Abandoned Fiesta: A Family Betrayal

The break-up with Paul had been an amicable one. He was a good man, but Jessica knew he wasn’t the right man. He’d been good with the baby, though, and as a new mum, what Jessica really needed was somebody to be there for her, and he never failed in that regard.
It was a shame, really, that Paul and Jessica wanted different things out of life. He had been awarded a scholarship to a music school Up North and his parents were supporting his return to education, all that call centre work was killing him anyway, and the poor kid never did get a chance to follow his dreams. In fact, Jess encouraged him to go and be who he always wanted to be. Jess and Molly would do just fine now.
Especially since Paul had given them his car.

T154FBL had been Pauls car since he was 17. A hand-me-down from his Grandfather, it had seen some serious action over the years, from carrying college mates home from the Sixth Form, to visiting music festivals and lugging instruments and bulky P.A equipment from one pub to the next. Paul frequently praised just how much volume of stuff the back of the Fiesta would swallow.
When Paul had met Jessica, coming to terms with unexpected motherhood and feeling a little washed up in the world, the ability to easily haul baby-buggies and bassinets in and out of the car had been a godsend. Rapidly the little Fiesta became the family car and it soon proved equally adept whether stuffed full with fragrant diapers or carrying a double bass.
Even Paul’s mates had looked at the car with affection. There was a running joke about how “posh” the Fiesta was, with the woodgrain dashboard surround, the electric front windows and the clear surround to the radiator grille that only Ghia Fiestas could boast. The only thing that didn’t pass muster was the stereo. Ford’s standard fit cassette system actually sounded pretty good, but MP3 support was a must, so out it went in favour of a Kenwood.
Paul had given Molly all the encouragement that a father figure could have given, despite not having any biological links. He ticked all the right boxes to be a great dad and the trio made such a tight unit that Jess lovingly applied an “our family” sticker to the Fiesta’s tailgate a little after Molly’s second birthday. Yet he never felt like husband material. Paul had come along at the right time, and brought occasional extra benefits with him when the time was right. But it would never be a forever thing.
And Paul wasn’t really gone, anyway. He was still part of Jess and Mollies world, but with more distance and fewer meetings. And, before long there was Darren. It had been a long while since Jess had actually fancied anybody; the last time she had that tingly feeling of desire she had ended up pregnant.
Darren was a car salesman. Never short of the right answer, he oozed confidence and charisma enough that drips of it could be collected from the ground where he walked and bottled for use by less fortunate souls. Money, too, came easily to him. Always successful, rarely anything other than salesman of the month and never, ever missing his target, Darren could be assured that he’d never have to leave the office in anything less than a Five-series.
He immediately took to Molly, too, much to Jessica’s relief. Not every date is wildly enthusiastic when they learn that you have a child. Maybe Jess was just really lucky in finding a man as tolerant an sincere as Darren. Paul would probably have liked him, too, but somehow the two had never met.
Molly was central to every plan that Jessica and Darren ever made and as soon as winter abated and the sun began to make routine appearances Molly was promised a trip to the seaside. It was only about an hour and a half from her Jessica’s flat in Watford, and what better way to escape the urban sprawl, especially since Molly had never seen the sea before. A weekend was chosen on which Darren was working on Saturday morning, but could take the afternoon off if Mr Thomas came in to sign his car finance documents as he had promised. A plan was hatched for Jessica and Molly to head off in the Fiesta, with Darren following in the afternoon.
Lucas was still the new-boy at Driveaway Servicing. You might call it probation, he called it independence. He certainly felt far more free than he had felt at school only a month before. He seemed to get on well with the other lads, too, though he was very obviously being given suspiciously easy jobs.
“I’ve finished that Fiesta” he told the workshop foreman.
“Have you done the plugs?”
“It’s not in for plugs, just a budget service”
The budget service, at £99, was pretty much the most popular item on the Driveaway menu. Driveaway’s usual clientèle, it had to to be said, were people who only performed maintenance on their cars when they felt guilty, or something actually broke. Jessica was quite conscientious, though, booking the Fiesta for a bare-bones, no extras service every year, without fail.
“Lucas, mate, do the plugs. It’s an old car. It needs plugs. It’s having plugs. Do ’em and I’ll tell the customer it needed them when she comes to collect it.”
To be fair to the workshop foreman, the Fiesta did actually need plugs, if only because it had never had a new set in its life, a fact of which Jess was totally oblivious. Lucas got the plugs from the parts counter (they were in stock, all four of them, which wasn’t always a given) and unboxed them from their Motorcraft boxes (genuine Ford parts, no expense spared). With a flourish of unwarranted competence, he even got his feeler gauges out at checked the gaps.
The old plugs came out freely, and looked pretty good for their sixteen year vintage. A bit burnt, a bit oiled, but nothing horrific compared to what he’d encountered on Ford Ka’s during his brief spell of employment thus far. He cleaned and oiled the bores before gently screwing, and then torquing, the new plugs into place, being careful not to cross-thread one like he had the other week.
For some reason the inside two plug leads didn’t seem to pop into place quite as cleanly as the others. He tried fitting them all again in sequence. Cylinder 1, pop, 3, squelch. 4, squelch.2, pop!. Well, maybe it was just how they were. Maybe the two inner leads were a different design or something? Maybe this was a sixteen year old car and he really shouldn’t worry? He turned the key, the engine started immediately and settled to a smooth idle. Job done.
The car went outside to wait for Demitri the Bulgarian valeter to ineffectually lather the car down a bit, and in due course Jessica turned up, paid and collected a Fiesta which ran better and looked marginally cleaner than it was when she dropped it off.
That saturday, and its promise of the seaside, rolled around far more quickly than Jess imagined it might. For days Molly had been excitedly running around the house with her bucket and spade, (which had been a tricky thing to find in the shops in Watford) miming the construction, and subsequent demolition, of sandcastles. She had even taken to wearing her inflatable arm-bands. When the day arrived Molly was extra helpful in helping Jess to pack the car, she was very aware that seaside towns were traditionally associated with Ice Cream, so her best behaviour was assured.
Whether it was the sunshine or just a general mood of happiness and excitement, it seemed that he traffic was being kind to them. The M25 was, apart from a couple of moments of cars bunching up for no obvious reason, perfectly behaved and before long Jessica and Molly found themselves cruising serenely on the A12 at 65mph, listening to one of Molly’s favourite Janet and Alan Ahlberg stories on CD.
Just outside Chelmsford a heavy truck was poised to rejoin the main carriageway after having a tyre changed on the hard shoulder. Jess had plenty of space, she coasted down to 55, allowed the Transit in the outside lane to pass safely, and then accelerated to overtake the truck which was by now in lane one. Well, she tried to accelerate, but somehow it didn’t feel right. The car didn’t feel like it wanted to accelerate at all. Well, actually it did gain momentum, but it didn’t sparkle and fizz like she always thought it did. Worse, it was juddering a bit, too.
At a constant speed it felt OK so Jess just decided to try and avoid acceleration generally, except curiosity got the better of her and she couldnt resist making the car judder, like prodding a bruise to see if it still hurt. Then, after the A133 junction passing Colchester, the dashboard started shaking violently even with her foot safely off the accelerator. Not knowing quite what to do, but aware that this probably couldn’t be driven through, she dived off the A12 into the first place of refuge she saw; the last few meters of a busy lay-by.
With traffic bearing down on her, and now losing speed rapidly, she veered violently to the left, mounting the kerb and finally bringing the ailing Fiesta to a halt at a jaunty angle just out of the way of the traffic. Molly was crying with fear and took a good deal of consoling. Jess quickly clambered across to exit the car from the passenger side, then safely extricated the tearful Molly from her child seat in the back. They stood well aside from the car, and gave Darren a call.
It had been a bit of a frustrating morning for Darren, two of his customers didn’t turn up, another turned out to be a total timewaster who turned out to be looking at cars about ten grand more than he could actually afford. The phone call from Jessica was actually a relief and a good excuse to knock off early. Within an hour he arrived to see Molly sitting, bored, on Jessica’s lap, next to the A12, the Fiesta in the same spot she had left it in.
He turned the key in the ignition. Now, Darren was no technician but he knew it really shouldn’t sound like that. After a few moment of inhaling air between his teeth, a look at his watch and a few glances at the sun-filled, cloudless sky, he gave orders for the Fiesta to be emptied into the BMW. The three formed a relay between the two cars, and soon the BMW was packed with beach balls, buckets, spades, picnic materials and towels. Next stop, Clacton-On-Sea.
After an afternoon spent diligently rubbing suntan oil into skin and being as careful as possible to avoid too much exposure to Clacton’s relentless sunrays, fish and chips were eaten, final swims were had and the holiday detritus scattered across the beach was gathered, bagged and hauled back to the BMW. Molly had had a wonderful day, but a tiring one, and once installed in her child seat she assumed a half-sleeping, heavy eye-lidded posture with her head cocked for a view out of the right rear window. Meanwhile, Jessica and Darren settled down for a relaxed journey home up front, with a reasonable deal of quiet, longing stares and perhaps a little light leg stroking between them.
The sunlight was dimming as the three sun-worshippers made their way back south along the A12, soon passing the spot where the Fiesta remained, one wheel on the kerb, facing the sea-ward direction.
“Our car!” Molly cried.
“Shh. Darren’s going to come back for it another day”.
Molly responded with silence and watched the Fiesta as it shrunk on the horizon and disappeared out of her life forever.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2015)

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  1. engineerd Avatar

    This is why I come back to Hooniverse every day. Inspired.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      Great stuff, such believable writing. Almost makes me sad for my old Ghia, the ultimate winter beater with the twin luxuries of faux wood and heated windscreen. It did seem to be a bit soluble though, passed it on to a friend who got another year and a bit out of it, but I’m sure tin worm got it in the end.

  2. BigRedCaveTroll Avatar

    1. JayP Avatar

      Sorry. There’s only one “The Weight”

      1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
        dead_elvis, inc.

        As much as I love the Band’s original version, it’s a lesser tune without Mavis Staples, either via the Staple Singers or when she accompanied them in The Last Waltz. Robbie Robertson was right when he said the song belonged to her.

        1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
          dead_elvis, inc.

          And I’m awfully fond of this one, too:

        2. JayP Avatar

          It’s been 30 years since I’ve seen Last Waltz. I need to watch it again.

      2. BigRedCaveTroll Avatar

        But, but, but! They don’t even share the same tune, lyrics, or meaning! I do like The Band’s “The Weight” too.

  3. HycoSpeed Avatar

    I am a little worried that car salesman Darren, much like that TruCoat, may not end up being quite the reliable value he to be. Little Molly might be better served by a father figure that can see the importance of saving the Fiesta…
    But that might just be me projecting.