He said, “Hello. My name’s Laurence and I’m ­- er – calling about the car advertised in this morning’s paper.”

“How can I help you?” The woman’s gentle voice sounded as if it belonged to someone who smiled often. But Laurence thought there was just a hint of sadness.

“It says here the car is a 1990 Mercedes sports with only 20,000 kilometres on the clock. Yet the price …”

“The price is right, dear.” Laurence liked the way she called him “dear”. She sounded such a nice lady, so he did not want to take advantage of her. “It seems rather… well… low,”

“I assure you it’s correct.”

Well, he wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth. “I’d like to look, if that’s OK.”

“Certainly,” the woman replied, and gave Laurence her address. Soon he was on the way in his old car. He had really only been glancing through the used car ads for a replacement when he chanced upon this one. He had very nearly not phoned. Everything about the ad seemed too good to be true. And even now he cautioned himself with the thought that it must surely have major mechanical problems or be in need of much bodywork. No­ one could seriously offer that type of car in good condition for the price in the paper.

Upon arrival at the address, Laurence permitted a small ray of optimism to light his soul. The large house was set well back from the street amid sprawling grounds adorned with thriving trees and carefully maintained gardens.

“They’re rich!” Laurence thought. “They probably don’t care about the money.”

He spoke his name into the security intercom after the same sweet voice he’d heard on the phone responded to his buzz, and the gates then began to swing open.

He eased his car along the gravelled driveway and stopped where it circled an ornate-looking fountain.

A smiling woman with greying hair and fullish figure came to greet him. “Hello, Laurence. I’m Jessica Williams. “

Laurence was a little surprised at the firmness of her grip and he was dazzled by the brilliance of the smile. She led him to the garage where, inside, he saw a sparkling spotless red Mercedes. He stood quietly for a moment, still telling himself that something must be wrong.

“Have a good look, Laurence. Start it up.”

Laurence slid in behind the wheel. The upholstery smelled fresh and the interior of the car was immaculately clean. He checked the kilometres on the odometer: a little over 20,000km.

Finding the keys in the ignition he turned the engine over and it purred into life immediately. He listened for anything out of the ordinary and, hearing nothing, turned the engine off and got out. He looked at Mrs Williams.

“It was my husband’s,” she answered Laurence’s unasked question. “He looked after it like the child we never had. “

Once again Laurence heard the note of sadness in the voice and, this time, also saw it in her eyes.        

“On Sunday mornings he used to test everything, buff the paintwork, and then he would take me by the hand and we’d drive away into the sunny day. He loved this car and we spent some happy times in it. But now I want to see it gone.

“We had not done that in a long time, even before he …” She spoke wistfully.

“I’m sorry.” said Laurence.

She had been staring into the distance, but now as Jessica Williams turned, Laurence saw a tear upon her cheek. “If you want it, it’s yours.”

“Are you sure you want to sell it for such a small amount? You could get at least three times the amount you’ve advertised it for. ”

“I’m certain, dear. I’m glad a nice young fellow like you is going to benefit.” Laurence felt his heart go out to her.

“Thank you. I’ll look after it carefully and if you ever want to ride in it again, I’d be happy to drive you anywhere you want to go. I know what it’s like to lose a loved one. My own mother died only a few years ago.”

“Oh, you misunderstand. My husband hasn’t passed away. Far from it. You see, a month ago he left me to go cavorting around Europe with some woman half his age. ‘Jessica, I’m in love with someone else’ he said to me. And he walked out the door.

“Then, a few days ago he rang me and asked me to sell the car and send him the money. It seems she has expensive tastes and he’s nearly broke. He’s in for a surprise.”

She paused, and met Laurence’s open-mouthed stare with just a hint of a smile on her face. “After all,” she continued, “what do I know about cars?”

Now Laurence smiled, too.

 Reproduced for Educational Purposes.