Anne shivered as she raced through the torrential rain, her blazing red tresses sopping wet. It was as though all the lakes in the world had suddenly crashed down on her- and to make it worse, she was without a raincoat.
Anne slowed down to get her bearings. She was walking through a sodden forest trail at dusk, attempting but almost ludicrously failing to steer clear of the infinite number of thick trunks and pointy branches of lofty, malady-brown trees. Her flashlight was out and offline Google Maps was turned on on her phone.
On she ran through the wild terrain, her heart skipping a beat every time a branch creaked or an animal rustled in the bushes. The wind whistled eerily and crickets chirped loudly.
Google Maps must be malfunctioning, Anne surmised, studying the unsettling forest it had led her to.
Initially, she was to drive to the airport, but her car had to be taken to a repair shop a few days before her flight. Anne decided to go to the nearest train station- that would then drop her off at the airport- on foot.
Though it was only half past six, the deeply rooted wood-giants of the forest shielded it from any light coming from the outside world. This caused it to seem close to midnight where Anne trampled over withered leaves and through ankle-deep mud.
At length, she stumbled out of the woods and ended up on a road on the other side, where a couple of vehicles zoomed past, and she motioned helplessly to their drivers, hoping for a ride, but, probably due to her dishevelled appearance, to no avail.
There were no shops for her to take shelter inside. Instead, small-scale houses stood on either side of the road. A couple of them had a shed on their front lawns, under which Anne took refuge for a few minutes before she set off again.
The rain had slowed down a little by then, as though it finally had mercy on her, though it made not much difference, as her clothes were already dripping wet.
After what seemed like an eternity… Anne could take it no more. She dropped down on the pavement, keeping her eyes open for any cars. All the while, a quiet, mean-spirited voice in her head told her she would never find a ride.
Then, a miracle occurred. Another car whizzed by like lightning, and Anne instantly got up, signalling to it like a lunatic.
She chased after it, the only thought in her mind being that she had to get in. Because Anne had recognized that car- it was her friend Florence’s.
The bright red car was easy to spot even amidst the downpour, and when it thankfully actually did slow down, Anne was able to catch up to it in a matter of minutes.
A current of joy, so different from the crackling lightning, hit her as a window of the car rolled down and Florence sat mouth gaping, asking her if she was deranged for walking outside without a raincoat.
Anne’s reply to her friend’s remark was to sit inside the car without a word and turn the heater on full blast, looking over only when she could not ignore her friend’s baffled look any longer.
“Why didn’t you call me to come help?” were the first words spoken by Florence.
“Well, I hardly had any service out in the forest,” Anne replied.
“You walked through a forest? That explains the state of your shoes-”
Anne looked at her shoes with a grimace. They were caked with mud and a few stones.
“Oh! Sorry,” Anne started, her cheeks flushed red. She continued to explain her situation- why she was walking in such weather and where she needed a ride to.
“I’ll take you to the airport,” Florence offered. “No, really,” she said as Anne started to protest, " It’s the least I could do , after the day you’ve had!.” If Florence was one thing, she was insistent.
Anne was too exhausted to argue, and the car sped away as dusk faded into darkness.
Suddenly, the car sputtered to a stop.
“What just happened?” Anne asked her companion, bewildered, as Florence rushed out of the car to find out why they had so abruptly stopped. They were in the middle of an empty road, with not a single soul in sight.
Now Anne was beginning to panic. Her plane took off in a little less than two hours and she had to make it to the airport in ten minutes. At the current rate however, there was no chance of making it in time.
She followed Florence to the front of the car where her friend held her hand to her forehead and tried to make sense of the engine under the hood. A confused look was beginning to etch itself on Florence’s pale face and she began to repeatedly wipe her palms on her pants… a sign that she was fast becoming a nervous wreck.
“The engine is busted- there has been an oil leak. It’s done major damage to the engine and we are at high risk of the car bursting up in flames,” Anne deduced after nudging Florence out of the way to take a look under the hood herself. She nervously swept her fiery hair back to re-examine the situation. “We’d better get away from your car before something happens,” she continued, and her companion nodded frantically… immediately moving back and almost tripping over in her haste.
The pair ran several hundred yards away, as far from the car as they were able, though keeping a watchful eye on it like a hawk. It was here that Anne’s feelings got the better of her and she spat out angrily, “I can’t believe you didn’t notice that your car was damaged.”
Florence looked hurt as she replied, ”You know the amount of information I know about cars couldn’t fill a teaspoon, Anne.”
“Well maybe if it did, we wouldn’t be stuck in this mess. I wouldn’t be stuck in this mess,” the girl’s bitterness was rising rapidly.
“Yeah, because you were about to reach the airport all by yourself on foot. And through the pouring rain, too!”
“The train station,” Anne growled, “and I would have if you didn’t come driving by.”
“You were the one who signalled to me in the first place,” Florence screeched.
Suddenly, Anne looked ashamed of herself. Florence had only been trying to do her good, and it was easy to miss a car’s oil leak.
“You’re right. Florence, I’m sorry,” she half-whispered through clenched teeth. Anne was stubborn, and it took all she had to admit that she was wrong.
“Why don’t we call up a tow truck?” Florence asked, her tone kind now. She knew Anne well, and understood that this had been one of her frequent but brief bursts of temper.
“Alright,” Anne agreed, then proceeded to dial ‘Carter’s Car Company’.
“Carter’s, how may I help?” the receiver asked, and Anne explained their circumstances.
She put the phone down with a groan moments later.
“It’ll take them around an hour and a half to come help,” she explained dejectedly in response to Florence’s inquiring look. “By then, I will officially have missed my flight… why are you smiling!?”
“Well, it seems like I did you a ‘bear’s favour’ is all.” said Florence guiltily
“A ‘bear’s favour’- when someone does you a favour which ends up causing you more nuisance than help.”