Authors: Cara Nelson
By Cara Nelson
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Tires crunched against the compact snow, creating thick, slick sheets of ice that the rubber gripped with desperation. Her fingers dug into the stiff steering wheel, holding the old bird steady, though the car still fought to slip and slid either direction off of the road. Brea slouched forward in the seat, squinting through the blinding, pure white of thick, heavy snowfall. It was a sheet, giving her barely any visibility. The muscles in her shoulders were tense, and her back was sore from leaning into the windshield. And she was cold. So cold. She’d fought with the heater before she’d pulled out of the parking lot, but it had sputtered and then stopped completely.
The roads were mostly clear ahead and behind her. She was the only idiot who’d decided to get on the road at the last minute, even knowing the weather that was rolling in. She was also the only idiot who had volunteered to work on Christmas Eve, knowing that she still had traveling to do. She had hoped that she’d get snowed in and not be able to make it home, but no such luck. If there was any chance of her making it to her parents, they expected her to be there. Now she was having to drive through the start of the blizzard in a dinosaur that could barely get her to and from work on a good day.
Flakes of snow created a thick wall around her and the world, her wipers rapidly throwing clumps left and then right, barely able to keep up with the heavy fall. It was no longer a light drum on the roof of her rust bucket, but now a steady, annoying drone. Small puffs of steam escaped her mouth. Her fingers were numb, her teeth chattering, her nose frozen, and she still had two more hours before she would pull into her parent’s driveway. She reached a shivering hand over to the small knob and turned the volume up on the radio. It was one of the few things that still worked in the car.
Brea bopped along to a few songs before the commercials started. She hated listening to the advertisements, and was tempted to reach across again to switch the station. The car swerved for a moment, but she was able to regain control before her tires left the road. Her chest constricted as she held her breath and bit into her tongue. Commercials were over. The DJ had come back on and was spieling out the news, including a weather report. The storm was moving in faster than they had anticipated, and she was being told now that she was soon to hit the worst of it. She grunted and reached over to turn the knob back. She didn’t want to give in, and didn’t want a DJ telling her she needed to.
The rough, charismatic voice moved on to the next subject, and Brea stopped.
“Now what do you think of billionaire playboy, George Clark?”
Stephanie asked Brian over the air.
“I have a lot of things that I could say about Mr. Clark, but I think I’d rather not,”
“Why? What’s he gotten himself into this time?”
Brea listened closely, waiting to hear the latest in adventures from the not-so-mysterious rich boy. He was always finding himself in the spotlight, and the entertainment from his exploits seemed to be endless.
“Don’t be so hard on him,”
the woman laughed softly.
“He’s young, he’s single, and he’s still figuring things out.”
“Wait, you’re not one of Georgey boy’s groupies, are you?”
Brian joked with his cohost.
“Come on! You have to admit that he’s a good-looking guy! Even
can’t deny it.”
“Oh he’s good looking. The problem is that he knows it and uses it far more than he should. So how’s he drawing attention to himself today?”
Stephanie replied, “
I have a feeling that our favorite bachelor is going to have an interesting holiday. So get this. Georgey is leaving the Christmas Gala, with some mystery blonde on his arm, of course.”
Brea rolled her eyes at the man’s predictability and at the hint of jealousy in the DJ’s voice.
“Someone took a shot at our boy.”
Stephanie paused to let the words sink in, and Brea let out an involuntary gasp. She was certainly not following the CEO’s every move, but she didn’t want him dead, either. She’d rather he just get a hard dose of reality and grow up a bit. She thought it disgusting that women threw themselves at his feet and he just tossed them aside as he pleased. Still, if someone was willing to take his life, he probably deserved it. She could only imagine the sort of businessman he was, just based on his actions in his personal life.
“Someone took a shot? Are they crazy? Do people not realize that Clark has nearly as much power and security as the President?”
Brian asked incredulously.
“Any ideas on who the shooter is?”
“Not yet, but there are rumors floating around already that it’s a business partner who was left out to dry. George wasn’t harmed, but they rushed him away before the crowds even understood what was going on.”
“And now that the news is out about the attempt on his life, I’m sure the internet just broke with the overflow of women who are devastated over the near loss.”
“You can’t blame us for being a bit starstruck by him. You’re not jealous, are you?”
“He’s got a glamorous kind of life.”
“Well where’s Clark now?”
“He was ushered away, but to where?”
“There are only rumors as to where he is now,”
“Some say he’s in a safe house; others have guessed that he is in protective custody. He hasn’t been seen since the incident, which was,”
there was a pause as Stephanie glanced at the time of the shooting,
“about two hours ago. By now, he could be anywhere.”
“Well I hope they catch the bastard. It’ll ruin all of the lonely housewives’ Christmases if something happens to that boy.”
“Until then, I don’t think there could be more competent protection for Mr. Clark. I can’t imagine he’s going to let it ruin
“Speaking of the holidays, have you finished all of your shopping?”
“There hasn’t been one year that I’ve not forgotten something until the night before Christmas and I have to fight off the crazed zombie moms who’ve been up for days decorating, wrapping presents, and baking Christmas cookies.”
“So what and who did you forget this year?”
Brea flipped the knob to the off position. She couldn’t concentrate on the road any longer, not with Stephanie’s shrill giggles in her ear. With the radio off, she realized just how strained the car had become as it putt-putted through the snow. Gears were grinding, and she was beginning to think that she should have just stayed home. It wasn’t like her family was going to truly miss her, anyhow. At least, not her parents.
They only wanted her there so they could point out how much a failure she was and how she’d messed up her life. But then, not showing up would only give her mother more ammo to use against her when reminding Brea of how disappointed she was in her daughter. That alone was incentive enough for her to push forward. She might not be loved or wanted, but she loved and wanted them. She wanted that fairytale family and she had every intention of having it, even if she had to force it the entire way.
The car slid on the ice again. Brea jerked her foot from the brake and tried to counter the car’s movements. She overestimated and slid off the road to the right, her front end landing into a shallow ditch packed lightly with snow.
“Shit!” she exclaimed, slapping a gloved hand onto the steering wheel. Climbing out, she sunk half a foot into the snow, immediately feeling the damp through her jeans. She’d not bothered to wear boots because she thought she’d have more than enough time to beat the storm. Now she cursed herself for not being better prepared.
Her back driver’s-side wheel lifted off the ground, and the car sat crooked in the embankment. She sighed to herself, knowing that she wasn’t going to be able to get it out by herself. She dug a hand into her heavy jacket, searching for her cell phone. She yanked off a glove, turned on the phone, and used the touch screen to call her mother.
She knew that her mother wasn’t going to be thrilled with the call or her cry for help, and she truly wished that she could change that. She truly wished that she could call her parents for help and that they would jump to rescue their daughter. She knew that they would likely tell her to find her own way, but who else was there for her to call? The phone was silent. After several frustrating seconds, she realized that she had no service and that her call had failed.
Brea slid back into the seat, the leather having turned to ice in the few moments she’d been outside. The car was still running, but without the heat working, there was no point in leaving it on. The snow still pounded down heavily around her car, but she knew that she was going to have to get out in it. If she were to stay here, she would freeze by the time someone drove by. Besides, it wasn’t much colder outside than it was in the car anyhow, and someone had to live somewhere around here. She knew from her previous trips that there were several homes scattered through those trees.
Reluctantly, she pushed open the driver’s-side door, the snow already threatening to shut her in as she shoved it outwards. Yanking her purse from the passenger seat, she slammed the door and locked it, though she was sure that even if anyone were to come across it, they wouldn’t find anything to steal. She climbed up onto the road so that she could at least have a bit of stability under her feet as she marched. Her tennis shoes threatened to slide on the ice as the fought to get a grip. She huddled in her coat and pulled her scarf up to cover her ears. The ice shavings sliced at her eyes, making them burn. She could barely see through the whiteness, but she pressed forward. There had to be something.
Her eyes swept left and right, searching for a glimpse of something: life, smoke from a fireplace, the out-of-place color of a car in the distance. She’d walked only half a mile, but her entire body burned as if she’d walked for ten. She’d been in the cold for twenty minutes, and she was beginning to worry that she would lose a limb. At this point, she’d vowed that if she came across an empty house, she wouldn’t think twice about breaking in. Let them come for her. At least she would be alive and warm.
Her feet only moved out of will, not out of feeling the ground beneath her. She stumbled, tasting the snow in her mouth, feeling it freezing at her cheeks. She pushed up, and as she lifted her body from the snow, saw a shimmer of hope to her left. A driveway leading up to a cabin that she could only glimpse through the wind and snow. Brea took off running towards the cabin, slipping on the ice.
The door was solid, with an old brass knocker, which she wrapped her stiff fingers around to pound on the door. She waited impatiently as she heard light footsteps fall behind it. Another long moment, and the door creaked open. A gush of warm, slightly smoky fireplace air slammed into her face, stunning her in its comfort for just a moment.