Cold Hearts(2)

By: Sharon Sala

“No!” Lissa shouted, and stomped the gas with the assumption that too much gas was better than not enough.

The fact that she made it to the school parking lot without actually being late was a miracle. She didn’t even care that she had to run through the rain with a broken umbrella to get into the building. She was on the job, and the time to worry about the car and the stalker was after school was over.

* * *

Both bays at Paul Jackson’s garage and gas station were full, and his other mechanic was home sick with the flu. Paul had called in extra help to run the front while he worked on the repair jobs. He replaced a starter on the first car just before noon and sent the owner on his way. Now he was almost through putting new brake pads on a truck that reeked of marijuana. He wasn’t the kind to pass judgment on his fellow man, but when the young guy came to pick it up, Paul intended to give him the same lecture he’d given his own son years earlier.

He paused a moment to wipe sweat off his brow and pop a couple of painkillers. His knees throbbed, his elbow was aching where he’d whacked it on the concrete and his knuckles were bloody—all part of a mechanic’s job.

Just as he squatted back down, he heard a car pulling into the station and knew from the rough sound of the engine that something was wrong with it. He stood up, wiping his hands as he turned to meet the owner, and then smiled when he saw Lissa Sherman getting out.

She had been in the same class with his son, Mack, and they’d dated long enough that he’d wondered if one day she might become part of the family. Although that had never happened, he was still very fond of her. He noticed as she darted into the bay that she looked as exhausted as he felt.

“Hey, honey, it sounds like your fuel pump is starving the engine. It’s running pretty rough.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, Paul, this has been the day from hell. I didn’t think the car was going to start this morning, and then, when it finally did, I headed straight for school. The rain kept the kids inside at recess, and they were wild and bored, so you can imagine how that went down.”

Paul laughed. He had always enjoyed having her around the house. She was as unaware of her beauty as a woman could be and had a great personality.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t trade your day for mine. At least I know how to fix cars. I couldn’t wrangle a half dozen of those little rug rats, let alone a whole room full. However, that’s not why you’re here. Tell me more about your car.”

Lissa shrugged. “I don’t know. When it finally started, it ran rough all the way to school. A friend helped me get it started again, and here I am in need of your help.”

“Yeah, sure. Just leave the keys in it and I’ll get to it first thing tomorrow.”

“I don’t suppose you have a loaner I could drive?” she asked.

Paul frowned. “No, I sure don’t. Sorry.”

Her shoulder slumped as she managed a smile.

“That’s okay. How long do you think it will take you to fix it?”

“Might be the fuel pump. I can’t really say until I take a look at it to see exactly what’s wrong.”

Lissa wiped a shaky hand across her face and tried not to let her disappointment show. Even though she lived in town, since her stalker had stepped up his game she felt insecure about being without transportation.

Paul eyed her closely. For some reason she seemed uneasy, even afraid. He didn’t know what was going on with her, but he knew he would just spend another lonely night on his own when he went home. Or he could stay late and do his good deed for the day.

“Hey, how about I take a look at it this evening, and if it’s not a big fix and I have the parts, I’ll have it ready for you in the morning.”

Her relief was evident, which told him he’d read her mood correctly.

“That would be super, and I sure do appreciate it,” she said.

Paul glanced out at the downpour. “Do you have a ride home?”

She nodded, pointing to the car waiting at the curb.

“Okay, then. If I run into trouble, I’ll call and let you know it might take longer to fix. Are you in the phone book?”

She thought of the landline she kept unplugged and wrote her cell phone down for him on a slip of paper.

“Call this number. It’s my cell.”

He smiled. “I should have known. Not a lot of people still have landlines anymore. There are lots of things changing in this world.”

She thought of how calm her life had been before the harassment had begun.

“You are so right about things changing,” she said. “So I’ll see you tomorrow?”

He smiled. “Yes, tomorrow.”

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