With a hang dog expression,
Chas turned to Kara and said, "Would you mind, Miss?"
Kara nodded yes and memorized it on the first try. God, all that and smarts too, thought Chas.
"All right, Jenie's Flyer in the first, Winston's Getaway in the second, India Star in the third ..."
"Wait a minute!! How can I drive and write at the same time, for God's sake!"
"Not my problem. Billy's Delight in the fourth..."
The cab lurched to the right as Chas frantically dived for a pencil. Then it wretched back. It kept doing this. Kara was already bidding goodbye to her relative anonymity here in England. This was so because she would not be unknown when she kept this cab from taking a header into the oncoming traffic.
Somehow, it wasn't necessary as Chas got his horses without causing a catastrophe.
"We now return you to your usual piss on the radio."
Chas was muttering, "Bloody wanker! Next time I find your head down the kazi, I'm going to flush it myself!"
Kara was mystified.
"How can you call a friend when he treats you so badly?"
"On account of I'm friggin' mental, that's why," groused Chas. Then, in the mirror, he saw nothing but concern on her face and his heart broke all over again.
"Look, John has a go at everyone including his mates. Weird thing, though. Just as you're about to give him the boot, he turns around and, right out of the blue, does something for you. Like me cab. He just ups one day and hands me the quid for it. I say thanks and he tells me to sod off. There's just no figgerin', John."
"It sounds like he can't give without taking," observed Kara.
"You're right about that, Miss."
Chas smiled at the closer intimacy, "Chas, Kara. These horses for example. He damned near wrecked my cab but, I guarantee you, each of these nags will come in first tomorrow."
As they pulled up to the Bristol, an Edwardian building with massive colonnades and terraces, Kara calculated the pounds and shillings for the ride from Heathrow. She also threw in a generous tip. For the first time in his life, Chas handed a tip back.
"Not right, Kara. Because of me, you're mixed up with John."
"Chas, it's okay. You saved me a lot of time and trouble," Kara said as she rested a seemingly delicate hand on top of Chas's broad palm filled with pound notes.
The sweetness mixed into the stubbornness just completely undid Chas.
"Well, I guess, all right. But you steer clear of John. You're really important to him, I can tell. An' that's usually not good."
"Well, right now, John has to wait because I have a job to do. I'll be careful, I promise, Chas."
Before she went, Chas handed her his card. His pale face turned a little red as he blustered, "I ain't asking for a date, but if John starts mixing it up with you, let me know. I'll straighten him out."
The awkward gallantry of the gesture touched Kara. She knew true courage lay with fragile beings like Chas. These people that set out to do what she did but with none of her advantages. She looked at him with utter conviction and tenderness.
Chas, a little embarrassed, said, "Okay, you better be going."
As she got out, Kara smiled at the little joke that she was going to pull. Standing on the sidewalk, she bent over deliciously and leaned into Chas's window. Quickly but gently, she kissed Chas on the mouth. Waggling her eyebrows in mock-salaciousness, she said, "See you later, Chas." She quickly withdrew as a startled Chas got out and just stood by his cab, thunder-stuck.
Kara walked with an easy, bouncy stride into the hotel but not before casually, blowing a kiss over her shoulder.
When Chas finished communing with the angels, he became conscious of the sound of clapping. People were applauding him. Turning a bright crimson but sporting a shit-eating grin, Chas got back into the cab. He was whistling as he pulled away.
Inside the lobby of the Bristol was an area of plush carpeting, dark oak and cut Tiffany glass. The officious clerk looked askance at Kara and her backpack. Until she presented him with a Wayne Enterprises platinum card. After checking in and being shown her room, she strode out to the terrace and saw bustling London below. Looking up, the sky looked so blue, clear and inviting.
Kal-El had warned her a long time ago about spending too much time in the sky. To make his point, he met Kara on a mountaintop in Canada but with Lois in tow. Lois shooed him away. Somehow this earthwoman made Kara change into a pair of elephant leg jeans, a football jersey that didn't cover her belly button, a pair of Doc Martins, a baseball cap worn backwards and, the crowning touch, a pair of round blue-tinted glasses.
They touched down in an alley and emerged beside an eatery called Mae's Metroliner. It was a study in flat chrome, linoleum and neon that boasted "Open 24/7".
Lois moved with mother-hen efficiency.
"Now, Clark! You and 'Linda' stay here," she said. "Don't... Go... Anywhere!", she continued, punctuating her words with a finger poking into Kal-El's massive chest.
"Yes, Lois," he said. "Could you pick up my chicory coffee?"
Lois smacked herself in the head and said, "Damn! I'm sorry, dear. I'll pick it up right now."
Kal-El leaned down to kiss her. Kara couldn't help noticing the slight smile both had as they embraced. When they broke, Lois gave his lapels a possessive tug. Then, with a quick wave, she said, "Bye now," and disappeared into the crowd.
Kara waited and said, "Okay, 'Clark', why are we here and why am I dressed like this?"
"Second things first. You're dressed like that to blend in."
"Why is that important?"
"Because dressed the way you usually are only gets people's adoration or hate. People are capable of a lot more than that. And you need that something more. C'mon."
They went into the diner. Drawing nothing more than the usual once-over, they took a seat at a banged up booth. A middle-aged waitress with coloring belonging to the Caribbean came up. She recognized Kal-El.
"Why, Mr. Kent! I haven't seen you all week!", she exclaimed as she bent down to kiss him on the cheek. Kal-El accepted it with a smile.
"What can I get you? Your usual?"
"Thanks, Trini. I'd like you to meet my cousin, Linda Danvers from Stanhope."
"Hello, Linda. What can I get you?"
Kara was about to say "nothing" but was thrown by the expression in Trini's eyes. No adoration, hate, or fear, just a warmth and a desire to know what she wanted. That was something that she had never felt before.
She was completely at a loss for words. In all of the saving of lives, no one had asked her what she wanted. What did she want? Her internal response was a thundering silence.
"How about one of your extra-large cookies and cream milk shakes."
"Now, Mr. Kent. I can see she's a healthy girl but no way she can pack that away."
"Don't worry, Trini. She eats like a farm hand."
As Trini walked away, she shook her head. Kara leaned forward and sub-audibly asked, "Kal-El, what just happened to me? I can think faster than a computer but I get stumped on a simple question like that. What's wrong with me?"
Kal-El smiled gently.
"We can get so caught up in the grand standing, the averting of catastrophes that we lose sight of the reason why we do it. We forget that, in a lot of ways, we are just like everyone else. We need time to veg, to let your mind wander, to love others. Otherwise, life gets pretty stale pretty quickly."
Trini brought over a hot steaming coffee with extra creams. Kal-El thanked Trini then kept talking.
"You've only seen people in two modes: either hate or adoration. They're capable of so much more and can give us just as much as we give them. Take Trini, for example, you wouldn't believe how many times she gave me an answer to a problem that had me completely stumped. Sometimes, Lois is in a bad mood and I have no idea why. Trini pointed out that she is completely used to her independence. She is still adjusting to being part of a couple. Lois's folks were divorced when she was a kid so she doesn't have the positive picture of marriage that I do. Trini suggested that I let Lois come to the conclusion on her own that our marriage was solid. It was tough on both on us at first but we are the better for it."
About that time, Kara heard a "Tah-Dah!" This was as Trini put down the mother of all milkshakes. The fluted glass was frosted. Inside was a thick white liquid with dark flecks. On top of it was a layer of a brown, shiny topping over a rounded ball of semi-frozen white liquid. Set on end was a big, round, dark wafer. It looked like a dark sun peaking over a white mountain. Kara's sensitive nose picked up the sweet, piquant odor of the cookie and topping. While she didn't necessarily know the words, her body was salivating with the correct response.
What was she supposed to do now? Again, Kal-El helped. Saying that since he was paying for it, he would sample it. Kara watched him remove the paper wrapper from a transparent plastic tube. He stuck it in the white viscous liquid. She saw it go up the tube into Kal-El's mouth. He smiled and pronounced it worth every penny.
"Your turn, 'Linda'. Enjoy it."
Kara carefully reduced the pressure in the tube. Then suddenly her mouth was a riot of sweet creamy flavor. The little dark fleck added a slight, savory, sharpness. Quite without meaning to, she leaned her head back, closed her eyes and emitted a soul-deep 'Ummmmmmmmm'. When she opened her eyes, the glasses could not hide the extra spark.
"Trini, I think you're still in business."
Kara came back to the present. There had been many other tastes, other pleasures since then. Still many more to be had.