EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was sent to me along with some artwork by the author, but I was not able to retrieve them from the Hotmail server. To make things easier I'm just posting the story on its own. Those of you who would like to check out Roadrat's artwork, along with some other stories, are invited to check out RoadRat's Storybook... after, of course, reading the story here :)

c2000 RoadRat

It was Sunday night and an all day April shower dampened plans for Mandy, Vikki, and Vikki's fiancée, Mark, to have a picnic with some others. Mandy and Vikki were life-long friends, even though they were quite opposite. Vikki was very outgoing, Mandy was quiet. Vikki was into all the lastest fashion trends, while Mandy settled for jeans and loose t-shirts. Vikki wore many different hairstyles, and experimented with color Mandy mostly wore her very long black hair in a ponytail or rolled into a bun. Mandy loved keeping her hair long, but being shy she never wanted to show it off. Vikki was very active and slim, Mandy was more sedate and enjoyed being inside by the TV. Even with these opposing personalities, these friends from back to grade school shared a two bedroom apartment for many years. This was about to change, because Vikki and Mark were getting married the next Saturday. Mandy was to be the maid of honor. Vikki was worried about what Mandy would do after the wedding, because of her shyness around others.

Mandy rarely dated, except for fix-ups by Vikki. There was no way Mandy could afford the apartment without a roommate. Vikki and Mark hoped Mandy would meet someone at this picnic. Instead, the threesome played cards inside the apartment. They ordered out some Mexican and Mandy volunteered to pick it up.

On the way to pick up their food, Mandy must have rolled over something with her car, because while she was inside paying for the food, her left rear tire went flat. Mandy put the bag inside the car and got out the jack and the spare. Lucky for her, the spare had air. However, Mandy didn't realize she had parked on an incline, so when she jacked up her car, it rolled back over the jack and Mandy screamed, "NO!" A very wet Mandy realized that she was stuck and would have to call Vikki and Mark to come help her, and dinner would be cold by the time they ate. She stood in the rain, staring at the flat tire, cursing herself and her foolishness.

Meanwhile, Karl, a mechanic at an exotic car shop, had pulled in the lot to get a twelve-pack and some snacks. Mandy, standing in the rain with her long ponytail, caught his eye. He recognized her from a Valentine's party held at Jimbo's Bar & Grill in honor of Vikki and Mark because of her long hair. The spot behind Mandy was open, so Karl pulled around and parked there, his lights shining on Mandy and her car. "Hi. Can I help you?" said Karl.

Mandy, looking down, mumbled, "I was stupid, and let the car fall off the jack."

"No problem. I'm a mechanic. I have a hydraulic jack in my car. I'll have you back on the road in no time. Here, come sit in my car while I get this fixed." He opened the door for her, let her in, and gave her his jacket. "Turn on the radio and be comfortable," he told her.

Because of the rain, she could not watch what Karl was doing, so she looked around his car. No one could sit in the back seat, because it had a roll cage in it. The dash had many extra gauges. The stick had an eight ball on it. She changed the hard rock on the radio to soft contemporary, and combed out her long black hair while she waited. She also recognized Karl from the same party, but didn't think he would remember her, so she kept quiet about it.

Karl got done and got in his car, "All ready to go!" He saw Mandy looking down, not knowing what to say. "It must take forever for you to dry your hair," he said, and gave her his business card. "I work at a shop on Strecker road. Just bring me your tire and I can plug it for you and put it back on. Your spare is not very good."

Shyness gripped Mandy. Finally, she mumbled, "I can never thank you enough. I have dinner in the car for my roommate and I, so I better go." Karl told her to be careful with that spare, and she left.

When Mandy got back, Vikki asked, "What happened to you? You're all wet!"

"Don't ask," scowled Mandy. She set the food on the table and went straight to her room. Mark took the food out of the bag to heat it up. Karl's card fell out of the bag. Vikki picked it up and said, "Eli's Exotic Car Palace."

"Huh? I know that place. I wonder how that got in the bag?" Mark took the card and went to knock on Mandy's door.

Vikki stopped him. "Don't. I'll ask her later. Let's eat. Something must have happened to her car, let's leave her alone for now." They ate, Mark went home, and Vikki finished the night checking last minute details for the wedding. She set Karl's card on the kitchen counter, and went to bed.

The next morning, Mandy told Vikki about her dilemma and about how Karl helped. She told Vikki how she thought Karl was at the Valentine's party and they wondered what his connection might be. "It doesn't matter, I don't think he remembered me, anyway," Mandy said.

Vikki asked if Mandy would take him up on the offer and she said she may try to buy a new tire and not bother him with her problems. "Maybe he did remember you and wants to see you again," she said. "Why don't you let him help you?"

Mandy snapped back, "Name the last guy that ever wanted to see me again!" and left for work. "Fine!" said Vikki. The week passed with no more mention of the incident.

Friday morning came with crisp blue skies and it was when the bridal party was to meet for brunch at the mall. Vikki wanted Mandy to drive, because she had a plan. She secretly put Karl's card in her purse on the way out. Vikki gave the bridal party pearls to wear for the wedding, and they made final plans for the rehearsal dinner that night, and the wedding day.

Vikki was dressed to kill with a short blue dress, as usual. Also, as usual, Mandy wore jeans, but had a button down shirt, and her long hair rolled into a bun. As members of the bridal party were leaving, one of them asked, "Mandy, take down your hair for a minute."

"Why?" asked Mandy.

"I want to see what it looks like down and free. You never seem to let your hair down. Why have such long hair if you never show it off?"

Mandy let her hair down and brushed it out. It fell all the way to her thighs. Everyone gasped in amazement.

"How do you plan to wear it for the wedding?" another asked. Mandy said she might wear it down with the ends curled, but didn't want her hair to take any attention away from the bride. They all agreed that would be a good choice and went on their way, leaving only Vikki and Mandy.

Mandy reminded Vikki this would be their last day as roommates, and they should do something fun together for the day. She was getting married tommorow night and things will forever be different. Vikki told her she already had a plan for the day. "We're going to make you beautiful today."

Mandy was quick to say, "Yeah, right."

"Really, we are. And there is nothing you can do to stop me. Let's get started."

They started at a department store. Vikki picked out a short pink pleated skirt and matching jacket. She sent Mandy in to try it on. When Mandy came out, she had the skirt on, but not the jacket. She still had the kneesocks on she had under her jeans. "This is too short," she said. "And I can't get the jacket on with my shirt".

Vikki picked out a stretchy white sleeveless top for Mandy to try. Mandy humored her and tried it on. The jacket fit over this top. She came out saying, "This is way too short. I can't wear things as short as you do." Vikki made her take off the jacket to see how the top looked. Mandy told her she felt half naked dressed like this, and wanted to end this and do something else.

Vikki told her to bear with her for a while. "I want to do this for you," Vikki told her. She had her leave the outfit on and went to pay for it, and Mandy put the jacket back on. Mandy told Vikki that she felt stupid dressed like this, and was a little old to be wearing kneesocks with a skirt. Vikki told her, "At least they match. We are taking care of that next in the shoe department." Mandy went to put her long hair back into a ponytail. Vikki stopped her and said to leave it down.

Once in the shoe department, Vikki decided this outfit would look good with white boots. When the sales clerk came out, Mandy tried on several different styles of white knee high boots and decided on the lace-up type. She put them on over the socks and they were ready to go. Mandy felt different with the boots, and she started feeling good about this. However, she kept reminding Vikki the skirt was too short.

"Now, let's get your hair done." said Vikki. That put fear into Mandy's mind. "I don't want to cut my hair," she explained. Vikki told her she didn't have to cut her hair if she didn't want to. "Let's just see what they say."

Of course, the stylist wanted Mandy to opt for a shorter style. "How about a shoulder length cut with bangs," the stylist suggested.

Mandy was horrified. Even when she firmly insisted that she was keeping her hair long, the stylist kept suggesting different short styles to her. Mandy was gripped with shyness and about to cry. Vikki sensed this, and suggested a trim with the ends curled, just like Mandy had described at brunch. The stylist sighed and relented, athough once she was finished trimming and curling Mandy's long hair she had to admit that it looked beautiful.

A tearful Mandy thanked Vikki afterwards for saving her long hair from the scissors. Mandy said she would wear the outfit to the reheasal dinner tonight, and thanked her for the makeover. Mandy then said, "Here we are, all dressed up, what do we do now"?

Vikki told her, "Now we get you a date for the rehearsal dinner!"

Again Mandy said, "Yeah, right. How do you plan do pull that one off?"

Vikki took out the card and told her they were going to Eli's Exotic Car Palace and she was going to get her tire fixed.

As they pulled into the Car Palace, two guys were reading magazines at a picnic table. They looked up wondering what a '75 Mustang II would be doing in a place where there are normally Ferrari's and the like. When Vikki got out, they fixed their eyes on her. One said to the other, "What a babe"! Then Mandy got out and both walked over to the picnic table. "The other one is nice, too," the other one said, nudging his buddy. "Check out her hair. When's the last time you seen hair like that?"

Vikki produced Karl's business card and asked if he was in. The two guys could not believe two great-looking ladies would be here for Karl. "He's in shining up his car. We don't do much on Friday afternoons, since customers don't like leaving their cars here for the weekend. Go see Jannelle at the desk, she will get him for you.

Vikki told Mandy, "It's showtime, take off the jacket," and gave Mandy the card. Reluctantly Mandy removed her jacket, and handed Jannelle the card, and Jannelle went to get Karl.

Karl came to the front and saw Mandy. "Whoa, Mandy, you really look great," he stammered, his eyes fixed on Mandy's long hair. Vikki may as well have not been in the room. This in itself made Vikki think there was a chance that this crazy scheme might work.

"Did you come for me to fix your tire?" he asked. Mandy was again overcome with shyness and was speechless. Vikki intervened and said yes. While Karl was working on the car, Jannelle, a bit surprised at this development, struck up some conversation with the two of them.

"Are you two off to some big outing?" They talked about the wedding, Mandy's mall makeover, and about Karl. It seemed that Karl loved long-haired women, but they always seemed to ignore him. "You seem different. Quiet and shy, just like him. Where did you meet Karl?" Mandy told Jannelle her story about the Sunday flat tire and Karl's offer.

After the tire was fixed, Karl brought the car around. Vikki wanted Mandy to ask Karl to the rehearsal, but with Mandy stuck being shy, and Karl in a trance staring at Mandy's hair, the chance looked to be slipping away. She thought these two were going to just stare at each other and nothing else would happen. Vikki said, "Weren't you at a Valentine's party we had when we rented out a place called Jimbo's?"

"Yes, I was. Mandy, you were there too, weren't you? Do you remember the guy who came up with the longest ponytail contest that night when they wanted to make up different contests? That was me."

Mandy shook her head yes. Finally she spoke up. "Yes, I won a drink. I'm surprised you would remember me. I didn't talk to anybody that night".

Vikki asked Karl if he was a friend of her fiancée, and he said "No, I'm a partner in that bar with a high school buddy. I gave him the money as an investment and he runs it, paying it back as business grows. He's doing some great things with it, so I show up there once in a while visit with him and his wife." As he talked he only glanced briefly in Vikki's direction, still staring at Mandy.

Finally, Mandy got some nerve. "Karl, I have to thank you again for helping me. Say, would you come with me tonight to Vikki's rehearsal dinner"?

Karl gladly accepted the offer. It looked to be a new beginning for Mandy, and she had Vikki and some last-minute nerve to thank for it. Karl also went with Mandy to the wedding, and she felt as beautiful as the bride, now that she had someone. She even wore her hair down and free for the wedding, for all to see.

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