Shelly Reuben’s new novel is about … well, we’ll let you find out for yourself as we weekly serialize the chapters. If you miss one, get back up to speed with our article archive. Now, welcome to:
Parking Space: A Love Story!
By Shelly Reuben
Chapter 13 - A Short Drive
After leaving her shopping bag in her apartment, it took Lilly Snow just three minutes to return to the street. She was overjoyed to find that Noah Pitt was waiting for her in the driver’s seat of his truck. She climbed onto the high outside metal step, opened the heavy passenger door, and slipped inside, failing to notice that he did not turn his head or otherwise acknowledge her existence when she plopped into the commodious passenger seat.
Nor did she notice that he was scowling and drumming his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel.
“Hi again,” she said cheerfully as she settled in.
Wordlessly, Noah shifted the truck into gear and pulled into the street.
“I never realized how high we’d be,” Lilly bubbled, looking from side to side at the snow-covered sidewalks, snow-covered cars, and rows of streetlights that disappeared in the distance through a twinkling haze of falling snow. “I’m in another world up here. I feel like I’m a Snow Queen, and I’m sitting on a moving throne!”
Lilly laughed, lifted her right hand as if holding an invisible scepter, and began to wave it from left to right. She intoned regally, “Yes, my children. I will grant your wishes. You, the pretty girl in the gingham dress. You may go to Monte Carlo and marry a viscount with a castle in Spain. And you, little boy with the fishing rod and squiggly worm. You may catch a 200 pound tuna and mount it on a plaque in your grandfather’s study. But you, you vile creature with hair growing out of your nose, go back to your cave immediately and do not reappear until your face is washed and you have learned how to recite all of Shakespeare’s sonnets in the original Portuguese!”
Lilly went on in this manner for another few minutes, trying to catch Noah’s eye, engage him in conversation, and lighten what she was beginning to realize was a very bad mood.
But he continued to not-look at her, and he responded to her cheerful banter with only grunts. After five blocks of this, Lilly’s voice lost its lilt and her mood lost its gaiety. She ceased to chatter, and said somberly, “You can let me out here.”
Noah pulled to the side of the road.
Finally, he turned to look at her.
His passenger, no longer smiling, turned the door handle until she heard a soft click. When she spoke again, Lilly’s eyes were glossy and her breaths came shallow and fast. “I am an adult woman, Mr. Snowplow Driver, and I realize that I should know how to handle disappointments with savoir faire. I get it that you are a total stranger and that you don’t owe me anything." She turned her gaze fully upon him, “Nevertheless, I am new to this town, and I would have been very good company, if you had let me. But your unwelcoming manner and rude disposition have ruined your chance to see the world through my eyes.” Her gaze became more intense. “And I have wonderful eyes.” Then she cracked the door open an inch and added, “There’s a psychiatric term to describe men like you.”
Lilly Snow pushed the door all the way open and hopped down to the street. But before she disappeared into the snow, she called back up to him, “You, Mr. Snowplow Driver, are a sour puss.”
If she had stayed a second longer, Lilly would have seen the look on Noah Pitt’s face morph from annoyance to shock, and from shock to self-deprecating laughter. If she had stayed an entire minute, she would have received an apology for his foul temper, and an explanation that it had not been directed at her, but was a manifestation of his growing exasperation about the invisible barrier in front of her apartment building which, for no discernable reason, had allowed her, but not him, to pass through. And he did not understand why.
The entire incident seemed to defy nature, and Noah Pitt disliked puzzles he could not solve.
He realized, however, (too little and too late) that he had taken out his frustration on a comparative stranger. On a tail-wagging puppy in a shelter that he did not want to acknowledge or to bring home. An adoring puppy with once-friendly but now big hurt blue eyes.
Noah sighed heavily, and he whispered a remorseful “I am sorry, Lilly Snow” to her receding back.
Then he shifted into gear, pulled his truck away from a curb and, reviewing the incidents of the past half hour, he continued to wonder, “Why?”
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2021. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com