Caroline Bagshaw rested her head on the leather-covered steering wheel and wept. Her dream life, apparently so perfect two years previously, consisting of a loving husband and two successful children. Now she was alone, and dealing with the funeral of Pop, her beloved father.
The wrong side of fifty, she had been betrayed by her faithless husband and disappointed in her two boys, who saw nothing wrong in what their father had done. In fact they followed his example; with both their marriages wrecked on the rocks of serial infidelity.
She was suspicious when Patience Cranshaw and Missy Peach, two of the most boring of her main five friends who she tended to see in twos and threes at various clubs, and other activities, who were trying to keep her at the country club on a particularly cold and wet day.
Really, all she wanted to do was go home and have long soak in a hot bath. So she ordered food at the bar for all three of her friends present for lunch in the restaurant, before running off to the loo and kept on going, out to the car park and well into the 15 minute drive home.
Patty and Missy must've just realised what happened and tipped the other girls off because, as she pulled into her drive, full of three cars and her husband's new Merc, her other friends were running to their cars in various states of undress.
Caroline discovered that her wealthy husband had affairs with many of her so-called girl friends, who covered for him as he regularly shared his remarkable sexual prowess between them. They were very much HIS friends not hers.
Now, a year after the divorce, her father, Sam "Jed" Pinner, had passed away the week before and the funeral was held earlier that day. All the guests had departed by this late in the evening, leaving her alone in his cold, dark terraced house, with his old car parked in the front garden, surrounded by a dark laurel hedge that looked as though it hadn't been trimmed in years.
Her eldest son, Adam, was curt when he saw the house she was holding the wake in, and Caroline remembered that he hadn’t visited his grandfather in over a decade. "You're clearing Pop's house after the funeral, anyway, Mum, at least you could've dumped this old wreck before everyone came back to the house."
"That 'old wreck' you are talking about, was your grandfather's dream car. Just before your grandma passed away in 1980, she spent all the money she'd scrimped and saved all her life to buy this secondhand Jaguar XJ12. A lot of love was poured into that car from them both."
"Yeah, but he never even drove it, Mum!" Adam scoffed, "This car's an absolute joke!" Adam's younger brother Robert Junior joined in the laughter, adding, "I know a guy with a low-loader who could've cleared this eyesore away in a trice for three hundred sovs cash in hand."
The boys’ grandfather had a stroke immediately after his loving wife, their grandmother, died and this left him paralysed down one side, so tragically he never drove the car, a gift that she had arranged for him virtually on her death bed. He was so proud of that car that he could never, ever part with it. Caroline was ashamed at the callous attitude of her offspring.
That's why, after all her grandfather's friends from the Wakefield and District Cowboy Re-enactment Society left, that Caroline sat quietly in her father's dream car once more before finally resigning herself to the lone task of cleaning the dishes and glasses before shutting the house up.
Hidden behind the dense old hedge the car was in a sorry state. The car's original colour had once been a deep rich maroon, the paint now dull and faded; rust showed through the wings and door panels and all four tyres were perished and deflated, flat to the ground. That car was going nowhere, and hadn't been anywhere for more than thirty years.
Caroline unlocked the driver's side door, which opened on surprisingly well-greased hinges. The internal courtesy light failed to come on, of course, the battery must've gone flat years before. She slid into the front seat, curiously smelling of freshly polished leather. Despite the wreck it looked on the outside, inside the polished walnut and tan hide leather inlay shone fresh and dust free. Beside her, on the passenger seat, was her father's beloved old Stetson.
She smiled, fingering the soft leather hat, recalling her parents' love of line dancing and dressing up in Western-style clothing; how her father engaged in quick-draw gunfight contests with his Wild West enthusiast friends that she knew as ridiculous but sweet "uncles" and "aunts" as she was taken to these events as a small girl. She put the hat on.
She cried at her loss, of her father and the rest of her family, and rested her weary forehead on the steering wheel and closed her eyes.
Next thing she knew, the car seat was bucking, throwing Caroline around wildly. She opened her eyes.
"Don't you cry, now Ma'am, them pesky injuns'll scatter once our lead flies among 'em!" yelled a large, sweating, bald man sitting in a seat opposite to her.
A wooden seat … a seat that shouldn’t be there in front of the front seat of a Jaguar XJ12 and it certainly shouldn’t be moving!
She was sitting in a stagecoach!
The sweating man pulled out a six-gun that had been tucked in his straining leather belt, and pointed his weapon out of the open stagecoach window.
"We're only a spit away from Sweetwater Valley," he yelled over the noise of the racing stagecoach wheels, the pounding hooves of the horses and the blood-curdling whoops of Native Americans on the warpath. "We'll be safe there in town, Ma'am, don't ya worry yer pretty head about that!"
#2446 in Romance
#335 in Romantic suspense
#644 in Fantasy
#248 in Romantic fantasy