Change in PlansbyEmerald_Dragon©
This is a short little story that just popped in my head one day. It is not your typical Valentine's Day tale. Don't forget to vote and let me know what you think.
James Halloway swore as he squirmed through the window of his now upside-down car. Icy slush coated his belly and legs as he pulled himself the rest of the way out. A careful driver, he had hit a patch of ice just off the bridge, rolled and ended upside-down in the snowy ditch. Luckily, or unluckily depending on your point of view, the new car that he had only had for three months was totaled.
James groaned as he surveyed the damage and tried to steady his hands that were still shaking from the adrenaline rush. His father had insisted on a newer model that had safety features like the air-bag that had kept him from smashing his face into the steering wheel. James knew he couldn't afford it but his dad had insisted and even co-signed the loan and chipped in for the down payment. 'Safety first' his father had insisted. 'You'll be doing a lot of driving back and forth and I'd rather you made it alive' he had boomed in his deep voice as he had ruffled his sons fine blonde hair affectionately.
'Thank god for overprotective fathers,' thought James.
The snow continued to swirl around and he was glad that he had kept his coat on for the drive. Hoping that he could beat the storm, he had taken his usual route of back roads for the three hour drive home. He was still at least an hour drive from home and he hadn't seen another vehicle for at least a half an hour. He pulled up his hood and zipped his coat and started walking. He did have winter survival gear in the car. It was in the trunk however and he would never be able to get it out, being that it was buried in the icy slush and mud. He also hated clutter in his vehicle and all of his cloths were in the trunk as well.
His friends like to tease him that he was way to smart and anal to be at school on a football scholarship. 'You should be an accounting nerd with glasses and no pecs' his girlfriend had teased him. He had carried her to bed and proceeded to tickle her till she screamed, and then had her screaming for entirely different reasons.
The snow was the heavy wet variety that was already four inches deep and rapidly getting deeper. The wind was picking up too and he tried to suppress the worry that he would have to walk the next fifteen miles to the next small town. It was already dark for 2 in the afternoon and only getting darker. Most of the land between here and there was State Forest, not a house to be seen.
'What a shitty Valentine's Day weekend' he thought; ignoring the jeans that were freezing to his legs he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. He had been planning on spending it with Valerie, his girlfriend of three months. She had gotten roped into watching her younger sister while her parents had gone on a quick trip. She had had her parent's permission to bring him along. Considering that her younger sister was two years old, he had anticipated being able to seduce Valerie at every opportunity.
Instead his mother had called him four days ago and told him that his dad had decided to retire from the police force. The retirement party would be on Saturday, Valentine's Day. The 'invitation' from his mother may has well have been a mandate from God. So, Valerie would get flowers at her parent's house instead of a weekend of seduction, and he would get to spend Saturday surrounded by his road in front of him, he didn't hear the truck until it was almost on top of him. It was a black 250 of some kind and he ran gratefully up to where it had stopped.
"Hi," said the young woman driving when he opened the door. "Was that your car in the ditch back there?"
"Yeah," he replied.
"Well get in and get warmed up!"
"Thanks," he said, climbing into the warm cab. The heat hit his legs and he started shivering. "I'm so glad that you came along."
"Me too," she smiled at him and he smiled back.
She was really pretty, with short, curly brown hair and bright hazel eyes. She was layered in a white turtleneck, cardigan and coat but she was fairly slim. Sure he had a girlfriend, but it was still ok to look and admire.
"So where are you headed?" she asked as she shifted the truck back into gear and eased it up to a comfortable 40 mph.
"Springfield, home for the weekend," he replied, opening his jacket a little bit. "My dad is having his retirement party this Saturday and I promised that I would be there."
"You look a little young to have a dad at retirement age already," she teased.
James laughed. "Yeah, dad is only 55. He's a cop, or was I guess. He has put in enough time to retire early. It was kind of a surprise though. I had thought it would be a few more years." He stretched out his legs and sighed, finally feeling warm. "They weren't real happy with him retiring but he just said that he had had enough. I guess he had a couple really bad cases this last year that really shook him."
"I'm James, by the way, James Halloway."
"I'm Anna Sams," she replied with a sideways glance and another smile. "You wouldn't happen to be related to Donald Halloway would you?"
"Yeah, that's my dad," he exclaimed, "How did you know?"
Anna laughed, tossing her curls, "it is a very small world! He was the police officer that helped me out last year about this time."
"That's so cool," replied James, "do you live around here?"
"No, I lived down in Jacksonville at the time. I was up here though and your dad helped me out of a really tight spot."
"Cool," James said again. "I want to be a cop too but dad insisted that I get a college degree first. I think that he is hoping I will get interested in something else and drop the idea."
"What are you studying?"
"Psychology actually, I think I may go for my masters in criminal psychology. I would love to be a profiler."
"That's great," Anna replied. "God knows we could use more good guys to catch the bad guys. I wanted to go into social work myself."
"You are not going to college then?"
"Nooooo," she replied, hesitating, "I sorta got sidetracked into another calling."
"You can always go later," he said, hoping that he wasn't over stepping. "It's not like you don't have plenty of time."
Anna laughed. "Can you grab some music out of the case down by your feet? Let's listen to some tunes."
"Sure," he said and pulled the case up onto his lap. "A country fan I see."
"Only the newer stuff. I really hate the 'cry in your beer, my wife left me and took the dog and my favorite truck' type songs."
"That makes two of us," James laughed.
He popped in latest Carrie Underwood and soon they were both singing along.
James started as the truck came to a stop. He must have dozed off.
"Here we are sleepyhead," said Anna, grinning at him as he rubbed his eyes.
They were parked in his driveway and he could see the bright outlines of the windows against the very dark day.
"Oh man, sorry for falling asleep on you," he said, trying to wake up completely.
"No problem. Oh and hey, can you do something for me?"
"Can you give this to your dad?" She reached into the neck of her turtleneck and pulled a necklace over her head.
"What is it?"
"It is my Saint Valentine medallion. My birthday is today, the 13th, and so it is kinda my personal good luck charm. Tell your dad thank you from me too. I never did get a chance to tell him myself. All I could think about was never seeing my fiancé and family again. I lived to see them and I am forever grateful to him for that."
"No problem," said James zipping up his coat, and taking the still warm, silver necklace. "Happy birthday by the way. Do you wanna come in? I'm sure dad would love to see you."
"Nah, I had better get going before the roads get even worse. Tell your dad to have a good Valentine's Day. It is a shame he is retiring, he really is one of the best."
"I'll be sure to let him know, Anna. Drive safe, and thanks for the lift, you are a lifesaver."
"No problem," she grinned," tell your dad he can consider it a bit of payback for not giving up on me and saving my butt."
James hopped out of the truck and hurried to the house. The snow was nearly knee deep and the wind was gusting hard enough to push at him. He turned to wave as she drove off and tried to stamp as much snow off his shoes as he could before he came in the house.
"James!" his mother shrieked as soon as he entered the house. "Where have you been? We have been worried sick, the highways have been closed for hours!"
She ran forward and engulfed him in a hug, snow covered coat and all.
"James!" his father exclaimed, pulling him into a bear hug. "I am paying for a cell phone for you whether you like it or not, no excuses!"
"Ok, ok," James laughed. His pride had kept his parents from helping him out as much as they would like. A cell phone would have been nice and he wouldn't have had to worry about walking fifteen miles in the snow.
"Do you want the good news or the bad news," he joked as he sat at the barstools adjacent to the kitchen. The kitchen smelled marvelous, as always.
"Sit," said his mother in her no-nonsense voice, "I'll get you something to eat, you must be starving."
"Bad news," replied his father, helping himself to a cup of coffee and sitting on the stool next to James.
"Well, the car is totaled I think. It is upside-down in a ditch about an hour and a half from here."
"Thank god you are ok."
"Yeah, I think buying a car with an airbag was a really good idea," James said, grinning at his dad.
"The good news is that you are ok obviously," said his father.
"Yup," said James laughing. "I actually got picked up by a gal that says she knows you. Apparently you have quite a fan."
"That's good to know," his father gave him a smile. "I am just glad she came along."
"She said she never got a chance to say thanks, so thank you, and to give you this," James pulled the necklace out of his pocket. "She said it was like a good luck charm because her birthday is today."
His father took the necklace and looked at it closely. "A St. Valentine medallion? Did she give you her name?"
"Yeah," said James, taking a big bite of the sandwich his mother put in front of him. He chewed and grinned at his dad who had an eyebrow cocked, waiting.
"Anna Sams," he said finally, taking a swig of milk to wash down the bite of sandwich.
His father met his eyes and James was jolted by the expression in them.
"Is this some kind of a joke?" his father asked in a steely tone of voice. "I don't think that it is very funny." His rather beefy hand closed over the medallion.
"Huh?" James was stunned at the anger in the voice. "I take it you don't know her then?" He asked, perplexed.
His father just stared at him.
"What did she look like?" his mother asked gently.
"Um, pretty I guess," he said, a bit confused, "Short curly brown hair, hazel eyes, slim. She was wearing a white turtleneck shirt and red cardigan with white hearts on it. She had one of those big 250 pickups."
"Did she say where she knew your dad from?" she asked, her eyes intent.
"Yeah, she said that he had gotten her out of a tight spot this time last year: that she had been worried that she would never get to see her family or fiancé again, but she did and was very grateful." James looked from his mother's intense face to his fathers white one. "Ya wanna tell me why you look like you want to puke?" He asked.
His father looked down at the medallion in his hand, shaking his head slightly.
"Honey," said his mother, "Anna Sams is dead. She died last year on Valentine's Day. They tracked down her kidnapper and were involved in a high speed chase on icy roads. The kidnapper slid off the road and was killed instantly. She was brought to the hospital and died a few hours later. Your dad was the one that cracked the case and was first on the scene."
James stared at his mother.
"It couldn't have been her," his mother continued gently. "I don't know who it was but it couldn't have been her.
Donald extended the medallion to his wife. "Read the inscription," he said gruffly.
His mother took it and read out loud. "To my Anna on her 10th birthday. Love Grandpa Sams."
"She was buried with it," he said hoarsely. "It was recovered as part of the evidence at the house where she was held. It is the same. It even has the same scratches on it. I was at the funeral, she was buried with it."
They just looked at one another for a second and James snapped his fingers and headed for the front door.
"James?" his mother called after him.
Flipping on the porch light and the floodlights from the garage he looked out the door. There were his footprints leading from the front door to the middle of the short driveway. They were already being filled in with the rapidly falling snow but were still clearly discernable.
"There aren't any truck tracks," he said in a shaky voice, as he gazed out of the open front door. He ignored the cold wind on his body and for once his mother didn't yell at him to close the door. His parents looked over his shoulder. "My footprints just start in the middle of the driveway. Where the hell are the truck tracks?"
His mother finally pushed him gently away from the door and shut it.
James looked up at his dad, the man he had idolized since the day he was born and was strangely unsurprised to see tears in his eyes.
"She said that it was a shame that you were retiring," James said in the silence. "She said you were one of the best, and to wish you a Happy Valentine's Day."
His dad just nodded. Looking at the medallion again he slipped the chain over his head. He hugged his son again tightly; grateful once again that he was home safe. Maybe it was a little early for retirement after all.