Author’s Note: I’ve been a reader here on Lit for almost 3 years, so I think it’s time I try contributing. This section contains no sex, but important build-up. This is my first story submission, so comments, feedback, etc are all welcomed. I’m currently working on part 2, and I hope to have it up soon.
I can vividly remember the day I met her, as if it just happened. Only a fool would forget such a perfect woman, and my mother always said she “didn’t raise no fool.”
The day in question was cold. I suppose frigid would be a more apt description. It was November, classes had let out for the week, and my parents had invited me home to share Thanksgiving with them. I was working on a Doctorate’s degree at a small college nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, studying chemistry, so an invitation for home cooking was more than welcome. I may have known a few things about what mixed with what, but when it came to culinary matters, I was clueless. My dad had called the previous morning, with quite a few interesting things to say.
“Hey Son,” he began, “Your mother and I were looking forward to having you over for Thanksgiving this year.”
“Oh?” I replied, hearing the leading tone in his voice.
“Yes… and we were hoping we’d have to set another place.”
I rolled my eyes. For the past three years, my parents had been hoping that I’d find some girl to get together with and bring home with me to meet them.
“No, Dad, not yet.” I exasperatedly explained, for perhaps the hundredth time. “I don’t want to start dating until I find…”
“…just the right girl, I know.” My dad finished for me. He sighed. “Look, Paul, you’re almost 25 and you haven’t dated a single girl yet. I just don’t want you to miss out on something wonderful.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, Dad.” I rubbed my brow. I really did know what Dad was saying. I had felt a little lonely at times. I often wondered why I hadn’t found anyone special yet. I suspected it had something to do with the way I got so nervous around women. I had always worried I was too geeky for most women. In high school, I fit the typical nerd profile – pocket protector, slacks, button-up shirt – I was even in band. I got through that socially awkward time by believing that someday women would appreciate that about me. But I watched all my jock peers get the girls. When I was an undergraduate at college, I saw the same thing. Even the guys in marching band seemed to have girlfriends. I wished I had stayed in band several times.
“Paul? You still there?” my dad asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.
“Yeah, Dad, still here.” I thought I’d change the subject. “So I think I’ll head out tomorrow morning, since there’s a chance for some snow today and tonight.”
“Ok, Son. We look forward to seeing you. Call us if anything comes up.”
That night, I was restless. My dad’s words echoed around in my head, reminding me of how lonely I felt here at college. Sure, I had friends. My roommate was pretty cool, but he had his girlfriend, so I didn’t see him that often. Not to mention his girlfriend was loud, so even though my room was at the other end of the house we rented, I still heard her, through two closed doors. Which, I’m a little ashamed to admit, often led to a few tissues being used. They had sex so often that I had learned her exact scream patterns, when she was close and when she finally flew over the edge. After, I’d always cling to my pillow, wishing I had a real girl to snuggle up to after making love.
Tonight, though, I was alone. I sure felt the loneliness. The house was empty, no noises anywhere. I lay on my side, watching small flakes of snow float past the window, as if performing some majestic dance. Tears began to form in my eyes, then trickled down to my pillow. I longed so much for someone to hold, to share my hopes and dreams with. I fell asleep that night, silently crying.
The following morning, just before sunrise, I took one last look around the house before locking up and leaving. I had already packed yesterday, so I climbed into my pride and joy, a relatively new Ford Explorer. I had saved up all through high school and into college. My parents had lent me an old car while I saved, and when I was 21, I bought it brand new, returning their old car.
Shifting into gear, I rolled out onto the deserted main road, noting it hadn’t snowed as much as I had expected, and started off on my long journey. My parents lived in Phoenix, Arizona, so I had quite a trip yet.
With the heater blasting, the radio and my voice competing for dominance, I was about an hour out of town when I spotted the girl ahead on the shoulder of the highway. Seeing someone on the road out in these mountains wasn’t completely uncommon, even this time of year, but when I noticed what she was wearing, I thought something must be wrong. Her bare arms were wrapped tightly around her green tank-top covered body, clearly shivering. Her long bare legs stuck out of a short skirt, and whatever shoes she was wearing, it didn’t look like she had socks on.
As my Explorer slowed, she must have heard me approaching, so she just moved a little more from the road, but kept walking, her head bowed, body shivering. Glancing behind me, I saw no one coming, so I matched pace with her, rolling my window down.
“Excuse me, Miss,” I called out, “Are you alright?” She stopped then, her long red hair hiding her face. Her body continued to shiver, but she didn’t move. I wondered what was wrong that she wouldn’t look at me. I couldn’t see anyone else around, and it didn’t look like she had any other clothing or belongings. My outside thermometer read 15ºF. I wondered how she got there and how long she had been outside. I doubted she walked from somewhere, wearing that outfit. Knowing this road, there weren’t any side roads to private homes for at least 30 miles in each direction. I was at a loss for why and how she was there, but I knew if she stayed outside much longer like that, she could get frostbitten, or worse, hypothermia.
“How long have you been out here?” I asked. She didn’t respond once again, just stood there shivering. I reached across and pushed the passenger door open.
“C’mon, hop in and get warm,” I called out to her, “and then maybe you can talk to me.” She didn’t move for a few seconds, and I began to wonder if she had something wrong with her. I wondered if she had a mental condition. I noticed her skin had a gray tone, as if the color had disappeared. She had to have been outside for a long time now. I was worried frostbite had already set in on her extremities. I thought of one last-ditch effort to help this girl.
“Look, the closest town is about 45 miles away, why don’t I just give you a ride there and then we can decide what to do from there.” She startled me by suddenly moving and climbed into the car, shutting the door behind her. Her trembling hands clicked the seatbelt in place, but she never once glanced up at me. I started driving again, making sure the heater was on high.
For the next fifteen minutes, she sat still, while I kept glancing sideways at her. Her shivering had finally stopped, and I noticed color was returning to her arms and hands.
“My name’s Paul.” I finally said, breaking the silence. “I’m glad I found you. Who knows how long it might have been before someone else drove by?” She didn’t respond, but her arms had dropped to her lap.
“Are you ok now?” I asked. “Is it warm enough in here? Are you thirsty? I have some bottled water in the back seat.”
I heard a sniffling sound, and glancing at her again, I saw tear drops had fallen in her lap. I didn’t say anything else. I worried I had said something wrong. She finally spoke in a small voice.
“Why are you being so kind to me?” Her voice cracked a little. I could tell she was trying to hold back the tears.
“I, uh… well…” I stammered, caught off guard by her question. “I saw you dressed like that, shivering, and all… and, well, I thought you might be cold or something.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw she had lifted her head and was looking at me. I glanced her way and felt my breath catch in my throat. She was beautiful. No, beyond beautiful. Her eyes were an amazing shade of green that I’d never seen before. Her face looked like it was carved out of marble with delicate detail. Her lips were a rich red color, almost matching her long, red, curly hair. I felt the tires leave the road and quickly jerked both my eyes and the Explorer back on the road.
“Thank you,” her voice choked out. I glanced back to her. A small smile had appeared on her lips. It quickly vanished though. “That’s the nicest anyone’s been to me in a long while.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, seeing the hurt on her face just before she turned to face the road. She just shook her head, a few more tears falling in her lap, her red curls swishing about her head.
“Katherine.” She said, wiping her eyes with her hand. It seemed she was gathering herself, as she took several breaths before continuing. “My name’s Katherine, but most people call me Kat.” She extended her hand toward me. “Thank you so much for stopping for me back there.”
“I’m Paul,” I said, realizing I had already said my name. “Uh… again.” She giggled, and I reached for her hand and shook it. Her hand was so soft; I think I may have held on for a few moments longer than necessary. And that giggle… I knew I would love to hear that again.
Directing my attention back to the road, I thought of what to say next. My awkwardness with women was creeping up on me, sitting next to such a beautiful woman. My thoughts were jumbled and I felt my hands start to get sweaty. Thankfully, she spoke next, and to this day, I wonder if she knew I was feeling so nervous at that time.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why I was out there dressed like this.” Katherine said, gesturing to herself. I could only nod, still staring forward. She sighed, staring out her window.
“Well, I actually live in Arizona,” she started, which made me jerk my head over to look quizzically at her. “In Phoenix.”
My eyes widened. Phoenix?
“You’re kidding!” I exclaimed, shocked at the coincidence. “That’s where I’m heading, to visit my parents.”
“Really?” Katherine looked equally as shocked as I felt. “How lucky then… to have such a cute guy… going right where I need to…” She was staring out the front window then, that small smile back on her lips.
I immediately felt my face flush with heat. Me? Cute? Surely she must be joking, pulling my leg or something. No one ever said I was cute. I mean, I knew I wasn’t hideous looking or anything, but cute was not a way I thought I would describe myself, let alone hear a beautiful woman say about me. She started to giggle then, and my hopes plummeted. Here it comes, I thought, she’s going to laugh and tease me, say she was kidding or something.
“It’s all kind of funny when you think about it,” she said, between laughs. She looked over at me and must have seen my confused expression. “Oh, let me explain.
“See, my dad owns this huge plot of land that’s been passed on to him from his grandfather. Well long ago, his great-great-grandfather bought the land with a friend, Tom McMahon, but they had a falling out in disagreement over what the land should be used for. His great-great-grandfather wanted to use the land to raise longhorn cattle and some horses, but McMahon wanted to develop saloons, burlesque houses, gambling centers, things like that. The problem was that the deed was in his great-great-grandfather’s name, so his friend had no legal right to say anything or do anything. He tried to come to a compromise, knowing that McMahon would just do the building anyway if he added his name to the deed, and offered him a portion of the profits the land made. But McMahon adamantly refused it and called him all sorts of names. Since then, it’s been this huge family feud, with my family still having legal ownership to the land, but the other family, being bitter about the whole thing and hating our family and all, began buying surrounding land and put up different businesses.”
“All this over a plot of land?” I asked, amazed at the complexity of the story.
“Yes,” Katherine said. “To top it off, my own family isn’t exactly on great terms with me, since I don’t want a part of the ranching life. I’m the only child, so that means there is no direct heir.” She cast her gaze down to her hands. “I want to be an artist. But my family thinks there’s no future in it, so I’ve had to work my own way through art school.”
“So how’d you wind up here in the mountains?” I asked, thinking the closest art school was back in Phoenix.
“Well…” She began with a sigh. “See, the McMahon family knows I’m the only heir to the ranch. Well, the twins, Jasmine and Jasper, are next in line. They’ve got it in their minds that if they can make life miserable for me, I wouldn’t want to stay and take over the ranch.”
“Don’t they know you want to be an artist?” I asked.
“Not yet.” She chuckled. “That’s why you found me out here. I tried setting up a lunch meeting with them to explain, but when they picked me up in their van, I was blind-folded and tied up. I lost track of time, fell asleep at some point, and the next thing I knew, I was on the side of the road in these mountains. I had just about given up.” She glanced over at me and smiled. “And then you came along and rescued me.”
“Oh my god,” I exclaimed, shocked that someone could do that. I considered the reality for a moment. I had left my house just before the sun was up, since I had about a 12 hour trip and I found her about an hour into my drive. This time of year, there were very few motorists who would brave the mountains, with sudden snow storms posing a real danger in these mountain passes. “You could have died out here! Now I’m really glad I came along when I did.”
“Me too,” Katherine said as she reached her hand over, laying it gently on my knee. My whole body tensed and shivers raced down my spine at the sudden contact. I couldn’t believe such a gorgeous woman was touching me, even if it was just my knee. My heart had started hammering in my chest. I was fully at a loss for what to say next. Curse my bashful, awkward self. I hoped she didn’t notice how scared and nervous I had become at such a small contact. Then again, she was but a perfect stranger. Even if I ended up driving her all the way to Phoenix, it’s not like we’d just start dating. I probably would never see her again.
“Oh, look, it’s starting to snow,” she said, breaking me out of my thoughts. Her hand still rested on my knee and my heart still marched a cadence in my chest. I noticed the small flakes swirling against the windshield, bristling against the glass, sounding like little grains of sand. Her hand squeezed my knee gently, making my already tight nerves feel like little rubber bands twisted and stretched to the limit.
“I could still be out in that…” she whispered, watching the snow swirl about the windows. She looked nervous. It struck me as comical, that she would be nervous about the weather and still being stuck in it, while I was tense from the simple physical contact of her hand on my knee. “Thank you,” she said, turning to face me. “You’re like my guardian angel.” Me, an angel? Not only that, she had called me cute earlier. Was I dreaming?
“I uh…” I stammered. Usually when I got really nervous, I began spouting random facts. Now was no exception. “Did you know that water is one of the few substances we know of that expands when it freezes? Most substances begin to contract and, in essence, shrink, as the temperature declines.” I can’t believe I just said that. She had just called me an angel, cute earlier, and I feed her a line of boring trivia? Most of the time, when I would spout trivial facts to girls I was chatting with, they would roll their eyes, look away or say “that’s nice” and then find excuses to leave. I imagined she would be content to call someone from the next town and just wait for a friend or family member to pick her up. From the moment she mentioned she lived in Phoenix, I had been hoping that I could have her company for my drive home. But I couldn’t imagine her wanting to ride with someone like me.
“Really?” she asked. I glanced at her, expecting her to call me a nerd, but I saw her eyes opened wide, almost as in wonder. Then, she smiled. “So is that why the inches of precipitation from rain are always less than the inches of snow?”
I was shocked. Not only had she not ridiculed me, but she understood what I was saying and made a conclusion from it.
“Yeah, you’re exactly right.” I said, smiling. “Do you want to know why?”
She nodded, so for the next ten minutes, she listened intently while I rambled on about the properties and intricacies of water.
“… and so when they got this kid’s letter about dihydrogen monoxide, they flipped out and were ready to ban the substance, before they realized it was just another name for water.” I finished, telling her the story about people being led to conclusions.
“I can’t believe no one caught it!” she giggled, “I mean, two hydrogen, one oxygen, H-2-O, right?” I couldn’t believe I was making a girl laugh, let alone one as beautiful as Katherine. I didn’t feel as nervous anymore, so we chatted like we were long-time friends, rather than strangers, until we reached the sign welcoming us to town.
“So, we’re here at the town I mentioned,” I started, surprised that the last hour had passed so quickly since I picked her up. “You must be hungry, having been bound in the back of a van since lunch yesterday.”
“Oh, god, I’m famished!” she laughed. “It was so fun talking to you, I didn’t even think about it until you mentioned it.” I had thought I was surprised enough to be called cute and angelic in nature. But now I was fun talking with as well? Interacting with Katherine was so much unlike any other experience I had in the past, I found myself asking her to breakfast before I even thought twice about it.
“There’s this quaint little diner here that makes some of the best omelets you’ve ever had.” I suggested. “How’s that sound?”
“I would love that,” Katherine said, resting her hand on my arm. Once again, I felt my face flush and body tense. Her touch was electrifying, the warmth of her fingers on my arm, the softness I could feel of her hand against me, it was almost too much for me.
“We’re here,” my voice cracked, as we pulled into the small snow-covered parking lot. She giggled. I was beginning to really enjoy hearing her giggles and laughs. It was like they were intoxicating.
I hopped out of my Explorer and ran over to the other side, opening the door for her. I at least had presence of mind to offer her both my hand and my coat.
“Oh!” she cried out when the first bit of cold, snowy air hit her skin. She shrugged quickly into my offered coat and grasped my hand. “I can’t believe it’s so cold!” She shivered and kept my hand firmly locked in hers. Ah, her hand felt so wonderful. I hurriedly guided her to the diner’s door, holding it open for her. She hurried in, pulling me along with her. She started giggling as I stumbled in behind her.
“Well, summer’s just a few months off, little lady,” the waitress, a middle aged woman with her golden hair pinned back, said to Katherine. “You a member of that Polar Bear Club?”
Katherine laughed, shaking her head side to side. I enjoyed watching her red curls bounce about her shoulders as she did.
“Two, then?” The waitress said, eyeing me with a curious look.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said. She led us to a small booth where the window looked out on a small valley, covered in snow.
The waitress, “Call me Helen, Sweeties,” handed us each a menu, and headed off to tend to the few other patrons in the diner.
“Would you believe this is my first time seeing snow?” Katherine asked me, her eyes glued out the window at the picturesque view. “Well, I’ve seen pictures, videos, things like that, but not like this, being right here in front of it.”
“Frozen water, each molecule arranged in an almost precise manner, to form the structure we know as a snowflake.” I told her a bit more about the properties of water when it entered its solid state.
“Wow, you know so much!” Katherine exclaimed. Her eyes were wide with what looked like wonder. For all I know, she could have been wide-eyed in astonishment at how geeky I was truly being. But, she seemed earnest enough, asking me more questions. Before we knew it, Helen was back with some coffee and was ready to take our orders.
“What’ll it be, Miss Polar Bear?” she asked, a grin on her mouth. Katherine looked over at me. I shrugged and told her to get what she wanted.
“Well, Paul here tells me you guys have the best omelets I’ve ever tasted, so I’d like one of those.” She finally said after a few moments of thought.
I ordered the same, and our jolly waitress Helen was off. We sat there talking some more, off the subject of water and snow, it would seem, when Katherine announced she had to use the restroom.
She got up, and as she turned to walk away, her red curls bouncing with each step, my eyes were glued to her legs, the way they traveled so smooth up to where they vanished under her skirt. I doubted I had ever seen anything quite so wonderful before. So transfixed was I that I hadn’t noticed Helen appear at my side.
“Quite an asset on that lady, huh my boy?” she jabbed with a small chuckle. I turned several shades of red, casting my gaze on my coffee mug. “Hey, don’t be so ashamed, she’s quite the keeper. You keep track of that one, huh?” And with that, she was off again, having laid two plates of steaming pancakes and the syrup rack on our table.
With the sweet aroma of the pancakes teasing me, I sat back, casting my gaze across the small diner. I saw two other tables occupied, noticing the other patrons all had on heavy winter clothing. I continued my scan and my eyes fell to the TV playing quietly above the bar-counter. That was when I saw the winter weather warning, showing a massive snow storm moving in rapidly. The text at the bottom claimed to expect anywhere from 18″ – 24″ of snow before the end of the day, with another 2′ – 4′ expected tomorrow. An anchorman was speaking, and with my eyes glued to the screen and my mouth gaping, someone must have turned up the volume a little.
“… with road closures already going up for most major passes in the Western Rocky Mountains. Again, if you’re looking to travel this week, you probably won’t be getting very far with this much snow coming. Stay safe and stay warm. Jane?”
The waitress must have seen my reaction of shock and worry, for she came over right away.
“You kids were planning on travelling somewhere?” she asked me. I nodded.
“I’m supposed to make it home for Thanksgiving in Phoenix.” I glanced at the bathroom door.
“Honey, westbound Highway 50 has been closed,” she said, “Guess you’re stuck here unless you head right back the way you came before the storm hits. But, uh, judging by that,” she nodded to the windows outside, “you probably won’t be doing that either.” I turned to glance out the window. The few flakes that were dancing around outside less than fifteen minutes ago had turned to a relentless army of frozen ice pellets. The valley below was no longer visible, and the small pines that must have been less than twenty feet from the diner were almost lost to the swirling mass of white.
“You might want to try Aspen View Cabins, just up Jefferson road here,” she pointed out the window. “He’ll have good rates this time of year, being off-season and all.” She turned to go, pausing to look over her shoulder as she spotted Katherine exiting the restrooms. “And I think they only have single King beds,” she whispered with a huge wink.
I’d lost track of how many times I had blushed since this morning. My face suddenly felt hot as I had a mental image of sharing a bed with the beautiful woman walking towards the table. I shook my head, trying to push those thoughts away, staring intently at my coffee as she sat down.
“Are you ok, Paul?” Katherine asked. “You look worried.” I sighed, relieved that she didn’t mention my blushing and noticed my worry of the coming storm instead.
I looked up at her. She had her brows knitted together in clear concern. I hesitated, wondering how I was going to tell her about the onrushing snow storm.
I had just opened my mouth to tell her when she gasped and looked out the window.
“My God! Paul! You can barely see outside!” Her eyes were wide and she began to look as worried as I felt.
“Katherine.” I began, getting her attention again. “Our road out of town has been closed. They’re expecting anywhere from 3′ – 6′ of snow in the next two days. We’re probably going to have to find a place to stay and ride the storm out.”