“What?” Franky yelled at the car rental agent in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kinding me!”
“I’m sorry ma’am, that’s all I can do.” The agent shrugged innocently.
Franky frowned. He called her “ma’am as if she was her mother; whom she was about to see after six long years of pretending she was sick around the holidays. It wasn’t like she was avoiding her, she was simply busy with…life.
“I’ve been a customer for like three years and here you come scamming me with a higher price.” She was red in the face. Her strawberry-blonde hair bounced as her head flung about searching for a manager.
“Miss, I really am sorry. This is the car that you selected and that’s the price it has always been per day. If you want we can start a new reserv…”
Franky cut him off. “No, please!” She slammed her floppy hat on the front desk. She walked a few steps away from the desk and sighed in frustration. Truth is, she did select a pricy car in her hast to book everything the night before but she refused to admit her mistake and would rather get a free rental if she could.
“Come on! I’m meeting my mother for brunch and I’ll be late. Just give me a couple days free and we’ll let by-gones be by-gones.”
“Can’t do that ma’am”
There was that “ma’am” again. “And why the heck not? Get your manager out here.” She pointed a finger to the ground.
“I am the manager ma’am.” He smiled politely.
“Aren’t you a little young, kid?”
“I’ll take her.” A deep and husky voice said. “To brunch with your mom, was it?”
“No thank you!” Franky replied harshly without turning to see who offered her a ride.
“It’s no trouble really, seeing as how you have no car and possibly not enough money to rent one.” He said with a smirk.
“Excuse me?” She spun around ready for an argument. Her eyes met two blue-green peepers attatched to the kind of man she had only seen on tv. He was almost as tall as the door frame and she was just about certain there was a chiseled chest under his red and black plaid shirt. “I have money.” Her tone much softer now.
“Alright then, my aplologies.” He took a step back and nodded his head. “I’ll let you finish.”
“You know…” The sight of such a looker gave her a change of heart. She continued. “I’m sure I’ll be here forever if I keep trying to get through to this guy. I’m going to take you up on your offer. No offense to your place of work Larry- your name tag says Larry right- but I can’t stand the smell in here and the awful paint job makes me want to hurl.”
The agent at the front desk almost choked on the water he had taken a sip of. Larry held back a chuckle.
“Ok, after you. My truck’s right out there, the red one.”
“Thanks for nothing.” Franky hissed at the front desk agent as she grabbed her hat, twirled around, and headed for the door.
“You’re welcome!” The agent said only noticing her attitude after he replied.
Larry held the door open and motioned to Franky to exit. “Hey Jim, send me some of your patience.” He said after Franky had left.
“This takes years of practice but you’ll need centuries for that one.”
“Noted” Larry smiled and closed the door behind him.
He watched as she wiped her fingers across a red truck and screwed her face. “Not my truck.” He said and kept walking.
“Oh?” Franky had been sure the beat up red truck was his. After all, regardless of how attractive he was, he had to be living paycheck to paycheck. She followed behind him.
Larry hit the unlock button on his car keys. The sound made Franky jump. She was surprised to see the new 2016 truck’s front lights flicker. He must be a drug dealer she thought. No way could he make enough to buy a brand new car.
“Great, I’m getting a ride from a criminal.” She mumbled to herself.
As she came closer to the truck Larry opened her door then he waited as she got in and closed it. He ran around and jumped in the truck, started the engine, and drove off.
“Thanks for the ride.”
“Where to?” They spoke at the same time.
“The Eden’s farm just up that road and make…”
“I know the way. I visit Mrs.Eden every now and again.”
“You know my mother?”
“Yes. Weren’t you going to have brunch?”
“Just how much of my conversation with your dull front desk guy did you hear?”
“All. Everyone in the building heard . Figured you weren’t going to let up on the free rental so I thought I’d give you a free ride. I’ll make sure you get a full refund since you were charged already.”
“Refund?” She forgot she paid online. How could she have missed being charged a greater amount during check-out. “Thanks.”
Larry rolled the windows of his truck down and stuck his left hand out the driver side. The summer breeze rushed in, sending an old receipt Larry had flying out.
“Can you please close these windows. My hair is not prepared for this wind.” Franky’s hair was twirling around her face wildly.
He pressed the auto-all windows up button. “There you go.” He paused and then said, “You don’t remember me do you?”
“No, should I.” She took a quick glance at him then put her head back down, tapping away at her phone.
“We went to all the same schools together, even had a few classes together over the years.”
“Nope, sorry. I think I’d remember someone that looks like you.”
“I didn’t always look like this”
Franky gasp and grabbed her chest. “Don’t tell me you were a woman.”
“No.” Larry could barely contain his laughter as Franky gave him a puzzled look. “We were science fair partners senior year.”
“You know, I can barely remember what I had for breakfast, remebering someone from eleven years ago is a tough one. Sorry, I tried to keep up with all my friends.”
“We weren’t friends, infact you told me once that my parents must be happy my brain works because me face didn’t.
“Oh my heck!” She hit him on the shoulder. “Loser Larry?”She chuckled. Didn’t you have those big ole’ glasses? And your teeth- wow – they use to run competition with a gopher’s.”
“I still wear reading classes and the dentist fixed my gopher teeth right up.” He said with an annoyed grin.
“I changed a lot too; I’m not as outspoken as I once was.” Franky had a way of making herself the subject of any conversation.
“No kidding?” He said sarcastically.
“I thought you’d be some big shot millionaire by now, not renting out cars in this country-boogie town.”
“I own it.”
“You what?” Her eyes buldged out.
“The smelly car rental place back there with the bad paint job, I own it.”
“Oh, really?” She said nervously and shrugged.
“Yes.” He said in a strong voice.
The car grew silent. The awkwardness made Franky uncontrollably bite her lip; She bit her lip in uncomfortable situations. If she had known he own that crummy place she would’ve kept her comments to herself.
“You’d be surprise how much business we get out here.” Larry broke the silence.
“Oh..spssh. I’m sure business is booming.” She smiled.
“People think we’re so country that we don’t need cars, and you can walk everywhere or ride around on horses.” Larry said happily.
“That’s funny. No place like home, right?” She sounded a bit depressed.” I only needed a rental for a couple of days until my car gets here.”
“Why didn’t you drive it over?”
“I don’t do road trips. I’m having everything else shipped here, why not my car ?” She pressed her head against the car window.
“Pretty much. My old boyfriend left me for some chick whose glasses are so thick she could probably see people waving from the space station.” She dropped her shoulders. “Now, I’m running back to momma with my tail tucked between my legs.”
“You don’t seem like the type.” He shot her a grin.
“Well?” He asked.
“Well, it’s embarrassing when you’re left for someone that looks like that. She’s nothing compared to me.”
Larry rolled his eyes.
“He even had the nerve to say I’m shallow and have no soul.”
“No! You don’t say?” His sarcasm was obvious. “Oh look, we have arrived.”
Franky looked up and saw her family home she hadn’t seen it for years, not even in pictures. It was almost unrecognizable. Even though she didn’t say it she enjoyed Larry’s company and was a little sad the ride was over.
“Thanks for getting me here.”
“I almost thought you were going to say ‘Thanks for nothing.'”
She turned red with embarrassment.
“It’s fine. That’s $15 for gas and the inconvenience.” He stuck his had out.
“Ugh, yeah sure. I don’t think I have cash but…” She searched through her big designer bag.
“I’m kidding, geez.” Larry laughed. “Let me get your door.”He turned off the truck’s engine, opened the driver side door and walked around to open hers. “Watch your step.” He took her hand and helped her out of the truck.” His hands were dirty but felt soft.
“Let me walk you to your door.”
“No, thanks I got it from here.” She gestured for him to stop walking.
“Okay. Tell your mom I said hi. Good night, Franky.” He smiled.
She nodded and turned around. Her heels sunk in the gravel and she stumbled back. She tucked her hair behind her right ear and bit her lip. She turned around to see if he saw but he pretended he didn’t. He waited until she got on the porch then waved; She waved back.
She hoped they’d have the chance to chat again. Next time around, if he gives her another ride, she’d make sure it was a farther distance than her house.
“Good night, Larry. She whispered as he got in his truck and drove away.