The girl on the M25

By Pam Keevil

Published on 1st November 2015

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I eased my foot on the brake pedal. I’m not one of these drivers who give white van man a bad name, all red tail lights and squealing brakes at the last minute. The gantry lights were flashing forty as the recommended speed although judging by the queue, ahead four miles per hour might be more like it or even a big fat round zero. I slowed to a halt as did the rows of cars on either side of me and waited with that strange sensation, wondering if we’ll get going again soon, wondering if it’s worthwhile switching off the engine, wondering …

I checked the traffic websites. Someone had tweeted there was a hold up on the M25 of between two and three hours between the junction I had just left and the one I was heading for. There was nothing for it but to switch off, sit back and chill out. The flash of blue lights as emergency vehicles tore down the hard shoulder suggested it might be an even longer wait. I called home. ‘Mum, it’s me. I’m stuck in traffic.’
As always she was full of concern that I was safe. Honestly mothers never change do they? Sometimes I reckon she’ll check I’ve got clean pants on before I go out in the morning.

‘I’ll put your food on a plate and we can heat it up when you get in. Take care and drive safely.’ She hung up. The chance of moving, let alone driving would be a miracle.

I suppose you’re wondering why I’m still at home? At 28 I should be in a flat or even in a relationship. I was, once. We’d met when we were both at college and had stuck together until last year when she decided that I wasn’t a good enough catch. I can remember her exact words. ‘You’re not going anywhere. I don’t want to be stuck here in a crummy flat with a van driver.’ She shook back the snakes of black hair that twisted and tumbled over her shoulders and stared at me with those green eyes that made her look like a sleek jungle beast. What could I say? Poets don’t make a lot of money. In fact I’ve made a few pounds but not enough to call it an income. But what do you do when you leave university with a creative writing degree? Teach? I don’t like teenagers. I was one once and to get a lecturer’s post, I’ve been told you need to have published something big. I haven’t …yet.

Well Sammi dumped me for a city type who’d joined her office. She must have been seeing him for ages although I just thought she was busy at work. I suppose when she couldn’t stop bringing his name into our conversations, I should have seen the warning signs but I just thought she was keeping me up to speed in her passion for takeovers and board room spats. It was Saturday morning when she packed up and left. I kept the flat on for a while, but it cost too much for one person so I’m back home with mum.

I checked the road ahead. Nothing was moving. I got out the folder with my writing and found the last piece I’d been working on. I just couldn’t get the third stanza right. It was too dumdy dumdy dum, if you get what I mean. I read through Girl with the Green Eyes again and tried to work out what was wrong.
I must have dozed off. The sound of someone tapping on my window jerked me awake. I wound it down and the heat hit me. People had got out of their cars and were leaning against bonnets, chatting and sharing bottles of water from a van up ahead. ‘Yeah?’ I looked down into the largest blue eyes I’d seen.
She waggled a bottle of water at me. ‘The guy up there is handing out water. Are you OK?’
I took one. ‘Thanks. I hadn’t realised it was so hot.’
She made no move to go away. ‘Er I know this might sound stupid but my phone’s died on me and I’ve left my charger at home. Do you have one for this?’ She held up her phone for me to see. ‘I only need to make one call.’
‘Sorry, it’s not my model. But unless you intend calling Australia, you’re welcome to use mine, as it’s an emergency,’ I added.

While she dialled I was able to get a better look at her. She was slim and dressed in that corporate style of sleek dress and, I peered over the side of the window, yes she had the obligatory heels at the end of slim legs. I listened in to her conversation but pretended to be engrossed in my sheet of paper. ‘Sorry mum, can you look after Jamie for a few more hours. I’m stuck.’ She held the phone up to the window.
‘If you need to call someone else, a husband or partner, go ahead. I assume it’s a child care issue? I’m sorry, I couldn’t help overhearing.’
She took a step back. Had I gone too far? ‘Well he’s living in Dubai and would be a fat lot of use even if he was here.’ I must have frowned as she added, ‘We’re divorced.’ She caught sight of my papers. ‘I’m sorry for stopping you getting on with your admin.’
‘It’s not. I’m trying to think of a rhyme for pain that isn’t cheesy,’ I said.
‘A rhyme?’ Those blue eyes got even bigger as her eyebrows disappeared under her fringe.
‘I write poetry in my spare time.’

Usually I don’t tell anyone but I felt she might understand. She did. We started talking. I shared a bag of crisps with her and she halved her apple. I had two slices of mum’s fruit cake which we both devoured. I was gutted when I spotted the cars starting up and everyone getting back into their vehicles, sealed off from each other once again in their private worlds.

‘Good luck with the poetry’ she said as she went and sat down in her car. Within a minute the lanes started moving and she was gone, just another bit of flotsam on the tide of metal. I drove off and got home before I realised what an idiot I’d been not to get her number.

Then it dawned on me. I checked my phone for the last number and texted her mother a quick note. I don’t know if anything would come of it but there was always hope I thought as I went up to my room, opened my laptop and wrote the first line of my new poem, The Girl on the M 25.

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