I don't think there is EVER a good day to be involved in a car accident. But can you imagine being involved in one on Christmas Eve? Especially if it's your first Christmas Eve as a divorced woman and you've just dropped your two precious little girls - the darlings of your heart and your very reasons for living, off with their father and the twenty year old bimbo he's replaced you with. And as if all that weren't enough, what if the 24th of December happens to be your birthday as well? Your 40th birthday no less! Talk about joy to the fucking world! I'll never forget it; and hopefully, neither will you.
That night was bitterly cold and a steady snowfall was pelting the windshield of my Jeep Grand Cherokee as I drove home. The slush on the roads was now freezing slick and solid as the temperature dropped into the teens. But I barely noticed any of it. My heart was broken, my soul was crushed and I hated the entire world. As Johnny Mathis proclaimed "It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year" on the radio, I wanted to reach through the speakers and rip his larynx out. How could this have happened to me? I thought I had been so smart - focusing on my work, establishing myself in my career and building a solid life for myself before I married and started a family. Then when Mister Right finally did come along, I'd be ready, both financially and emotionally to make marriage, family and love last for a lifetime. And when Mister Right turned out to be Daniel Lasden - a charming, handsome and successful corporate attorney who was ten years my senior, been divorced from his first wife for five years and had no kids, I knew that all my careful planning and hard work was about to pay tremendous dividends.
I stopped at a liquor store near my home in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. And yes, Dallas does frequently have brutally cold and bitter winters. I bought two packs of Marlboro Reds and a bottle of Amaretto. I hadn't had a cigarette in nearly twenty years and never drank anything stronger than red wine, but on a night like this - fuck it!! As I continued on toward my house, the streets were for the most part deserted; everybody was either still at the mall or at home with their families - except me. I felt completely abandoned and totally alone in the world. Both my parents had long since passed away, I was an only child and now my children where spending the night with their 50 year old father and his 20 year old dormitory slut.
Slowing my jeep to a virtual crawl, I inched carefully over the rough railroad tracks and then came to a stop at the red light at the intersection just beyond the railroad crossing. I was reaching for the first pack of Marlboros when the collision occurred from behind. It was sudden and sharp, but not terribly violent, for it only caused my jeep to lurch forward a few feet. But the surprise of it was enough to cause my soul to practically leap out of my body. Quickly ascertaining that I was unhurt, I glanced around to get my bearings then looked in the rearview mirror. From what I could make out, a beat up old Volkswagen Beetle with now only one working headlight had rear ended me and was now sitting slightly askew on the pavement directly behind me. The shock quickly turned to fury and burned up inside me like magma inside a volcano. I lowered my window and signaled the fool that had just capped off my glorious holiday to follow me. I drove forward a few yards, the Beetle following, and pulled off onto a gravel driveway that led to an enormous concrete slab that the sign claimed would one day be another strip shopping center; but at the moment was just a deserted parking lot.
Still in my work attire - suit coat, silk blouse, skirt and two inch heels, I sprang out of my jeep and stormed across the wet gravel through the bitter cold night without putting on my raincoat. The wind was howling eerily and blowing with a biting arctic chill; but I was so fueled and on fire with rage that I was completely oblivious of the weather. The door to the Beetle was opening slowly and as the wind whipped my long walnut brown hair about my face, I reached out and jerked the door open all the way.
"Are you okay?" A soft and meek female voice shuttered from behind the driver side door.
"Am I okay?" I raged before my mind could fully process that it was a woman who had hit me; a very young woman by the sound of her voice. "You just plowed into my car, you jackass! What the hell do you....Oh my God!!?"
My hands slapped over my mouth as the young girl emerged from the battered old Volkswagen. At first glance, she looked like death warmed over and appeared to be as beat up as the car she was driving. As I studied her in the soft glow of the overhead street lamp, the look of sheer terror on her face, along with a small stream of blood trickling out of her left nostril and the brutally inflicted black and blue bruise around her left eye immediately silenced me. My rage vanished instantly and was replaced with an overwhelmingly powerful instinct of motherly compassion and worry. The poor baby's eye was virtually swollen shut, appeared to be throbbing and there were speckles of blood splattered all about her face.
"I'm so sorry, ma'am." She whimpered. "I didn't mean to hit you. It's just that the road is so slick and I wasn't really paying attention. God, I'm so sorry. Don't worry, I have insurance."
"Oh honey! Oh God! Did that happen just now?" I asked, motioning toward her eye. "Oh dear God!"
Instinctively I reached out and ever so gently brushed my fingertips on her face and into her soft hair. She recoiled at first, but I simply stepped closer. The girl was a good four or five inches shorter than me with long and disheveled honey blond hair. Her face was small and round but angelically adorable. Her lips were quivering as she curled them nervously through her teeth and bit at them while her nose was bright red with a combination of the cold, traces of blood and the strain of fighting back tears.
"I'm okay." She said.
"Are you sure? Oh God, did you hit your head on the steering wheel or something?" I asked.
Though it was painfully obvious that somebody had beaten her up, I wasn't about to start throwing out accusations nor did I want to frighten her anymore than she already was. She seemed so fragile; so very timid. And she seemed even more alone in the world than me. She trembled quite noticeably as she stood before me; whether it was the cold, the shock of the accident or just her life crumbling, I couldn't be sure.
"No, it wasn't that." She said. "I fell at work and bumped it against the corner of a table. I'm a waitress. I've already seen a doctor and he says I just need to ice it and he gave me a prescription."
With my heart filling with compassion and pity, I continued to study this pretty little creature and didn't even realize that I had been gently stroking her hair the whole time.
"Honey, you're trembling." I said.
"I'm cold. Plus it's been a very emotional day. A really rotten day." She replied. "A really rotten life actually." She whispered to herself. "Here, let me get you my information."
She took a step back, swung around and dove back into her beetle. As she rummaged through her glove box in search of her insurance information, my eyes scanned the inside of the vehicle. The entire backseat and a good portion of the front were stuffed to capacity with anything and everything a person, or in this case a young woman, could possibly own in the world. Losing myself deep in thought as I scanned the inside of her car, the girl suddenly sprang out, her shaking hands full of papers. Her purse, which had been sitting on her lap, slipped off and smacked to the ground, spilling most of its contents.
"Here, I think I found it..." She stammered. "Oh God! " She mumbled through an onset of fresh tears as she surveyed her fallen purse and its contents on the freezing ground. "Jesus, can't just one fucking thing go right for me today?!"
With that, I immediately stepped forward and took her gently by the arms.
"Hey, hey, hey..." I began softly. "Honey, listen to me. The first thing you need to do is try and calm down, alright? Nobody got hurt and I'm not mad at you. It was an accident. I know you didn't mean it."
As she looked piteously at me through her swollen, puffy and soggy emerald green eyes, I felt a bizarre quiver deep in my belly. Though she was a complete mess and an emotional wreck at that moment, I was suddenly struck with just how beautiful a girl she was. Even with her savagely bruised and battered eye, she was as beautiful and innocent looking as a Christmas angel. As I studied her face, I could clearly see that she was on the verge of coming completely apart on me.
"Oh God sweetie, you are shaking like a leaf. Here, why don't you sit down, okay?" I spoke softly.
I helped her back down into the driver's seat and then proceeded to gather up her purse and the articles that had fallen out of it; one of which was her wallet. I picked up her wallet and as I did, a debit card slipped out of it. As I quickly snapped it up and flipped it over, I found instead that it was her driver's license.
"Nicole?" I read off the license. "That's your name?"
"Yes ma'am." She replied softly.
"Nicole Leann Foster." I read. My heart froze and my breath caught in my throat as I glanced at her date of birth. "Today's your birthday."
"Uh-huh." She whimpered.
"12/24/1989; twenty years old." I replied with a little smile. "Happy Birthday, Nicole."
"Thank you." She said quietly. "Here's my insurance card."
Holding the card out with her still trembling hand, I gazed up toward the heavens and soon found myself busting out laughing. When I finally looked down at Nicole again, she was staring at me, dazed and totally confused.
"What's so funny?" Nicole asked.
"Oh, I'm just realizing what a remarkable sense of humor God has; particularly tonight." I replied.
"Ma'am?" Nicole said quizzically.
I returned all the spilled contents to her purse, set it down at her feet and then squatted down in front of her.
"First of all, please don't call me ma'am. My name's Amanda." I told her.
"Amanda." Nicole said. "That's a pretty name."
"Thank you. So is Nicole." I told her. "Second, and you're probably not going to believe this, but today is my birthday too."
"Really?!!" Nicole said in utter awe.
Nicole's mood seemed to lighten tremendously and her eyes, or at least her good eye, brightened as she stared at me. For the first time, she smiled. And she had a very beautiful one; it literally lit up her face and caused another bizarre quiver to go ripping through my belly.
"Really!" I stated.
"How cool. So how old are you?" She asked.
"Older than twenty." I told her with a sly smile and a crafty wink of my eye.
"Oh come on. Don't be like that. After all, we've been through so much together already." Nicole jabbed and almost giggled.
"That's true." I sighed deeply and looked straight at her. "I'm forty."
"Get outta here!" She said. "You're 40 years old? No way!"
"Way." I replied.
"I wouldn't guess you a day over thirty." She told me.
"Sweetheart, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship." I said and smiled.
"Well, Happy Birthday, Amanda." Nicole said with another beautiful smile.
"Thank you." I said and took a breath. "Now, since we're such good friends Nicole; would you answer a question for me?" I began. "Who are you running away from?"
There was a very long silence as I could see Nicole arranging her thoughts and trying to decide whether to lie to me or not. I waited patiently and gently squeezed her still trembling hand that was resting on her knee.
"It's okay, honey. You don't have to be afraid. Please tell me the truth." I said softly. "Are you running away?"
"Sort of." She finally whispered.
"From who? Or from what?" I asked.
"Me, I guess." She said.
"What do you mean?"
"My life." She said. "My parents were both killed in a plane crash about three years ago. My Daddy had just gotten his pilot's license and took my Mom up with him to celebrate. Guess he needed a few more lessons." She took a deep breath. "The plane crashed into a house and killed an elderly couple that lived there. After their family's lawyers got through with me and my older brother Luke, there was nothing left. Ever since then I've been living with friends and taking whatever kind of work I could find. Then about a year ago, I got a job as a waitress in a Gentlemen's Club. It wasn't long before I became a dancer and was actually able to get my own apartment. Then about six months ago, Luke had to move in with me. He hasn't been the same since our parents were killed. Anyway, he doesn't approve of what I do, so when he gets drunk, he's fond of letting me know just how much he disapproves. Problem is he's drunk almost all the time now."
By now tears were stinging my eyes as I felt Nicole's every word stab deep into my soul. I sensed her desperation and pain slipping into my chest and tearing my heart out by the arteries. I just wanted to bundle her up in my arms and take care of her.
"So you didn't fall at work, did you?" I said as I gently touched her bruised eye. "Your brother hit you."
She could only nod her head at first as she struggled with everything she had to keep her emotions and her agony under control. Finally she looked up at me and continued.
"I haven't paid the rent in three months. I've been stock piling every dime I make in preparation to get out. When I got the eviction notice this morning, I knew it was time to go and I spent the day packing up. I wanted to be gone before Luke came home from work, but I didn't quite make it." She sighed. "Anyway, I was able to put him to sleep by busting his precious bottle over his head and left the eviction notice lying beside him on the floor."
"Any idea at all where you're might go?" I asked as I squeezed her hand. "You said you've been saving all your money."
"Yeah. Only problem is I wasn't very good at hiding it. I didn't want to put it in my bank account because like an idiot, I added Luke as a signer on the account. So I've been hiding the cash in my mattress. Fucking genius, right? Pardon my French." She sighed.
"Sounded like good English to me." I said and gave her a smile.
"Anyway, Luke must have found the money while I was at work last night because it was all gone this morning. After I knocked him out, I searched his pockets and all I found was a ten dollar bill. So combine that with all the money I made last night, I have a grand total of one hundred and ten dollars to my name. But I swear I'm up to date on my auto insurance premiums. I'm covered." Nicole let out a deep breath.
"I'm not worried about that, honey." I told her.
"Well, I am." She said.
As I had been listening to her story, the mind of the businesswoman inside me told me that this girl was a very talented actress; a big time player and she was now trying to play me for a fool. But the heart and soul of the mother inside me was telling me she wasn't. My only dilemma was which one I should listen to.
"Do you have some place to stay tonight?" I asked.
"You're looking at it." She replied, indicating toward the inside of her car.
"Out of the question." I stated.
"Pardon?" She whispered.
"There is no way on God's earth that you're going to spend Christmas Eve, let alone your birthday, sleeping in your car. And if God himself won't forbid it, then I will. Now, my house is only about five minutes from here and I have plenty of room." I told her.
"Amanda, I can't do that. It's Christmas Eve, after all. It's a family night. What about your family?" She said.
"My two little girls are the only family I have, and they are at their father's house until tomorrow night." I told her. "So I was going to be alone tonight anyway."
"Alone on Christmas Eve? And on your birthday?" Nicole mumbled then scoffed. "Sounds a lot like somebody I know. Oh yeah, it's me."
"Well not anymore! We're gonna solve each other's companionship dilemma by you coming home with me. You'll get a nice hot shower or bath, a hot meal, a warm bed and the most charming company in the great state of Texas; who is also gonna use her motherly medical skills to tend to your eye." I told her. "Because you didn't really go to the doctor about it, did you?"
Nicole lowered her head in shame and slowly shook it from side to side.
"Is this thing still drivable?" I asked.
"I think so." She whispered.
"Good. Now follow me, for birds of a feather flock together, my dear." I chirped sarcastically.
"Thank you." Nicole said in a whispered, cracking voice while tears streamed down her quivering cheeks.
Less than five minutes later, I pulled my jeep into my two car garage and directed Nicole to pull her beetle in right beside it. Taking one of her duffel bags from her backseat, Nicole followed me inside and I led her upstairs to my master bathroom. I told her to please feel free to use any and all of my shampoos, conditioners, body washes and moisturizers, then I stepped out into the hallway to get some fresh towels for her out of the linen closet. As I re-entered the bathroom with a stack of clean towels, my soul nearly leapt out of my body for the second time in as many hours. Nicole had stripped completely nude and was just sliding off her panties and kicking them aside as I came in.
"Oh!" I chirped. "God, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were already..."
My words trailed off as she looked at me innocently. Again, I felt that very strange quiver deep in my belly as I beheld Nicole's absolutely gorgeous naked body. I suddenly felt my heart skipping wildly around inside my chest and my breath catch in my throat. Nicole's body was what the deepest and darkest carnal desires and sexual fantasies were made of; a statuesque and curvaceous goddess of true femininity and pure sexuality. But there was something else. Something in her eyes as she looked at me. I almost got the feeling that she wanted me to see her naked. And the strangest thing of all was I didn't mind - not in the absolute least. Who would?
"Here are some fresh towels for you." I managed to spit out as I handed them to her.
"Thank you." Nicole said almost bashfully as she took them and quickly wrapped herself up in one. "I'm sorry, Amanda. I didn't mean to embarrass you. It's just that I'm so used to taking my clothes off in front of people that I didn't even think about it." She explained.
"You don't need to apologize, honey. It doesn't bother me. Hell, if I had a body like yours I'd..." I let the words trail off. "Well, you know. Enjoy your shower. I'm gonna go down and start dinner."
I turned on my heels and was out the door before Nicole had the chance to respond. I had left the room as quickly as I could, trying desperately not to look as if I was fleeing the scene of a crime. Closing the door, I pressed my back up against it and laid my hand on my chest. My heart was knocking like crazy, my pulse was exploding in my ears and I couldn't seem to catch my breath. As I tried to pull myself together, I felt that bizarre quiver deep in my belly once again. Taking a deep cleansing breath, I slid my hand down over my left breast and was greeted with yet another birthday night surprise; my nipples were rock hard and penetrating deep and tight into the lace of my bra.
"Good Lord. What the hell is happening here?" I mumbled under my breath. Then most unexpectedly, I giggled. "My first Christmas Eve without my daughters and I get rear ended on the way home by a homeless titty dancer. So I invite her to my house, watch her strip naked in my bathroom and now I think she might be trying to seduce me." I chuckled again. "And the most bizarre thing of all is that I hope she succeeds. What?!! Where the hell did that come from? I must say, God really does have a sense of humor tonight."