Exercise: Write an opening scene in which your protagonist leaves work to discover that his/her tire is flat. As they're pulling the spare from the trunk a fellow co-worker, whom they have been secretly attracted to walks up and offers to help out.
Result: Flat Tire. Flat Hair.
“You have to be kidding me.”
There sat my incredibly average sedan, with an incredibly irritating flat tire.
I wanted to kick and scream like a three year old on the candy aisle. I felt like throwing down my bags, and crying. I had no idea how to change a flat tire, it was 6:45 PM, the parking garage was almost empty and I was now going to be late to Hannah's recital. I could just see the smug smile that would be plastered all over Darcy's face when she noticed I wasn't there for my own daughter's recital.
I stomped over to the car and opened the door with a loud squealing noise as if it were screaming out in agony. “Oh shut it.” I bit back as I tossed my purse and files in the passenger seat and began to take my jacket off. “You had to do this to me on the one day I wear a skirt, didn't you?” I questioned as if my sad little car were going to fight back. I pulled the trunk release and slammed my door shut to prove a point.
I continued to grumble loudly as I unloaded my trunk in an attempt to unearth the spare tire. Who knew I had so much stuff in my trunk. Embarrassing stuff for that matter. I brushed my hair out of my face after tossing an arm full of pink and white tutu's on the ground next to leotards, light pink tights and a little mermaid sleeping bag. When did my child decide that my trunk had become her changing room? The pink travesties continued to overflow from the back of my trunk until I saw enough of the gray interior to realize that I had made contact. I pulled open the lid and eyed the dark, greasy, spare tire. “Note to self – never wear a white skirt, ever ever again.” Karma was having way too much fun with me today. First a cup of coffee down the front of me during morning meeting, second a dropped yellow highlighter smudge from nowhere and now a big greasy tire and dirty parking garage floor.
I stood as far back as possible from myself as I pulled the tire out of the trunk. With a bounce I placed it on the ground and leaned it up against the car. My hands were now completely black and I eyed a pair of Hannah's pink colored tights as a hand towel. “Later.” I reminded myself. I returned to the trunk and removed the Jack and the big “x” shaped tool. I wasn't even going to pretend like I knew what I was doing here.
I eyed the oily ground next to the flat tire and realized that I would have to be on the ground to get the jack in the correct spot. After only a fleeting moment of hesitation I unrolled the little mermaid sleeping bag in front of the tire and sunk my way down to eye level with the tire as lady like as possible. I felt around for a firm place to place the jack, put it into position and began to pump as my car groaned.
The elevator hummed behind me as it pulled to a slow stop on my floor. “No. No. No. No. No!” I whispered to myself as I eyed the remaining cars in the parking lot. Boss, other boss, cute boss, and long-legs McGee were all that were left. I glanced around at my piles of pink tights, leotards, tulle tutu's and sleeping bags and wanted to run for it.
Too late. My conscious mocked me as I heard the doors open and a conversation flow out of it. I tried to remain as focused as I could and spent my time looking down at the “x” shaped tool to try to see which size end would fit over the bolts on my tire.
“Ms. Whitten?” My shoulders slumped and my insides churned. Cute boss. I sucked in a breath and threw on a “can-do-attitude” smile and turned to him. “Hi, Mr. Atkinson.”
“Let me call you back, sweetheart.” He said as put his brief case down and pulled his bluetooth from his ear. “Why didn't you tell me we were having a slumber party in the parking garage? I would have brought my tea set.” He grinned his perfect Harvard educated, Mercedes Benz driving grin.
“I was going to invite you but I wasn't sure if Little Mermaid and Ballet were your thing.” I answered.
“I'm more of a Sleeping Beauty person myself, but I think I can overlook that small detail.” He laid his pristine black jacket over the back of my car and knelt down beside me. “May I?” He held out his hand for the “x” shaped tool.
“Oh no, really, it's ok. I've got it under control.” I lied as I tried to force a bolt into an end of the tool that was apparently too small.
“Ms. Whitten?” He continued to smile. “What's the name of the tool in your hands?”
Damn. I knew I should have paid more attention the hundreds of times my father had told me how to change a tire. “Um, bolt remover crow bar thing?” I sighed hopelessly.
He chuckled and removed it from my hands. “Excuse me.” He said as he scooted closer to me on the sleeping bag and immediately placed the correct end of the tool on the bolt.
“Mr. Atkinson, you really don't have to do this.” I assured him as I picked myself up off of the ground. “I appreciate it but I know you probably have places to be and things to do.” Before I was able to finish the sentence I heard all 4 bolts fall to the ground.
“And you don't?” He asked without stopping. “You can call me Robert. I'm not sure there's a big need for formalities here considering we are in a dark parking garage on a Little Mermaid sleeping bag.”
“It's Leah.” I added. “Thank you.”
“Don't mention it.”
“Oh believe me. I won't.” I sighed.
He laughed and pulled the dead tire off. “Leah, your tires desperately need to be replaced. When was the last time you had them changed?”
I shrugged and rubbed my forehead. I could just feel the headache forming. “I've only had the car a month. I'm not sure how old they are.”
“You bought a car with tires like this? You didn't think to have new ones thrown in?” The spare was already on.
“The car was given to me.” I replied quietly.
“Well that was nice of someone. I would certainly hope that next time that someone would pay a bit more attention to matters that involve the safety of your little ballerina.”
Before I knew it the spare was bolted down and my car was groaning again as it settled into a more comfortable position. He picked himself up off the ground and placed the tools and dead tire back in the trunk. “All done.”
“Thank you. You really didn't have to.” I blushed as I began to pile the tulle and pink back into the trunk.
He smiled and folded up the sleeping bag and held it out for me. “Next time I expect a formal invitation.”
“I truly hope there is not a next time.” I groaned as I stuffed the sleeping bag into the last available cranny in the trunk and closed the door.
He picked up his jacket and pulled a handkerchief out of the inner pocket and held it out to me. “You have some grease on your forehead.”
I gasped as I took the handkerchief and assessed the situation in the reflection of my window. Flat strawberry red hair, crumpled shirt, make up that had it's fair share of the day and now a grease spot on my sweaty forehead. “Beautiful.” I scoffed as I did my best to rub it off. The harder I rubbed at it the more red my forehead got. Oh whatever. I gave up and returned the cloth. “Thanks.”
He nodded and wiped the grease off his hands. He tossed his jacket over his arm and picked up his black briefcase with a very quiet sigh. “Thanks for letting me tinker.”
“Any time.” I said slightly surprised.
“Have a good night, Leah.”
“Thank you, Mr. Atkins – Robert.” I corrected myself as I walked back to my door.
“My pleasure.” He smiled softly and began to walk to his dark blue Mercedes.
I climbed in my car and pulled the door closed softly. I jammed the key in the ignition and saw the clock light up.
“Crap!” I turned the engine over and pulled out of my space before he had even made it to his car. As I made my way out of the parking garage I picked up my phone and dialed Sloan.