The night sky sparkles in the inky blackness as the snow crunches under my boots. The city is asleep, partly because of the late hour, and because the weather has been shit. Which is why I’m walking home from the bar tonight, and not driving my truck.
Stuffing my hands into the pockets of my jacket and ducking my head into the wind, I pick up the pace. I stayed out longer than I meant to and my morning wake up call is going to come in just a few hours.
Pulling my phone out of my back pocket, I check the temperature.
My face is about to freeze off. Luckily I only have a few more blocks to go.
“How am I going to get us out of this mess?”
The voice of a woman cuts through the night. It’s one of distress, and irritation. It’s also one that sounds familiar to me. Picking up speed, I hurry to where I heard the sound coming from.
Once I turn the corner, I see a little Toyota I recognize. A brunette is standing beside it with her hands held on top of her head. One I’ve always thought was beautiful, one who has been the star of so many of my adolescent fantasies. I haven’t seen her as much in the last couple of years. Not since she became a single mother, and stopped hanging out so much with my sister, Riley.
“Claudia?” I call out, not believing what I’m seeing.
“Declan!” The relief is palpable. “Did I conjure you up?”
Chuckling, I hurry over to where she stands. “No, I’m coming from the bar up the street. Decided to walk since the roads are shit.”
She blows out a breath. “I should’ve done the same, but couldn’t with him,” she points into the backseat.
“How’s the little guy?” I look in, noticing he’s knocked out, his head jacked to the side against his car seat.
“He’s good,” she smiles. “He’s slept through this whole situation,” she holds her hands out in front of her.
“What’s going on here?”
She sighs heavily. “I’m supposed to be on my shift at the hospital right now, but I got stuck. As you can see. I called his dad to see if he could come help us,” she seems to be fighting tears. “He said he’d be here and that was three hours ago, and I’ve just gotten stuck worse.”
“Claud, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” she sniffs. “It is what it is.”
“Let’s see if we can get you out.”
I walk around the car, trying to figure out what the best way is to get her out of the embankment she’s gotten herself stuck in.
“What do you want me to do?” She asks.
“Get back in the car, I’m gonna push,” I push on the bumper. “Roll down your window so you can hear me.”
“Thank you so much, Declan,” she says before getting into the driver’s seat.
“Not a problem, and don’t thank me until I get you outta here.”
I rock the car back and forth, trying to get it out of the hole she’s dug herself into by continuing to spin the wheels.
“Turn it to the left and give it some gas,” I instruct.
She does as I’ve told her to and I take a little bit of a running start to get some force behind my push. It starts to move. My footing begins to slip but I continue pushing. “Gas, gas, gas…don’t be scared.”
“No crank it to the right slightly. Okay, back to the left and gas, gas, gas.”
“Yay!” She claps as she gets back onto the road. The brine and sand allow her tires to grip the surface, although it’s slick.
Since it’s just the two of us on the road, she gets out, coming around. “Thank you so much.”
“Are you still going to work?”
“Yeah,” her eyes don’t meet mine. “I can’t afford to lose the hours. Even though I’m late, I’ll still be able to get paid for something.”
“Do you feel comfortable driving yourself?” I eye the ice and snow-covered asphalt.
“We’ll just take it slow,” she shrugs.
Mind made up, I grab her hand, ignoring how good it feels. Walking her over to the passenger side, I open the door. “Get in, I’ll take him wherever it was you were taking him, and then we’ll swing you by work. Just let me know what time you get off and I’ll make sure to be there.”
“No,” she protests. “We’re not your responsibility.”
“Maybe not, but I think we both know Riley would have my ass if she knew I left you alone in this vulnerable situation.”
She makes a noise in the back of your throat. “She would definitely have a few choice words to say.”
Raising an eyebrow, I look at her. “A few?”
“Alright Declan, we appreciate it.”
After getting into the driver’s seat, I buckle in and then ease onto the street, aware of the precious cargo I’m transporting.