Short Story: THE RED CELICA


Tossing her bag onto the passenger seat, with a sigh of pleasure Felicity slid behind the steering wheel of the red Celica, on loan from her husband’s car-yard.  The detailed silver-grey interior was plush, the Pine smell fresh yet a little annoying, and the seats so comfortable.  They cradled her, fitting her body as if made just for her size and shape.  Perfect, really.

“I wish you were mine,” she said, as she caressed the wheel and fingered the switches.
She sighed, stretched the seat-belt across her chest like a contest sash.

“I hereby name you Queen of the Celicas.”  She chuckled as she clicked the belt into its catch, slotted the key into the ignition, turned it on.  The radio blared with heavy metal head-banging music.

“Yukko!  Who’s been driving this?”  As she tuned the radio to her own favourite station, she wondered if it had been one of the young mechanics at the car-yard – or even one of the car-detailers.  Surely no-one test-driving the car would do so with that racket going.

Satisfied with the rock’n’roll from the sixties that was now playing, she glanced into the rear-view mirror prior to reversing.

“What the…?”  Swiftly she glanced into the back seat, then back to the mirror.  She leant forward peering at the small reversed image.  Behind the reflection of her short halo of fluffy gold curls was an outer halo of long, thick, glossy black hair.

Again she swung around to check behind her.  No-one was there.

“A trick of the light, maybe,” she muttered.  “Or I’m totally losing it.”

Hurriedly she reversed the car out of the carport into the sunlight, thrust the gear-stick into neutral, took a breath, then once more looked in the mirror.

The dark glossy hair was still there, as if behind her own, yet seeming to grow from it, as part of it.  Another glance showed her that she was still definitely alone.

“This is bizarre!”  She shook her head as she spoke.  “Bizarre.”

By rights, she should be scared stiff, and her heart should be pounding, but it wasn’t.  It was puzzling, intriguing.  Why was she not afraid?

Once again she spoke out loud, as people often do when alone.  “This is really weird! This never happened before when I drove one of Tom’s cars.  So why this one?”

She looked at the dashboard clock, which digitally showed the time as a quarter past nine.  And the date was the eighteenth of June.  Thinking it might be important, Felicity
ferreted out her diary from the depths of her bag and wrote the time on the page for June eighteen.

“I’ll ask Tom when I get home.  He might know who used to own the car.”

With that settled, she drove down the drive and out onto the highway.  She was barely
aware of her music now – her attention was entirely on the image in the mirror.  All the way to the shopping centre she felt the presence of the ‘hair’ and its owner, reinforced every time she glanced into the mirror.  The Celica had side-mirrors that were excellent – she knew she could have just used them, but felt compelled to keep checking the main mirror.  Besides it was a long-standing driving habit.

Everything about the Celica was excellent.  It handled like a dream.  The power steering was easy but still gave that feel of contact that the bigger cars seemed to lack – in them there was a sense of not quite being in control as they floated down the road.  An efficient driver, Felicity liked to take off quickly from traffic lights, move through the gears up to the speed limit and stay there.  The pick-up on the Celica was immediate and as she drove she thought of the ‘red cars go faster’ joke and chuckled.  She loved it, and felt a strong sense of ownership despite the puzzling mirror problem, the presence behind her.

As she entered the supermarket to do her shopping, she looked in the little hand-mirror that she always kept in her bag.  Her hair was back to normal, golden and glowing in the sunlight.  “So it’s not me, then.  I thought not,” she murmured, unaware of the surprised glance from of the bag-check girl at the entrance.  Her shopping took quite a while to complete, though she did it quickly and efficiently, not thinking about the ‘hair’ but focussed on her list.

Returning to the Celica, laden with bulging grocery bags in a rickety trolley, which had worked perfectly on the vinyl shop floor but took on a mind of its own in the car-park, she deposited them into the lift-back area.  As she settled once more behind the wheel, she discovered that the long, dark, glossy hair was still there.  But this time there was more than hair.  It seemed to move back a little and the features of a heart-shaped face with smooth dark skin began to form.  No question about it now – it was definitely something to do with the car.  And still Felicity felt no fear.

As she drove home along the highway, the features formed to reveal the face of a young Asian girl.  With a shocked look suddenly the vision disappeared.  She was gone.  Felicity was alone in the red Celica.  And the time was a quarter past twelve,
noon.  Because she was nearly home she waited till she pulled the car into her carport and turned off the engine, before getting out her diary and entering the time.  She felt strangely sad, hollow, as though having lost a close friend.  As she sat there, the feeling gradually deepened into one of strong grief.

“What’s the matter with me?  This is ridiculous.”  She struggled shakily out of the car,
clutching at and dragging the shopping from the rear area and dumping it onto the cement floor.  It would require several trips to get it all inside to the kitchen.  Taking the frozen foods with her – the others could wait – she staggered into the house and made a cup of coffee to calm her shaken nerves.  Her mother, who was visiting her, avidly listened to her story, amazed that her usually calm and sensible daughter should have such an unbelievable experience.

When she calmed down, she phoned her husband, Tom, at the yard.  After checking the car’s records at the office, he phoned her back.

“The car’s from a deceased estate.  The previous owner was an Asian girl from Singapore.  She was here to study medicine at Uni.  It seems that on June the eighteenth last year, she’d parked her car on Great Eastern Highway in Midland, turned to lock the car-door, and been hit by a passing truck.  Killed her outright.”

“That’s terrible!  How sad.  Her poor parents.”

The next day when her husband wanted to take the red Celica back to the car-yard she wouldn’t let him.  She asked him to let her keep it.  “I don’t want anyone else driving it now I know about it.  I need to keep it, Tom.  Please.”

“Don’t you think you’re being a touch morbid about this, Honey?  People get
killed in traffic accidents all the time.  Why is this one so important?”

“Because I’ve seen her that’s why.  And I’m not afraid to drive it.  It’s rather nice knowing that she is there.”  She looked at Tom who was frowning at her.  “It’s sort of
comforting.  Oh, it’s hard to explain.  Just let me have it, okay?”

Eventually Tom relented and the ownership of the Celica was transferred into her name.  As the year progressed, Felicity ceased to check into the mirror for the ‘hair’ to appear as none did day after day.   But every time she strapped herself in behind the wheel she whispered, “Oh accident girl, will I see you today?”

On the eighteenth of June, to Felicity’s relief and delight, she reappeared, only to disappear again, with the same shocked look at the same time as the previous year.

From this point onwards, Felicity felt compelled to drive the red Celica on the eighteenth of June, and would ask as she sashed herself, “Oh accident girl, will I see you today?  I have to drive, just a short way to see you, this day, this time, this year.”

The Asian girl’s face formed quickly as the years passed and smiled at Felicity in the mirror, before the shocked look and the vanishing occurred.  Felicity felt safe in the Celica and whenever Tom suggested trading it in on a newer one she refused to listen to him.  The thought of someone else seeing ‘accident girl’ was horrifying.  They wouldn’t understand.

Would a time ever come when she would fail to appear?  Was there to be no rest
for ‘accident girl’?  Felicity knew she would miss her young face, but not the grief caused by the shocked look as she disappeared.  If that day ever came, when
she failed to appear on the eighteenth of June, then Felicity would sell the
red Celica.

(C)  Copyright  Jud House   25/10/2006

* * * * * 

 

 

 

 

Poetry – ACCIDENT GIRL


  Why do you return
this day  this time
every year?

I see you behind me in the rear-view mirror
your dark hair
haloing my blond
At the lights I turn to look at you in the back seat
But I am alone – yet not
You’re still there when I glance in the mirror

Oh accident girl

Why do you visit me
this day  this time
every year
when I drive in your red car?

I tell myself this year will be okay
I’ll stay home  not drive

But I’m compelled to
just a short way
to see you
this day  this time
each year

Will a time come when you’ll be gone
when you will rest?
Will I miss your young face
there   then gone as the time arrives
on the dashboard clock
Your shocked look as you disappear

When truly alone
I’ll sell the red car
I think . . .

(C)  Copyright Jud House 19/10/2006

* * * * *