Veena swerved her car, narrowly missing the pothole. The tires caught on some ice and her heart stopped. She clenched her jaw and steered hard. Finally, thankfully, the wheels regained traction. Purring on in a straight line, her car approached the traffic signal. Blink. Blink. Blink. And Red light.
They would likely fire her today. The new boss didn’t care about her divorce or mortgage problems. If her ex knew, he would probably say she deserved this for dumping him. For a disorienting moment, she wished she could go back. The abuse, the cheating. Anything was better than this crushing despair.
With no real career or romantic prospects, she felt she was drowning. And so for the first time in her 46 years, Veena contemplated suicide. Why not end it all? How badly would it hurt?
She was startled out of her reverie by an SUV in the next lane. A favorite tune, long forgotten blared out of the speakers. A young man, thirty at most was in the driver’s seat. With the bluest eyes and a lazy, half grin, he looked over at her. Then looked again.
A little bubble of warmth bloomed in Veena’s heart. Her mouth twitched with the beginnings of a smile. She hazarded a glimpse, surprised and (slightly) ashamed at her obvious interest. He lowered his window to get a better look. Suddenly afraid; she glanced away, but a small honk got her attention. The man was smiling, his unlined face imploring her to do the same. Blushing, Veena beamed in return, losing the wrinkles she was always careful to conceal. Lost in a poem they would never write, they gazed at each other; fleeting at first, then probing. A hundred hopes, a million dreams. Trembled behind her lips, but shone in her face. He nodded as if in understanding, his exquisite eyes sad.
A sudden flurry of movement around her. The traffic light shone green. Engines revving, the cars behind made their displeasure known.
Veena turned to the SUV. Palms flexing on the steering wheel, the sad, beautiful man just sat there and drank her in. Then mouthing a tiny, perfect kiss, he drove away, blaring the last notes of her favorite song.
The bubble of warmth blossomed and exploded inside her. She wiped a tear absently. And with a stranger’s kiss caressing her lips, Veena drove on to work, determined to fight for her life.