Tell me a story to soothe my head. Tell me a January ghost story, please.
So this is what she heard more or less. A ghost story in January, the month of new beginnings.
The house was on the second row at the beach. Not as extravagant as some, but still beautiful and spacious, if a little sad. And the house came with its own dark red car that the agent said was hers to drive should she wish to explore the area.
‘I am new so that might be fun,’ she said and scratched the back of her right hand.
The agent frowned at the word fun, but then decided Rachel Haworth looked too conservative to be any fun on the roads or anywhere else.
’I have a truck myself’ he said. ‘A large truck says a lot about me apparently.’ He laughed at his fine jest. ‘I like transporting stuff. Always in motion, my wife says. I’d sell the car and sort this place if they’d let me. But they’re stuck in their ways’. His voice trailed off.
‘Really ‘said Rachel. ‘I rather like the sombre atmosphere. It’ll help me to work’.
The agent knew nothing about studying and was unsure about the word sombre, so he changed the subject. ‘The car is a stick shift so be careful. It’s worth quite a bit. God know why no one wants to sell it.’
‘We’re used to manuals in the UK. It’s what we drive.’
Frank the agent had nothing more to add. Rachel Haworth was evidently a dull girl abroad for the first time. No wonder she was still studying.
Rachel made coffee as soon as he left and took the wooden elevator down to the garage. The garage had several lights but only one seemed to work and that lit up the car in the corner.
Only two seats with space just enough for a large handbag or maybe shopping for lunch. Red paintwork with black leather seats. A small steering wheel and wheel trims with silver spokes. Curves and Chrome. Rachel had no idea about the engine size. The car sparkled secretly; even in the dim light. it looked alive. She peered down at the bonnet, managing to read a slanted ‘A C’, then she checked another badge, read Cobra, and giggled. Such a long, long way from the staff car park at her school where everyone drove sensible cars to accommodate expanding families and weekends at the DIY store.
Shy Rachel Haworth now owned an AC Cobra. They would never believe it in the staffroom. Rachel scratched her hand again. Her whole body itched at the thought of the school bells and all the worthy statements about the school’s mission. Maybe a month here would settle her. She knew her parents hoped for an improvement. Of course, they would have accompanied her, but her mother had several friends who were getting married again and needed her presence. Her father was very busy with his accountants. They accompanied her in spirit.
The car looked expectant, gleaming even under the single light. ‘I wonder how long you’ve sat here’, she said trying out a new tone of her voice.
Her Cobra. Her escape. The keys were in her hand, so why not? Rachel tried the ignition, expecting nothing but silence. But the car started the first time. A loud, venomous roar of approval from her Cobra.
‘So, you’re itching to escape too,’ she said. God knows how you’re still running, but I’m so glad you are.
She tentatively pressed the accelerator and gently edged out onto the beach road. Early runners and a family keen to get to the beach before the heat became too much for the children.
Rachel waved, wishing for a headscarf and sunglasses. She indicated to the right but relented. Why go where everyone goes? She swung the car to the left, accelerated, and was thrown back in her seat by the power.
Oh, my God. OH, MY GOD! The car shot forward eager to head out beyond the straggling houses and towards the lighthouse that marked the limits of Folly Beach. As if under the Cobra’s spell, Rachel couldn’t resist revving the car a little more, even though the speed restrictions were clearly marked at 20mph.
For a moment she heard the sound of the morning bell at school. And the admonishing tone of the Second Mistress to all the staff and girls in the corridors. ’Walk, don’t run!’ She pressed further down on the accelerator. And felt the rush of warm air on her face and the scent of herbs and salt. Thrilled, She put out her tongue and turned on the music. ‘There’s an angel on my shoulder, in my hand a sword of gold.’
‘Really, REALLY!’ she shouted to the sky, to the beach, to the world.
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
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