It was raining on the highway. Icy rain. She had everything she owned in the back of her SUV.
It was a few weeks until Christmas. She was leaving, going back home to live with parents. Her life was a wreck, she’d given up hope that it would ever be any different.
It had been five years since her husband’s death, but it still hung over her like a long shadow.
Three car lengths behind her:
He was driving a green truck. He was from a different state, on his way to Tennessee, to accept a job in the English department of a community college.
He didn’t notice her brake lights because of the rain.
It was not serious. Her airbag didn’t even deploy. She was in shock, but not hurt.
He helped her out of the vehicle. He led her to the median. She sat on the highway shoulder with her kids. When her surprise finally started to wear off, she let her eyes focus on him.
“W-W-Who are you?” were her first words.
“I’m the guy who hit you,” he said. “I’m really sorry about this, ma’am.”
“Okay,” was all she could manage to say.
“I really didn’t mean to run into you, it was all my fault.”
“Are you gonna be alright, ma’am? You’re just in shock, I think, that’s all it is.”
“Should we call our insurance companies or something?”
Then, it all fell upon her. She began to cry. “My insurance is expired,” she said. “They’re probably gonna arrest me.”
He held her. It had been a long time since she’d been held by someone.
“We’ll work this out,” he said. “I’ll pay for it. We don’t have to call the police, as long as you’re okay. Are you okay?”
The rain kept falling.
They drove to a truckstop restaurant. They changed into dry clothes. He bought supper for her and her children. She could tell he was a good man by the way he kept trying to make her boys laugh.
It had been a long time since anyone had made her boys laugh.
Their conversation was easy, not forced. One thought followed another. Two hours later, they were still in a cafe booth. She told him everything. The words came out of her like she was draining an infection.
She told him about her late husband, about the tragedy that followed his death. She had a lot to say. He listened to every word.
It was getting late. Nobody felt like driving that night, so he paid for hotel rooms. They all sat by an indoor pool. Her boys went swimming.
The next morning they parted ways in the parking lot. He gave her his number, written on a piece of paper. She thanked him for his kindness.
“Let me know how much repairs cost,” he said. “I’ll pay for everything.”
“I will,” she said.
They shook hands. Then, they hugged. It was an awkward hug at first. But only at first.
She arrived at her mother’s that evening. The following weeks were a blur. Her boys unpacked. They settled into the house. She had a few job interviews lined up. Her father played basketball with her boys. Her mother baked Christmas cookies.
She should’ve been happy. But she wasn’t. She’d given up on ideas like happiness.
Christmas came quickly, it was uneventful. Soon, it was New Year’s Day brunch—which was always a big event at her parents’ house. Her relatives visited from all over to eat her mother’s cooking. Uncles, aunts, cousins, and annoying neighbors with nasal voices.
That morning, the house was overrun with elderly people, kids, and dogs. Music played. Everyone drank eggnog.
The doorbell rang.
Her mother shouted. “Would you see who that is, honey? I’m up to my arms in food!”
She opened the door.
At first, she was dumbfounded to see him on the porch steps. He had brought a bottle of sparkling wine, and a box of candy. He was even wearing a necktie.
“You,” she said.
“Yeah,” he said.
“What’re you doing here?”
“Your mom called and invited me. I hope that’s okay.”
It was more than okay. It was the most perfect thing that ever happened to her.
And they have been perfect for twelve years ever since.
Don’t give up.