"Come on, just a bit further," Martin whispered at the steering wheel, cringing as the engine gave a particularly loud pop. "Look, its just right up that hill and then you can have a rest," he urged, and pet the console pleadingly. With a wheeze, the van complied and came to a halting stop outside of the flats Martin had been at just last night.
Molly was seated on the front steps, book open on her lap as she poured over the words. She had glanced up when she heard the vehicle making its precarious way up the path. Gathering her things, she skipped down the stairs to hug Martin as he stumbled out of the van.
"Hello," Martin greeted her shyly, already a blush covering his cheeks as they broke apart their hug. Molly suspected that he might blush every time they embraced, and she rather hoped that would be the case. "Morning Martin. Ready for a big day of hauling?"
Martin flexed his arms, looked suddenly horrendously embarrassed, and pat the side of his vehicle. "Oh I'm ready. But it's not me we have to worry about. This old girl seems to be extra fussy today." Molly eyed the van, dented and battered with a fading hand painted sign on the side. "Icarus removals?"
"It's seemed more proper to have a business name, rather than just being Martin, the man with a van. Is it silly?"
"No, I like it. Has a nice ring to it."
"I thought so too." Martin looked pleased. "Were you waiting long? You didn't have to wait outside for me."
"That's alright, it was a nice day out. And it was…stuffy inside the flat."
Martin raised an eyebrow, "Didn't make up with Megan, I take it?"
"Well, I tried last night. Sort of. But when I told her about us being a couple now," she paused, allowing a pleased smile then grew solemn and continued, "she got all huffy. And, ah, it became a bit of a shouting match by this morning."
Martin blanched, "She's mad about you dating me? Should I go apologize to her? Maybe if I—"
"Martin, relax." Molly slid her hand into his, giving a quick squeeze to his fingers, "That's not what its about. It's not about dating you, it's about me dating at all. It's kind of a long story, really. I'll tell you along the drive."
"You're certain it wouldn't help for me to go say something? Because I can. Apologize or whatever you think would help."
"I'm sure, yes, thank you."
He nodded, then led her to the passenger's side of the van and held the door open for her. He scurried around to the drivers side and climbed in. "Okay, here's the map. You get to be the navigator."
"Yes sir, Captain! Oh, I'll need a pilot's type hat, don't you think? It'll make it official. Hey, what's with that look?"
"Nothing. Just…just don't say hats are brilliant. Or paramount."
Molly smirked, "Alright, alright. But they are rather fine." She pointed to the sunglasses on the dashboard, "Well, you can at least wear your aviator shades to make up for it."
"That I can do. What do you think?" Martin slid the sunglasses up his nose and turned to model them. Molly was hit by an unexpected wave in her stomach as color rose to her face. Surprised by the electric jolt of sudden attraction, Molly turned to stare quickly down at the map, "They look nice…really nice. Um, so, do you have an address?"
Martin handed her the information about the job, finding himself staring at the steering wheel with the same flustered look on his face, and proceeded to coax his vehicle into starting up. It was a short trip to the house where the couch was to be picked up, and Molly insisted upon passing the time by learning aviation terms. Martin was ecstatic to comply, going off on tangents every few minutes. Molly listened patiently, waving off his apologies when he realized that his flying obsession was dominating the conversation yet again.
When they arrived and were walking up to the door, Martin again began persuading Molly that she needn't help, that he didn't want her having to heave anything when he was entirely capable. Molly smiled indulgently, but was spared having to answer when an elderly gentleman opened the door. "Oh, ah, hello! We're Icarus R-removals, we're here to haul away your couch?"
The man waddled out onto the front stoop, snatching up Molly's hand and completely ignoring Martin. "My, my, you are much prettier than I expected! If I had known they would be sending beautiful women, I'd had this old sofa moved ages ago!" Molly giggled, more at the look of indignation on Martin's face than the compliment, and winked at the older man, "Yes, but we charge double for the pretty pick ups!"
"And worth every penny," he guffawed, leading her inside. Martin followed huffily, eyeing the client with unbidden suspicion. The couch to be moved was a large leather sectional, twice the size Martin had expected. He did his best not to flinch at the sight of it. "Yes, right, okay. Not a problem," he muttered, pacing around it several times as the old man and Molly chattered away.
Martin was able to break it apart into three sections, awkward and large but at least manageable. He hauled the first part out on his own, wheezing slightly and only dropping it once. Luckily, it was outside the range of the client (and Molly's) vision. Unluckily, it was on his foot. Howling, he hoped around the van and blinked back tears.
Molly appeared in the doorway moments later. "Martin! Are you okay? I heard you yelling."
"Yep, yep. I'm fine. Just fine. Fine."
"Why are you standing like a flamingo then?"
"Oh, I'm s-s-stretching? I forgot to stretch beforehand. Its very important when moving heavy things to warm up your muscles."
"You dropped it on your foot, didn't you?"
"No! I…well, yes."
"This is ridiculous. I'm helping you move the rest of it. "
Martin's dignity reared its head in protest, but the throbbing in his foot began to win out. Molly looked at him pointedly, "Besides, that guy is giving me the creeps. It'll be a good excuse not to have to talk to him."
Martin nodded finally. Well, if it was for her honor, then so be it. "O-o-okay. But I'll do the pulling, alright?"
Yet as they walked back into the house and took up positions on either end of the sectional, Martin realized his mistake. The old man was seated where he could get quite the view of Molly struggling to bend down and pick up the corners of the couch. A dark feeling spread through Martin's chest as he caught sight of the smirk that spread across the man's face. "M-Molly!" Martin squawked, "Switch me places."
She gave him a quizzical look, to which he pointed at his foot and feigned a look of pain. She hurriedly traded spots with him and they were able to haul it out without incident. Of course, Martin took a moment to glare at the man as they swapped and wiggled his fanny when reaching down to pick up the couch. The client gave an audile sigh of disgusted disappointment and Martin felt rather accomplished as they took the couch out to the van.
The third and final section went out without complaint, until Martin managed to drop the corner on his other foot when he panicked that Molly might be losing her grip and tried to help. He was sent to the passenger's side of the vehicle, sulking and trying not to sniffle, as Molly finished up inside with the older man. She came back out several minutes later, and climbed into the driver's side.
"I think I can drive now," Martin protested, still clutching the van keys in his hand. Molly rolled her eyes; prying at his fingers, "Look at your shoes laces. They're stretched from the swelling. Just prop your feet up and let me take care of it. I promise, I'm a good driver."
"I'm sure you are! But, well, I didn't want you to have to help me with all this. I wanted you to be the one able to relax."
Molly paused in her struggles to wrench away the keys, smiling softly. "I appreciate the sentiment, Martin, but I don't mind helping. I want to. That's what you do for people you care about. Now give me the keys or I'll start tickling."
Terror crossed Martin's features and he immediately relinquished control. To his surprise, Molly was able to start up the van on the first try and they were soon on their way. Once they were on the motorway, and Martin seemed able to trust Molly's driving ability, Molly began to ask him how it was he came to own the van in the first place. Martin answered honestly enough, trying his best to keep any bitterness from his voice, but Molly still picked up on it.
"Guess I'm not the only one with family problems," she commented.
"I think problems come along with the territory of family. If its picture perfect, then something must be terribly wrong. Or you're adopted."
Molly laughed and smiled wistfully, "Tell that to Megan. She seems to be under the delusion that families are suppose to be perfect and never make mistakes." She sighed, and although Martin was curious to ask, bit his tongue as he watched Molly process her thoughts.
"We use to be a fairly happy family, all things considered. I mean, we had our squabbles, but that's to be expected. It wasn't until my second year of university that things fell apart. Mum and Dad got into a car accident, and it was pretty bad. Mum never really recovered, and Dad….well, he never got the chance to.
"Megan thought I should move home to help take care of them. And I was planning on it, honestly. But when I went to visit Dad in the hospital, he begged me to stay in school. Said he was so proud of me. Wanted me to finish my education. Get a good job. He made me promise that I would, that I wouldn't give up on everything because of the accident. And I did, I promised I would. He died two days later from an infection. He looked happy though, you know? I didn't know a dead body could look so happy, so at peace. It was…nice? Well, no, it wasn't nice. But it was comforting."
Molly paused, her voice thick with emotions but no tears came to her eyes. She'd shed them all years ago. "Anyway, Megan was furious when I said I was going to go back to school the following quarter. She'd already been living at home when it all happened, so she'd been taking care of Mum already. But she had started dating this guy Keith and wanted to move in with him, marry him, have her own version of a happy ending. And I wanted to go to school and have mine."
Darkness colored her eyes, "We were really awful daughters, arguing about all this with Mum stuck in the middle. Megan wound up getting engaged to Keith and I went off to school. Poor Mum, I think she felt like such a burden that she went into assisted living. But she likes it there now, has lots of friends. So that's good at least.
"Anyway, I finished up school and moved to London. With the life insurance money we got from Dad, I was able to actually afford a nice flat for myself and to pay off all those awful loans. Megan got married to Keith, and they seemed all right for a while. But from what I can figure out, they started arguing about things, about having Mum move in with them, and Keith was a prat to begin with and, well, they got divorced and Keith managed to get most of the money. Megan's been working on paying off all of the lawyer bills since, working three jobs. "
Molly glanced sideways at her boyfriend, sadness etched on every feature of her face, "Megan was pretty jaded by it all. She's angry with me because she somehow got it in her head that if I'd moved in with Mum, she would have had a charmed life with Keith. I don't know, I know I have a part of blame in all of it, but she just doesn't want to place the blame where it really belongs."
Martin reached across the seat and rested a comforting hand on her shoulder. He didn't say anything, simply giving a soft squeeze and rubbing at the tenseness that had begun to form in her neck. It caused a surprised wash of emotions to surge into her throat, emotions she thought she'd long used up. Coughing to cover up the choked sob that threatened to break free, she motioned at the map, "I think we're getting close, yeah?"
"Almost. Just take the next exit, two lefts and we should just about be there."
Martin withdrew his hand and Molly bit her tongue as she wrestled her feelings back under control. They remained quiet the rest of the way, until arriving in a small neighborhood with limited parking. The silenced was broken by several gasps and winces from Martin as Molly struggled to convince the van into a parallel parking position.
"Ah, there we have it! And you were worried. I knew I could do it." Molly proclaimed proudly, despite the fact that back half of the van was still taking up a fair portion of the street. She went to clamber out of the vehicle but was stopped by Martin clearing his throat nervously.
"I, uh, I just think you should know that I don't think you did anything wrong, Molly. Maybe there were b-better choices to make, but that doesn't mean you going back to school means you are a bad sister or daughter. You were just keeping your promise to your Dad, trying to make him proud. It's rotten for Megan what happened. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to be happy because of her bad luck." Martin touched her hand, "And for what its worth, I think your Dad is really proud of you."
Molly stared out the window, but couldn't see anything through the thick veil of tears swarming her vision. Try as she might, the sob broke free and her shoulders shook uncontrollably with the tears that flooded freely. Martin panicked at the sight, desperately reaching across the seat and pulling her tightly into his embrace.
"Oh God, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to upset you! Please, Molly, I didn't want you to cry! I'm really sorry!"
She wrapped her arms tightly around his torso, burying her face so deeply in his shoulder he could hardly make out her reply. "I'm not angry, Martin. It's just…that's what I've wanted to hear for so long." The captain relaxed then, still hugging her just as tightly, but soothingly running his hand along her head. "Ah, oh, good," he murmured quietly and continued to brush at her hair until her tears were done.
She sat back, sniffling and wiping at her face with the sleeve of her sweater. "I must look an absolute mess," she said apologetically, "Do I have mascara everywhere?"
"I think you look beautiful," Martin answered truthfully, but reached up to wipe away a black smudge under her eye. Molly smiled appreciatively, "Thank you, Martin. I haven't really talked about Dad in a long time, and you remind him of me in ways. Good ways."
"I wish I could have met him."
"Me too. He'd have liked you. Anyway, enough of this." She gave a final scrub to her face and pushed open the driver's door, "Let's go finish moving that couch." Martin opened his door as well, "After you, Captain."