Full Rights Reserved 2009
Thank you to Tim who was the inspiration for this story.
Victoria continued to drive even though she had already been on the road for hours. At times tears blurred her vision and at other times the winter air outside obscured the windshield until she turned on the defrost. She knew she would have to stop soon. She waited until her gas tank hit E and pulled over at a deserted looking gas station. She knew he wouldn't follow this far or have any idea which direction she was headed but she couldn't help but glance around looking for his all-too-familiar face. She paid for gas and food with cash and sped off again, willing the miles to pass faster, for the memories to stop their nightmarish flashes through her mind as she put distance between her and the man who started it.
She didn't want to be easily found and took turns away from any large city, wanting to be lost where no one would find her. She didn't look at any map but felt herself becoming safer as the number of houses diminished and the number of barns increased.
She would need a place to sleep that night and guessed she could drive until six or seven before giving in to her exhaustion. She found herself winding up into the mountains, where the snow was blowing around the car, and piling up on the side of the roads.
Her fear prevented her brain from thinking logically about the effect of snow and wind on the roads until she felt her rear tires swerve and slide her car four to five feet across to the opposite side of the road. Her hands started shaking as she became aware of her surroundings and she rushed to drive onto her side of the road. She was grateful no one came. She slowed down and looked out for a hotel.
The first lights she saw were not a hotel but a diner. She pulled in and closed her eyes to rest a few moments before zipping up her coat and heading into the warmth. The diner was empty until the bell above the door rang and a waitress walked out, popping her chewing gum.
Victoria chose a booth near the door and ordered some comfort food that she wouldn't usually indulge in. Yes, a big juicy burger first, then she'd ask for help finding a hotel. It wasn't that she planned on staying hidden forever. She knew Philip would stop caring when he found another attractive woman he could manipulate, but until that happened she wanted to be unreachable. She would rather suffer the inconvenience of disappearing for a while, than risk him showing up at her door and exerting his anger on her face.
What must be in Philip's past that he would act so deceptively? She felt sorry for him for a moment, wondering who had manipulated and hurt him that he couldn't enjoy a relationship for the beautiful thing it was, without feeling the need to control it. The wondering didn't last long. Victoria was too innocent, too trusting, awarding good motives to everyone. She was an idealist, and imagined that with love, compassion and attention most people would reciprocate the love she put out into her world.
It was easy to let her thoughts drift because she was the only one in the diner, her meal was taking a while to cook and she noticed the snow piling higher and higher.
The quiet was broken by the sound of the bell above the front door ringing as the door opened. The wind had picked up since she'd been sitting there and she pulled her sweater closer around her.
A handsome man walked in, she thought it strange he wore dark glasses after dark. His pleasant voice called for Dina who must be the waitress she had met earlier.
Tim pushed on the door of the diner, not sure it would open because he wouldn't be surprised if Dina had closed up early. He should probably eat quickly and get back before the snow made it difficult to walk. After the bells at the door finished jingling he called out to Dina to get a sense of who was in the diner. He didn't hear any sounds so he walked the three steps to 'his' booth, slid his hand along the table edge, felt the adjoining seat. He shrugged off his coat, pushed it ahead of himself into the seat, and sat down.
Dina still hadn't made an appearance and he rubbed his hands to warm them. Instead of hearing steps and a door slamming from the back, his hearing tuned in to a light breathing sound. He had thought he was alone. Then the breathing turned into a giggle and he was surprised at how close the other person was. Obviously a female. This was awkward. Had he really sat down at a booth where someone else was sitting? Neither one of them knew what to say. He turned towards the voice completely embarrassed.
Tim extended his hand towards where the giggle had originated from. He found it easier to initiate the handshake quickly so the other person could find his hand easily. "Unless I'm hearing voices in my head I think I have just sat in a booth that was already occupied. I'm Tim."
"Yes, I think I was here first. I'm Victoria." she grasped his hand and enjoyed the firm handshake.
"I am so embarrassed. This wasn't the first mistake I've made because of my blindness and I'm sure it won't be the last, but I am so sorry."
Oh, that explained the strange mistake and the dark glasses. She hadn't seen any clumsiness or confusion in his actions which might have served as a cue. "And here I thought you sat down to flirt with me." She laughed trying to make him feel comfortable, and his light laughter joined hers.
As the laughter ended the back door opened and Dina walked in carrying Victoria's lunch. "Tim, I didn't hear you come in. I hope you haven't been waiting long. Oh, I didn't realize the two of you were together. Are you going to introduce me to your friend?"
Tim and Victoria laughed again. "Yes, of course. Dina this is Victoria. Victoria this is Dina. The sign outside says this is the "Zoriah Diner" but it's really "Dina's Diner". This is her place." Dina's curly gray hair was held loosely in a bun in the back of her head with a plastic rose emerging from her curls.
"Nice to meet you, Dina. This looks like a great place, I'm really looking forward to that delicious looking burger."
"It's nice to meet you, and I will give you ten percent off your bill, since you're here with Tim." Dina was extravagant in her friendships.
"That is very generous, but if the burger tastes as good as it looks, I'll happily pay full price. Thank you."
"Well, I hope you enjoy it, let me know if I can get you anything else. The peach pie was made fresh this morning. Now Tim, I didn't expect you this evening with all the snow out."
"I had no idea how thick it was until I was already out my door so I figured I'd just continue on my way. I needed to get out of the house. Since I'm here could I get your vegetable beef soup to help me warm up?"
"Of course. Well, you be careful and take care of your beautiful friend here as well."
Dina walked away and again awkwardness increased. "I think I've embarrassed myself enough today, and you came to eat alone so I'm going to find another place to sit." Tim started sliding towards the end of the booth as he finished his sentence.
Victoria surprised herself as she quietly spoke the words, "I didn't come here to eat alone."
"No? Well, then I better leave quickly in case some jealous boyfriend comes in and finds me here."
Victoria felt sad again at the reminder of her boyfriend and why she was here anyway. Maybe she should send him away because if Philip did come in he would act out every stereotype of the jealous boyfriend in the book. She had forgotten Philip for brief moments of feeling awkward.
"No, please don't. I meant that you can stay if you want. I don't have anyone coming and I would enjoy the company."
"If that's said in all honesty then I will stay because I'd much prefer a dinner with you." He meant what he said.
Tim slid back into the booth but there was still an awkward pause. He heard the music playing in the background. He wondered what conversation he could have with a woman he didn't even know, and felt himself growing nervous.
To break the uncomfortable silence, Victoria decided to be brave and ask a question. "From what you were saying to Dina, I gather you live close enough to walk here. Is that right?"
Tim nodded his head while shrugging off his jacket. "That's right. I have a place near here. It's close to the diner, and close to the school where I teach music. I get around pretty easily in this area. I know where everything is, and everybody knows me." He liked the sound of her voice, and wanted to hear more of it, so he asked her a question in return. "I gather the snow's pretty bad, huh? I shudder to think about you driving in this, but you must to get here."
Surprisingly as they talked about the snowstorm, and touched a little on his blindness the awkwardness evaporated, replaced by a comfortable easy. If he had to describe this stranger he would use the words, kind, educated, nervous, and entrancing. Her voice and smell was like a song.
As she finished her dinner, knowing a little more about the stranger she sat with, Victoria realized that there would be a few people who would worry about her if she just disappeared. She reached in her purse for her cell phone and purse for her credit card. She shuffled around and couldn't find either one. The cash she had used earlier was cash from her jeans pocket that she grabbed from her apartment before leaving. She checked the pockets of her jacket and jeans. She started getting frantic as she was hours from home.
She said to Tim, "I'm sorry I can't seem to find my cell phone, I'm going to empty out my purse here to try to find it."
"Sure, go ahead." Tim said as he finished sipping his soup.
Even with the contents of her purse emptied on the table, and each side pocket unzipped, she realized it wasn't there. Only when she hadn't taken it out and she knew it wasn't in her car or at home did it sink in that the only place it could be is in Philip's hands.
Tim hadn't interrupted Victoria's searching but continued to eat. Her movements became jerkier and her breathing increased. He could tell that something was urgently wrong. He wanted to ask if she needed help because he was enjoying her company. Her voice wound in and out of him almost like a song. He wondered if she felt like she sounded.
Victoria excused herself from the table to use the pay phone. He heard her dial and put in coins but couldn't hear what she was saying. He decided to pay his bill and called out to Dina, as he walked to the register. Now he was closer and could hear her voice.
"Joan, I'm not joking. I'm in a small town hours from you but I don't want to tell you where I am......I can't really tell you that....I just think the less you know about it the better....Well, I can tell you it is because of Philip...No, I won't tell you what else, he knows where you live and he might come and it will be better for you if you can honestly say you don't know there even is a problem or where I am....Yes....Yes...Well I haven't found a place yet....It's snowing outside so I can't go farther anyway....I do have one favor. I don't have my credit card or cell phone. Could you go to my apartment and find the paperwork on my credit card, Oh and please look up the number for Verizon so I can call them to tell them....I'll have to call you as soon as I can...Yes, probably tomorrow, does that give you enough time...I know it won't be long...Don't tell anyone....That's true...You could just tell them I had a last minute trip, yeah, a ski trip invitation and I just left and you're watering my plants...Please Joan...I'll tell you more later....Yes, I'd appreciate your prayers....Bye."
Tim wished he could see her, to know what she was feeling, to see if her eyes would give him any more clues to what was going on in her life. He wondered who Philip was and what he had done.
He returned to the booth, hoping she would return so he could help her. She could hear her footsteps toward the register and she paid for her bill. So she must have some cash if she could pay her bill.
"Dina, I'm looking for a hotel for the night, can you recommend any place cheap?" Her voice was attempting to be strong but had a slight quaver.
"Oh sweetheart, we almost never get visitors out this way. I don't know where you'd stay nearby. Of course Tusca is another hour along and they have a few Bed and Breakfasts. Should I draw you a map?"
"Yes, that would be wonderful." Victoria tried to pay attention as Dina explained the roads and turns, but had no faith in herself that she could find her way in the increasingly snow-covered unfamiliar area.
She returned to the booth. She loaded the things back in her purse. "Well Tim, I appreciated our chat and not eating alone, but I think I should go on before the snow gets thicker."
"Are you sure you should be driving in the snow?"
"No, I'm not sure. I never drive in snow, but I'd rather start now." Victoria sense the compassion in Tim's voice and it made her voice quiver as she spoke.
"Victoria, I'd love to help, if you'd let me." He didn't know what he was offering exactly but he felt his heart strings being pulled strongly towards this woman and didn't want her to leave so helpless and lost.
"Oh, that's fine Tim, I'll drive slowly and things will look better tomorrow." She needed to get away before she started crying as the overwhelming feeling started taking over as she looked out into the darkness with the snow almost glowing from the diner lights. "Thanks for chatting. Bye."
So, that was it. She was leaving and he couldn't help. He heard the sound of a shuffling coat and said, "Bye Victoria" he said.
A beautiful woman in and out of his life again, with only one conversation and one handshake. It wasn't enough for him. He needed more out of life and more of her. He called out to Dina, who came over to his booth.
"Has she pulled out yet?" Dina shuffled to the window.
"No, she leaned forward with her head on her steering wheel."
"Can you tell what she's doing?" Tim was even more curious now.
"Hmm, hard to tell...okay she's lifting her head. Oh no, Tim, she's crying. She's practically sobbing there in the freezing car. Oh, poor dear." Dina sounded just like a caring mother.
"Did you hear what she was saying on the phone?" Tim asked.
"No, did you?"
"Yes, parts of it, I think she's in trouble. Tell me where her car is in proximity to the door Dina, so I can go talk to her." Tim's heart was going out to Victoria who could only be strong long enough to make it to her car without breaking down. He was sure her day had turned out much different than she had planned.
"Well, let's see." She moved toward the window so she could describe it better. "Go out the door and maybe take two steps to get off the front sidewalk so you're in the parking lot. There are no other cars there but the snow is quite high. Turn to your left, and maybe twenty steps, maybe, and you'll get to the front of the car." Tim was putting on his coat as he listened to her directions. He thanked Dina and easily found his way to the door, but then slowly made his way to the car.
Victoria heard a tap on the window and felt so embarrassed as she saw Tim's face so close to hers separated by the glass. She hadn't realized anyone knew she was still in the parking lot. She lowered the window. They greeted each other cautiously.
"Victoria I hate to know you're sitting here crying. I could tell something was really bothering you as we talked and as you searched your purse. I really would like to help. I'd hate to hear about something happening to you as you drove another hour in this snow. I have an extra room in my house and want to offer it to you." She needed a friend and he wanted to help.
"Oh Tim, that's sweet but it would be an inconvenience and I have all my things in the car, and should just get going." He could hear that she was wiping the tears from her cheeks as she spoke.
"I live very close to here. We can leave your car here and carry a few things to the house. I could give you your own key so you can leave any time. I'm a decent guy, you can trust me."
"I don't know Tim. I'm not really trusting of guys right now."
"At least come back into the diner, and let Dina give me a character reference?"
That sounded reasonable and Victoria agreed. She put her hand on his elbow as they walked which he interpreted as a good sign. Once inside Tim explained the offer to Dina, and asked her if she felt comfortable recommending that Victoria stay with him for the night.
Dina leaned in and hugged Victoria and spoke, "Victoria Dear, I can promise that Tim will be a gentleman, and you are blessed to have such a great offer from such a great guy. He's not a womanizer. He's a kind man with a lot to offer."
Victoria started feeling more comfortable right away and with that came a yawn. She knew that the snow combined with her emotions, and tiredness was not a combination for a drive, so she agreed to stay with Tim.
Victoria had known men like her father that were wonderful. She had known men who were okay, but not for her, but she had also known men like Philip, who looked good on the outside but had a streak of evilness in them, that wasn't often visible, but not buried deeply. She wondered what kind of man Tim was. From first impressions he seemed wonderful. He could carry a conversation, he was handsome, he was thoughtful, and he hadn't imposed but offered his home. He seemed to have potential to be wonderful, but she had thought that about Philip too. She would take him up on his offer but keep her eyes open for the red flags she'd missed with Philip.
They dropped her bags at the entrance. She glanced back over her shoulder confirming to herself that she knew the way back to the car and diner if she needed to leave suddenly. The house was small but warm. He showed her around the house briefly, and talked about the weather, safe topics. The bed in the room that would be hers wasn't made up and she wasn't sure how to approach the subject. He led her back to the living room. She would never know he was blind to see him around his own home. He encouraged her to sit and relax in front of the fire. He walked away to get her a hot drink, and then she watched as he got linens from a closet and went into her room. He was a thoughtful host. She couldn't even remember the last time Philip had worried over her comfort. She laid her head on the back of the couch. Tim joined her on the couch with his own hot drink.
"I'm so thankful to be here and not out on the road right now. It seems I'm the one who is embarrassed now."
"Well, then we're even. No reason for anything to be awkward." He responded. He wanted to ask a whole lot more, but it could wait.
"Thank you." She still felt awkwardness but each minute seemed to ease it.
They sat quietly for a while. The situation was a strange one for both of them and shallow conversation didn't seem appropriate but Victoria wasn't awake enough for a deep conversation.
"Do you like piano music?" Tim quietly questioned.
"I love it, but it might put me to sleep."
She assumed he would rise and put on some music on his sophisticated sound system, but instead he turned to the other wall, where she hadn't even noticed a piano. He sat and started playing for her.
Tim was happier than he should have been at her agreeing to stay with him. Here was an opportunity to help her and maybe even get to know her better. First he played some songs she might recognize. Then he thought about the lovely, lonely woman in his own room, in his own house where he had found refuge. He hoped she would find some too. The music turned sadder and Tim improvised some chords and music that reminded him of her. He often got lost in his music, and tried to bring himself back to her.