The Party's Over by Ginny Swart

“That was a lovely evening, wasn’t it” Helen Andersen clicked her seat belt and leaned back with a sigh. 

“Bit late though. Annie only served the dessert at eleven!”

“Ah well, she always makes a good dinner,” said Rob. “No point in rushing it.”

“We couldn’t, could we? You had seconds of everything!”

“Got to show my appreciation of her good cooking,” he grinned, reversing out of the driveway.

“James was in fine form. Did you hear him telling me they’ve made him a director now?”

“Really? Good for James,” she said sleepily. “But director of Waddles Waste Management? I don’t know, the manager of Quikfoods has a better ring to it, somehow!”

He patted her knee. “Ever faithful, that’s my girl,” he said. “But a director, now.... .he’s really done well. Told me they’ll be taking the kids to Disneyland next July.”

“Cornwall is just fine for us,” she said. “Anyway, Florida in summer is terribly hot.”

“I could do with a cuppa when we get home,” said Rob, turning onto the road out of town. “Don’t know why people always offer coffee, it keeps me awake. Stupid idiot!”

He was addressing the big saloon that swung past them on the road, cutting in too soon and causing him to clap on the brakes.

“Be careful, darling,” said Helen anxiously. “It’s Saturday night and you know how some people drive when they’ve had a few too many.”

“Hope the cops get him,” growled Rob.

They drove on slowly, with Rob dipping his lights at on-coming cars.

“Some of these fellows haven’t heard of dimming,” he said irritably. “And then they practically blind you. Look at this one...oh my God ...”

Helen was aware of the screech of brakes...Rob’s? Then an almighty bang which jarred every part of her being, and a crazy rollercoaster as the world turned upside down in a whirl of lights and the sound of metal crumpling. Then a long, complete silence, broken by the sound of a wheel spinning slower and slower.

It took her some time to work out where she was. Their car seemed to have landed on its side, with the driver’s door crushed against a sloping embankment. Helen was suspended by her seat belt which dug sharply into her chest, making it difficult to breathe.

“Rob? Darling?” Helen's head was ringing and she could only croak. “Are you all right?”

It was totally dark and she groped for the reassurance of his hand.

“I’m fine. Amazingly.” Rob’s voice sounded husky. “Are you hurt anywhere?”

“Not really. I just feel completely numb.”

But she tried to move and gave an involuntary groan.

“I think my leg might be broken. It’s sort of crunched up underneath the dashboard. I can’t move it.”

She pulled helplessly at her leg and gasped as an agonising pain shot up from her ankle.

“Don’t try anything, sweetheart, just keep still. Someone will be along to help in a minute.”

He took her hand in his, big and warm. Thank heavens for Rob, her solid rock for twenty six years. Reassurance seemed to flow from him in comforting waves.

Helen became aware of a steady drip-drip-drip from somewhere and the inside of the car was suddenly full of petrol fumes.

“Rob?” She couldn’t keep the note of hysteria from her voice. “I can smell petrol! The pipe must be broken. What if we go up in flames?”

“That only happens in action movies, sweetheart.” He stroked her arm. “Just hang in there, we’ll soon be out of here.”

Hang in there- is that one of your terrible jokes?”

She couldn’t see his face but sensed his answering grin. Then he cleared his throat.

“Helen, there’s something I’ve wanted to tell you. This might be the right time for it.” Suddenly his voice wasn’t smiling at all. 

The wild thought struck her that he was going to admit to an affair and she nearly giggled at the crazy idea that he’d confess while they hung almost upside down. But Rob - an affair? Never.

“And what is that?” she asked, as calmly as she could.

“I love you, sweetheart. More than life itself. I just wish I’d told you that more often.”

“Oh... you silly!” She squeezed his hand, relieved. “I know you do. You don’t have to tell me, darling, you show me in so many ways every day. But hey, you can tell me whenever you want, as often as you like. Perhaps in a more romantic setting next time?”

“That’s a promise.”

He was silent for a minute, then he said, “Helen, don’t forget the house insurance comes due next month. Remember to pay them on time.”

“What a crazy thing to think of at a time like this,” she said. “Anyway, insurance is your department. Oh – someone’s coming. Thank heavens.”

A bright light came bobbing towards them across the grass, and she heard men’s voices calling to each other.

“There’s two in here, Karl,” shouted one and a face appeared at her window, comically upside down. 

“Don’t you worry, lady, we’ll have you out of there in a jiffy. Just relax. We’re paramedics.”

“Thank God this nightmare’s over,” whispered Helen.

Rob turned and smiled at her, his familiar lop-sided grin lit by the torch.

“Told you,” he said, “You’ll be in good hands now.”

Her door was wrenched open and somehow they lifted her out and onto a stretcher. Helen felt a wave of relief wash over her as they carried her up the slope.

“Have you fixed up in hospital before you know it,” said one of the men.

“And my husband,” said Helen weakly. “He said he wasn’t hurt but I’m sure he should be checked over. He could have internal injuries...”

“Don’t you fret, we’ll take care of him,” said the man behind her head. “It’s you we’re worried about right now.”

They slid her into the waiting ambulance and waved as the nurse inside closed the doors and made Helen secure on the narrow bed. The ambulance sped off, siren blaring.

“Poor sod,” said one of the men, feeling unnecessarily for the pulse above the lifeless hand. “He didn’t have a chance. Killed on impact, I’d say, with head injuries like that. Bring the body bag, Karl.”

Published in Issue #18

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