Drive Me To Distraction
by C Nicholas (me)
“If he doesn’t slap my arse, make women driver jokes, or tell me to brace myself because he’s the most shit-hot race driver I’ve ever seen –“
Mike’s eyes continued to glaze over. They’d paused when she’s said the word arse, but now they continued their journey to complete ambivalence.
“- then we’ll get along just fine.” Alex finished with a sigh.
“You’re never going to get anywhere unless you lose that chip.” Mike stepped close and brushed an imaginary chip from her shoulder. His gaze wandered down from her shoulder to her chest.
Alex knew from experience that elbowing people in the nose hurt a lot, but even so, the urge to damage Mike was unusually persistent. She had her racing overalls unzipped to the waist, it being a rare hot English summer day, but now she pointedly zipped them up to her neck. Heat exhaustion was preferable to Mike trying to peer down her tank top.
She snatched her clipboard from her desk and departed the small administration office of Thruxton Motorsport Centre with enough force to make the windows rattle in their cheap aluminium frames.
Outside the smell of baked tarmac and hot oil hung heavily in the warm still air. She glanced at her clipboard as she undid her racing overalls a couple of inches, Rob Dryden was her next client for the Race Driving Test, and had elected to drive the Lotus.
She strode up the pit lane to where the Lotus was kept. A man waited for her, turning as if he’d heard her coming, though she wasn’t nearly close enough. He smiled as she approached, a warm sexy grin.
Tall, lean, brown hair flopping across his dark eyes and the pale skin of an office dweller, all came together to make him meltingly handsome, in a laddish way.
Surrounded by men, working in an industry that only saw women as decorative, Alex had learned to be aloof and matter-of-fact. Especially with the distractingly handsome ones. But the hint of kiss-me-nowness about his grin unsettled her.
She zipped her racing overalls all the way back up again.
“You’re a girl,” he declared as soon as she got within earshot.
“And you’re yet another idiot,” she muttered.
She ignored him. “Hi, I’m Alex. I’ll be taking your racing licence test today –“
“Sorry,” he interrupted her spiel. “That sounded really sexist of me. I was just surprised.”
She stared at him for long enough to make the confident grin falter.
“I’m sure you were surprised -” She consulted her clipboard, and kept talking so he wouldn’t start on about female driving instructors, and how he was totally for equal opportunity and well done her for being a girl. She’d heard it all before. “- Let’s get in the car and we’ll see what you can do.”
Alex didn’t bother to hide her reservation. Rob Dryden’s variety of driver was all too familiar. Couldn’t drive a racing car to save his life. It was easy to tell after seven years in this business, if he’d been examining the Lotus and reeling off its vital statistics the moment there was someone close enough to listen then chances were he’d be a decent driver. But those that ignored the car and looked at the view were never any good.
She handed him the keys, stamped around to the passenger side and wrenched open the door. Best get it done and over with.
“Accelerate up the pit lane and then we’ll turn out onto the track.” She pointed the way. He stamped his foot down on the accelerator. The car made a strangled whine then lurched into second gear with a shuddering clunk.
“Watch it,” she muttered. He shot her a startled look. The kiss-me-now grin was entirely gone.
They staggered around the track. Rob Dryden went out of his way to ignore Alex’s instructions. He accelerated too fast into the corners, and hurtled down the straight barely in control.
“This is a tricky thread the needle. You can do it at about seventy but you have to take it from the far left of the track.” She braced herself against the dash and blew out a sigh. If he didn’t listen then at their current speed there’d be only one outcome.
Rob Dryden remained at ninety in the centre of track. The tyres squealed like fingernails down a blackboard as he tried to take the hairpin corner and lost control of the car. It spun in a graceful circle on the loose gravel at the side of the tarmac, and ended up pointing in the wrong direction.
“What the hell are you doing?” growled Alex, when they came to a halt.
“Driving the sodding car -” He stopped talking so abruptly that it was as if he’d inhaled his next words. Then he sat, staring at his knuckles which gleamed though his skin, white against the black of the steering wheel.
Alex sighed again, remembered her anger management course and tried to let the tension go. It didn’t want to leave.