The loud cursing just beyond the gate breaks the quiet of the cemetery. I lift my head and look around. At times, my hearing aids seem to be super sensitive and I pick up on things others don’t, but I don’t think that’s the case this time. Following the cursing is an even louder banging. Metal on metal, and then a shrill scream, one that could only come from a woman.
Out of instinct I leap up from my crouched position and run toward the sound. Luckily, Carol’s grave is close enough I can access the outside road quickly by foot. When I turn the corner, I slow my sprint slightly, surprised by what I see, or rather, whom I see.
A blond beauty queen of a woman, wearing tiny little jean shorts and a tight T-shirt is kicking the tire of a top-of-the-line Dodge pick-up truck with her Converse-clad foot. She’s not at all what I expected to find. I don’t know if I should stand and stare longer, laugh, or attempt to help. I’m a lawyer so it’s rare that people surprise me, but she’s managed to do that and I haven’t even met her yet.
“Ma’am, you’re going to break your foot kicking that truck. Can I help you?”
Instead of appearing instantly grateful that someone is there to help like I expected, she slaps her hand on her hip and cocks it out, full of attitude. Her eyes start at my feet and roam all the way up to my hair.
It’s Friday, our casual day at work, and I’m headed to the office after this so I’m dressed in chinos, a pressed polo shirt and dress shoes.
The blond beauty’s eyebrows pull together. “I’m not thinking you’re the best one for the job. You might get some grease on your perfect pants.” Before I react to her rude comment she continues, “Besides, if I can’t fix it, then my brother can do it. I just don’t have time to wait for that now. I’ve got to be somewhere and I can’t be late. Unless you’re a mechanical fairy with a magic wand, I’m shit out of luck.”
I can’t decide if I’m offended or ready to bust up laughing so I stay quiet while I decide what to do. Should I turn around and head back to Carol’s grave? Should I offer her a ride or do I simply get in my car and leave this rude woman right where I found her?
She obviously tires of waiting on me to decide and turns back to the vehicle, muttering something about useless men. She’s a fiery little thing and although I really should be pissed, I can’t help but laugh loud enough for her to hear me. She’s hilarious.
With her phone in her hand now, she leans back against the truck and stares at me. “What’s your problem? I don’t find anything here funny.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry,” I tell her as I try to hold back my smile. “Listen, I’m finishing up and can take you where you need to go so you’re on time.”
After a huge sigh, she says, “Hold on, let me check something before I turn you down.”
I can’t help the bark of laughter that jumps out of me. She’s something. Cute in a seriously feisty way.
She glares at me before starting to speak into her cell phone. “Marshall, I need you to come get me and drop me off to be with Shaunda. I’m going to be late. Please.” She’s pleading with whoever is on the other end of the call, her voice giving away her worry.
“Marshall Joseph Averette, I never ask for anything.” The tone she’s taking now sounds like she’s talking to a child. There’s a pause and finally she pulls the phone away from her face and pokes the end button like she’s trying to crack the screen. When she turns to me she says, “My good-for-nothing brother can’t get here fast enough. Like he couldn’t afford to pay one little ticket if he gets caught speeding.” She shakes her pretty little head and holds my gaze. “I’ll take you up on that offer.”
If I hadn’t seen the crack in her armor when she was on the phone with her brother, I’d probably give her some shit just to see her get riled up a little more. Her attitude is more than a little adorable. But the desperation I heard in her voice while she was on the phone registered familiar somewhere inside me.
“Let me get my car and pull around.” I don’t wait for her to say anything else; I turn and stride back to my car, with one last glance at Carol’s grave as I pass it. A little ache laces through my heart, but I don’t dwell on it like usual. I slide in behind the wheel of my Jaguar F-TYPE sports car and pull around to pick her up.
She whistles as she lowers herself in. “Nice wheels, pretty boy,” she comments as she looks around.
I should be offended by the pretty-boy reference, but I’m more amused than anything. I bought this car last year after I made partner, and I love it. The power and the feeling of freedom are unparalleled when I get behind the wheel.
“Thanks. Where am I taking you?” I ask.
“Memorial Hospital.” She turns to look out the window. “Supposed to be there by eight. I knew I shouldn’t have gone to the cemetery, but sometimes I just feel like I need to. Ya know?”
“Yeah, I know. Who do you have out there?”
“My mom,” she answers quietly, and that crack in her armor shows again. This woman is tough, but the mere mention of her mom and she goes soft inside. “You?” she asks.
“Carol, my wife,” I answer, offering no more. I never talk about her. Losing her was so painful that I avoid bringing that feeling to the forefront like the plague.
“Oh. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…” She trails off and I glance over to find her cheeks pink with a tinge of embarrassment.
“It’s okay.” Time to turn the conversation back to her. “You have an appointment or visiting someone today at Memorial?”
“Sitting with Jeff, my sister’s husband, while she gets a mastectomy today. Her husband’s a great guy, but he finds medical lingo difficult to understand and hospital-type people make him nervous.”
“Your brother isn’t going to be there?”
“Nah. He can’t handle it. Won’t even acknowledge it. Mom died of breast cancer and he’s never been the same. Anyhow, someone has to keep the business running while Shaunda, Jeff and I are all out.”
“Business?” I shouldn’t ask, but I can’t help it. I’d love to take the long way to the hospital just to hear more about her. It doesn’t hurt that she’s built like Daisy Duke and dressed similarly.
“Averette Automotive. My pop opened it when we were young and as each of us graduated we joined the business. Although, my sister, Shaunda, didn’t join until she got her MBA. Accounting and clerical work are what she handles for us. She was never interested in the turning wrenches part of things, but she wanted to help keep the business going for when our pop is ready to retire. My brother, Marshall, and I went to trade school to be mechanics. Jeff too.”
This keeps getting better and better. A woman who looks like her, bent over the engine of a car? Shit, that’s a fantasy come to life. We have one more light until we reach the hospital entrance and I again wish I could make a couple of detours to make this last longer.
“I’ve never met a female mechanic,” I tell her honestly.
Her demeanor changes again and she giggles a little as she replies, “You won’t find a better mechanic in town than me.”
I can’t help but grin at her confidence and her quick change from angry to resigned to sad to arrogant. With mood swings that quick, she’s either really interesting or completely crazy. I wish I had more time to figure out which it is.
“What? You don’t believe me? Ask around. Anyone who knows anything about cars knows me. Speaking of which, I owe you. Come by and I’ll change your oil. I’d love to get under the hood of this beauty.” She runs her hand along the dashboard reverently.
“I usually go to the dealer.”
“I figured. They probably gouge you to death with the cost though. Seriously, here’s my card. I owe you one. You come by when she’s ready.”
“You won’t even remember me.”
“It’ll be hard to forget the man in the pressed khakis who saved me from walking to the hospital.”
“Pressed khakis? That’s all you’ll remember?”
“Doin’ what I do, I don’t encounter too many dudes who iron creases into their pants. What’s your name?”
“Victor Martinez.” I pull up to the curb at the hospital entrance and take the card she’s holding out for me and look at it.
Colby Averette - Co-owner/Mechanic
“Your name’s Colby?” It fits her perfectly. It’s pretty and distinct and has the personality and edge that’s so clear in the woman herself, even with only a first impression.
“Yeah, I know it’s weird, but it fits.”
“Yeah, it does actually. Nice to meet you, Colby. Do you need a ride back to your truck later?”
She tilts her head to the side like she’s trying to figure me out. “Get to your fancy job, pretty boy,” she says with a flirty smile. “Marshall’s gonna have it towed to the shop and Jeff can take me home later. Thanks again.” She climbs out, shuts the car door and struts her gorgeous ass through the sliding doors, disappearing from sight.
I sit there for a second, unable to comprehend what just happened until a car horn jolts me back to the present. I press the gas and turn toward my office, thinking the whole way there about the beautiful blond mechanic who blew into my life like a tornado, jumbling everything around in my head.