©Loretta Sinclair 2019
It was a dark and stormy night.
But it is a dark and stormy night. Calli gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles. She fought to keep control of the sliding car.
Calli drove slow. Painfully slow. The windshield wipers were on full speed, and still she could barely see. The harsh wind was blowing the snow sideways making vision nearly impossible. White out conditions. Now she knew what that meant.
I have no idea where I am. No gas stations, businesses, or even a house for that matter. How far have I come?
Taking that short cut in a storm was an incredibly bad idea. I’ll have to thank Jake for that when I see him. He’ll just say it wasn’t storming when he gave me the directions. He’d be right. It was my decision to take this back-country road.
USE CAUTION ON BRIDGE IN ICY CONDITIONS
She focused hard to try and see the landscape, but all she could see was white.
Her heart jumped up her throat.
Flop, flop, flop.
Calli slid the car over to what she hoped was the side of the road. She cracked the door open and peered at the rear tire. Flat as a pancake.
Great, now what am I going to do? She slammed her car door and sat staring at the dashboard. Walking—out of the question. So was changing the tire. She wouldn’t even attempt that in good weather. Especially not in a blizzard. Freezing hands and a frozen brain made the decision for her. I’m staying right here.
She checked the gas gauge. Less than 1/8 tank. Better conserve as much as I can. She shut off the engine and the headlights, hitting the button for the flashers. She grabbed her cell phone.
Great. How long will I have to sit here before they find my frozen body?
Calli slumped in the seat and closed her eyes. Could this get any worse?
The flash of headlights in her back windshield startled her awake. She was still freezing, her breath making frost inside her car. There was no one else on the road. The vehicle behind her car turned off its lights and engine. A well bundled man got out and walked toward her.
Uh-oh. What do I do? A sense of panic began to rise in her. Like a match igniting in her stomach, her panic flared to life within her, growing and building up her chest and throat, it intensified as he got closer. The man had what looked like a week’s worth of whiskers, and wild uncombed hair. He had military fatigues on, and a large bulky bombers jacket, zipped up all the way. She could not see if anything was underneath.
He stopped to check out the tire, then stepped forward and tapped on her window.
“Need some help ma’am.”
She could barely hear with the wind still whipping around. Fear won out. “No thank you,” she responded.
“Do you have anyone with you?” He put his face right next to the window, peering inside.
Why would he ask me that? He wants to know if I am alone. He probably wants to rob me, or worse!
The man tapped again. “You alright in there?”
“Yes, I am fine,” she yelled through the glass. “I can wait for the Sheriff or the Highway Patrol. Thank you.”
“When did you call them?” He was yelling over the icy wind. “And how?”
She looked at her phone. He knows there’s no reception out here.
“I’m perfectly fine. You can leave.”
“I’m not leaving you out here alone like this. Pop your trunk and I’ll change your tire. You can stay in the car.”
She thought for a second, then agreed. He couldn’t hurt her from the trunk. She reached down and pulled the lever. He went to the back of the car and tried to pull it open. He tapped on the trunk and pointed down. She pulled the lever again. Nothing.
He came back to her window. “The lock must be frozen. Can you give me the key?”
She stared at him for a long minute. “No,” she blurted out. “I’m not opening the door.” Good job, Calli. Now he knows you’re afraid.
“Just roll down the window about an inch and pass it through.”
That seemed reasonable. She did what he’d asked. The window opened just an inch, enough for his gloved hand to take the key. He smiled. It was only then that she realized he could just use the key to open the door—but he didn’t. The man went to the back and opened the trunk. He took out the jack, lug wrench, and spare tire and set out at his task. “Don’t move at all,” he yelled as he began to jack up the car. “Be completely still.”
Calli complied. She watched in the mirrors as he worked in the blizzard to change her tire. He struggled now and again, stopping to warm his hands with his own breath, then went right back to work. When he was done, the stranger threw the tools and the flat tire back into the trunk, and gently passed the key back through the window.
“There’s a gas station about ten miles straight ahead. Stop there and get that tire repaired. You’re on a donut right now. It’s not safe, especially in this weather. Drive slow and keep to the center. Don’t drift off to the side.”
He tipped his head, went back to his truck, and drove away.
I’m an idiot. I made all that stink over nothing. I never thanked him. I don’t even know his name.
Ten miles exactly, the gas station came into sight. She pulled in, cold, shaken, and mad at herself for the way she’d acted. The attendant ran out to greet her.
“Go ahead and pull it inside,” he told her.
That’s odd, he doesn’t even know what I need.
Once in the garage bay, the attendant handed her some coffee. “Here you are ma’am.”
“You’re the second person to call me that tonight.”
He smiled. “I don’t carry your size tire, so I’ll have to order one. It will be here in the morning.”
“How do you know what size tire I need?”
“Your Good Samaritan told me.”
My Good Samaritan? Oh no. I was completely wrong. He was a good guy. A pang of guilt stabbed her heart.
“How much will that cost?”
“Nothing. He paid for it.”
“Yep. I am to check your alignment too, and look for other damage. If he didn’t give me enough, he’d be back next week to give me more. Said you could stay at the hotel next door.”
“He paid for that too?”
“Oh yes, ma’am. He said he’d cover it all.” The attendant was smiling. “Just leave me your keys and go get settled in for the night. This storm is supposed to let up in a few hours. We can get you on the road again first thing in the morning.”
She nodded, and left, incredulous and wordless.
The next morning, as promised, she was back on the road again. Her car was fixed, but her spirit was not.
Arriving at home, she reached for her empty drink bottle, and her purse. Sitting on the seat was the invoice for the services. She scanned the copy.
B&J’s Auto Repair
Route 17 Box 2052
“Just north of nowhere, and behind no one…”
She snorted. That’s the truth. She moved to put it into her purse when something caught her eye.
Customer Name: John Bryan
Phone number: 555-581-3886
There it was. His contact information. ‘He’ll be back next week,’ the clerk had said. I canthank him after all.
She tried to rehearse what to say, but shrugged it off every time. Don’t worry about what to say or how to act. Just be yourself. Don’t be the scared woman locked in the car, afraid to come out. Show him who you really are.
She walked in the café and looked around. Standing by the door, she scanned each table for a familiar face. No one there had any facial hair at all. There were no wild hair-cuts, bomber jackets, or scruffy looking men. After a minute, she turned to leave. This was a bad idea.
A tall man at the counter stood. He was crisp and perfect in his Air Force uniform. He sported afresh crew cut and a clean-shaven face. Sky blue eyes twinkled at her over a wide smile. “Hello again.” His hand extended and took hers firmly.
“I am,” he smiled.
“You look so different.”
“You mean clean?” he teased.
“The night we met I had just finished a four-day flight mission. I apologize for not being very friendly. I was exhausted and just wanted to get home.” He motioned to a table. “Let’s get coffee.”
Calli shook her head. “I came to apologize to you. I treated you badly. I never even thanked you.”
“It’s okay. That’s a lonely stretch of road. I can see why you were frightened.”
She smiled. “Can we start again? My name is Calli.”
John. Nice to meet you.
Dedicated to the woman in a broken-down VW Bug with four small children almost 50 years ago. It was 2 AM in a North Dakota snow storm, when my father, on his way home from a military mission stopped to help you. We have never forgotten you.
~Lori Sinclair - Fictionologist
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