100 Themes Challenge, Minot Edition: #1
THEME: 1. "Introduction"
STORYLINE: D Is For Damien storyline, Minot spinoff series, untitled/unwritten story
RATING: PG-13 (mild adult language)
WORD COUNT: +1400 words
SUMMARY: How Max and Natalie Kristeva met. Aww. That's about all there is to summarize, I guess.
DISCLAIMER: I am not seeking grammar/style/publication critique for this item; I'm not trying to get published, and am content with my writing style, and just wish to entertain others. Feel free to point out errors that aren't just a matter of style preference (e. g., typos). Comments and questions on characters, plot, etc. are more than welcome. All characters, unless otherwise stated, are copyright © tehuti/tehuti_88. If you wish to share this item with others please send them a link.
She should have had her eyes on the road. She knew that. She knew that ducking for even a second to fish for something that had fallen somewhere across the seat could be stupid. That hadn't kept her from doing so, however, and it was only the abrupt, jarring stop and the sound of breaking glass that reminded her of this.
Natalie just barely missed hitting her head against the dashboard, but the impact did jam her arm against the steering wheel and she gasped at the pain. It was immediately forgotten; she sat bolt upright and blinked at the car immediately in front of her. It had come to a stop, presumably on purpose; she'd come to a stop, completely on accident. Even from here she could see how the front of her own vehicle had struck the back of the one before her. The light hanging over the intersection was red.
"Oh!" She gritted her teeth and had to keep herself from slapping herself repeatedly. "Stupid! Stupid!" She paused to see exactly what the driver of the other car would do; once the light had turned green, after a brief moment's hesitation, it slowly pulled away from her and continued on its way through the intersection, though as soon as it had done so it pulled to the curb and stopped again. Natalie followed suit, mentally berating herself the entire time. She parked behind it, both of them a safe distance from the convergence of streets, and wrung her hands a little though she told herself it was a juvenile reaction. It felt like it took forever for the other driver to exit the vehicle, though she knew that was only her own anxiety. For some reason, when she saw that it was a man she felt even more nervous, but she opened her door and quickly got out anyway.
He'd slammed his own door shut and was approaching the back of his car, tilting his head to look down at the bumper and the shattered taillight. He barely glanced up at all when Natalie slammed her door and hurriedly approached him in turn, still wringing her hands and grimacing.
"I'm so sorry! It's completely my fault. I wasn't looking. I'm so sorry."
The man let out a noncommittal noise that she couldn't interpret, and stood straight again, glancing toward her own vehicle. The look in his dark gray eyes seemed rather peeved to her, and she swallowed and bit her lip, but all that he did was look at her broken headlight and dented bumper.
"Looks like your car got the worse of it."
"Huh? Oh." Natalie bent her head to the side to look at the damage. "Yeah...I guess. Still. I'm so sorry. I'll get it all taken care of, I promise."
He let out another small noise, possibly a snort, though she couldn't tell; she felt she must be causing him a rather annoying morning, and felt awful for that; surely he had better things to do than deal with a fender-bender. "I'll get my insurance info," he said as he went, and Natalie again had to keep from slapping herself, whirling back to her own car.
"Oh! Of course. Let me find mine."
She pulled open the door a bit too abruptly, nearly losing her balance twice, once when she did this and again when she practically fell over the seat and opened the glove compartment to poke around at its contents. She was chagrined to notice that he found his information before she did, and was again standing near the back of his car, waiting with that peeved look still on his face; but when she finally rejoined him, running a hand back through her hair in a flustered manner and holding out her papers to take his in return, he didn't snap or do anything else to indicate that he was pissed off with the situation, so she wondered if perhaps that was just the way he always looked. They both placed their papers on the trunk of his car and jotted down the necessary information; she was secretly relieved that he didn't seem interested in calling the police and creating even more hassle and delay. When they were done they exchanged papers again. Natalie nearly dropped hers trying to get them back in order. He stood watching her do this for a moment before prompting, "Name and number...?"
"Oh!" She felt her face grow hot. "Just--hold on a sec." She turned and hurried back to the car, tossing the papers on the seat and fetching her license, a notepad, and a pen to take down her name and telephone number. When she returned to him this time he was holding a small card; she blushed again, and made a mental note to invest in business cards sometime, even though she didn't own her own business just yet. Then again, she could just stop getting in traffic accidents and needing to give out her information; that would probably be easier, not to mention cheaper.
"Here you go." She held her license and the piece of paper out to him and he handed her his card and license in return. Despite the situation she found herself vaguely curious as to where he worked; she waited until he'd turned his head before surreptitiously turning over the card to read it.
Ward County Sheriff's Department
He turned back to look at her again with a frown; she'd clapped her hand over her mouth hard enough to make a noise. "You're a policeman?" she blurted out once she managed to find her voice. He blinked, then looked ready to say something, but she was too mortified to let him; she squinched her eyes shut and ground her knuckles against her forehead. "I can't believe I rear-ended a cop!"
"I'm not on duty," the other driver--Kristeva--said, as if that helped matters.
"You're still a cop! Christ, I can't believe how stupid..."
"I'm not a traffic cop."
Now he sounded just a little bit peeved. Natalie bit down most of her humiliation, though she was unable to bite down all of it. "Still," she had to say. "I can't...I'm so sorry. I'll get it taken care of, I promise."
"The insurance company'll straighten it out. You're not a traffic cop either."
"Yeah, well, I still should've kept my eyes on the road."
She grimaced again and was about ready to snap, Thanks a lot! though she fought the urge, it was only the truth after all. Again he spoke before she could form the words.
"Look," he said, exchanging their licenses and taking a step back and gesturing at nothing in particular, "I'm not on duty but I'm supposed to go on duty, and from the looks of it you are too, so we'll just let the insurance company take care of it."
"Still, I'm so sorry I damaged your car."
"It's one little taillight. You might think about getting your own light fixed and that bumper looked at, though."
"Yeah, I will. I'm really sorry though. For all the hassle and for spoiling your morning and everything."
He turned away, again with an indecipherable gesture and slight noise, and opened his door. "Just get your headlight fixed," he said as he got in, pulling the door after him, though he did halt long enough to lean back out and add, "And you might want to think about keeping your eyes on the road."
"Yeah, I will." She was surprised she kept the irritation from her voice, though as before it was only the truth; to be honest with herself, he'd handled it a lot better than she'd expected, and she was more irked with herself than with anything else. She wanted to say something else in parting, but he'd already shut his door and started his engine, and all she could think of was yet another pointless apology. He hadn't seemed to care much for apologies.
Natalie let out a gusty sigh and got back into her own car. She wasn't superstitious, not by any means, but she knew from experience that when a morning started out lousy, usually the rest of the day would follow suit. She had to convince herself it was worth continuing on to work; only the thought of her coworker stuck alone, manning the art gallery on her own, convinced her to get going. She double-checked the mirror before pulling back out into traffic, and told herself to just do as he'd recommended and leave it all to the insurance companies and forget about it, but for some reason she couldn't quite get his vaguely irritated expression out of her head, and that annoyed her.