Will was lost and late when, to cap things off, his temperature guage swung into the danger zone. He pulled over beneath billowing elms on the sort of street he only usually saw on television. He lifted the hood. Hissing steam confirmed a cracked radiator. He’d have called his brother for a tow if he’d known where he was—somewhere in Brentwood Heights he thought. It was a fancy neighbourhood.

A woman crossed over to see if he needed help. The first he saw of her was the face sprinkled with freckles leaning towards him across the engine. ‘Everything OK?’

‘Radiator’s gone. Where am I?’

‘Another planet. Your in Huntley.’

Will whistled. ‘Thought it looked fancy.’ He studied her face, cheeky and alive. ‘Don’t s’pose you know a good mechanic?’

‘Huntley Automotive. Three blocks. You could roll it.’

As they slid, slow and noiseless, down the hill Alice introduced herself. They started talking about cars. She invited him to a cafe to continue the conversation. By the time the Dodge was ready they’d planned a date and swapped numbers. ‘Funny,’ she said. ‘You getting lost and finshing up here. We don’t get many visitors from East Ridley.’

Will laughed a touch nervously.

Alice laughed too. Secretly. She would never tell him how well she knew the grim streets of his neighbourhood.

2011-Richard Holt / small stories about love (