The Wife Arrangement

By: Penny Wylder



60 miles per hour.




I floor the gas pedal, a wild grin on my face as I careen toward the corner of the track.

“Jasper…” warns a voice in my ear.

“I’ve got this,” I murmur, in response to my usual test track monitor, safely above in a booth, watching me and this brand new gem of a car speed around the test track.

“We haven’t tested the tires on curves yet. Slow down to a more reasonable—”

I reach up and tap the headset attached to the crash helmet. The voice fades away. My smile widens.

The turn approaches. I swing the wheel hard. I feel the tires skid under the car, and for a pulse-stopping, heart-in-my-throat instant, I worry if the voice in my helmet was right. If I’ve taken the curve too fast, put too much stress on this new model, a car that hasn’t even been unveiled to the public yet, let alone tested by the scientists and engineers who oversee the production of all new car regulations in the country.

If the car skids, flips, this could be it…

But then I feel the rubber screech, catch purchase again, and I rev the engine, accelerating with the turn instead of against it, so the car flows around the sharp turn of the track smooth as a knife through butter.

Safely onto the straightaway once more, I let out a loud whoop and gun it. I watch the speedometer leap up to 100, 120, 140… Higher. Faster.

I love this. I love getting to drive cars like this, and really put them through their paces. Drive them the way they’re built to be driven—with abandon, and without road laws getting in the way. Germany has it right, I think briefly. If only the United States had its own autobahn. One road, one spot where people could let loose.

But, of course, that’s a pipe dream for another time. For now, I’ll have to settle for this closed test track, and the chance to pacify my inner speed demon from time to time—and earn a paycheck for it, no less.

I reach the makeshift finish line, really just a little dugout where we modify and prep the cars for the track, and squint through the visor of my crash helmet at my assistant, Greg.

Greg’s enormous arms are crossed, his brow lowered in the thunderous expression he gets when he doesn’t approve of something I’ve been doing. Of course, I’m his boss, so Greg can’t really protest too much when I do things like this. But that doesn’t mean he can’t allow his disapproval to show on his face.

I skid to a halt outside the engineer shelter, and climb from the car while several test engineers flood the area, bending to take measurements of the axels, the tires, and one popping the hood to study how the engine held up, as another inspects the fuel gauges.

“How about that turning radius, huh?” I shout over the clank and clatter of tools and measuring devices. I sidestep a pair of engineers to reach Greg, and he removes his own earpiece.

“You shut off your radio,” complains Greg, the voice in my ear, who has now become the constant voice in the back of my head. My conscience, one might even say. He’s constantly watching me, overseeing things, warning me to slow down, take it easy, be more careful. I know my father puts him up to half of these disapproving glares and lectures, but even so, it can wear on a man. Especially when I know what I’m doing.

You might say I have a lot of practice ignoring the conscience in the back of my head. “Your talking was distracting me,” I say. “It was a finicky turn.”

“Because you were driving at least twenty miles per hour faster than we’d run the car even in simulations,” Greg mutters.

“And look how well it turned out!” I clap my assistant on the back. “Now we can all skip a few of the intermediate stress tests and put this model straight into pre-production status.”

Greg rolls his eyes. “It was still an unnecessary risk—”

“But you say that about every risk,” I point out, jamming a single finger into Greg’s bicep. It barely makes a dent.

I take after my father’s side of the family—all lean, slim, sculpted muscle. We’re built for running. Descended from the first marathon runners of ancient Greece, Dad always claims. Me, I mention that a fair amount too, albeit for different reasons. I blame those ancestors for my need for speed. “My speed demon was inherited,” I always say. “Nothing I can do about it.”

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