story by Andy Martin
A fierce downpour pounded the pavement outside Birmingham International Airport and lashed against my windscreen. The rear lights of the car in front lit up, and a cloud of exhaust fumes gusted into the night air. Through the dissipating smoke I saw her walking towards me, dressed in a red coat. She placed a case on the pavement next to my cab.
I stepped outside, keeping my face down, away from the bitter rain. “Taxi?”
“Yes, please. Highbridge Road.” My last fare of the night.
Something about her accent reminded me of someone as I opened the door to let her in.
I started the engine and tried to put a face to the distinctive voice. “Been anywhere nice?”
In my rear view mirror I watched as her brow creased in thought and she removed her hat. “Ireland,” she said, and it clicked.
We were a couple, fifteen years ago. That unmistakable Irish lilt brought me back to student days, gigs, drunkenly stumbling around cheap student accommodation, talking and smoking into the early hours.
“Dan.” She smiled.
“How are you?”
“I’m okay.“ She paused a moment, then continued. “I’m back for a book signing tomorrow.”
“A book signing? That’s great.” She had aspirations of being a writer when we were at university.
Our relationship had been intense and unpredictable, joyful yet exhausting. It ended when she returned to Ireland to ‘get her head straight’, leaving me devastated.
“I wrote to you.” she whispered.
I glanced in my mirror and saw her beautiful dark familiar eyes. I took a deep breath. “The lease ran out on my house shortly after you left. I didn’t get any letters.”
We were silent for a few minutes, the windscreen wipers clearing the raindrops that distorted my view.
In the rear view mirror I saw shadows move across her face.
“How have you been?” she asked. “Are you married?”
“No…still looking for the right person. You?”
“I’m going through a divorce.”
“Sorry to hear that.” I said. She looked outside at the passing city landscape and I turned onto the expressway.
As I pulled up to her house I told her I was glad we’d run into each other. She opened her purse, and pulled out a fifty pound note for the twenty pound fare. “Thanks for the lift.”
I went to give her change but she held up her hand in protest. Was she trying to communicate something? Was it an apology?
“Thanks.” I said.
I watched her walk down the path to her house. She went inside without looking back.
I held up the fifty-pound note, and inked in the corner was a telephone number and a name, Lulu.
* * *
Andy Martin is a philosophy teacher in England. He has had a number of short stories published in magazines and has won two short story writing competitions. He is the author of ‘How to write short stories of Love & Entanglement’ under the pseudonym Andy Houstoun.