She heard the sirens behind her before she saw the flashing lights. “Oh, brother.” Glancing at her speed, Barb realized that she was going 40. It was only ten over the speed limit! “Give me a break,” she thought to herself, as she wondered if she would be late getting dinner ready.
A tap on the window. She rolled it down. “Good afternoon, officer.”
“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the officer asked, with a small smile.
“I do not,” Barb lied, hoping that the officer wasn’t one of the difficult ones. If she was being honest, she would say that she was thinking about getting home to make dinner and was a little distracted. Maybe this small lie would get her out of a speeding ticket, especially with the kind way that the young officer was looking at her.
The officer smiled again and glanced back towards his car. “Do you have your license and registration?”
“Of course. Just a minute.” Barb reached over to the passenger seat to grab her purse. Wait a minute. Where was her purse? She could’ve sworn that she grabbed it on her way out the door. She checked the floor. Nothing. “Well, that’s strange.” Barb reached into the glove box, knowing that even if she did not have her license, she always kept the registration in the car. She noticed the corner of the small paper peeking out from under a pile of mess and pulled it out, realizing that she had really let the glovebox become overly cluttered. She would have to clean that out tomorrow.
“I’m so sorry officer, but I seem to have forgotten my license. Will the registration do?” Barb asked, noticing as she did so that the registration was in Charlie’s name only. She didn’t realize that they registered the car that way. She would have to ask him about it when she got home. A moment of sadness lingered at the thought, but she brushed it off and returned her attention to the issue at hand.
“Thank you very much, ma’am. I’m going to have to ask you to please stay put and not go anywhere while I check this out.” That small smile again. Why did he keep looking at her like that? The officer tapped the top of her car door as he turned to head back to his own vehicle. Barb felt a little annoyed at the insinuation. What, did he expect her to drive off while he was gone? Initiate some sort of high-speed chase? Honestly…
Barb considered her predicament while she waited. So, she forgot her license. Maybe there would be some sort of ticket for that, but how bad could it be? It’s not like she was some teenager out for a joyride. She had simply left her purse at home. It was strange that he had pulled her over at all. There was a nagging feeling pulling at her mind, but she could not place the thoughts that were trying to break through.
Barb’s mind wandered to the dinner she was planning. Chicken with potatoes. Nothing special, but an old favorite of hers and Charlie’s. He was a good man, with simple tastes. She felt so lucky that they had found one another. She hoped that if they had a little boy together one day, that he would be just like Charlie. Strong and solid, with a love for life and an appreciation for small pleasures. Like chicken with potatoes on a fall evening. She smiled at the thought…but almost immediately, her smile faded, replaced by something else that she could not identify.
Noticing the time, she realized that she really needed to get moving if she wanted to make it to the grocery store. Absently, she rested her hand on the shifter. As she did so, she glanced behind her to see the officer heading back her way. A small sense of relief, as she realized that she might not be so late with dinner, after all. He bent over the window.
“Are you aware that this car has been reported missing, ma’am?”
Barb swallowed. “Missing? That’s ridiculous. Who would report my car missing?”
“This car was reported missing by a Charlie Franklin. Are you Barbara Franklin?”
“Yes. Charlie is my husband, and there is no way that he would report the car missing. He knows perfectly well that I stepped out to pick up some potatoes for dinner. There must be some mistake.”
“I’m afraid that I will have to ask you to come with me, ma’am.”
Barb looked up at him, confused. He was wearing that small smile again. Pity, she finally recognized. The smile was one of pity. He had no right to look at her like that. Charlie would give him a piece of his mind when he got there. As she thought it, a wave of confusion rushed over her, followed by sadness again. She was really feeling off tonight, she thought to herself.
“I would really rather wait in my own car.” Barb was unsure if the officer would allow this, but she was beginning to feel frustrated by the situation and the thought of getting into his vehicle made her feel tired. She hadn’t done anything wrong.
The officer smiled at her again. She wished he would stop doing that. It was unsettling. “Would you mind giving me your keys? Then, you can stay in your own vehicle.”
“And where are you going to go?” Barb asked, hearing the annoyance in her own voice.
“I’m going to call Charlie.” The officer gave her a hopeful look, as if he thought this would stop her from arguing. It did.
“Fine,” Barb replied, handing him her keys. “But when Charlie gets here, he’s going to give you a piece of his mind.”
“I understand,” the officer said kindly, as he smiled again and pocketed her car keys.
As he walked away, Barb felt the familiar creep of disorientation coming over her. She had simply wanted to get home in time to make dinner. How had she ended up sitting here, waiting for a police officer to return her keys so she could go home? She glanced back, wondering what he was doing back there in his car. As she watched, the officer’s door opened, and he emerged holding a telephone.
He brought the phone over to the car and offered it to her. “Ma’am, Charlie is on the phone for you.”
“Finally,” Barb said, eagerly accepting the device.
“Charlie, honey, this police officer pulled me over. Can you please tell him that this is a mistake? I’ll be home just as soon as they let me go. I should still get there in time to make dinner.”
Barb heard a tired sigh on the other end of the phone. “Mom? It’s me, Charlie. I’m going to come and get you, but I need you to promise me that you will stay right there. Please, don’t go anywhere else.”
Barb smiled as she heard her son’s voice. Of course, it was Charlie Jr. Her boy.
“Hi, sweetie. Where’s your dad? I am on the side of the road with a police officer.”
“I know, Mom, it’s no problem. Just wait there. I’ll be there soon. Just give the phone back to the police officer.”
Barb handed the phone back to the officer and refocused her attention in the car, rather than towards his annoying little smile. She wondered when Charlie would arrive. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be too long. Maybe she could still have time to make the chicken and potatoes. She glanced up into the rearview mirror to see if she could spot him coming down the road in his old pickup truck. In surprise, she looked back at the face of an old woman. She felt the sense of disorientation again, as she looked out the window to see the person she had been waiting for. Charlie, her beautiful son, stepped out of his SUV and approached the police officer.
She listened, as the officer explained to her son, “I pulled her over when I spotted the car. It fit the description. She has been asking for you.”
Charlie glanced over at her and lowered his voice, but Barb could still hear him. “She was looking for my dad. He passed away a few years ago, but she forgets. Thank you for looking out for her. My brother will be here in a few minutes to pick up the car.”
Barb’s confusion grew. What was Charlie talking about? Passed away? As she said it, a memory surfaced. A black veil over her face, placing a rose on a dark wooden surface. Sadness expanded within her, matched only by the ever-growing disorientation in her mind.
Charlie approached the car. “Hey, mom. Let’s get you home. Nina made dinner.”
“Okay, sweetie.” Barb opened the car door, following her son back to the SUV, trusting him, as she knew she had done a hundred times before. Charlie closed the door and walked around to the driver’s side. As he did so, Barb looked out the window, noticing the police officer walking back to his car. He gave her a small smile, and a little wave. She returned the smile. What a nice man, she thought to herself.
As Charlie climbed into the driver’s seat, she reminded him, “We better get home soon. I’m making chicken and potatoes, your dad’s favorite.”
Charlie smiled at his mom, thinking of the dinner that he knew Nina had waiting for them. His favorite – Chicken and potatoes.