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Chapter One — Dark and Stormy Night
The headlights of my Volvo sparkled off the big snowflakes as they fell so thickly that they seemed like a solid sheet of snow. The big white dots hit the hot glass of the windshield and melted as the wipers swept them away. It was now falling far more steadily and intently than just fifteen minutes earlier.
I heard the loud whirl of the fan and felt the dry hot air blow around my legs, but I also felt the icy cold that seemed to radiate from the glass straight to my skin. Of course the radio reported how the weather had certainly worsened only now that I was in the middle of it.
I now drove at a crawl looking for tell-tale signs of where the road was and was not. I could hear the sound of snow crunching upon snow. So I knew I was driving only on snow now, the pavement was buried under a foot or more still loose snow at least.
As I passed tall markers that the road people use to guide the plows, I could see these were now only barely half exposed. The snow was falling faster and faster. I knew my way but it now looked completely foreign to me as the snow obscured every familiar landmark.
In the darkness I did not see anything familiar at all anymore. Only stands of tall pines covered in snow and endless white beyond. The cabins in the distance were all dark, now vacant as their weekend only owners were home elsewhere.
I was encouraged only by the passing sets of high reflectors that glinted as my lights hit them and the confidence they provided that this was still a road to somewhere.
“Shit,” I mumbled to myself at just how bad the weather had gotten in such little time.
As I passed an open gate to a drive, I saw the lights on in a cabin off in the distance. These fleeting signs of life emboldened me to trek on down this lonely road just a little further.
“Fuck!” I cried out loud as I hit the brakes I felt the car slide to a long stop.
I glanced at my bulging belly where my baby still waited to be born. Not even a kick as she felt no danger it seemed. My heart pounded though and I felt how tightly I gripped the steering wheel.
“What the fuck?” My cursing continued unabated.
A literal wall of snow blocked the road where its route teasing went straight ahead just another mile and one-half to my road.
“I’m only a mile from my road, maybe not even two.” I spoke only to myself.
In summer I could get home in minutes I thought. Even in winter it rarely took much time at all.
“Just calm down,” I said to myself with all the bravado I could muster. “You can back down to that drive and turn around.”
Thankfully I was nearly stopped when I saw the wall of snow. I was fine. And it is only about ten miles or so back to the main road I reminded myself in thought.
“Shit.” I whispered as I looked out both side windows.
To each side was a near vertical wall of snow just a few feet from my mirrors.
“That drive was recently plowed and big enough to turn around,” I once more spoke logically.
Details unnecessary then flashed back as survival made my mind think. I put my car in reverse and carefully backed down the gently winding road. At this snail’s pace it took many minutes to thread back through the snow canyon to that spot I remembered.
In my haste to get back turned around I forgot how I had seen this drive usually barred by a heavy steel tube gate shaped like a triangle between two round posts. I never recalled it ever being open before. In summer when you can see more clearly, I had seen how it led maybe a mile or so back to a large undeveloped tract of private land on the border of the State Forest. The cabin was virtually isolated and had been abandoned I assumed.
I backed into the clear space between the road and the two big posts, it was snowy but cleared recently.
I heard how my tires began to spin and felt how the car wobbled but did not move. I was stuck! Foolishly I gunned the engine in hope that I might break free. I heard the tires spin freely! The sound was sickening.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” I muttered to myself.
I was already regretting going out at all, then for taking the short-cut up over the mountain rather than go all the long way around, and now for foolishly trying to turn around in loose snow.
I reached for my cell phone to call my husband. I dialed but got no connection. Worse I saw how my battery was also very low.
“Shit.” I muttered. “Fuck! “Damn!”
I called and called again but still got nothing but silence. I could not find my charger as the sense of fear rose in me. I had called him before I left town and he knew I was on my way home. But I worried how he will be concerned when I don’t get home.
Suddenly, in the pool of light ahead of me, I could not even see my own fresh tracks in front of me now. And I felt a sense of real panic now. The snow just kept coming!
The car was not too low on gas but it was not enough to idle all night I reasoned. At this rate I reckoned that the snow would soon ankara escort bury the car and cover the exhaust too. I sat for awhile in the car frozen not by cold but by genuine fear.
“What now.” I asked myself as if I had the answer hidden from myself.
I knew that a cabin was at the end of this drive. I assumed if the gate was open someone was there. I knew there was no other sanctuary for miles in every direction. Finally, I assumed I had no choice but to try and go to what I hoped was safety before the snow would be too deep even to walk through.
“I can do this.”
Opening the door I felt the cold blast. I doubted my decision. I was afraid.
“Damn its cold.” My breath felt literally taken away.
At least I had a good coat, thick wool socks and warm boots; although my boots were only low ones and hiking in deep snow would be difficult. But the rest of my clothes consisted of just a pair of jeans and a now too thin casual sweater. Obviously, I had not planned for hiking in the snow. As I put back on my driving gloves and tugged down my knit cap, both too thin for being out in this weather too long, I really tried to think of any other option.
“Damn its cold.” I repeated to myself as the door swung open and a blast of cold hit me.
As I shut the door and stepped around it, I could smell the crisp clean of winter and the sight of barren trees. It would have been beautiful had I not been stranded. Off I tromped through the snow in a shallow depression that although filled with new fallen soft snow was firmer underneath. Still, I sank in past the tops of my boots with every step. It was really cold! And slowly, it led me off towards the cabin I hoped.
It was warm enough in my clothes, my coat hung almost to the middle of thighs, but I could feel how my feet and hands were getting cold fast. It was now hard going as the snow got in my boots as I increasingly sank deeper with every step. The snow seemed to fall even faster now and the wind blew it all around in big flakes.
“Hell.” My nose was cold and getting snotty from the painful cold each breath took in.
Cold snow hit my face and each inhale felt like tiny daggers. Yet I was sweating inside my clothes. I felt cold numb at my fingers and toes, and even my ears now felt cold. I carried my bloated body through the deep snow that sank under me to almost my knees with the next step. I had gone less than a hundred feet when I felt totally drained.
“Fuck,” I whispered visible breath into the cold.
Every second that passed I swore I could count by my heartbeats. I struggled to free myself and almost lost my boots.
“This is really bad,” I cried out in frustration.
Panting for breath, freezing, snow trapped in my boots and clinging to my too thin gloves I sprawled on the snow. Clawing, desperate, I pulled my body through the snow along the track but I kept sinking. It was zapping my strength to just get free, let alone make progress. I thought I might give up just then.
Through the darkness a bright pool of white light enveloped me as I heard a calamitous roar and metallic clattering. Before me was a giant red bulldozer clamoring forward with a mountain of snow roiling before its wide blade. It was bearing direct down upon me!
“Help,” I screamed as loud as I could as my arms waived frantically in the air.
As if obedient to my pleas the monster stopped. Two giant lights like the eyes of some beast glared before me. And suddenly it was silent aside from a gentle pounding of the diesel engine and an odd metallic clanking that was rhythmic yet erratic.
“Who the hell are you,” I heard a surprised man’s voice over the machine’s sounds.
Then out of the darkness and into the light stepped a man shaped figure. He was bundled in a camouflage Army coat and matching baggy trousers, a pair of Lumberjack looking high boots and a classic plaid Stormy Kromer cap complete with the earflaps.
I wanted to giggle at the craziness of my rescuer. But all I managed was a sigh of relief.
My mouth began to speak even before my mind had caught up to its excitement. I sounded frantic.
“My car got stuck, I need help, I am pregnant, please help me!”
“Calm down,” he sort of bellowed as he stepped through the snow to me. “What the hell are you doing out here.” He said in more of a muffled tone as if he spoke not to me but to himself to lessen the surprise. “Give me your hands.”
He made a muffled groan as he pulled me up by my hands and seemingly whirled me along until I was next to the machine in a flat spot of firmly compacted snow.
“Thank you,” I finally spoke more reasonably.
I told him my name and the pertinent details already set forth so far. Rather, I blathered and he listened. He looked as if I had stepped off the waxing moon still hidden above. Curious were his eyes and he just listened until finally I stopped talking.
“I am Michael.” He said with a smirk.
In a quick summary, perhaps only to settle my nerves, he informed me that he was up for the week ahead and opening his place escort ankara up. He added that he had plowed the drive after hiking in to get “the big red Iron Woodsman”, his International Harvester TD-24 that he stroked on its treads as if it were a big cat. It took him all day and he had finally remembered to come shut the gate.
I didn’t understand the importance of his pride in such details, instead listening almost dumbstruck, but I was very glad to see such a vintage machine now. He continued with facts, such as how his truck had barely made it in and he was coming back to lock the gate for the night.
In another fifteen minutes that gate would be closed and locked and he would have been gone for the night! I felt a tingle of fear run the length of my spine. “Shit,” I thought at the importance of this last fact.
And lastly, he explained that the road was closed. Apparently, the Highway Department was now busy piling snow up into here to keep my road, a main one, open. This road was considered “closeable due to weather.” He chuckled.
“You are welcome to stay until tomorrow,” he said kindly, “they should get the road back open by then.”
“Do you have a phone?” I gasped as I still felt out of breath.
“At the house,” he replied with a smile.
Then he offered me hot chocolate. It was almost surreal.
“Yes, please,” I stuttered.
He clambered up the side of machine sufficient to retrieve a big green Stanley thermos he pulled from the seat. It reminded me of the kind my Father might have used. I watched as he took off his glove and unscrewed the cup then the cap and poured out a cup.
The steam rose quickly into the cold air as I pulled it to my lips. I gladly took a drink.
As I sipped from the cup I saw how little caps on the two exhaust pipes bounced to the idling thump of the engine, clanking out that tune I had heard. I could smell the pungent scent of diesel all around us as the clean woodsy air whirled it around us.
I felt sleepy and all my muscles ached. I just wanted to slump back to the ground and fall asleep.
“I’m so tired,” I sort of mumbled.
“Come on,” he commanded as he thrust his hand out to me. “You’ve been through a lot.”
It was hard getting up to the wide bench seat gradually filling with snow as we had spoke. He was respectful but practical as he sort of held me at my waist and then my butt as I pulled myself up the metal sides of this thing. Unglamorous as it was, I was in the seat.
I was just grateful for his straight-forward help pushing my fat ass up there! It is hell being pregnant I thought. This made me laugh to myself inside and my spirits brightened again.
“Pay attention and keep out of the way,” he said to me just like a school master might to a child, “this antique has a cable run blade and I need to reach all around to work it.”
I didn’t understand this most proudly spoken detail until he reached back to grab a lever behind us. The engine roared back to life, the sound of metal whining over more metal returned, and the blade rose so high I saw nothing before us at all.
Suddenly, with a mechanical grace the machine pirouetted in place and we faced 180 degrees back that way. He was focused and quiet as he manipulated a forest of levers and the blade lowered once more as we jerked off to a start, the metal tracks clattering once more as the machine clawed and pushed its way forward at a slow pace, the snow yielding before its powerful efforts.
“I love this stuff,” he beamed out loud.
We bounced on the lumpy firm seat and followed the curve of the road up its very gentle hills and down its small dales.
“This old man once belonged to the Forest Service for fire fighting and then some one who logged out here and . . . .” He stopped talking as he returned to the constant pulling at levers as we moved. It was an odd orchestra of slow powerful movements. And he looked like a big kid at play with a real version of some toy. I thought he looked rather happy at his play.
As we rounded a bend and the trees cleared and we passed an old wooden barn with a big bright light shining over it doors creating a huge white pool of glistening snow. Further past this we slowed as we neared the cabin.
It was a so-called A-frame style and had snow heaped at its base with a thin coat all over the roof. Nearer the cabin he stopped closer to the rear porch that was buried right up level to it in a drift. The machine once more erratically purred in idle as he helped me down.
Kindly he walked me through the snow and into a snowy trench that led up to a set of stairs to this back porch. Inside the door was a wide rough slate floor that formed a mudroom.
“Go inside and warm up by the fire,” he said, “I need to put the ‘Iron Woodsman’ back in the barn for the night.”
Before he turned to leave, I managed to ask: “Can I use your phone?”
He stopped and looked me over with a glance.
I had momentarily wondered if I should admit I had no service, no ankara escort bayan battery and not yet called anyone. I felt silly feeling nervous in this stranger’s home. I had no feeling he was anything but a nice man, but I didn’t want him to know my husband was out-of-town for some reason.
“Yes,” he answered in a voice almost surprised that I felt I had to ask. “It is in the kitchen on the wall.” He then laughed. “Be careful, it is a rotary!”
“What?” I stammered in a surprised voice.
“You should call,” he began and stopped, mentally looking for the word.
“I am married,” I helped him with a confident smile.
He paused for the length of an inhale.
“You should call your husband,” he said in that masculine tone of command, “tell him you are safe but stuck until morning at least,” he concluded with a more light-hearted inflection.
He turned and started to leave again but then stopped and turned partly back to look at me. His hat cocked with his head and his face all red with the cold.
“Put your boots over that grate,” he pointed as he spoke, “it will catch the melt water.”
“Are your socks wet?”
I just nodded.
“Use those slippers,” he smiled, “they are lamb’s wool lined, and very warm.”
As he spoke he then pointed to a pair beside the wooden bench against the wall. He had already gone back outside when I sat on the bench after taking off my coat and hat and hanging them on the hooks on the wall. Then I sat and took off my boots, setting them over the grate. I slipped on his slippers and indeed they were too big but indeed warm. For once I regretted that my feet had not swelled as I stood in what felt sort of like clown shoes upon my smaller feet.
I walked down the hallway past a back bedroom now outfitted as a library and office, the open door to the bathroom and finally into the living room. I surveyed the wide open space. A warm reddish hardwood floor stretched from back to front, broken by a large ornate carpet and furniture arranged perpendicular to a large natural stone fireplace. The kitchen was on my left at the back around from the big central fireplace.
The cabin had big open glass windows before this wide deck that looked out over a now fully snow covered valley beyond from which a brutally cold wind whipped the snow at the cold glass.
In the kitchen I found the phone and called. I had plenty of time to tell me husband everything until Michael returned. He was relieved and worried.
I reassured him how nice this man was and how safe I felt. I genuinely felt so, but saying made me feel much more assured of its truth. Finally, I told him I loved him and not to worry. Hanging up was the hardest thing I could do.
Nervously I went to the overstuffed leather sofa now blanketed in a homespun quilt and sat nearest the waning fire. The flicking flames sent heat at me but I felt the chill in the air. It sort of poured from the wide black expanse of glass like beams of pure cold.
Over the sound of the fire I heard Michael on the back deck. A cold breeze swept the room as he swung open the door. I guess I had forgotten to close the inner one.
“Did you get through?” I heard him say loud enough to carry down the hall.
I leaned back on the sofa and turned my head to look down the hallway towards him. I heard him as he stamped his boots to clear the snow packed on them upon the grate. It rattled with a stiff metallic sound.
“Yes,” I sort of yelled down the hall to him in reply.
I watched him unbundle from his winter wear and then watched as he walked towards me down the hallway.
“Good,” he said with a smile, as he walked in to the room with me.
“I don’t know how I can thank you.” I said sheepishly.
“Thank you is enough,” he said with almost a blush.
His voice was not overly deep but sounded very strong, although not hard or threatening. And he smiled, that almost shy smile, as if he were embarrassed by my thinking him a super hero. I had never seen so clearly rugged and masculine of a man betray such genuine sweetness.
His face was rather handsome like an old Marlboro ad, but it had all the charm of a boy I thought. Especially his smile, it was disarming and hinted at mischief. I liked his smile.
Michael was now wearing just a pair of tight fitting black thermal pants and a matching shirt that showed obvious perspiration. I have a weakness for a sweaty man. Not a dirty and smelly sweaty man, but that manly dampness to his skin.
“Too cold,” he asked with kind concern in his voice.
“It is a little nippy.” My tongue almost slipped and said “nipple-y.”
Even with a bra on I felt how they were poking visibly beneath my thin sweater. Instinctively I crossed my arms over them for warmth and modesty.
He walked over in front of me to the fire and added another pair of split logs from an old dented copper tub. The fire began to light up and burn more intently. The heat felt nice.
Oddly Michael had a very alluring musky scent to him at this moment. It barely hinted of his cologne, but smelled more clearly just like a man. I suspect my sense of smell was overly keen from being pregnant. Each inhale was that lovely scent of a man I found alluring, not pungent and sharp, but potent and subtle.
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