The Accidental Life of Greg Millar

By Aimee Alexander

Romance, General fiction, Literary fiction

Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

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883
5 mins

Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE

A bird has just flown into my car – a moving car, a moving bird, heading in different directions yet somehow magically intersecting. I thought, at first, that it had simply flown close to my open window, passing by on its way somewhere else, but a manic flapping behind my head has made me realise otherwise.
‘It’s a blackbird,’ says Fint, beside me.
‘I don’t care what it is, just get it out.’ If he hadn’t been smoking, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
I put on my hazard lights and swerve into the hard shoulder. We hop out, Fint leaving his door wide open. He runs to the back and bangs at the window. The bird flies up front, and out. In a blur, it’s free.
‘Now that’s what I call spooky,’ he says.
‘I know. Weird.’
We stand looking at each other.
‘An omen,’ says Fint, eyes wide in an effort to look menacing.
I smile. Fint is about as menacing as a sandwich.
We get back in.
Fint looks over his seat. ‘By the way, he shat on your upholstery.’
‘Thanks.’
He smiles, pulls out his laptop and opens it up.

The diversion has made us late for our meeting. I’m keeping just below the speed limit in the fast lane when I realise we’ve company. At my bumper, is a black Mercedes Sports Convertible. I’m wondering what kind of idiot drives with the top down on a cold March morning when said idiot swerves to overtake me on the inside.
‘Unbelievable,’ I say.
‘What?’ asks Fint, looking up from the laptop.
‘People like that cause accidents.’
‘People like what?’
‘That guy just passed on the inside.’
‘Oh,’ he says and goes back to work.
‘“Oh?” He could kill someone the way he’s driving.’
Fint looks at me, eyes suddenly knowing.
‘Stop looking at me like that.’
‘Like what?’
‘Like you think I’m overreacting because of what happened to Brendan. Like you pity me.’
He looks like he’s thinking before speaking. ‘I don’t pity you, Lucy. I just feel that you shouldn’t let every careless driver remind you of what happened. It’s been eighteen months.’ He pauses. ‘Maybe it’s time to let Brendan go.’
‘Brendan was my life, my future. You think I can just let him go? What kind of stupid expression is that anyway, let him go?’
He looks out his window and mumbles an apology.
I loosen my grip on the wheel, inhale deeply. ‘No. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.’
‘It’s OK. For the record, I miss him too.’
‘I know.’
Up ahead, the lights turn red. I slow to a stop, glance to my left. ‘Didn’t get far, did he, for all his rushing?’
Fint looks across.
‘Here, roll down the window,’ I say.
‘What? Why?’
‘Someone should tell people like him….’
‘Lucy, you’re not a vigilante. You don’t know him. This is how road rage incidents start.’
I lower the window myself. Stretch over. ‘Excuse me?’
He glances over. Good looking guy, around the forty mark, tight hair-cut. He turns down his radio.
‘Are you planning on killing someone today?’
His eyes widen. He studies me a moment, then smiles. ‘It wasn’t on my agenda, no.’ He pauses, then adds, ‘Wine gum?’
‘What?!’
He holds out a packet of sweets.
‘I don’t suppose it ever occurred to you that driving like that could cause an accident?’
His smile only widens. ‘I’m touched by your concern.’
‘If you continue to drive like that, you’ll be touched by something with a lot more impact.’
‘Lucy,’ Fint whispers.
‘Has anyone ever told you, you look lovely when you’re angry?’ he calls across as though nothing has ever rocked his world.
I roll up the window and glance straight ahead. ‘Gobshite.’
‘Cute gobshite.’
‘Fintan, do you have to look on every man as a potential conquest?’
‘Potential? My dear, you underestimate me.’
I smile. The lights go green and I pull away. Fast.
The Merc stays level with us.
‘Ignore him,’ I say. ‘Fintan, stop looking over. You’ll just encourage him.’
‘If anyone’s encouraging him it’s you. Slow down. Jesus.’
The Merc catches us but has to slow behind a tangerine Nissan Micra doing, I don’t know, thirty?
I slap the steering wheel. ‘Ha! Got him!’
I check the rear-view mirror. He’s passed the Micra and is whipping into the inside lane. I accelerate. As does he. Neck and neck, I peer across. He’s like an ad for tooth whitener. I raise an eyebrow, turn back to the road.
‘You’re taking on a Mercedes, Lucy. Do you think that’s wise?’
Almost by way of an answer, it eases ahead of us.
We round a bend and I smile. He’s up ahead, stuck behind a slow car in the fast lane. I join the line of traffic on the inside, which is moving faster. I look ahead as we overtake him.
‘You absolute hypocrite!’ says Fint.
That’s when reality hits. I just gave out to a guy for driving dangerously only to do the same myself. How could I do that – forget Brendan and how he died? Disloyal. Stupid. I slow down, let the traffic go ahead as guilt crushes down on me, worse than ever, guilt that I can go on without him, live, breathe, function… even forget.

I indicate and turn off for the industrial estate where our client, Copperplate Press, one of Dublin’s leading publishers and wholesalers, is based. A black Mercedes Sports Convertible is parked out-front, its hood coming up.
Fint closes his laptop and looks up. ‘Hey, isn’t that…?’
‘Don’t, look, over. Wait till he goes in.’
Fint hops out.
They meet in front of the Merc, say a few words, then look my way.
I pretend I’ve dropped something.
When I finally surface, I see that they’re coming over. FFS. Right, well, I’m not staying here. I step out of the car, chin high.
‘Ready, Fintan? Or are you just going to stand around chatting all day?’
‘Hello,’ Racer Boy says with that smile of his.
I nod and walk past them.
He rushes ahead of me and holds the door.
‘Exhilarating,’ he says, following me into the lobby.
I stop and turn. ‘I’m sorry?’
‘The race. Exhilarating!’
I raise an eyebrow. ‘I’d have described it as dangerous.’
‘Why do it, then? If it was so dangerous?’
Grinning, Fint passes us, heading for reception.
I walk over to the black leather couch.
Racer Boy follows. He sits at the other end. Unfortunately it’s a two-seater.
I pick up a newspaper. ‘Better tell them you’re here,’ I say, nodding to the desk.
‘Time enough,’ he replies, not budging. ‘Look, I’m sorry if my driving offended or annoyed you or whatever the problem is.’
‘There’s no problem,’ I say, without looking up from the paper.
‘It’s just, the way you took off, back there; I thought you were challenging me. No. To tell you the truth, I thought you were flirting.’
I stare at him. ‘Well, you were wrong. I was definitely not flirting.’
‘My mistake. It’s the car; people are always trying to race…’
‘Not me.’
‘You know,’ he says, leaning towards me. ‘You have a remarkable face.’
‘Look. That might work for…’
I’m interrupted by Matt O’Hagan, MD of Copperplate Press, who’s practically sprinting across reception, shouting, ‘Greg, Greg,’ at the top of his already loud voice. Matt: small man with the presence of a low flying aircraft.
Racer Boy stands. Matt reaching him, extends a hand. They shake. It strikes me then, as Matt gushes over him, that he didn’t have to announce his presence for Matt to know he’d arrived. If you knew Matt, you’d appreciate how unusual that is.
‘You found us easy enough? We’d have sent a car…’ I’ve never known Matt to send a car anywhere for anyone.
‘Actually, I enjoyed the drive.’ This is directed at me. ‘I was just introducing myself to…’
Matt finally realises I’m not a mannequin. ‘Oh, Lucy, Lucy, hello, hello.’
‘Hello, Matt.’ I stand, smile, shake his meaty hand. ‘We’re here for a meeting with Orla. There’s Fintan behind you…’
‘I see, I see,’ he says without turning. ‘So, you’ve met Greg Millar, then…’
Whoa. Back up. Greg Millar? The writer? I call to mind the publicity shot on the jacket of his latest bestseller and give it a haircut. It is him. Knowing my luck, Copperplate has just signed him.
‘Lucy, here,’ Matt blares, ‘designs our book jackets, does a bloody good job too, don’t you, Luce?’
He has never, until now, called me Luce.
I produce a smile from somewhere. ‘Nice to meet you…’ I’ve a problem saying his name.
‘Greg.’ He holds out a hand.
‘Greg,’ I confirm, shaking it, and trying to ignore the look of amusement that’s spreading across his face.
Fintan, like the cavalry, arrives to let me know that Orla is ready for us. And, though it’s late, it’s the best news I’ve had all day.



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