The Allard’s jack didn’t groan or creak or make any sound to indicate that it was going to do anything other than hold the car up off of the ground. Glen remembered that very specifically. One moment the car was twelve inches above him, stubbornly resisting his efforts, and in the next instand the Allard’s hot, dirty belly was pressed up against his face and he couldn’t feel the rest of his body. At first Glen was slightly annoyed; he thought illogically that he had somehow fallen up into the bottom of the car, and now that he was so close to it he couldn’t see what he was doing. When he tried to push himself away, his arms wouldn’t move. It was several seconds before it began to dawn that the Allard had fallen on him.
Where was Molly? She’d have to reset the jack and get the car off of him. Glen tried to call her, but couldn’t take a breath to shout. Then the pain had started, and taken everything else away.
The next thing he remembered was being in an ambulance. There was a mask on his face and he couldn’t move his arms or turn his head. He recognized the faux-wood paneling in the ceiling, the round light fixture that was somehow out of place in any kind of vehicle, although it was shaped differently than he expected, perhaps a bit lower and narrower, and he tried to figure out what kind of ambulance it was. It certainly wasn’t one of the standard American cube-vans, as they were wider and taller inside. Did they use Citroens in Ile du Soleil? It might be a Citroen. His train of thought derailed as a needle poked his arm fiercely, and the pain began to subside very quickly. He looked around for Molly, saw only EMTs. Good. She’d gotten away. Glen closed his eyes and listened to the engine’s roar (it sounded like a straight six), the siren above. He felt himself sliding into a comfortable narcotic limbo. He was aware that someone was asking him questions and he was answering them, but wasn’t sure what they were or what his answers were.
Thanks to a violent crash in a racing MG-TC, he was familiar with the disorientation though, and just went along with it. The presence of the ambulance and the EMTs was reassuring enough. The right people were in charge; he could just wait it out. Glen closed his eyes and did just that. It was nice to be out of the hot sun. It was nice to be out from under the hot car, as well. Apart from these truths, nothing else mattered for the moment.
He didn’t exactly sleep through the arrival at the hospital and the emergency room activities that followed, but he didn’t exactly remember them, either. He was aware that he had broken his collarbone, shoulder, arm and several ribs, as well as having a minor concussion, but wasn’t sure who had told him these things or when. A heaping helping of painkillers didn’t do wonders for his lucidity, either.
When Glen came thoroughly back to himself, Molly was there, sitting in a chair at the foot of his bed. She looked like she’d been crying.
Glen tried a casual smile, hoping to reassure her, but that only seemed to make her struggle more to keep her composure. She stood, came to the side of the bed and squeezed his hand. “I’m glad you’re okay,” she said.
“Felt better,” he said. “You hurt?”
She shook her head. “I was getting ice cream. There was nothing I could do,” she said. The hand that wasn’t holding his worried nervously at the nape of her neck, plucking at hairs. “At first they thought your chest was crushed, that they’d have to do surgery. There was so much blood. But it wasn’t as bad as they thought.”
He changed the subject. “That’s a relief. I’ll still be able to sing.”
“Will you sing for me some time?”
He actually blushed, then nodded.
“I’d like that.”
“How soon will they let me out of here?”
Molly shrugged. “Tomorrow, depending on how well you improve.”
He moved as if to get up. “That’s too long. We’ll miss the boat.”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “We’re not making it to the boat, Glen.”
“But the Allard–“
“Forget the Allard, you goddamned imbecile!” she shouted. “You nearly died! Haven’t you figured that out yet? There’s dedication, Glen, and then there’s stupidity. If I have to handcuff you to that bed until you learn the difference, I will.” He started to say something, and she cut him off. “Shut up. You did your best. You made your effort and your gesture. You’ve been true to your heart, but that doesn’t always guarantee success. Don’t kill yourself trying to force the issue.”
He sagged in the bed. She was right, of course. He felt well enough to drive, even one-handed, but the Allard was a demanding car, and if it broke down again they’d be in a whole new world of trouble.
“I’ll get in touch with the others and let them know we’re okay.”
Glen nodded, not meeting her eyes.
“I’ll stay with you, if you want me to. We can fly home together.”
He nodded again.
“Is that a yes, or are you still pouting?” Her voice was sympathetic and lightly teasing, and he smiled in spite of himself. Molly squeezed his hand again, and he looked up into her eyes. “I’m sorry we didn’t make it,” she said. “I know it was important to you.”
“I feel like I lost a race,” he said with a rueful smile. “Man at his most vulnerable,” he added.
“Then I promise not to take advantage of you. I’ll wait till you get your strength back.”
“You’re a good sport. Listen, about the things I said, at the garage–“
Molly shook her head and cut him off with a brushing-away gesture. “Later. I said I wouldn’t take advantage of you. We’ll talk for real later. Promise.”
“Okay.” He suddenly became aware that he was holding her hand, and offered a return squeeze. “So what happened to the car?”
She rolled her eyes and dropped his hand. “I wondered how long you could hold out before asking.”
“What?” he said innocently.
“Oh, don’t you ‘what‘ me. That was the first thing you thought of, right afterward. I got to you when they put you on the stretcher, and you gave me the keys and asked me to move it into a parking spot so it wouldn’t get towed. Car guy to the bone is what you are. Right down to the goddamn marrow.”
She wasn’t smiling, but seemed more amused than annoyed, so he decided not to be offended. It wasn’t as though she was calling him something he wasn’t, after all. “You know, I daydreamed about restoring that car and taking you for rides in it, under less uncomfortable circumstances. If you’d go, that is.”
She gave him a coquettish look. “Are you asking me out, Glen Grant?”
He considered. “This is one of the normal Car-Guy-to-the-Marrow ways to ask a woman out, yes. But I’m not asking you out, because you’ll probably just be coy about it and leave me hanging and I’m not in the mood for the suspense, on top of today’s disappointments. But I would like to ask you out, some time,” he added.
“You do that,” she said, “and maybe we’ll go for that ride. Your Allard is in a Thick Penis truck, Glen, and two college kids are driving it to Woodford to meet the boat. I was a busy little bee while you were in surgery, and my credit card is still smoking. But be honest and tell me you didn’t see that coming.”
“I didn’t see this coming,” he said. “I thought you hated that car.”
“I think I do. But it’s important to you, and that makes it important to me.” She took his hand in hers again. “Whether or not you ask me out. Okay?”
His answer was a smile.
“Besides,” she said, her voice sarcastic, “I had to get rid of the damn thing so we wouldn’t be arrested. I’m just glad universities the world ’round are full of young guys eager to help a big-boobed political agitator.”
“You are amazing,” he said, noticing as he did so how lame it sounded.