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In which our heroine finds a ride

OrneryThe smartphone Mom had given me (along with strict instructions to call her as soon as I got to Greensun) provided the depressing information that there really were no trains, buses, or even taxis running between Huntington and Pikeville.  I was seriously considering throwing away my pride and calling Mom's old neighbor when a voice disturbed my brown study.

"Excuse me."  The words came from a guy about my age, who didn't seem to understand that person-you-don't-know-frantically-pushing-buttons-on-a-phone is American for "Do not disturb."  The interrupter of my solitary frustration was easy on the eyes, and if he'd been the kid next door, I probably would have been thrilled to be spoken to.  But since I was in an airport all by myself, I couldn't help thinking that the guy was probably a rapist or a serial killer.  So I merely frowned at him and went back to my agitated button-pushing.

But the stranger was undeterred by my lack of eye contact.  "I couldn't help overhearing that you're having trouble getting to Kentucky, and I think I have a solution," he told me.

"Hmmm?" I replied noncommittally, unwilling to be totally rude by ignoring him but hoping my tone would send him away.

Cat in sunroom"I'm Jacob," the stranger said, thrusting out a hand, which I reflexively shook.  "And you're in luck because I'm the sole owner and driver of the Mountaintop Taxi Company.  I just came up here from Pikeville to drop someone off, and I'll give you a 50% discount so I don't have to ride back empty."

(I know what you're thinking.  I start off by telling you this is the day I fall in love, and now here's a cute guy standing in front of me.  Not only is he no serial killer, he's also the love of my life, so I should definitely accept the ride.  Come on.  Could you be a bit less conventional and pay more attention to the dangers of my situation?  And, for the record, I didn't fall in love with least not that day.)

On the other hand, dangers aside, my options appeared to be severely limited.  "Hmmm," I repeated, trying to decide whether accepting a ride from this guy was as bad as hitchhiking, and whether I could walk ninety-odd miles before my shoes wore out.

"Okay, I know it probably seems a bit dicey to accept a ride from a stranger," Jacob said, unfazed by my monosyllabic replies.  "But if it'll make you feel better, I have character references.  Wanna call my mamaw?"

"Your what?" I was startled enough to reply.  And before I could glue my eyes back onto my smartphone screen and make another go-away hum, the stranger had speed-dialed his mamaw (which seemed to be a sort of grandmother) and put her on speaker phone.

Peacock"Jacob?" a female voice answered.  "Did you get your uncle to the airport on time?  Will you be home in time for supper?"

Now it was Jacob's turn to look a bit chagrined, which actually made me feel a lot better.  If he still lived at home, he probably was as young as he looked, and no one my age could be a serial killer, right?  "Um, Mamaw, I'm still up in Huntington, so I'll probably be late...."

"Well, could you pick up some milk on your way home?  Your brother drank it all, and we need some for breakfast.  And maybe some bananas and eggs?"

Wow.  I didn't know it was possible for someone's face to turn that shade of red without his air passage being restricted enough to make him pass out.  "Mamaw," Jacob tried to interrupt her as the grocery list continued.  "Grandmother!  Yes, I'll stop by the store, but there's a girl here who wants a ride down to Pikeville, and she needs to know I run a real taxi service."

"Well, now, I don't know if I'd call it a real taxi service," his grandmother replied.  It occurred to me at this point that her accent was thicker than Jacob's and the McDonald's lady's but that I was understanding her just fine.  Progress, right?  "After all, that's my minivan you're driving and I pay for your insurance.  But you did buy the magnetic sign yourself, so that makes it a bit official, I guess....  Be sure to invite her to supper if she's from out of town!"

"Never mind, Mamaw.  I've gotta go," Jacob replied, ending the call and turning away.  Having endured more than my share of parental embarrassments, I figured he was going to flee and pretend he'd never made his offer.  But somewhere in the midst of the conversation just past, I'd made up my mind and decided Jacob wasn't an ax murderer.

"Wait!" I called, gathering up my bags.  "I'll take you up on that ride, with just one caveat—I drive."

I hope you enjoyed this fourth installment of Forsythia's adventure. To read the rest, you'll have to download Watermelon Summer, which is free on Amazon today.  (Or email me today for a free pdf copy.)

This post is part of our Watermelon Summer lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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