I come swinging around a blind curve and though I am not going fast, I nearly clip the back end of a car that is parked off the side of the road against the escarpment. I am startled and concerned as I edge forward slowly and pull up beside it. Leaning across my seat, I see a woman sitting within the vehicle. Though her window is misted with ice and her image is blurred, I can see her head tipped back as if she is napping. My heart lurches as I pray that she is only napping. “I need to see if she is all right!” I see her move as if she heard my troubled thought and my heart settles its rapid beating. I sigh in relief as she lifts her head and drags a hand across her face. Then she sees me. Realizing that she is no longer alone, she panics and leans forward to try to start her car. The engine grinds and coughs, refusing to obey. She is crying now. I try getting her attention, to signal her that I mean no harm. She obviously needs my help. She shakes her head and tries again to escape but her car will not start. Looking around, I don’t see any place for me to pull over. Knowing there’s little traffic here on this mountain road; I set the emergency flashers just in case and put my car in park.
“This is ridiculous!” I think to myself as I open my car door to get out and go to her. “She’s not going anywhere and I won’t hurt her.”
I stop my approach as I suddenly realize why she is in a panic; this is a very lonely mountain road and she doesn’t know me. I must proceed as gently as I can to help her. “I will help her!” I can see she is pale and shaking. I take a step back and hold out my hand, and wait. She slowly rolls her window down and turns her head to look squarely at me. As her frightened eyes lift to meet mine, a shock rolls through me like a static charge and I hold my breath as I await her decision. My smile wavers and my hand trembles. With our eyes locked, I feel as if I have stepped too close to a precipice and yet am beyond any ability, no, I have not even the desire, to step back. I see her and I feel as if I stand naked before her, so intense are the feelings that pass between us.
“Does she feel this too?” I can’t help but wonder as I nod my head to her and clear my throat which has gone so suddenly dry. “Say something!” I chide myself, feeling like a foolish school boy, “Where is all that talk of you being like the hawk now?”
“Please, I am a friend. Let me help you,” I finally coax out the words that break the tense silence between us. Stepping hesitantly forwards, I extend my hand further and introduce myself, “I’m Robert Haverill. There’s a town not far ahead. Let me take you there.”
Her gaze shifts from my face to my hand and back again; her eyes sharp but losing that touch of fear. She sighs, in exasperation if I’ve ever heard it! Then with a shake of her head and a small smile, she closes her window and opens her door to get out. Placing her keys in her purse, she then comes to stand by me.
“I’m Maegan,” she says in such a soft voice that I barely hear her. She clears her throat and speaks more firmly as she holds her hand out to shake mine, “Maegan McDonnaugh. Cell phones don’t work here and I’ve been beside myself with this. Thank you so much for stopping.”
“Is hers the voice that I heard calling to me?” I wonder and my heart skips a beat at the thought, though I quickly deny such a possibility.
I reach out to gently clasp her offered hand in mine and my breath catches with the contact. I tremble inside but not with fear. What is this – feeling? Her hand is cold, that’s all it is. She’s been in a stalled car here for how long? I instinctively grasp her small hand in both of mine, rubbing to warm it as I escort her over to my car. I open the door for her, almost forgetting to release her hand as I do. She smiles with a twinkle that seems to say, “I caught that.” She gets in. I stumble a bit as I round the car to my door and wonder at the lightness in my head as I get in. I put the car in gear and we’re off. The silence is thick, heavy with a sweetness I can’t identify yet fear to break. I want to reach for her hand again and my heart races with the thought of it.
“The town ahead isn’t far now,” I finally speak, surprised that my voice sounds normal though I hear a halting between the words that is unusual for me. Where is my confidence? “It will be dark in an hour or so but with any luck, we should be able to get a tow truck to come and get your car before then.”
“I had no idea I was so close to civilization,” she said, looking down at her lap as she speaks. “I’m afraid that I lost track of where I was.”
I glance over and see that she has her hands clenched tightly together in her lap. I feel the urge to reach over and take those hands in mine; just to warm them I tell myself. My grip tightens on the steering wheel and I let my eyes touch her instead whenever the road allows. My nostrils flare as her soft, womanly scent fills the car. Her very presence draws me. She keeps her head tipped down and seems lost in thought as we travel on. I freely drink in her profile. I marvel as the sunlight reflects off the snowy incline beyond and creates a sparkling nimbus around her head. Pretty, I think to myself, maybe even beautiful given better circumstances. Somewhere in her fifties perhaps, though her smooth face belies even that. She holds herself well, as if she knows her worth and strength. Yet something is obviously troubling her and I don’t think it’s the fact that she’s been stranded. There’s a ghost of sadness hovering and pain about her eyes. I want to reach over and touch her cheek, drawn by her need. This is crazy! We talk; static conversation to fill the time, polite nothings. I would so like to see her smile and hear her laughter. I feel a gentle yet constant magnetic pull towards her. I am both relieved and disappointed when the town comes into sight.