"Marj, that's the Merc sorted. Want me to call the guy and tell him it's ready to go?"
Marj di Marco looked up from beneath the bonnet of the car she was swearing at, a smear of grease across her cheek, engine-based annoyance temporarily forgotten.
"Sarah, you are my perfect little angel, you know that? Yes, give Sir Richard Allen a call and tell him his over-priced penis extension is once again in full working order."
Sarah chuckled, all brightness and good humour. "You want me to phrase it just like that?"
"OK, maybe leave out the bit about the penis extension." Marj thought for a moment, "And maybe don't call him Sir. Although I'm not even sure that he'd pick up on the sarcasm if you did."
Marj vanished beneath the bonnet once again and returned to cursing bits of machinery while Sarah walked purposefully towards the small corner office, a spring in her step, fuelled by the satisfaction that always came from turning a broken car into a fixed car.
"Hi, Mr Allen? It's Sarah Gates from di Marco's garage. Yep, it's all sorted and ready when you are. Yeah, tomorrow's fine. We open at nine. Oh, OK, no problem. We're open until five on Saturdays. Great, see you then!"
Marj appeared at the office door. "All good?"
"Yeah, he's coming for it tomorrow, some time in the afternoon," replied Sarah. "You know, he didn't even ask how much it was going to be. Imagine having so much money you don't even think about how much stuff costs."
"Oh, I imagine that all the time," said Marj, wistfully. "I'd buy a boat for me and Cleo to sail around the world in. One of those ones that has an engine too, for when there isn't any wind. The Queen Cleo would be a stunning vessel, desired by all who gazed upon her, much like her namesake."
"You've given that a lot of thought."
"Aye, only every day. When I'm up to my eyes in bits of car in here, in my head I'm at sea with my beautiful lady, drinking champagne on deck, turning my glorious curves and big thick thighs golden in the sun."
"What about the garage? You know, when you leave this mundane world behind to live a life of luxury," asked Sarah.
"This place would be yours, obviously. You're the only one I'd trust not to completely screw it up. I mean, assuming some other hideous bacterial doom doesn't start doing the rounds and bumping everyone off again."
"Aww, Marj, you're too good to me. And don't even joke about another outbreak! That was awful last year. I hope nothing like that happens again, ever, or at least not while I'm around to see it." Sarah's cheerful demeanour shifted for a moment to something more thoughtful, a cloud passing across the sun.
"I hope so too. The world doesn't need any more of that. Seriously though, when I retire, I expect you to at least consider taking the business on. When you started here, I couldn't believe my luck. I've had a few apprentices over the years and none of them have had anywhere near the work ethic you have. You're a wee star, you know that?"
"What's all this 'when I retire' talk about? You're only forty-six." Sarah's voice found its brightness again.
"I'm forty-five, actually, and it's good to be prepared. Ah, who am I kidding? I'll be working here till I die. You'll come in one morning and I'll have breathed my last under some rich boy racer's BMW."
"Oh, Marj, that would never happen!"
"I like your optimism."
"Well, I know you'd never get here, start working and have time to die before I arrived. You're not exactly a morning person, are you?"
"And you're becoming less of an angel by the second." Marj grinned. "What are you up to tonight anyway? Out partying?"
"I've got work in the morning, remember?"
"OK then, what about tomorrow night?"
"Couch. Films. Pizza. Friends. All that good stuff."
"Lass, you need to start living. You're way too sensible. When I was your age—"
"I am living," Sarah interrupted. "I'm saving up the deposit for a flat. I've got a good start with the money Gran left me but I need loads more if I'm going to have a chance at buying somewhere, even round here. Besides, when you were my age, you were working all hours in your dad's garage, listening to him tell you about how you were going to take it over when he retired. I wonder how that feels."
"Aye, well...I was also madly in love with Cleo, planning to get rich and keep her in the manner to which she would like to have become accustomed but still hasn't had the opportunity to be, even though we've been together for pretty much ever. But that's not your thing, is it?"
"What, getting rich?"
"No, the other thing."
"Being together with people? Nah, not like that. I'll be marching at Pride with my asexual and aromantic flags flying high while you're off on your dream boat with your dreamboat."
"I'm going to get all 'back in my day' on you, so brace yourself."
Sarah laughed, well accustomed to Marj's nostalgic musings. "Go on then."
Marj cleared her throat theatrically. "Back in my day, we didn't have half the words we have today for all the different ways people can be. I'd like to say it was a simpler time, but it wasn't. It was just a time when it was harder to describe things. You are what you are and everything that makes us all different from each other is what keeps the world interesting. That's me done being philosophical for the day."
There was a buoyant honesty to Marj that made Sarah feel secure in her presence, even during times when the world had tilted and shifted beyond control. "I'm really glad I work here, you know?"
"I do know. And I'm really glad you work here too or we'd never get anything done. You're a tiny dynamo. For all there is of you, you get through about ten times more work than anyone else I've had the dubious honour of employing. And that deserves a coffee."
Marj turned to the corner of the office and flicked the kettle on as Sarah watched the world go by outside, savouring a little moment of contentment, all being right in her world for now, the clouds melting into a gentle drizzle.
YOU ARE READING
Car ThievesScience Fiction
The year 2027. Edinburgh, Scotland. Disease has swept a deadly path through society. A nightlife mogul with a violent past, a sadistic drug dealer, an artist craving companionship, a privileged playboy and a fiercely independent motor mechanic strug...