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Duncan Johnstone
Literary Correspondent
3:18 PM 1st April 2023
fiction

The Girl In The Blue Coat

 
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko (Pexels)
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko (Pexels)
It was almost certainly a mistake but I decided to go anyway. The lowering clouds were steadily changing from grey to black. Clearly a storm was on the way. But I only had a journey of some twenty five miles and as I had undertaken to give a talk I couldn’t really back out. Although, if the weather was anything like this at the venue I was heading for, there would probably be few if any people waiting to hear what I had to say!

So I set off.

As I had feared the storm began. This was no ordinary storm but rain coming down in torrential bursts. It soon became clear that I would not be able to proceed until the storm had run its course.

The words of a hymn, probably wrongly remembered, came to mind -

The storm may roar about me
But can I be dismayed?

The answer was ‘Yes’, for I seemed to have lost my way. I was on a quiet road well away from where I had intended. Clearly I had taken a wrong turn due to the fact that my vision was severely limited by the violence of the storm. I realised that I could not drive much further until the weather had somewhat abated. Nor would it be safe to park where I was on so narrow a road. Any oncoming vehicle would almost certainly fail to see me in these conditions. I had to find somewhere off the road to stop.

Just ahead I saw a gate seemingly leading to a largish mansion. I drove up the driveway and found not a welcoming home but what looked like a derelict building. I thought it best not to park too close to the building as at any moment lightning might strike the unstable fabric of the place and bring it tumbling down upon me. The driveway was large - so I stopped some fifty yards or so from the house, switched off my engine, and prepared to sit out the storm.

But after a moment or two I looked out and saw, seemingly sheltering in a doorway to the house, a girl in a blue coat. She saw me, and clearly thinking that my car might offer her better shelter, ran towards me. I opened the passenger door and she jumped in bringing with her a scattering of rain onto my dashboard.

The coat she wore was a dazzling blue but there was something about it that was wrong. I could not think what it could be and so dismissed the query from my mind.

I reached into the rear seat of the car where I kept a warm blanket in case of such occasions as these. I retrieved it and placed it over the two of us to offer a little warmth.

She said very little other than that she had arranged to meet a friend here who had doubtless been delayed by the storm - a storm which still roared about us.

It is rather exciting - or so it seems to me - sitting in a car with a blizzard blowing around and you protected by the car itself and a warming blanket.

At last the storm slackened somewhat and I felt it safe to drive on. I asked her if I could give her a lift anywhere but she declined, saying that she would wait for her friend. She got out of the car and went again to stand by the doorway into the derelict house. I was half sorry to see her go for there is something romantic about sitting in a car in a storm and sharing a blanket with a pretty girl.

I waved her goodbye - and set off for my meeting. Strangely I now had no difficulty in finding my way back onto the right road.

As I had anticipated not many had turned out on this rough night to hear me - but I gave the talk and shook hands with each of the seven hardy souls who had braved the weather and thanked them for turning out on so horrible a night.

Although still inclement, the worst of the storm was well over and I arrived home without any further upset.

As I took off my coat and hung it in the hallway, shaking the rain from it, I wondered again what it was that had struck me as strange about the girl and her blue coat.

Suddenly it hit me like a blow between the eyes. It had been some fifty yards or more from where she stood sheltering to my car, and when the door opened a blast of rain came in with her. But the strange thing was that the coat, indeed the girl herself, was not wet at all!