He thought it was a game, but when he asked what he should call her, she said Nora—which as far as he knew was her real name.
She'd hailed him with a two-finger whistle outside Hampstead Tube late one airless Thursday night. He worked the night shift so he could take care of his mum during the day.
"Just drive," she told him. She often took a ride just for the sake of it, she said.
They watched each other through the rearview mirror, the radio tuned to Classic FM. She sat with one leg doubled under and her skirt rode up her thigh, making him run the lights at Holly Hill.
They exchanged numbers. Their Thursday night pick-ups became a regular event. They’d find a secluded spot by the Heath, undress on the vinyl back seat, pull each other close. "Vicenzo, Vicenzo," she'd cry out.
But after a time, it felt like a barrier between them. "Couldn't you use my real name now?" he asked.
"Barry Fry?" she said, reading it off the cab's PCO licence.
The next Thursday night they met again, but without Vicenzo the cab felt cold and unforgiving, and they lay fully clothed under his old wool coat listening to Bach Sonatas till it was time for her to leave.
For weeks afterwards he waited for her at Hampstead Tube, but she never showed. Then one night, Puccini's Tosca played. He pulled over and called her. "Who's there? Who is this?" she said.
Above him, in the night sky, its white tail light blinking, an airliner left the city.
This story was first published in Literary Orphans Journal, November 2016
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