Strawberry Wine

Something Saved

This is the second (and last) chapter. Rated T for a swear word this time.

When Katherine departed from the old farm that evening, she didn't count on her vehicle stalling in the middle of a country road in the pitch darkness.

She groaned as the truck sputtered to a stop. From the last rays of sunlight filtering over the trees, she could see that the fuel gauge indicated that the gas tank was still half full - just enough to return home. Katherine drummed her fingers against the steering wheel, looking contemplatively out into the dusk. It has to be a problem with the electrical system, she thought with a sigh, and I'm not a mechanic. The sun continued to set as she fished her cell phone from her coat pocket, its eerie blue glow illuminating the darkened vehicle.

Katherine punched a few numbers onto the keypad and held it up to her ear. This number is currently unavailable, the machine said. She didn't expect it to be anything else, but still felt a twinge of disappointment in her stomach. Sighing, she put the phone away and climbed into the back of the truck, looking for her set of flares.

The woman climbed back out, tripping on a rounded object on the floor of her vehicle along the way. She cursed as her knees hit the pavement, the box of flares still clutched tightly in her hands. Maybe someone could help her out of this predicament. She brushed herself off, and worked on sticking the flares to the side of her truck.

After she set the flares, she popped the hood, crawled back inside the vehicle, locked the doors, and waited.

Three-quarters of an hour later and still not a single soul had passed. This road was more deserted than she thought. Sighing, she continued rolling the empty wine bottle underneath her foot, ignoring the ache in her right kneecap. She didn't notice the headlights reflecting in her mirrors, too immersed in her thoughts about the rounded glass object.

Tomorrow, when I get home, I'm adding this thing to the recycling box. At least then it'll have a chance to be put into something useful. Sitting here, staring at it, it's not doing anyone any good.

A sudden knock on her truck's window distracted her from her reveries. Katherine jumped, heart fluttering. She looked out to see what looked like a state trooper staring back at her through the darkness.

She exhaled in relief before rolling down the window. What luck that an officer found her! She wasn't keen on facing a drunkard, or a bunch of cattle-mutilating cultists, or who knows what else . . .

Then again, surrounded by the dark, she'd accept any help that came her way.

The officer looked at her. "Is everything - "

He seemed to falter when Katherine stared back at him. She brushed a lock of blonde hair out of her face, looking at him expectantly.

"Officer?" Katherine prompted.

He scratched underneath his hat, trying to regain his composure. "Is everything alright, ma'am?"

"Well, Officer . . . " the woman gestured across the dashboard. "My truck just stopped. So I'm kind of stranded."

The man nodded distractedly, eyeing the pendulum swing of Katherine's right leg. She started and kicked the bottle backwards. He didn't miss this action, frowning and shining his torch into the dark-lit vehicle.

"Ma'am, I'll just search your vehicle now, if that's alright with you?"

Kat groaned inwardly, knowing that if she refused she would only aroused suspicion. So she consented, unlocking the doors and stepping lightly out onto the pavement, while the officer began his search by checking the truck's bed.

She watched as the other moved around the truck, lifting up the blue tarpaulin in the back. The woman thought there was something familiar about the way he walked - a feeling like playing a scene from an old movie or dream out in your mind, like deja vu - but she shook it off. It didn't mean anything. She leaned against the side of the truck as the officer moved onto the vehicle's interior, disappearing from her field of vision.

Trooper Deering rifled absentmindedly through the truck's backseat. He thought he could smell something familiar - raspberries, maybe? - coming from the front. It was probably just a girly air freshener, he told himself, replacing the grey mat and moving on. But still, he couldn't help but think . . .

He continued his search in the front of the vehicle. Katherine watched idly through the open window, keeping silent as the other ruffled his hand through the messy glove compartment and shone his light under the seats. She turned away when the torch reflected off the red glass under the driver's place.

The man grabbed the bottle and rolled it around in his hand, a smile tugging at his lips.

I knew it!

Katherine turned around to lean in through the window. She could see Trooper Deering crouched on the floor of her truck, hunched over something.

"Officer . . . ?" The other looked up. "Is something the matter?"

"Nothing, ma'am." He returned the bottle to its place and climbed out through the passenger door. With a quick look at the hood's contents, he faced the curious blonde. "Everything seems to be in order. Now, how much damage is done to your vehicle?"

"Well, it's not so much how much damage is done to it as that it just stopped working."

He nodded. "Did you try to call - "

"There's no service," she blurted. Katherine flushed and slapped a hand over her mouth. Speaking through her fingers, she mumbled, "sorry, Officer. I must have forgot my manners."

Deering laughed and waved off her apology. "Don't worry about it. Let me guess - you live in Benton, right?" She nodded. "I can escort you there . . . Katherine."

The blonde stood and gaped for a moment before following him towards the patrol car. She climbed into the backseat, fidgeting as the other put the vehicle into drive and pulled out onto the road.

"How . . . how did you know my name?"

"Strawberries," he replied.

Katherine frowned. Well, she hadn't expected that answer.

"I'm not sure I follow you."

The trooper scratched the back of his head and smiled, brown eyes meeting the woman's blue ones in the mirror. "You don't remember the last thing I gave you, Kat?"

She leaned over and gasped. "Brendan?"

"Long time, no see," he replied.

"What - how - I don't - what?"

Brendan laughed. "Don't you remember me?"

"Of course," she answered, cheeks colouring slightly. "I just . . . didn't expect to meet you again, especially as a police officer of all things - "

It was Deering's turn to blush. "Hey, it's not that surprising that I went into law enforcement, is it?"

"Kinda," the woman deadpanned. "I mean, with you stealing from my grandfather, supplying alcohol to a minor, and drinking underage yourself . . . "

The other fell silent as they drove over a bridge. Katherine, seemingly realizing what she just said, coughed into her hand and leaned further towards the front. "I'm - I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. I was just trying to make a joke, Brendan." A streetlight passed overhead, and the woman's face momentarily lit up in the mirror. "So . . . what's been going on for you in the past ten years?"

Kat relaxed when Deering faced her with a smile. "Glad you asked," he said brightly. "Well, as you can probably guess, I graduated from college - after switching my major a few times - and joined the police force here." Katherine nodded when he paused, urging him to continue. "And, well - " he scratched his neck sheepishly. "Sometime in college I met this girl and we started hanging out . . . and I guess that's when I stopped writing you, Kat. I guess I was a bit of a coward for not telling you . . . but I never forgot about you, and I mean it."

He caught her gaze from across his shoulder and she hummed in acknowledgment. She wondered what kind of woman replaced her, but it didn't hurt. She wasn't that egotistical.

"Anyway," he continued. "Life was going pretty normal. Me and Linda got married - maybe a bit too fast, in hindsight. Things were going great for a couple years until we started drifting apart. Both our jobs got in the way, I guess. The divorce was only finalized a couple weeks ago."

Katherine's mouth twisted. What a coincidence, she thought. And what a strange consequence of some people being drawn apart - it brings others closer together.

They drove down a exit ramp - Kat knew they were getting close to Benton - and a contemplative silence fell over them once again. "I guess that makes us equals," she said suddenly.


"My fiancé and I broke up just last week," she explained.

"Oh." Brendan eased off the gas as they entered a residential area. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"Don't be. I was hoping that asshole would let me go for a while."

Brendan faced her again. Despite the tone of her voice, she smiled. Seeing her like that . . . it was the very same smile the seventeen-year-old girl gave him when they drank together, every time they kissed, after that argument in the barn, after they parted ways . . .

He lifted his hand. He wanted to touch her, but withdrew to focus his attention on the road. It was too premature. Only a fool would think they could just pick up where they left off after ten years of separation.

Entering Benton, Katherine began murmuring distracted directions to her house, her mind still preoccupied with Deering's previous action. She hadn't missed it. And she would be lying if she said she didn't wonder what might happen if they got to that point again, where they were comfortable enough to touch each other . . .

She shook these thoughts away as they pulled onto her street. A lot could happen in a decade. They were a bit like that old wine bottle still sitting in her truck, a little faded, a little weathered.

Still, it could be put to some use, couldn't it?

Kat stepped out of the patrol car and bid her good-byes to Brendan, exchanging phone numbers and promising to meet up again. He teased her about drunk driving, and drove off into the night.

She could get the bottle later.

A/N: I hadn't originally planned on writing this. But when I thought about a sequel, the idea for this chapter popped into my head and would. Not. Leave. Me. Alone. So of course I had to write it.

Ok, so this is kind of unrealistic. It takes places in recent times (c. 2006) when Brendan could've just used Myspace or something to find Kat. But I think a chance encounter makes for a much more romantic story, and in my opinion, meeting people through Myspace is pretty much the antithesis to romance. Most of the time, anyway. Eheh, I'll just step off my soapbox now . . .

Writing this was surprisingly easy and a ton of fun. I hope everyone enjoyed reading it as much as I liked writing it. Adios!