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She was the first one I noticed as I entered the cafe. Sitting in a booth by the window she looked up briefly from contemplating her coffee cup. A pale, pretty face, no make-up, vivid blue eyes, that I thought, in that brief moment, may have been crying. A full, but not oversize bosom, emphasised by the short-sleeved blue summer dress she was wearing.
Taking a seat at a table in the next aisle, from where I could keep an eye on my new truck, I was also able to keep the pleasant sight of her in my view. A waitress with a bosom that was four times that of the lady in blue took my order for coffee and pancakes. She treated me to an up and down stare from eyes blackened in eye shadow. “Haven’t seen you in here before,” she hummed.
“You’re off my normal route,” I told her, my eyes looking across at the lady in blue, who appeared to be near to tears again as she kept her eyes down over her coffee.
“But not off limits,” the waitress said provocatively, as she waddled back to the counter, where a huddle of hefty truck drivers was sitting. As she passed, one, an ugly looking guy with about four days stubble, reached out, placed his fingers under her right breast and flicked upwards.
“Time out for a quickie, Beryl?” he growled, while the others laughed.
“In your dreams, Bolo. I’ve tried your style before.” But she showed no anger at his touch, as she added with a grin, “All I got was a sore throat.”. Behind the counter, I watched her place my order, before she turned back, said something quietly to Bolo, while nodding in the direction of the girl by the window.
Bolo followed her direction, nodded and his lips pursed appreciatively. Smirking, he turned to the others and said something quietly, and mocking responses were audible, “No chance.” “Too fancy for you.” “Save some for me.”
Stubble chin lumbered between the tables, glanced briefly at me, before perching himself in a seat opposite the girl, who I had time to estimate, was somewhere in her early twenties.
“What’s a bonny lass like you doing out in the wilds on your own?”
The blue eyes looked at him warily, “I’m hoping to get a lift.”
Bolo shuffled in his seat, “A lift, is it? Lifts can cost.”
“I’ve got some money,” her voice was weak and uncertain.
“Money? Aye, that’ s one way.” And he turned to smirk at his watching mates. I didn’t like the route this was taking and could sense his intentions far too easily.
The waitress arrived with my coffee and pancakes, and when I’d paid her, she glanced across to the other table, “That Bolo,” she said, sotto voce, “just can’t keep it in his pants. He’s only heading for Glasgow—but listen to his patter. You might learn something.” She half turned away before adding, “He’s in for a hell of a shock.”
Puzzled, I watched the pair, while I spread jam on a pancake, and took a big hungry bite.
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Bolo was saying, and his tone of voice was so insincere I almost choked on my pancake. “So where do you need to get to?”
The girl hesitated before answering,” Near Nottingham.”
That made my ears prick up, since I was carrying my cargo of whiskey back to my home base of Derby, which meant passing Nottingham. Then I heard Bolo’s response, “Lady, this is your lucky day. I have to pass through there.”
“Cost?” she asked tentatively.
“Oh, we can discuss that when we’re out of here.” Again he turned to his mates and I saw his wink. I gulped at my coffee, sensing that some kind of involvement might be necessary, if things took the course I feared. This young lady was too neat, too sweet, to be a floozie that this Bolo guy might be used to.
Bolo glanced at his watch, “Hey, I should be on the road right now. You finished your coffee?”
The girl looked uncertain, “You’re sure this will be all right?”
“What? Giving you a-lift? Of course it will.” His pause said it all.
Bolo heaved himself to his feet, “No luggage or anything?”
Beginning to slide from her seat, the girl shook her head and reached for her handbag. Bolo lumbered toward the door, giving a little thumbs up to those at the counter, where the waitress was wearing a strange, anticipatory smile.
As the girl struggled from her seat, she looked rather clumsy, and as she straightened, the reason became very clear. The front of her dress bulged hugely below the waist. God, she must have been at least seven months pregnant!
There were a few gasps, and some chuckles, especially from the waitress. Bolo’s face was a picture as he stood holding the door open, staring at the girl’s bump. He ushered her out of the door, and when she was out he leaned back in to his crowing mates to say, “She still has a sexy mouth.”
The door closed, and the room was almost in uproar. I knew I couldn’t just sit there. There were two pancakes left and I wrapped them in a serviette, stuck them in my pocket, and strode to the door.
“Fancy some?” A voice called behind me, as I stepped outside. There was no sign of either of them, and I knew that they could not have travelled the space to where the trucks were lined up. Then, from my right I heard canlı bahis a whimper, and a growl of Bolo’s voice, “Come on, you want it. Pay time.”
Again the girl’s pleading whimper, as I hurried to the corner, I heard Bolo’s angry command, “Get your fuckin’ mouth around that.”
Around the corner was a small enclave containing waste bins, and Bolo was standing with his back to me, clutching the kneeling girl’s hair as she desperately tried to keep her head turned away from what he was offering.
There was no time for discussions. Bolo was big, but he was no bigger than me. I’m no superhero, and normally stand well back when trouble looms. Truth was, I had never struck anyone in anger, but not too many years back I had been a keen user of the local gym, and had donned the boxing gloves a number of times Right now, I was bloody angry, so, without further thought, I stepped closer and called urgently, “Bolo!”
His head turned, and my fist caught him sweetly, on the nose and mouth, as I shouldered him to one side so that he didn’t fall on the girl. He went down without a sound and his head bounced off the paving, his exposed erect penis collapsing like a deflated balloon. As he lay there groaning, I turned to the girl, and reached out to lift her to her feet.
Eyes filled with fear, and still on her knees, she tried to back away,” Don’t touch me. Please, don’t hurt me.” There was a red mark on her cheek that hadn’t been there before, so Bolo must have struck her. I gave him an extra kick in the ribs for that. Hell, I was in a bad mood all right.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” I said, trying to make my voice gentle, and contain all the truth of that promise. Definitely the original knight in shining armour, but this lady was going to take some convincing. Carefully I reached down, put my hands under her armpits, and gently lifted her trembling body to her feet. Even then she tensed away from me.
“Look, there are others in there who will gladly want to finish what that bastard started.”
“All men are bastards,” she said flatly.
“All right. Anything you say, but we must get away from here,”I said, and I reached out for her hand. Tentatively, she took it, and followed me out towards the trucks.
“Whatever you do to me, you won’t do anything to hurt my baby, will you?” she asked, as I tried to make pace commensurate with her condition.
“I’m not going to hurt you or your baby,” I assured her, as we reached my truck, and with some difficulty I helped her up onto the passenger seat, where she sat back clutching her swollen belly. “You all right?”
“Just need to get comfortable,” she said, and her worried eyes looked down at me as she asked, “Where are you taking me?”
“To Nottingham, I hope.” And the brightening of her features was worth waiting for. I hurried round to the driver’s door, climbed in, and I had the engine roaring in no time. From the road, I saw the cafe door open and a small group of men came out to look around. I wasn’t expecting any follow up. But that place was off my list of watering holes.
“I’ve got a little bit money,” she said, after a while.
“I really don’t want your money,” I told her.
“What is it you want, then? Anything, as long as it doesn’t hurt my-“
“Will you stop saying that? Can I spell it out to you? I-am-not-going- to -hurt-you-or -your-baby. Is that clear?”
“All men are bastards.”
Exasperated, I shrugged my shoulders, “You must have had a bad time of it. Want to talk about it?”
“How far on are you?”
Her hands spread over her belly, “Eight months.”
“Eight? Almost due. Christ, I’d better drive faster.”
And it was a relief to hear her give a little, if slightly bitter, laugh. The first she’d had for a while, I guessed. “You’re strange,” she said, and I could sense those vivid blue eyes trying to search into my brain, seeking evidence of the bastard man. What kind of men had she been associating with?
“What do I call you?”
“Linda.” she said. “Linda Parr.”
“I’m Frank. Frank Beasley. Pleased to meet you.” A sideways glance at her puzzled face as she looked at me had me wondering if anyone had ever been nice to her.
After fifteen minutes of silence, I felt a nudge against my left shoulder as her head lolled there. I didn’t know when she had fallen asleep, but it made me feel good to have her resting against me. Was I to be her comforter? What were the circumstances that had brought her to that roadside cafe, with no luggage, no other clothes, so pregnant and vulnerable?
We were on the A9 south, in over two hours we were through Inverness, and out into open country where the truck was suddenly buffeted by strengthening winds, while rain spattered across the windscreen. A traffic screen lit up with the words; STRONG WINDS. HIGH SIDED VEHICLES DRIVE SLOWLY.
I needed no urging because I had observed what high winds can do to careless truck drivers. The thudding of the wind against the truck must have roused Linda, as her head jerked up and away from my shoulder, and she uttered an anxious little “Oh.”
“You were tired,” bahis siteleri I said calmly, slightly bemused by the way she was checking her handbag, and tugging her skirt down, as though fearful that I had performed some nefarious act while she slept.
“I didn’t get any sleep last night,” she said flatly.
When she made no attempt to explain why, I asked, “No luggage?”
“I’ll listen if you want to talk about it, “I said, but she turned her face away to look out of the window without making any response.
The truck rocked under the force of the wind. The rain had become increasingly heavy, so that I was driving most carefully as the wipers struggled to keep the rain at bay. It had become so dark that I had the headlights switched on, as I peered out at shrouded hills..
“Quite a storm,” I said, and Linda gave a nervous nod. I turned on the cab radio to hear that winds were gusting up to seventy miles per hour, and high sided vehicles were being advised to seek shelter.
“I’m going to have to pull over,” I told Linda. I knew this route pretty well and soon found the lay-bye I was looking for, a short loop of road with a fringe of trees that would cut off the battering of the wind.
Switching off the engine, I turned to Linda, “Are you hungry?” I asked, noticing that switching off the engine had already made her edge well away from me. I reached into my pocket to recover the pancakes I had picked up at the cafe. The serviette looked rather rumpled, and whenI opened it out it was to find that the pancakes were in misshapen pieces.
“What did you expect?” I asked her plaintively. “A three course lunch?” It was good to see her giggle, as she looked at the mess I was offering. “Go on,” I kidded her, hoping to break her depression, not to mention her distrust of me. “Spoil yourself.”
I picked up a piece, and began chewing it, making a grand show of how delicious it was. Another slight smile as she reached for a piece, and popped it into her mouth. I glance at my watch. It showed a quarter to three. I should have been in Pitlochry, over an hour ago. Yet we were still some two or three miles from there, and we were stationary.
I realised that Linda was tucking into the pancake fragments, as though she hadn’t eaten for a week. “I see you were really hungry, “I said lightly.
She looked at me guiltily before saying, “I’m sorry. I forgot you wanted-“Her voice trailed away as that fearful look returned, as if she was expecting me to punish her in some way.
“Hey, go ahead and finish it. I’d prefer to eat big. There’s a bottle of water under the dash there if you’re thirsty.”
I watched her find the water, unscrew the top, and take a couple of hearty gulps. Her face had attracted me in the cafe, and now I looked and admired the frail yet sensual quality about it. High cheek bones, fair skin, delicate slightly upturned nose, and those vivid blue eyes. All made slightly puffy by her condition, I guessed, but still quite lovely when framed by the dark hair, still slightly dishevelled, after the rough handling by Bolo.
She caught my gaze and a little colour appeared on her cheeks, “What are you looking at me like that for?”
“Like what?” I asked, keeping myself pressed back against the door, so that I would appear less threatening.
“Like -I don’t know—funny—”
“You have a face that demands being looked at. I like it.”
The reddening deepened, and she looked as though she’d taken that as a threat. She looked out at the rain and wind-tossed trees. “How long are we going to be here?” she asked.
I told her that I was thinking of taking a chance , and trying for Pitlochry. “I could do with a good meal-somebody ate my pancakes.”
I tried to keep my tone light, and accompanied it with a smile, so she would know I wasn’t complaining. She rewarded me with a smile of her own, as she said, “I was hungry.”
I needed to call my brother, Harry, who was also my business partner, to let him know where I was. As I dialled on my mobile Linda’s face showed some anxiety, as though she suspected I was ringing to arrange an orgy where she would be the main attraction.
“Frank, where the hell are you?” Harry’s voice was immediate.
“Couple of miles north of Pitlochry.”
“Pitlochry? Hell, I was hoping you might be over the Forth Bridge.”
“No chance, What’s the weather like there?”
“Beautiful day. But I’ve heard on the news about the high winds up there. And, Frank, they’re going to get worse.”
“They couldn’t get any worse.”
“That’s what I was going to tell you. They say storm force. And there’s talk of closing the Forth Bridge to high-siders.”
I glanced at Linda who had relaxed a little. But it was looking as though our time together was going to be extended.
“No good diverting then?”
“No, take care of our investment. Stay off the road if that’s advised.” It sounded like he was more concerned about out brand new truck than about me. He’d have had a fit if I’d told him that I had a pregnant woman on board.
“My brother,” I explained as I pushed the mobile back into bahis şirketleri my jacket pocket. “We share the business.”
Her eyes wandered around the cab interior, “Looks very new,” she said.
“Our pride and joy,” I told her. “Only had her for three months. Look,” I went on, as I started up the engine,” I don’t know whether you heard any of that but this wind is going to get worse. So, it’s Pitlochry or bust,” I affirmed, and pulled out onto the road, into the howl of the wind.
On the way, I told her about how, when our father had died, four years ago, leaving us money to set up a small haulier business. The purchase of this big beauty was testament to how well things had gone.
Harry, my brother, would be worried about the high wind but he’d be more concerned if he knew I had a passenger. We had made specific rules which included no passengers, under any circumstances. I wondered whether he’d appreciate this particular circumstance.
It was four o’clock and Pitlochry was busy. But I managed to find space in a truck parking area. The rain had eased, but the wind was still fierce as we left the truck. I knew a place that served meals and let out rooms. Luckily, they had one room left.
First, I had to square things with Linda. “You said you trusted me. There’s only one room if we have to stay the night. You trust me that much?”
A momentary frown crossed her face, and I mentioned that she might prefer to find someone driving a car who would give her a lift. It only took her a few seconds to turn that idea down. “No, I think I trust you.”
“The devil you know, eh?” I joked, but at the same time, I was wondering why I should be so pleased that she opted to stay with me. God, what a pretty face can do to a man’s better instincts.
“Could I use your phone to try my sister’s number?” Linda asked.
I handed her the phone, showed how it worked, and watched her tongue show between her lips as she concentrated on dialling. After a moment, she said, “Sounds engaged.” And she handed me the phone to listen. There was a dead line buzzing. I didn’t like to tell Linda that it was no engaged tone. “I tried her a couple of times from different towns we were in, but,”and she shrugged, “always the same.”
Just a little concerned I took her through to the dining area, where we both dined voraciously on steak, sausage and mushrooms, finishing off with a coffee. “I need to repay you in some way.” she said, once again.
I held up a hand, “Payment is not necessary.” Then I paused as a thought struck me. “There is one thing you can do for me.”
Immediately her eyes clouded, as she turned her head away, “And that would be?”
” I’ve been with you for -what?—six hours, and I know nothing about you. You might be an escaped convict.” That brought an awkward smile, “Or an axe murderer.”
A laugh, this time, before she said, “I could have been that, given the chance.” Then that she said, “I need the toilet. When I come back I’ll tell you what I can.”And she shuffled away to the door marked, ‘Ladies’.
Sitting there I figured I must have made some kind of impression on her if she had decided to tell me about herself. Why would I be pleased to make an impression?.
Time ticked by and I was beginning to wonder if she had made a getaway, when she appeared across the room, and I was transfixed by the change in her. With her dark hair combed out and lightly curled outwards at the shoulder, she would have looked highly alluring if it hadn’t been for that obvious bump. But the face, washed bright and shiny, unhindered by any make up was almost child-like.
“I could do with some fresh underwear,” was the first remark she made when she got back to the table. A brief discussion, a query with the owner and we were out and visiting a lady’s outfitters, which fortunately, given the pressure of that wind, was just down the street.
I asked if she wanted to take her goods up to our room. After only a moment’s hesitation she agreed. The room was neat enough, and I was relieved to find it had twin beds. She begged for a moment to change into the fresh wear, and then I asked her where she wanted to talk, in the room or down in the lounge, where we could have another coffee.
The lounge won, and soon we were sitting, side by side, at a table in one corner near the window, with two lattes in front of us.
“Just take your time,” I urged her. “Just tell me what you want to.”
For a moment she looked uncomfortable, her eyes casting around the cosy lounge. Within minutes it was me who was feeling uncomfortable as she outlined the things that had happened to her. At first her voice was low and tentative, but as she progressed it took on a deep hardness, that matched the expressions that crossed her face. Anger filled my head as I listened.
At age nineteen she had been studying journalism and English literature at university, but had dropped out when her parents were killed in a car accident. Devastated, Linda, had been so low that employment, briefly, became unimportant. But when she recovered, she had been unable to get a post with any newspaper or magazine and was working as a clerk with a firm of publishers, which at least, she felt kept her within the umbrella of the written word. But the work she was given was fairly menial and she had been looking for a fresh outlet.
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