She put her hand to her mouth when she said it then wiped her finger underneath her eye. “Alison?” On the other end a clattering sound hurt her ear. She raised the phone up for a moment then listened again. Muffled sounds, loud then soft then loud again, could be heard from the receiver. “Al?” She waited. A salty dribble of tears touched her lip and seeped into the corner of her mouth.
“Vi?” Alison’s voice sounded far away.
“Al? I can barely hear you,” Violet shouted into the phone. There was a definite change in the connection quality.
Violet caught only fragments of words buried under a steady buzzing sound. She hung up, unsure where to go, what to do. It would be over an hour before Alison arrived back in town. Violet stared at the phone she was holding. It shook in her unsteady hand. Why? she thought. Why, why, why? She threw the weight of her body against the back of the seat. She bounced hard forward and back, back and forward. Harder. She threw the phone, it bounced off the carpeted floor on the passenger’s side and slid underneath the seat. Her head felt light. Violet clamped both hands on the steering wheel and touched her forehead to the soft wheel grip. She held that position, every so often bumping her forehead to the wheel.
A forceful tap hit the hard glass of the driver’s-side window. Without lifting her head, Violet turned her face at the sound. She bolted upright and pressed the auto window when the officer motioned with his finger to lower it.
“Good evening, ma’am,” the officer did not smile as he said it, “turn off your engine please.” When he spoke his words came out in chilled puffs.
Violet flicked the keys and the steady purr of the car sputtered then went silent.
“Have you had any drinks tonight, ma’am?”
Violet was stunned out of her current state of numbness. Nerves tingled and her mind raced. She looked at the officer and saw a crowd of bystanders had gathered near her car.
“No, sir. Not at all.” Her fingers trembled on the steering wheel.
“Any drugs, medication?”
“No!” The shock of having a police officer interrogating her unfogged her mind. She laughed. The officer’s eyebrows lifted. “No, you don’t understand,” she told him. “I just had some bad news.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t drive right now.”
Of course. It had never occurred to Violet and the realization hit her like a cold water splash.
“Oh, my God, I shouldn’t,” she said. Some of the bystanders giggled at that.
“Are you certain you haven’t had any drinks or medication in the past hour?”
“No, officer,” Violet stuck her head out the window. “My boyfriend just left me for another man!” It felt good to say it. “A man!” she yelled to the bystanders. She’d heard them gasp when she’d said it the first time. She felt like a contestant on the Jerry Springer Show. “Yes, folks, and THAT is why I should not be driving.”
The officer stepped back. “Sorry to hear that, ma’am. I recommend you leave your car there. You may not be in the best condition now to drive safely.”
Violet grabbed her purse off the passenger seat. She felt giddy. “That is exactly what I’m going to do, officer, leave the car here.” She pressed the window button to roll it up and stepped out of the car, smoothing her shirt. She didn’t want to look a mess to her audience. “Thank you, officer,” she said locking the door. She hugged her arms to her body. It was chilly outside the car. The officer waited as she stepped past him.
The crowd of bystanders watched her. “Yep,” she told them in her speaking voice, “didn’t see that coming.” Even as she said it her mind clicked on all the times she’d forced the relationship to work. Shouldn’t that have been a sign? “Came home from work and said he couldn’t lie to himself any more, that he was in love with Khalid. His company’s VP! Can you believe that? Christ, I’ve been to dinners at his house. That guy has two kids!” Violet enjoyed the gasps. It lightened her heart. She was living a soap opera. But she couldn’t imagine what was going to happen when Khalid’s poor wife found out. What would she do with Steve sitting on her doorstep?
Violet straightened her shoulders and passed through the small crowd. Someone grabbed onto her arm and pulled her back. “I want to talk to you. Buy me some coffee?”