said under my breath. I stood up and looked around wildly for something that I could use as a weapon just in case I need one. I picked up the jack and held it in my arms. It would do in a pinch. If the guy attacked me, I’d hit him in the groin with the jack and then run to his truck and take off in it. Crap. Hopefully it wasn’t a stick shift. I had never gotten around to learning how to drive one of those. Groaning at my inability to think in a potential survival situation, I turned my attention back to the matter at hand. With my semi-baked escape plan in place, I sucked in a deep breath and waited.
The shadows from the tree limbs overhead still obscured the driver of the truck from my view as it crept up to the Accord. The truck stopped about ten feet behind my tools. There was a pause before the door opened, and I prepared for the worst. When he emerged from the cab and walked toward me, I temporarily lost all ability to think. My escape plan went right out the window, because it was no longer relevant. Girls didn’t run from guys like him.
Dressed in a short-sleeve blue t-shirt and worn denim jeans that showed a glimpse of flesh in several places along his long legs, the man was tall with black curls that were just a tad on the long side over his ears. A day old beard swept his high cheekbones, and I saw the black ink of a tattoo dress the bicep of his left arm. Wide shoulders narrowed to trim hips, and if his backside looked as yummy as his front, I wasn’t sure I would resist the urge to throw myself into his arms and thank him for coming to my rescue.
“Need some help?” His voice drawled in a barely there Southern accent as he stopped about three feet away from me. As his emerald green eyes swept over me and I felt a swoon coming on, I thought for a moment how I would look through his eyes.
A girl who stood a slightly taller than average at five foot six with dirty dishwater blonde hair in a trendy shoulder length bob cut, wide set, unremarkable brown eyes, and a killer tan that came from laying next to the pool for hours. A pair of Louboutin heels added three inches to my height and perfectly paired with my off the shoulder coral blouse and white skirt that now wore a rather obvious black mark. That reminded me again that I was in for Millie’s ire. I regularly ransacked her closet because she had so many clothes that I figured she wouldn’t miss a few. There was no way that I could afford to dress like this otherwise, but I realized the outfit probably was wildly out of place in this remote part of North Carolina. The guy probably thought I was some kind of airhead debutante from the city.
According to my parents, his guess would have been only slightly wrong. My parents weren’t the society types.
I realized that the pause after his initial question spanned more seconds than were appropriate, and I blinked rapidly to try to crank my brain loose from its stall. “Um, yes,” I said faintly. “I’ve got a flat tire.”
“I can see that,” he said, glancing down at the tire. “Looks like you were going to change it yourself.”
I still had the jack in my arms now cradled against my chest like a newborn baby. It couldn’t be more obvious that I had no idea what to do with it. “There’s no cell service out here so I couldn’t call a tow service. I’m supposed to be somewhere at three.”
“Have you ever changed a tire before?” His voice was slightly amused, as he looked me over again from head to toe.
I felt warm, but it wasn’t all from the obvious appreciation I gathered in his expression. I may look like an idiot, but I didn’t need to be reminded of that fact. “It can’t be that hard,” I sputtered. “I’m sure anybody can do it.”
The man nodded with a sly grin. “Ok, I’ll leave you to it then. Sorry to have bothered you.” He turned on his heel as my mouth fell open.
“Hey,” I said, taking a few steps forward.
He paused and looked back over his shoulder. “Yes ma’am?”
It was the second time he had called me ‘ma’am’. Hopefully it was just politeness and not an indication that he thought I was older than my twenty-one years. “I didn’t say that I wouldn’t accept any help,” I said. I also didn’t say that I couldn’t stop staring at his backside, which was as perfect as I suspected.
“Would you like my assistance in changing the tire?” There was no mistaking the amusement in his voice.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the guy at all. He was gorgeous, but he seemed aloof and not a little arrogant. “Duh, otherwise I will probably be here all day.”