“Damn!” Stella swore with exasperation as her tightly balled fist beat the dash of her car. She slid the lever several times and clicked the knob of the air conditioner controls. What else is going to go wrong?

She depressed a button on the console and stared at the snarled traffic in front of her as the windows whirred open. The outside heat swarmed into the interior of the car and enveloped her like an electric blanket. Ninety-seven degrees and the air conditioner picked today to go out.

She gazed in envy at the motionless cars in front of her under the bridge, which spanned four lanes of traffic. The shade might have offered a little comfort from the heat.

Stella listened as the radio news announcer excitedly told of the major wreck on I-75. She heard helicopters buzzing overhead but couldn’t see them. She looked at her watch, picked up the cell phone from the passenger side seat and pushed her editor’s numbers.

“Everett Publishing. How may I help you?” The cheery singsong voice did nothing to alter Stella’s mood.

“Craig Everett, please. This is Stella Marsh.”

“I’m afraid Mr. Everett is in a meeting. May I take a message, Ms. Marsh?”

Stella sighed. What’s he doing in a meeting? He is supposed to be meeting with her in less than ten minutes to discuss a contract about publishing her first book.

“All right. I was scheduled for a meeting with Mr. Everett at one o’clock today. I’m stuck on I-75 behind a huge traffic jam and really don’t know when its going to clear up.”

Stella heard the clicking of a keyboard in the background.


“Ah yes, Ms. Marsh. We have your cell phone number. I will inform Mr. Everett of your predicament and call you back to reschedule.”

“Ok, thanks.” Stella snapped the cell phone closed and threw it on the passenger seat.

She felt beads of sweat gathering around her neck and trickling down. The air mixed with gas fumes, and burning oil from overheated cars caused nauseating spit to gather inside her mouth. Not one car had moved in fifteen minutes. She leaned her head back against the headrest and thought about the argument with Rick this morning before she left.

“We haven’t had one hour together since you started that damn book.” Rick spoke with irritation as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “I took today off just so we could be together and talk.”

Stella slipped her jacket on and started fumbling through her purse on the counter. Finally she just dumped the contents out.

“Talk about what, Rick? You said when I started this I would have your full support and now all I hear from you are complaints.” Not finding what she was looking for she glanced desperately around the kitchen. “Where are my fucking car keys?”

He followed her as she went from the kitchen to the living room picking up magazines, looking on tables for the car keys.

“We need to talk about us, our marriage. Hell, we haven’t had sex in four months.”


She turned to him and placed her hands on her hips in defiance.

“And whose fault is that? You are the one who is always too tired.”

“I can’t stay up until one or two in the morning when you decide to take your nose out of that novel you are writing. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a job that requires me to be there at seven in the morning.” As soon as the words left his mouth he regretted saying them.

She found her keys on the hallway table. She turned, looked at Rick with hurtful anger evident on her face and said quietly, “So, all that support talk was just that, huh? You think what I am doing is not work and is less important than what you do.”

“No, honey, I didn’t mean…”


Hoooonk! Honk! Honk! Honk!

Stella’s reverie broke with the sudden, grating noise of a car horn. Her eyes quickly riveted to the cars in front of her and she almost stepped on the gas when she noticed the bumper-to-bumper line had not moved one iota. She looked in her rearview mirror for the source of the blaring horn. Directly behind her sat a red mustang convertible housing a young blonde applying lipstick and shaking her head in beat to a radio.


Stella’s cell phone rang and she grabbed it up quickly.

“Hello?”

“Ms. Marsh. This is Everett Publishing. Mr. Everett can see you at three-thirty today…

Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk! Hoooooonk! Honk!

The blare seemed to be right next to her ear. She placed her finger in her left ear and tried to bend away from the noise.

“Pardon me, I didn’t catch that.”

“I said, Mr. Everett can see you at three-thirty today but after five today he’s going on vacation and won’t be back for two weeks.”

Hoooooooonk! Hoooooooonk! Hoonk, honk, honk, honk!

Damn idiot bitch!


“I’ll be there.”

Stella threw her phone hard on the passenger seat without closing it and angrily opened her door. Slamming the door, she stiffly carried her five foot two frame toward the blonde in the red convertible. The young women seemed oblivious to all around as she vigorously chewed gum and bobbed her head to unheard music.


Stella stopped next to the red convertible.

“Look, the cars are not going anywhere, so stop honking your frigging horn.”

The young girl looked up questioningly as she pulled the Ipod earpiece from her ear.


“What?”

“Stop…” a sudden screeching of tires and a horrifying crunch of metal against something solid interrupted Stella. Both women looked up toward the sound and saw a concrete piece had been knocked loose from the bridge above by a semi tractor-trailer. They both watched in horrid fascination as the piece floated down like a feather and crashed through the roof of Stella’s car with a sickening, splintering sound. The dust that had poofed up from the impact eerily clung in the air above the crushed car.

“Wow, good thing you got out of your car when you did. And uh, by the way, my horn is broken, so it wasn't me."

Stunned and shaking, Stella could only stare at the young blonde and thought of Rick and how she wanted him by her side at this moment. Magically, the mere thought of Rick produced his form, weaving between the stopped traffic on foot, hurrying toward his white-faced wife. Shock and disbelief washed away from Stella the moment her husbands arms wound tightly around her.

"Are you all right?" His voice trembled against her ear.

She raised her head from his shoulder and noticed the fear in his pale blue eyes.

"Yes, I'm fine. But how....why are you here?"

He kept one hand on her waist while he brushed a strand of hair from her face with the other and smiled sheepishly.

"I felt so bad about the argument we had this morning that I decided to follow you and apologize. Then I lost sight of you in this traffic jam. I didn't know you were so close until I saw you walking between the cars. But I didn't see that thing fall on your car because some big brusier of a guy was about to bash my face in. Something seems to be wrong with my horn, it keeps going off by itself and I guess he got a little irritated. We both heard the noise..."

Stella felt strangely dumbfounded by this news as she interrupted him.


"Your horn?" It was his horn that saved her life!

He nodded. "Yeah, I've been meaning to get that fixed."

Unable to comprehend the strangeness of this event, Stella kissed and hugged her husband. The meeting about publishing her book took a back seat, so to speak
.

 


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