An Extract from my Short Dates Book
My family had deserted me for the weekend. Bank Holidays were my least favourite times because my friends all did stuff with their families and my parents always went away in their caravan to live it up in some seaside resort. Not that I would want to go with them anyway. I couldn’t think of anything worse. I am twenty three after all. I just needed to sort my life out a bit.
There was a glimmer of hope on the horizon. I had turned on my Tinder app last night and a couple of local girls had matched with me and shown some genuine interest. This morning I had suggested to one of them who had caught my attention that we could meet up somewhere public and safe. Having woken up and seen her reply, I was happy with her suggestion of meeting up at a well known historic house in Stamford.
Showering away the night’s sweat, I thought about how lonely I had been ever since Sophie had moved to Italy and cut all ties with me, preferring the arms of a hunky Italian speaking financier. What did I have to offer a girl these days? I was merely a travel agent struggling to find enthusiasm in my daily routine. The Tinder girl was pretty, or so it seemed in her profile pictures. She was a lawyer so must have been switched on. The thing that drew me to her though was the way she wrote. It was down to Earth and full of humour. Her words really captivated me and somehow made me feel that she was far from shallow. Fingers were well and truly crossed. Deep breaths were taken. Off I went in my trusty Fiesta. I didn’t hold out much hope as I was punching above my weight, but I was never one to be pessimistic.
When I turned onto the A1 it all seemed fine, but in just a few minutes I found myself stuck in a traffic jam caused by an accident which, according to the local radio, had only happened in the last five minutes and involved a toilet roll lorry spilling its load all over the dual carriageway. The idea seemed ludicrous and the place that I was stuck in was far from any slip-roads. I sighed with frustration and we moved forwards a little every now and again, like a swarm of cars doing a simple but repetitive dance, only varying it from title to time when an emergency vehicle tried tried to get through.
The music blared out and soon I was drowsy as I sat there, wishing away the time. I knew that I would have to let Clementine know that I was going to be late. The irony was that I had actually set out early, as I hated not being on time, or any chance of that happening. This eventuality was not to be predicted. Accidents like this usually cleared quite quickly. The radio proceeded to tell me that it was a little more serious now as there seemed to have been a fatality. I felt sad as I spoke to my Siri on my phone and instructed it to text Clementine and say that we may have to rearrange due to unforeseen circumstances.
It seemed like we were not going to move any time soon and the temperature outside was hot. Rather than waste the air conditioning, I opened the windows fully and the woman in the car next to me yelled in my direction.
‘Do you know what’s going on?’ she asked.
‘Apparently there’s been a bad accident and someone might have died.’
‘That’s awful. Can we turn around?’ She replied.
‘No. It is stacked up for miles,’ I said.
‘I like your music.’
‘Jake here, nice to meet you,’ I said as she replied with her name – Joanne.
Before long we were chatting and she had told me that her son was in the back of the car because she had taken him to the doctors and he was meant to go home and rest as he had some kind of infection. Both of the engines were turned off and she beckoned me over to sit in her front seat. It was good to have someone to talk to but I could not help feel guilty about not making it to my date with Clementine. She hadn’t even replied to my text so perhaps she thought I had let her down.
We found other things to talk about. Theatre, cinema, pop culture and cycling were all subjects that passed our lips during that long wait for them to clear the road. Every now and again she would say something to the child in the back to make sure he was alright, but for a little while she just let him sleep.
It came to a point where she called him a few times and he didn’t respond. She went to tap him and still he didn’t move or speak.
I glanced at him and noticed the colour of his skin. With alarm I got out of my seat and went round to open his door. He was lying there looking grey and with a bluish tinge to his lips. I reached out to feel for a pulse but couldn’t readily find one.
‘Call an ambulance,’ I said frantically before trying to return to a reasonably calm state.
‘How can it have got so bad?’ she yelled, already typing three nines into her mobile.
Some vomit had been seeping out of his mouth and I tried hard to listen for breathing but once again could not detect anything. Rolling my sleeves up, I tried to lay him back further and tilted his head back a little. I then pulled up his shirt to expose his chest before placing my hands against it in a locked position to try and push down on his ribs and give chest compressions.
Nothing seemed to be happening. After thirty pushes I moved over to his mouth, wiped it with my sleeve and gave him two breaths. His mouth tasted stale. It was not the most pleasant thing I had ever done but I was glad to try as suddenly he made a sound. The sound was a sort of exhalation and, although it sounded awkward, I could tell that we still had a chance.
He gently opened his eyes and coughed a bit, looking worn out. His mother was next to him, cuddling him and crying with a mixture of relief and disbelief. I could hear the ambulance coming down the hard shoulder very soon after he had come round. Before long they had packaged him into the back of their vehicle and I had offered to deal with both our cars, even though I had yet to sort out exactly how I was going to do that. I waved them off and the policeman said he would drive my car to a nearby lay-by if I drove the other car. I caught up with him and collected the keys to my beloved Fiesta and then took Joanne’s car and parked it next to Peterborough hospital.
I passed the gift shop on my way to the ward that I had discovered that to be in. I grabbed a bunch of flowers and some grapes and made my way into the lift. All I needed now was for the lift to break down. Luckily that didn’t happen but I still had a feeling there would be another bad thing about to happen. After all my man had always said that bad luck always comes in threes. Coming up to the bay that they were in, I could see that he was asleep and she was hunched over in a chair, reading a book. I edged forward and she spotted me out of the corner of her eye.
Placing the flowers down next to her, I handed her the car keys and then opened up the grapes.
‘Is he alright?’ I asked sensitively.
‘Yes. Thanks to you. I wouldn’t ever have known what to do if you had not been about. I am ashamed of myself for not knowing first aid, she replied through tears.
‘Is there anything I can do?’ I continued.
‘Just stay here for a while and keep me company until he wakes up?’ she said as if needing to persuade me.
‘That goes without saying.’
We sat there next to each other in silence for a while. When he came round, he needed her attention and I said my goodbyes. I could tell that he was grateful and it made me smile when he said he would have preferred Doritos to grapes, but nonetheless he gulped them down.
As I was leaving the hospital, a message from Clementine appeared on the screen.
‘Well done, you!’ it said.
Apparently I had been snapped coming out of the car and heralded as some sort of hero on twitter and in the local news pages. Clementine said she was so pleased to know somebody who knew how to save lives. She wanted us to reschedule our date but I kindly turned her down.
Joanne was on my mind now. She had asked me to come round and visit them at home in a few days. With her address in my pocket and a spring in my step, I took myself off down the pub for a cheeky drink with my best friend, Dave. Satisfied with the way things had turned out, I returned to my car to discover a flat tyre. That was more like it, I thought to myself.