Ben mopped up the tomato and bean sauce with his fried bread. The salty taste of the bacon lingered in his mouth until he swigged his mug of sweet tea. The cafe was packed and noisy but he liked the atmosphere. There was no-one nagging him about his health and the dangers of cholesterol. He wiped his plate clean; nodded to Jess, the waitress and made his way out to his van. Taking the southern road down to the sea, he put his foot down as he mustn’t be late for work again. They were doing up a house. A big job. The place was riddled with damp. For just a moment he realized he felt ill and then a pain so terrible shot threw his chest. He clutched at his arm and then blackness blotted out the day.
Lynda sat at the kitchen table and carefully applied her make-up. The children were dressed and their breakfast was ready for them. It was an important day today. She had an interview. If she got the job it would make a huge difference to their lives. She was wearing her smartest dress and had studied the company details and aims. She knew she was as well prepared as she could be. She needed the job to help her get out of the house. Since Pete had walked out to set up house with young Kate, Lynda had felt worthless, unattractive and had wanted to hide away. Only her children had kept her sane.
“You look nice mummy,” said Zac.
“Thank you, darling. Come and eat your breakfast. We need to get off to school.”
They left the house at eight thirty and Lynda dropped Zac and his sister at the gates and watched them walk in. She then made her way north, away from the sea, to the out of town shopping centre. As she drove upwards along the narrow winding road, she turned a sharp corner and saw a van embedded in a tree.
‘I can’t stop,’ she thought, ‘or I’ll miss my interview.’ Then she noticed there was someone in the vehicle and the engine was still running. She was out of the car and wrenching open the door of the van before she realized what she was doing. ‘Now would be a good time to have a mobile phone,’ she thought. On the seat next to the fat man she saw his phone and picked it up. Quickly she reported the accident. He was alive and bleeding. It was pouring from his arm. She ripped her petticoat and tied his arm into a raised position. Then with another band she tried to stem the flow of blood by tying a tight knot round his arm. The man was still unconscious. Relief flooded over her as she heard the sirens approaching.
While the ambulance crew took over, she picked up the man’s phone again and called the shop where her interview was being held.
“Sorry love if you can’t get here on time you’re not for us,” the woman who answered the phone said and was about to hang up.
“Wait,” Lynda shouted. “What did you want me to do? Leave a man dying by the road? I stopped to help an injured man. The least you can do is see me.”
“Well, I’ll add you to the end of the list, but you’d better get here sharpish. I’ve heard some excuses in my time.”
Lynda handed the phone to the policewoman and gave her details. She explained her urgent need to get to the interview and was allowed on her way. When she arrived at the shop she went straight to the Ladies and washed her face and arms. She sponged down her clothes and quickly changed her tights, which were torn. She certainly didn’t look the smart, calm lady from this morning, but she had to try her best.
As she was ushered into the room she took deep breaths to calm herself. The two ladies who interviewed listened as she explained the accident and agreed with her that she couldn’t have driven on. They offered her the job. It was not just the extra money, which would help stretch Pete’s miniscule maintenance payments, it was the staff discount that would help too. She would be able to get cut priced food, clothing and household goods from her new employment.
‘What a day,’ she reflected as she sat and ate celebratory cake with her children, after school. When they had gone to bed she telephoned the local police station and asked if there was any news on the driver.
“He made it to hospital alive, so there’s every chance he’ll pull through,” said the desk officer. “He was lucky you came along.”
It was two months later when there was a knock on the door of her house. There was a couple standing there with a large bunch of flowers. Lynda recognised the man from the van.
“I’m Mavis and this is Ben. You saved my husband’s life a few months ago and we wanted to say thank you.”
Lynda invited them in and they sat down and had tea.
“You gave me the most precious gift,” said Mavis. “I love my husband very much. If he had died I don’t know how I would’ve carried on. If there is anything we can give to you to help you or your family you must let us know.”
Lynda noticed that Ben looked at his wife in surprise when she’d said she loved him.
“The flowers are lovely and I don’t want anything else from you. You’ve already given me a wonderful gift. Before the day of the accident, since my husband left me, I felt useless and worthless. But I helped to save a life and realized that there is a point to my being. I am a worthwhile person. You gave me that. Thank you.”
As they left Ben whispered, “ and you’ve given me my marriage back. She hasn’t said she cared for years.”
Lynda smiled. “And you? When was the last time you said it?”