Sunday morning is shockingly cold. Frost glistens on the car; a crust of ice is in the water bottle left in the car. She packs quickly. A wind whistled through the mountains in the night, stripping the last vestiges of autumn from many trees; it is still blowing. Her sweat suit might not be sufficient for gas stations, the worst part of the winter’s drive. The winter kit is in the trunk except for the wool blanket, thrown carelessly in the back seat. The temperature drops with every mile as the park disappears in her rear view mirror.
The real nightmare begins innocently enough, the rain starting its assault on the highway, the air thick and the clouds creating a dark pall on the universe. Traffic slows as the highway ahead reveals tire tracks in the gathering slush, leading off the highway and onto the shoulder. Headlights help a bit; but soon, even the windshield wipers freeze in the slush. One moment she can see, and the next she is blind with the car still rolling down the highway, sightless.
Fear creeps up her spine with control out of grasp. Fighting the terror, she slows and turns on emergency lights, following the lead of the car in front. Even that is not sufficient. She turns the heater to full force, the heat aimed at the window to melt from the inside out. Still, the wipers stick. She lowers the window and reaches out of the moving car with the long-handled ice scraper to knock the wipers free. They only stick again.
She scans the darkness through the sleet for an exit. She is definitely in the country, and the exit sign only bears a campground symbol, covered in snow. “Great. I have to exit anyway. I can no longer drive in the freezing rain,” she laments, slowly pumping the brakes to creep off the highway, her car sliding in an arc. She holds the steering wheel until the sliding car stops; she slowly accelerates to turn back into the exit lane. “Dear God,” she prays, “please get me safely off this highway. How can anyone keep driving?”
The country road, however, is worse than the highway, the ice and slush now enhanced by blowing snow-building drifts across the landscape. In the distance, she thinks a neon sign is blinking its rainbow of lights, buried in snow. Any chance it’s a hotel?
The blizzard closes in while the trees bend from the weight of the ice. No distinction exists for the actual road from its edge. She barely feels the car slipping from the road, disappearing into the drift covering a deep gutter, darkness closing in. The yellow light on the gas refill blinks. “No,” she cries to herself, “I was concentrating so on the blizzard, I forgot to check the gas!” She blows her horn to draw attention, as the weight of snow burying the car increases. She pries at the doors, but they are jammed. She looks for something to break the window without success. The engine splutters to a stop; the heater is silent.
Of course! The cell phone! She did not charge the battery; the signal is too weak. The cold rapidly spreads its chilly fingers through her thin body, worn out from the exercise, the long drive and the stress. She wraps in the wool blanket, determined to figure a way out of the car. She thinks she sees the colors of the neon sign through the packed snow. Her eyes blur as she tries to focus, cooling tears running down her cold cheeks. Maybe she can get out through the trunk; she is just so very tired and so cold. Numbness grips her body as her eyelids close. Then rapturous warmth takes her in its embrace. She is behind beach dunes, peering through sea grass that bends in the wind. Past the dunes, palms also sway as the northern gale blows so hard beach walkers brace themselves to continue their trek along the shore. The sea is angry, visible in the twisting white caps that roar into the shore, confused about their direction. They build to heights of nearly five feet. Instead of rolling into shore, nearly five-foot waves break in frothy mist that carries beyond the dunes. The wind already stole the sand; the shore is littered with sea shells. She feels the salt in her hair and the cool mist on her face.
The wild furry of the sea appeals to the wildness in her, the desires she quells that are stirred with nature's violent display. In the distance, she measures the horizon. The sea must be nearly 20 feet, like mountains. Her eyes, though, watch a slender figure, his shirt billowing in the wind as he races across the sand. She knew he would come. She heard the music above the rush of the sea and she knew. He is here to capture that wildness and make it his own.
She runs from behind the dune, her long, dark hair flying in the wind, her caftan unfurling from around her youthful body, barely covered by two thin pieces of cloth passing themselves off as a bikini swimsuit. She runs, as fast as her long, slender legs can carry her, her heart pounding.
They meet half way, just as the sun drops through a thin place in the swirling clouds, above the cauldron sea, spreading rose and gold across the heavens. Their lips meet as their arms wrap each other in a warm embrace, almost painful. The hunger in their kiss as his lips press on hers, her mouth opening and responding to his, is just the beginning. His touch of fire adds to the dreamscape as Mel’s ghost claims her for eternity.
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