"Mom? Can I go back for some more?"

She glanced at her boyfriend's face and saw the look of disapproval, yet another sign this relationship was a huge mistake, before saying, "Sure. Go ahead, buddy."

The heavyset 11-year old pushed back from the table then headed for the buffet to fill a second plate as the man his mom was dating watched him walk, shaking his head the entire time.

"If you have something to say, say it," she said as the resentment welled up in her.

"Come on. At some point you gotta tell the kid 'no'. I mean, look at him. He's...he's fat, and you're enabling him. You get that, right?" he said as he turned back to look at her.

"And you get that he lost his father, right?" she replied doing the best she could not to let her growing anger show.

The man across from her shook his head then in a very patronizing tone of voice said, "That's been two years, for cryin' out loud. How long are you gonna let him wallow around in self-pity?"

Jordyn Knight was 40 years old, and had only recently started dating after losing her husband, Josh, a retired Air Force master sergeant, to cancer two and a half years ago. Her 11-year old son, Dax, had been with him and his mother in the hospice room when his father took his last breath. Dax and his dad had been inseparable, and when he died, Dax fell into a quasi-depression.

A psychiatrist at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, told her Dax wasn't clinically depressed but rather withdrawn. She was also concerned about how he'd turned to food for comfort, but as much as it bothered her, food was the only thing that seemed to give her son any relief. So yes, she did need to draw a line, but when and where to draw it were her decisions to make; not the man's that she'd been dating for the last two months.

She'd had her reservations about him from the start, but she kept hoping he'd change and then grow on her. He was an attractive man of 45 with a good job, and with the exception of the way he seemed to feel about her son, he seemed like a reasonably decent guy. But the more time she spent around him the more obvious it was becoming that he not only didn't love Dax, he was embarrassed by him, and this was the proverbial last straw.

"It's been two and a half years, but if you had the slightest amount of empathy inside you, you'd know it often takes much longer for a child to get over the loss of a parent. Especially when that parent was the child's whole world."

He could tell she was getting upset so he switched from patronizing to pedantic.

"Okay. You're right. You know more than I do, so I'll just be quiet. How's that?" he said with a fake smile glued to his face.

Jordyn shook her head then before Dax headed back to the table said, "You know what? You're right. I think it is time I put my foot down."

She stood up, grabbed her purse, and as Dax walked up to the table said, "Honey? I'm sorry but we're going to have to leave."

"Ahh. Right now?" he asked, his plate heaped with sausage links, bacon, and biscuits slathered in butter.

"I'm afraid so, buddy. I'm...putting my foot down and getting rid of some excess baggage."

She glared at her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend then gently took the plate from her son's hand.

"Come on. We'll stop somewhere along the way home."

"But what about..."

Before he could say the man's name, his mom said, "That's why I insisted we drive up here separately in our car."

She loved Glacier National Park, a 1,583 square-mile wilderness area in Montana's Rocky Mountains that bordered Canada on its north side. She hadn't been there since Josh was alive, and when her boyfriend—well, ex-boyfriend—suggested spending a weekend, she'd agreed as long as they had separate rooms and separate transportation.

That she felt the need to drive her own car should have been reason enough to say 'no', but she truly loved the park, and as much as she hated admitting it, she was often lonely to the point of sadness. She hated that she allowed that loneliness to affect her judgment, but it had, and now all she could do was vow not to let it happen again and be more selective in the men she dated.

It wasn't like she was unattractive. Like her late husband, she'd been an avid runner, swimmer, and bicycler, and still made time for those things as often as she could. She was not only in very good condition, she was also very pretty.

The problem, inasmuch as it was a problem, was choosing to stay in Great Falls after Josh passed away. They'd been there for ten years by then, and it was where Dax had been born and raised, and she just couldn't take him away from the few friends he'd still had or the only school system he'd ever attended.

Dax was and always would be her first priority, and she walked away from this first relationship fully committed to never again getting involved with someone who didn't want her and her son whether the relationship was short or long-term.

"But I'm still hungry," Dax told her.

She put her arm around him and said, "I know, honey," and left it at that.

August was such a beautiful time of year in northern Montana, and Jordyn was trying not to think about the long, cold winter ahead that would arrive in a few short weeks and hang on for far too many months. For now, she reveled in the warm sunshine and the beautiful scenery around her once they'd packed their bags and left Glacier Lodge.

As they put their bags in the car, Jordyn remembered the 'check engine' light that had come on during the drive up there. Josh had bought the car new when Dax was just three years old, and now it was eight years old and had just over a hundred thousand miles on it, and she knew it was due—no, over-due—for an oil change, and God only knew what other maintenance.

It started right up so she stopped worrying and promised herself she'd take it in as soon as she got home. Money was always tight, but not so much so that she couldn't afford to take care of the car. She just hated doing that kind of thing, and Josh, who'd loved doing it, had always made sure the maintenance got done on the car and the house.

He'd elected to take 'SBP' or the Survivor's Benefit Plan when he retired, and because he had, she received 55% of his military pension every month. They'd both agreed to reduce the amount of life insurance he had on himself on active duty from the standard $400,000 offered through the military's SGLI or Serviceman's Group Life Insurance, and opted for a $50,000 term policy thinking they'd never need it.

But just a few months after he retired from the Air Force, Josh started having night sweats along with a fever that often spiked to 104 degrees. Less than six months later, he passed away from the cancer that had spread from his liver to the rest of his body, and although money had been the last thing on her mind, she was later very aware that $50,000 was nowhere near $400,000.

She lived frugally and worked as a teacher's aide when Dax was in school, but that brought it in less than $15,000 a year. Together with what she received from Josh's retirement, they got by, but there wasn't a lot left over for frills. Buying a new car, or in her case, a used car that would be new to her, was something she didn't even want to think about.

The trip back to Great Falls was 155 miles and took about two and a half hours under normal conditions. But August was primetime for tourists coming to the park, so traffic was much heavier than normal.

They'd gone about an hour when the 'check engine' light came back on.

"Dammit!" Jordyn said quietly, hoping Dax hadn't heard her.

He was playing with his iPad, and normally wasn't aware of anything else. But not this time.

"What's wrong, Mom?" he asked as he looked over at her.

"Oh. Sorry, honey. The light just came on again."

"The check-engine light?" he asked, remembering what she'd told him on the way there.

"That's the one," she said as cheerfully as she could.

In spite of the heavy traffic, she was still averaging about 65mph on Interstate-15, and kept her fingers crossed when the passed by the little town of Conrad. There were several more similar small towns on the way to Great Falls, and if something went wrong, she hoped to at least be able to pull into one of them and call for help or possibly find a place to take a look at the problem.

Then again, it was Saturday and a little past ten in the morning, so she wasn't sure what she'd find open if she could get off the interstate or whether they could fix it and get her back on the road without having to get a room until Monday. Even then, if it was serious and they had to order parts she knew she could be there for several days, adding to the total expense.

Just before getting to Brady, the next 'hamlet' on the way home, the car started shaking.

"What's going on?" Dax asked as though his mom would know.

She could tell it was getting worse so she moved into the right lane and slowed to 55. For a few seconds that seemed to helped before the same problem came back even at the lower speed. It got increasingly worse, and Jordyn realized it was time to pull over.

She used her signal to give the car behind her advanced warning, and as she pulled off the highway, she saw a younger man flip her off as though she was impeding travel. Okay, maybe she was, but it wasn't intentional, and now she was getting worried.

"Mom. Why are we stopping?" Dax asked.

She took a deep breath to make sure her frustration over her failed relationship and this major inconvenience didn't get the best of her.

"There's something wrong with engine," she said, knowing she was stating the obvious.

Once she was as far off the road as she could get, Jordyn turned the key to shut off the engine, and the entire car sputtered and shook hard enough to startle them both.

"Just lovely," she said as they sat there while cars whizzed by without so much as slowing down.

The area was notorious for a lack of cell coverage, and sure enough, she had zero bars when she pulled her phone out.

Wanting to either cry or scream, Jordyn forced herself to take another deep breath and sit quietly.

"What are we gonna do, Mom?" Dax asked, pushing his mom's patience to the limit.

She took another deep breath, forced a smile, then said, "Wait in the car for help."

Without saying a word, Dax went back to playing whatever game he was playing that didn't require Wi-Fi or cell service while Jordyn tried to hold it together. After a couple of minutes she nearly laughed at the thought of her ex-boyfriend driving by and also flipping her off.

She wasn't sure how long she sat there with her eyes closed, but at some point she heard a tap on the glass right near her face that caused her to shriek before realizing in was a Montana Highway Patrol officer.

"Oh, my goodness. You scared me," she said as she rolled the window down without wondering why the power still worked when the engine wouldn't.

"What seems to be the trouble, ma'am?" the man in uniform who was about her age asked.

Jordyn explained what happened and that she had no cell service. He told her he'd been assigned to this area for the last twelve years and understood completely.

"Do you have a towing company you'd like me to call and/or someone in Great Falls?" he asked after she let him know where she was going.

"Um, no. I've never needed to be towed before so I wouldn't even know who to call."

"I'd recommend we start with your insurance company and let them give us the towing company and the repair shop or you might end up with a heck of a bill."

Jordyn was insured with USAA and got out the insurance card which had the number to call on it.

"I'll have to have us patched through dispatch, but we'll get you out of here, okay?" the patrolman said with a smile.

Jordyn thanked him and uncharacteristically found herself wondering if he was single before chiding herself for doing so. As much as she still missed her husband every single day, living alone was becoming less and less bearable even with Dax in her life, so she quickly forgave herself and tried to forget the whole thing.

The officer came back and said, "Okay, we have two choices in Great Falls."

He read her the names and asked if she had a preference.

"No. I'm not familiar with either, so maybe just go with the first one?" she suggested.

"Will do. Sit tight," the nice-looking officer who just happened not to be wearing a ring said.

Less than five minutes later he came back and let her know the first place was closed and that he'd called the second.

"Will they be sending someone?" she asked as the thought of being stranded there hit her.

"Yes. They're sending a tow truck right now. Do you need anything? Would you like me to stay with you for a while?"

"Did they say how long it might be?" she asked.

"No, but he did say he was leaving immediately so I'd guess maybe an hour give or take."

"Oh, all right. Well, we're okay, and I don't really see any need for you to babysit us," Jordyn told him with a pleasant smile.

He smiled back then said, "Okay, I'll let other units know you're here and to keep an eye out. This time of year we've got two other cars on this stretch of interstate so it shouldn't be more than 20-30 minutes before the next Montana Highway Patrol car passes by."

Jordyn thanked him then he asked her again if she needed anything at all.

"A new boyfriend?" she quipped, shocked that she'd just said that.

The highway patrolman smiled then pulled out his wallet. He fished out a card then handed it to her.

"I'm on duty right now, but since you mentioned it, I wouldn't mind if you ever cared to give me a call."

"You know what? I might just do that," she replied, feeling better about her decision and actually feeling confident for the first time ever where dating was concerned.

"I'll look forward to hearing from you, Ms..."

For the first time, he noticed the ring on her left hand which had mostly been on the armrest.

"Oh...you know what? Forget that," he said, a look of disgust on his face.

"No. I...I'm...my husband...he..."

She nearly whispered, "Passed away," knowing Dax was in awe of the uniform and listening to every word.

"Oh. I'm...I'm sorry. I don't normally make assumptions," he said apologetically. "While I really am sorry for your loss, I'm equally sincere in hoping you might call."

"Thank you, officer, and I will definitely consider that," Jordyn said with a very sweet smile.

"All right. If you're sure you're okay, I'll be getting back on the road," he told her.

Since his arrival, traffic had slowed and the road noise was quite bearable, allowing them to talk in a conversational tone. Once he pulled back into traffic, however, people got back up to speed within seconds, and Jordyn had to roll the window up even though it was getting warm.

It was almost 90 minutes later when another vehicle with flashing lights appeared in her rearview mirror.

"Oh, thank goodness!" she said as she saw the blue and white tow truck go by her very close to her door, pull off the road, then back up. She'd noticed the words 'Big Sky Towing' on the side but didn't see anything else.

"Mom? I gotta pee," Dax said all of a sudden.

She'd needed to go for sometime, too, but having no choice, she was holding it. But Dax didn't hold it well, and he was too shy to get off the road and pee even if there were trees, so there was no way that was happening on the interstate.

"All right. We have to get the car on the tow truck first. Then we can ask about stopping somewhere. Can you hold it for a few more minutes?" she asked as the tow truck driver got out.

"I guess," her son said as he bounced his legs, a sure sign he was about to bust.

Jordyn knew that meant 'not for long' but also knew there was nothing she could do about it for now. When she looked up, the driver was standing right next to her window, and just like before, he startled her.

"Oh, my gosh! You scared me just like the Highway Patrolman," Jordyn said as she was rolling her window down.

As she looked up at him, the smile faded from her face even though he was smiling at her.

"My apologies. I didn't mean to frighten you," he said.

Jordyn hadn't seen anyone that attractive in quite some time, with the exception of actors or athletes on television. Seeing someone that good looking driving a tow truck surprised her to the point of being speechless.

"Ma'am? Did you want to step out?" she heard him ask.

She realized he must have said it once while her brain was trying to process how a 'movie star' could be in the middle of Montana driving a tow truck.

"Right. Yes. Definitely," she said as she reached for her purse.

"You got everything, Dax?" she asked her son.

"Not my bag," he replied.

"It's in the trunk with mine. We won't be needing them with us in the tow truck," she explained.

"Oh, okay. Then I'm all set," Dax said, his eyes glued to the big blue-and-white truck parked right in front of them.

The driver opened her door and helped her get out and smiled at her again as he asked, "Are you guys okay other than being stranded out here?"

"Yes. We're fine. I'm just so glad you're here," she yelled over the noise of cars that were barely slowing down. Evidently, the kind of flashing lights mattered.

He stood between her and the traffic then called over to Dax and yelled, "Stay on that side okay, buddy?"

Dax squinted as he looked over and nodded.

"That's my son. Dax," Jordyn said.

"Okay, and you're Mrs. Knight, correct?"

"Yes," she yelled back as he escorted her to the passenger's side of the tow truck where it was much quieter.

"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Knight. I'm Kash Hardaway," he told her in a loud voice without yelling.

"Cash?" she asked.

"Yes. Kash, but with a 'K'," he told her with a smile.

"Is that your real name?" Dax asked when Kash stuck out his hand to shake the boy's.

"Yes it is. And I understand yours is Dax. Is that right?"

"Uh-huh," the boy replied.

"Okay, Dax. Can you maybe help your mom get up in the truck?" Kash asked.

The fact that the driver took the time to make her son feel needed made Jordyn smile. She could easily get in by herself, but she allowed her son to open the door and offer her a hand.

"Thank you, sir," she told him with a smile.

"He's quite the gentleman," Kash told her as he gently slapped Dax on the shoulder.

"Tell you what. If your mom says it's okay, you wanna help me get your car up into the back of this beast?"

Dax's eyes lit up, and for the first time in a very long while, Jordyn, who was looking down from the cab, saw her son smile.

"Mom! Can I?" he asked as he held the iPad up for her to take.

"I'll make absolutely sure he's in no danger," Kash told her, still smiling at her.

"Please, Mom?" Dax begged before she could answer.

"Okay. Just listen to everything Kash tells you, okay?" she warned.

"I will! I promise!" the boy said as Kash was putting his arm around his shoulder and leading him toward the rear of the vehicle.

They no sooner got there than Jordyn saw them turn around and walk back to where they'd just been standing.

"It seems someone has to pee really, really bad," Kash said to Jordyn, his hand on Dax's shoulder.

"Yes, he's been holding it for a while now," his mother admitted, hoping she wasn't embarrassing him.

"No worries. I was a Boy Scout and we are always prepared!" Kash said.

Jordyn saw him explaining something to Dax then pointed to the rear of the cab. Kash opened the door and helped Dax climb up then Kash ran around to the front and got in.

"But my mom will see me," Dax said, causing Jordyn some confusion.

"No she won't," Kash said as he reached behind her and pulled on a tarp-like curtain on a wire rod. He pulled it his way and Dax all but disappeared.

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