The day Dad died, it started raining men. I just wished that Dad could be here to see me get married and walk me down the aisle. He was not there for my first wedding because I eloped on an impulsive whim. Luckily Dad was okay about my elopement even though I knew he was not too fond of my now ex.
When I divorced over ten years ago, I decided I was better off remaining single. That decision only lasted two years until my biological clock started ticking and I wanted to become a mother. Since I had already rededicated my life to the Lord I began praying for a godly husband. I just never thought God would take so long to bring a great man into my life. Now that Dad was gone, attractive, available men were entering my life.
It was not like I never had any opportunities to date anyone throughout the last ten years. I just did not care much for the men well meaning people would want to fix me up with. Maybe my extreme pickiness was due to the trauma that occurred during my first marriage. Friends and coworkers have often told me that agreeing to go on just one date did not mean that I had to marry that person. I could have agreed to just one date with any of those opportunities, but staying at home with my dog or hanging out with my parents sounded much more fun.
The past opportunities that seemed to come my way often consisted of men who were closer to my parents' age than mine, men who were noticeably shorter than I, or men who just gave me the creeps as they did most other people. I never regretted saying "No" to these men but would get several lectures from friends and coworkers telling me to stop being so picky.
For the last few years I grew frustrated and depressed because I was entering my mid30s and not getting any younger. Where were the single Christian men around my age? At one time I thought moving back to Hope, New Mexico was a huge mistake. I moved back because I missed my parents and wanted to settle down somewhere hoping to plant roots for my future. I was tired of moving around which I did a lot after the divorce and I also wanted to change careers. After having been in the cosmetology industry since I was nineteen, I was bored with it and ready for a change. At thirty years old, Mr. Right still had not entered my life so I thought I would make life happen for me while waiting for him.
For the last six years I have enjoyed living in Hope because I preferred a smaller town over a big city any day and I loved being with Mom and Dad. The only thing I did not like about living in Hope was the lack of single men. And there weren't very many places to shop either. Even though Hope only had a small community college, I decided to complete my basic classes there before getting my bachelor's degree online. Last December I earned my bachelor's in business management and hoped to manage and maybe own a bookstore. But my ultimate dream was to get married and raise a family. Unfortunately I could not make a living for myself by hoping for a husband.
Last December Dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and I was a few weeks away from graduation. Dad had insisted that I finish because I was almost done with school. Those few weeks were some of the hardest weeks of my life. I cried a lot and had some difficulty concentrating on my final assignments. I also lost a lot of sleep due to crying and studying.
It was amazing how much God's strength got me through those last few weeks of school in addition to my job at the bookstore. I was working close to thirty hours a week because the holiday season got busier. I was grateful to being living with my parents so I could be there for them during this difficult time. For the first time in years, I was no longer concerned about finding the right man and men were the last thing on my mind. Until recently.
It was a chilly autumn morning with lots of cloud coverage. At the moment the only brightness in my life came in the running form of Max, my tricolored basset hound.
When I opened the screen door, he dashed across the back yard to meet me with a slobbery kiss on my bare leg. Despite the chill in the air, I knew I would get warm as Max and I went on our morning walk.
His early morning enthusiasm showed me that he knew it was time for his walk. If only his enthusiasm would rub off on me at seven in the morning.
For nearly six months, I had been dealing with insomnia and depression. That was often to be expected after dealing with the loss of a loved one, especially a parent. If it wasn't for my dog and my mother, I don't know what I'd do. Of course, my relationship with the Lord has made a difference in my life.
I hopped down from the back porch step to head for the table where I could grab Max's harness and Chicago Cubs leash. With the rapid back and forth wagging of his tail, I tried to not add to his excitement by appearing to be in no rush to get him in his harness. So I stood waiting for him to sit and settle down.
Finally, Max decided to sit while his wagging tail swept the dirt from the patio floor. Just as I was about to put the harness over his long basset body, the sound of the back gate startled me. I looked up to see a tall, handsome man in grubby jeans and a grease stained t-shirt. He wore a blue baseball cap with the name of a business on it. It said "Testco" which I was not familiar with.
I stood frozen as Max ran over to the man and began sniffing him. Maybe this man might not be dangerous but then Max seemed to like every human and any kind of animal he came in contact with.
"What do you want?" I found my voice and it came out meaner than I usually sounded.
"Ma'am," he began in a voice of a Southern accent. "Your car door is opened. It's the driver's side." He lowered his long, lean body to give Max a friendly neck scratch.
"Why didn't you ring the doorbell?" I asked in a nicer tone. "I'm sorry I was rude to you earlier."
His dark blue eyes seemed to focus on me and I felt myself blush.
"I tried ringing your doorbell a few minutes ago and no one answered so I decided to check the back yard just in case I found someone out here," he explained to me with his gaze still on me.
Even though he was in dirty work clothes, this man, probably around his mid30s, was not too bad to look at. He stood about six feet tall, had a lean, muscular build and his dark brown hair was sticking out of his cap. The two day stubble added a nice touch to this piece of work. I found myself in a trance and forgot why I was standing outside in shorts on a chilly autumn morning.
"Your car door, miss?" That deep Southern drawl brought me back to reality.
"Oh," I said. "I don't know why the door would be opened."
Suddenly, I dashed past my dog and the guy so I could get to the side carport. Sure enough, the driver's side door was wide opened. In a panic I checked inside my tan Buick to be sure that everything was in one piece. When I saw that nothing had been taken from my car, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was almost always good about not leaving any valuables in my car.
As for my door staying opened, I figured I must have forgotten to close it after I came home from work last night. Why would I forget to do such a simple task like close a car door?
While I tried racking my brain as to why my door did not shut, the sexy Southern drawl spoke, "Are you all right, ma'am?"
"Huh?" I probably sounded like an airhead and was sitting in the driver's seat. "Umm… I guess so." I got up from the driver's seat and attempted to shut my car door. The stupid door would not close tightly. Without even thinking, I grumbled wordless sounds that a bear would probably make.
"Maybe you did shut your car door without realizing it would not close," the man, still nameless, said. "I bet it was the wind last night that blew your door open." He sounded proud of himself for coming up with this somewhat obvious theory which had never crossed my mind.
"Yeah, probably," I said trying not to sound too impressed. If a handsome man like him had come to my back gate more than a year earlier, I knew I would have been excited to see him. In this small New Mexico town called Hope (or I should say Hopeless), there wasn't very many good looking men around. For all I knew this guy could be married though I did not spot a ring on his left ring finger.
"Let me fix your door for you," he offered somewhat enthusiastically. "By the way, my name is Bobby. What's yours, miss?"
"Laura," I told him. "I better go into the garage and get some tools for you."
As I headed toward the unattached garage, Bobby gently grabs my arm. "Wait," he said. "I have a tool box in my truck." He pointed to a white truck with the words "Testco" on the driver's side door. It was parked at the edge of my front yard.
"Thank you," I said. "I know it's still early, but would you like some water?"
"How about some coffee?" Bobby asked me.
"We don't have any coffee," I told him. "Sorry." I shrugged my shoulders.
"We?" he asked.
"We what?" I wondered what he was getting at.
"You have a husband?"
"No," I said. "I'm not married. When I said we, I meant my mother and I." Usually, I did not want handsome men to know that I lived with my recently widowed mother. For the last six years I had been living with both my parents.
"I find that hard to believe," Bobby said while giving me a smile that showed his dimples peeking out from his two day stubble.
"What's so hard to believe?" I wondered. Men hardly ever flirted with me and if they did, I never had a clue.
"That you're not married. You're such a pretty lady." I felt another blush creep up on my cheeks. I could just blame that on the fifty degrees outside.
"Oh, thanks," I said feeling shy and self-conscious.
"You look cute when you blush," Bobby said as he walked toward his truck. I could get used to looking at him in his tight fitting, worn jeans. Oops, I better not go there, I caught myself from thinking more about his masculine build.
"I'll get you something to drink," I said as I headed to the back gate. Where was Max? I scanned the backyard and called for him.
"Is everything okay?" Bobby's voice startled me causing me to jump in mid air. I turned to see him standing close behind me.
"My dog seems to be missing," I heard panic in my voice. I started breathing rapidly and felt overwhelmed. I have had a lot on my plate in the last year and felt like I was at my breaking point.
"Don't worry," Bobby said gently as he put his strong, calloused hand on my shoulder. "I'll help you look for him, then I'll work on your car door."
I knew that I should not worry, because sometimes Max had a tendency to wander off if I did not keep an eye on him. Bobby or I probably forgot to shut the gate when we went out to the carport. Since my brother and a few other men from church helped secure our chain link fence, I knew that Max could not dig his way out of the yard. It would be okay, I told myself. I just needed to calm down and breathe. So I sat in one of the wooden patio chairs and did my best to calm down.
"I'll go look for him while you relax a few minutes," Bobby said. Even though I have never liked men or anyone else take charge, I did not mind right now. I felt too shaken up to move or do a simple task such as calling out Max's name. If he wandered off, he probably went down the dirt road to our neighbor's house which was about 400 yards to the north of us. Jack usually had some kind of gourmet dog treat for Max as well as his other three dogs.
Five months earlier
May 18th was a day I would never forget. I knew that Dad was expected to pass away after a six month battle with cancer. I had been somewhat prepared for this because for the last two months, his health was rapidly declining. He did not want to eat and it was hard to communicate with him. He also slept a lot. Multiple myeloma had caused his once six foot two frame to shrink down to five foot seven which was my height. As much as I hated to lose my dad, I could not stand to see him suffer.
Although Dad had been on hospice care for a few days, I tried to go on about my normal life by going to work at Books, Books & More Books (aka 3B which everyone in town nicknamed). My boss and coworkers knew about my circumstances and told me I could take some time off when needed. I really did not want to take any time off of my twenty hour a week job so I toughed it out as best as I could without falling apart.
My evening shift at the bookstore began at three in the afternoon and I was expected to work until nine that evening. I had not told anyone except for Stephanie, my boss, about my dad being on hospice care. I only told a few of my friends and I knew they would be letting other people from church know so that they could keep my family in their prayers. I just did not want to deal with the reality of my dad leaving this earth.
So many times since his diagnosis six months earlier, I had wanted to talk to Dad about salvation and his walk with the Lord. I wanted to know if he ever accepted Jesus as his Savior, but subconsciously I was afraid his answer might be no. Throughout the years I had lived with my parents, I often witnessed to them through the way I lived my life and I did talk about my faith in Jesus numerous times. I just was not going to push the salvation prayer on to them because I believed that they both saw that as a private matter.
While I was alphabetizing the romance section during the middle of my shift, my coworker Scott snuck up behind me. "When do you plan on taking your break?" He had asked me.
I nearly jumped from where I had been sitting as I organized the bottom shelf of Nora Roberts paperbacks. A few books fell out of my hands and I had fallen on Scott's shoes.
As he helped me up to my feet, he asked, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," I said trying to sound calm and somewhat cheery. "Great. I guess I'll go take a short break."
"How's your dad?" Scott, as well as all my other coworkers knew about my dad's battle with cancer but I never talked about the most recent details. I had believed that if I only spoke positive things and not mention anything negative, then God would see my faith and heal Dad.
I was almost in tears and Scott sensed that. "Is everything all right?"
"Sure," I said trying to keep it all together. "He's fine." I could feel my voice breaking.
"You don't sound okay," he told me. "There's enough coverage for tonight. I'll work the rest of your shift."
"Aren't you supposed to be on register?" Scott often worked the register or he worked in the back room.
"Yeah, but I'm almost done with my shift anyway." Scott waved his hand as if he was chasing off a fly.
I checked my butterfly wristwatch and saw that it was seven. I had not even had my half hour break because I had been focused on alphabetizing both general fiction and romance all afternoon. Work often helped me to stop worrying about Dad's health. For these last two months, being home grew to be more difficult for me. I felt like the parent as Dad was getting worse. Trying to get him to eat was a major chore because he would yell and cuss. During those times I had to try to control myself from crying. Sometimes, I just completely lost it because a person can only hold so much inside for so long.
"I guess I will let Stephanie know that I must leave right now," I said to Scott. "Thanks for offering to cover for me."
"Any time, Laura." Scott, who was probably in his twenties and had a girlfriend, was such an easygoing guy. Why couldn't I find a nice guy like him? He was not my type and seemed a bit too young for me anyway. Besides, right now was not a good time for me to consider dating anyone. I dreaded having to go home and wonder if it was yet Dad's time to leave this earth.
I walked into Stephanie's small office which was next to the backroom and told her about Scott covering for me for the rest of my shift. Thankfully, she was understanding about it and let me go home early.
I did not want to go home so I decided to take a drive around my small town of about ten thousand people. The town of Hope was spread out unlike the larger metropolitan cities (Phoenix and Albuquerque) I used to live in during my carefree twenties and until I was thirty. I had attended junior high and high school in this town so I knew my way around. Yet, Hope had been slowly growing in the last year due to the oil field boom.
I have considered leaving Hope after I had completed my bachelor's degree almost a year ago. Unfortunately Dad's cancer diagnosis in December prompted me to stay so Mom would not have to take care of him alone. She had a full-time job and I was still part-time at the bookstore so I felt that being there for both my parents was more important than trying to find a better paying job somewhere else.
The early evening sky was still sunny but thankfully the air was cooler which was perfect weather for driving with the window rolled down. I decided to try by one of the newest subdivisions on the north side of town. I had not paid much attention to the recent growth in Hope so maybe the population was more than ten thousand. Helping care for Dad and working part-time had consumed most of my time so I had been out of the loop on the town rumors.
The new subdivision had about two dozen cookie cutter type houses. Only one block of houses was completed with a few people occupying them. Children were playing in several well-manicured front yards while their parents were sitting on front porches watching them. I even saw a grandparent or two join in the adult conversations.
What a beautiful image I saw of three generations in the same front yard. However I was saddened knowing that this would never be me. Dad would never get to see me or my brother Dan have children. The closest to my parents having grandchildren was the four-legged kind. Dan, who had been staying with us for the past month, had brought his German Shepard puppy, Marley with him. At least my dad got to see some type of grandchild. Both Dan and I are in our mid30s and single. Awhile back I have come to the conclusion that if I continue to stay in Hope, I might as well end up an old maid unless I marry someone considerably older than I. By considerably older, I meant someone who is ten years or older which I don't want.
After driving around the small subdivision for about ten minutes, I decided to call it quits and head to Sonic for an iced tea. I pulled out my cell phone to text Mom to see if she or Dan wanted anything to eat or drink from Sonic. I head there anyway before I could get a response. The drive from the new subdivision to the drive-in would take about ten minutes. I hoped and prayed that Mom did not give me bad news because I did not want to get bad news through a text message.
All I knew was that I did not want to be present when Dad passed away. Seeing him in a frail state had been too much for me to take so the thought of seeing him dead would be far more than I could bear. I had seen a dead body once and that was more than enough for me.
As I started to make a left turn into the Sonic Drive-In, a blue truck came straight through the intersection and I felt its' front bender crush my front bender. My white compact car spun toward the drive-in and I pushed on my brakes to stop any further collisions. Thankfully the traffic was light this evening.
Both the other driver and I get out of our vehicles and inspect the damage we each caused. Thankfully the other driver, a tall, bearded man with a blue hat, was kind and non-confrontational about the incident.
"I didn't see you coming!" I probably sounded frantic but didn't care. My mind was not on the damage of my car or on the other driver. I just wanted to get this ordeal over with quickly so I could get home and see how things were. Seeing the smashed front end of my car reminded me that it would be awhile before I could get home. Since I knew the phone number to the local police department, I told the other person that I would call the police to report the accident. I looked inside my cluttered purse to discover that my cell phone was not in there.
"Sorry, I don't have my phone on me," I told the guy. "I'll go look in my car." So I went to the driver's side door to try to unlock it and I saw that my keys were still in the ignition. The door was locked. With the sudden accident and other stuff on my mind, I must have forgotten to remove my keys from the ignition when I got out of the car. My cell phone was probably inside the car. After I had sent Mom a text message a while ago, I probably put my cell phone on the passenger's seat instead of putting it inside my purse.
"Can you call the police?" I shyly asked the guy. "I cannot seem to locate my cell or my keys."
"I'm not from around here," the guy said. His heavy Southern drawl obviously proved his statement to be true.
"I know the number," I told him. "I can give it to you so you can call the police." For the past year I have been a member of the Community Police Organization and have been on several ride alongs with a few different police officers.
"Wow!" the guy exclaimed to me. "You don't look like someone who would have the police's number memorized."
I wasn't sure what he meant by that. I must have looked too innocent to have ever been involved with the police but I did not feel like explaining myself to this stranger I got in a wreck with.
"It's a small town," I said instead. "Everyone knows each other around here, including the police."
"Okay, gotcha," he said. I told the man the number as he punched it into his cell phone. While he explained our situation on the phone, I noticed his truck license plate said "Louisiana." I also looked at the driver's side of his dark blue truck and saw the words "Testco" in white print. I had never heard of that company and figured it must be another oil field company that has been to Hope due to our recent oil field boom.
A police car just pulled up a few minutes after the phone call. Since everything relating to the accident happened so quickly, I could not recall which driver was at fault. I just knew that I never saw the blue truck coming after I drove through the green light and was heading left to enter the Sonic Drive-In. The other driver informed Officer Thomas that he did not see my left turn indicator blinking so he assumed that I was going straight and we both crashed into each other. I couldn't remember the impact of our vehicles colliding because my mind was elsewhere.
As the tall, stocky officer wrote the accident report, he came to the conclusion that I was at fault because I supposedly did not have on my turning indicator. I did not feel like arguing about who was or was not at fault. He wrote me a ticket informing me when I needed to report to court. Luckily, I had a one month time frame to make a court appearance.
After the report was written and put into the police system, the other driver, who's name I never got, was calling on his cell phone for a ride to where ever he was supposed to be. I, on the other hand, figured that I should just walk home. It was about 8:15 in the evening and the sun was slowly setting. I estimated that it would take me about forty-five minutes to walk to my house. It would definitely be dark by the time I got home, but I did not care because I wanted to be alone with my thoughts.
As I said my good-byes to both the officer and the other driver, Officer Thomas offered me a ride home. "It looks like you won't be able to drive your car home, so why don't I give you a ride?"
"No thanks," I said. "I'm fine. It shouldn't take me too long to get home."
"Oh no," the officer argued. "From the information you gave me, I think it will be dark before you even get home on foot. I'm not taking any chances having you walking alone in the dark."
"It's really no big deal," I insisted. "This is such a small town that nothing bad really happens here."
"If I let you walk alone and something were to happen on my watch, I would never forgive myself." This fine looking officer would not take no for an answer so I reluctantly agreed to let him drive me home.
"You must be new," I said to Thomas as I situated myself in the passenger's side of his police cruiser.
"I've only been on the force for about a month now."
"I am part of the Community Police Organization or CPO," I told the officer as he pulled out of the dirt lot where both the damaged vehicles remained. "So I'm familiar with most of the police and I've done several ride a longs with some of the other officers."
"Oh," he sounded surprised. "I haven't seen you before."
"My life's been kind of hectic lately so I haven't been able to attend the meetings or do any ride a longs lately." I was not really in the mood for small talk but Officer Thomas seemed so friendly and easygoing despite the mess I made. It was already bad enough that both my cell phone and keys (both to the car and the house) were locked inside my wrecked car, but knowing that Dad's time was coming to an end or maybe already ended just made this one of the worst days of my life. I should say the worst.
"Since we're right here, would you like to get something from Sonic?" Thomas' question startled me from my thoughts.
After a moment of trying to bring myself back to the present, I took him up on his offer to go to the drive-in. Luckily, my wallet was inside my purse so I did not have to worry about my driver's license or debit card getting stolen. I hoped that Mom had not been trying to get a hold of me because I was not sure if she wanted a drink but I decided I would get her one anyway. I thought that my brother could also use a drink.
Officer Thomas pulled up to one of the drive-in's stalls and pushed the intercom button. He must have been shocked when I told him my order: one large iced tea, one super large sweet tea (for Mom), and a super large Dr. Pepper (for Dan).
"You must be quite the drinker!" he exclaimed to me as his dark eyes grew wide.
"Oh, no," I said and almost laughed. "The other drinks are from my mom and brother. Before I got into the accident I had texted my mom and asked her if she wanted anything from Sonic."
"You didn't mention that in the accident report," Thomas now sounded serious.
"No," I tried to sound calm. "I was parked somewhere when I texted my mom. I know better than to use my phone while I'm driving."
"You never really explained your side of the story regarding this accident."
"I have too much on my mind to recall everything that happened and how," I explained and was starting to breathe rapidly. I hoped that I was not getting a panic attack because I just could not take any more stress. I thought about telling this new officer my troubles but I did not want to end up falling apart.
Before he could say anything more, the car hop brought the order to the car. When she gave the total, I started to take out my wallet and Thomas stopped me. "I'll take care of it."
He quickly gave the young car hop a large bill and told her to keep the change. I could not believe this officer whom I've never met before offered me a ride home and insisted on paying for my order at Sonic. I could not recall the last time I ever had a man other than Dad or my brother do that for me. Without realizing it, I must have the damsel in distress act down good. Nah, I was not that kind of woman. After my divorce, I never cared to depend on a man for anything.
"Thank you Officer," I decided to say instead of saying, "Oh you did not have to do that."
"It was my pleasure, ma'am," he said and pulled out of the stall.
"Just call me Laura," I told him.
"And call me Jim, which is my first name."
"Do I need to give you directions to get to my house?" Since Jim Thomas was new to the Hope Police Department, I wasn't sure how well he knew his way around town.
"In this small town, I can find my way," he informed me. I checked his left hand to see if he had a ring. Nope, either he was single or just did not wear his wedding ring while on duty. Most of the married officers I knew did not wear their rings on duty. I could understand that in case they were in some kind of accident and the ring got in the way.
As Jim drove, I noticed him glancing at my left hand. He was probably checking for a ring on my finger. For the last six years I have lived in Hope, I don't recall ever seeing any guy show an interest in me. Well, there were a few men interested in me but they were almost old enough to be my father or they were just plain creepy.
During the ten minute drive to my house, we rode in silence. I was expecting Jim's police radio to go off and maybe get a call. Saturday evenings were a busy night for police officers and there were probably a few graduation parties beginning. Surprisingly, his radio was silent.
Finally, the police car was parked in the crowded driveway. In addition to both Mom's car, Dad's truck, and Dan's minivan, I noticed a van from the funeral home. Dad had already passed away. I did not need an answer now.
"What's going on?" Jim asked me as I unbuckled the seat belt and grabbed my drink carrier and purse.
"I think my dad passed away," I tried to hide any emotion in my voice. I just knew Dad was going to hold off on dying until I was out of the house.
"I'm so sorry to hear that." I heard concern in Jim's voice. "Would you like some help carrying your drinks?"
Before giving my answer, I was not sure I wanted to add any more drama to my day by bringing a police officer to the house while the funeral home was removing my dad's body. I did not want to go inside the house until Dad's body was gone. Seeing my dad in a frail state the last few months was very hard for me and to see him dead was way more than I could take. It would be too traumatic for me to handle. I had told Mom that I did not want to be around when he died. Thankfully she was understanding about that as well as my brother was.
"I think I will be fine," I finally spoke and barely above a whisper.
Jim walked to the passenger door and opened it for me. Before I could protest, he took the drink carrier from me. I got up with my purse hanging from my shoulder. We both walked to the front door where Mom came outside.
I knew I would have some explaining to do. And right I did, but the explaining would have to wait.
When Mom saw Officer Thomas holding the drink carried as we approached the front step where Mom stood, she did have a surprised expression on her tired face but did not ask us any questions.
"Did it already happen?" I asked Mom even though I knew that Dad's time had come to leave this earth.
"Yes," she was solemn, yet composed. "About half an hour ago."
I looked to Jim and said, "Thank you for everything. I can take it from here."
"Ma'am," Jim began as he looked at my mom. "I'm sorry about your husband. You have my condolences and if you need anything let me know."
"Mom," I said trying to find the next words to explain my unexpected circumstances. "I was in a car accident, but don't worry. No one got hurt but my car probably won't be able to run anymore."
"I better head out," Jim politely excused himself then said his goodbyes.
"He's still in there?" I asked Mom referring to Dad's body being in the house. "If he is, I would like to hang out in the back yard until he's gone."
"That's okay, sweetie." Mom nodded and gave me a hug.
While Bobby was out searching for Max, I punched in Mom's work number on the land line phone. After three rings, she answered.
"Sorry to be bothering you at work so early, Mom," I said quickly. "Max has run off again and some guy in a blue truck saw that my car door was opened. He was starting to fix it but then I discovered that Max ran off."
"Just relax," Mom told me. "I can come home for a bit if you want me to."
"No, that's not necessary. Bobby, the guy I told you about is looking for him. I think the gate was opened by mistake and that's how Max must have gotten out." I looked out the dining room window to see if there was any return of my hound dog.
"Laura." I heard a smile in Mom's voice. "There seems to be a pattern in your life lately."
"What do you mean Mom?"
"This is the third time in the last few months that some man has come to your rescue."
"Oh?" What was my mother getting at?
"Remember the tall, handsome officer who took you home after your car accident?"
"Yeah, what about him?"
"Then there was that cute young guy who had to fix your flat tire outside of Roswell?"
I was trying to remember that incident. As I recalled, the flat tire incident was back in August.
"Yeah, I vaguely remember that Mom? What about it?"
"You've seemed to get into a damsel in distress pattern lately."
"Not on purpose, Mom." I rolled my eyes because she could not see me do that over the phone.
"Now, don't roll your eyes at me." There went that Mom thing again, they always knew things even when they did not see them.
"Oh, Mom," I said rolling my eyes again and not caring that she probably knew I was doing it again. Another peek through the dining room window and I saw Max happily wagging his tail while Bobby followed him into the back yard. "Everything's fine now. Max is back in the yard again!"
"Good," Mom said sounding pleased. "I knew he would come back."
"I better let you go so you can go back to work."
"I told you that with the recent oil field boom that this town would be raining men," Mom informed me. "I'll see you at dinner, right?"
"Yeah," I said. "I'm off today so I don't plan to go anywhere."
"No ride a longs with the police?"
"No, Mom. Not on a Thursday."
After Mom and I said our goodbyes and hung up the phone, I went outside to check on Max and Bobby. The sun was starting to peek through the clouds and the weather did not feel as cool. Fall season in Southeastern New Mexico was often unpredictable.
"So where did you find him?" I asked Bobby.
"He was over at your neighbor's house."
"I bet my neighbor gave him a gourmet doggie treat. That's where Max usually ends up being when he finds his way out of the yard."
"It looks like your back gate might need a little work," Bobby said to me as he inspected the gate. I took a closer look and noticed that the gate was a bit loose at the hinges.
"It's been tough trying to get work done around here these days." I was referring to outside work such as our yard and home repairs which Dad often did. My brother was out of town for an unknown length of time so I wasn't sure when he would be back to work on those needed tasks.
"Oh that's right," Bobby said as he scratched his chin. "You mentioned that just you and your mother live here."
"That's right. My dad has been gone for about five months now and my brother is out of town for awhile."
"So, maybe I could help you and your mother if you need anything."
"That's so kind of you," I said. "It shouldn't be long before my brother gets back from his trip."
"You can start by fixing my car door," I told Bobby as I pointed to my car. "Thank you for finding Max."
"No problem, Miss Laura," he said as though he thought rescuing me was the highlight of his morning. What was it with men wanting to come to a woman's rescue?
I let Bobby get to work on my truck while I went back inside the house. Max's morning walk would have to wait after my car was taken care of. Besides, he seemed to get a bit of exercise by walking a quarter of a mile to Jack's house but Max never tired as easily as other basset hounds, so we would go for a walk later.
As I prepared myself a bowl of cold cereal and a glass of orange juice, I could not help but laugh at Mom's statement about raining men.
It had been about three months since Dad went to Heaven and Mom and I struggled emotionally to get our lives back together. Dan was on a mission trip to Africa and was not expected to be back in the United States until sometime in the latter part of fall. About a week after Dad's departure, Mom and I both went back to the daily grind of our jobs trying to live normal lives again. But our lives would never be the same without Dad.
On one of my days off during the week, I decided to take a day trip to Roswell, which was about an hour's drive from Hope. Even though Roswell was not considered a large city like El Paso, Texas or Albuquerque, it was much closer to get to and there were more places to shop there than in Hope. Our dinky town had for shopping was a Super Wal Mart and a few Mom and Pop stores which did not carry much variety. Roswell had far more than a Wal Mart. They had Target, Kmart, JC Penney, a stadium sized movie theater, lots of restaurants, and probably some aliens hanging about the city.
Since some of my friends were either working or out of town for summer vacation, I just wanted to have the day to myself and get away from home for a bit. After spending an uneventful day eating frozen yogurt, watching a movie on one of the large screens, and picking up a few things at some of the stores, I decided to head home around five in the afternoon. The summer heat was still strong, probably about ninety-five to one hundred degrees with a bit of humidity and the possibility of a summer rain.
The air conditioning in my tan Buick, once Mom's car and now mine until I could find another car more suitable for me, was acting up so I decided to drive with my window rolled down. After I was buckled up and had turned on the ignition, I pushed the button to roll down my driver's side window and it would not cooperate. Great! I thought, another crisis and it has to do with my car, but not the same one.
Luckily I had a fresh cold bottled water with me so I would not get overheated on my way home. At least it would only take an hour to get home and it would still be light at six. The cloud coverage in the sky was increasing and getting darker. Maybe driving with my window rolled up wasn't so bad after all. It may have felt humid in the car, but I was grateful to have a towel to sit on because if I didn't my thighs would stick to the vinyl seating.
While I drove south heading home, I pushed one of the other buttons to roll down the passenger's side window. Luckily it worked so I would not feel stuffy driving home. For about fifteen minutes the drive was successful until I heard a loud thump and felt my car moving slower than molasses. Assuming that I might have a flat tire, I pulled my car to the right side of the road in order to stay away from the traffic. Unfortunately, I was near a stinky cow farm.
I opened my car door to get some air and pulled out my cell phone to call Mom. She would probably be at home but just to be on the safe side, I called her cell number. I could not get a hold of her because I was in a roaming area. Great! Not again! It was not worth the hassle to get frantic or as Dad used to say, "Don't get your panties in a ruffle."
Years ago Dan had taught me how to change a tire so I attempted to do just that. With my keys in my shorts' pocket and my cell phone in my hand, I got out of my car to inspect the damage. The left back tire was completely flat. I opened up the trunk to grab the spare tire. I may have changed a tire or two in my lifetime, but today I had to rack my brain to remember which way to place the jack in order to lift the tire.
While I worked to get things situated and just as I was about to remove the doodads to loosen the tire, a large, dark green truck pulled up behind me. Out stepped a thin young man probably just out of high school. He was rail thin and wore a red ball cap.
"Do you need help, ma'am?" the young man asked kindly. "I can fix your tire for you."
Most of the time I did not like to be rescued but I wanted to get home and out of the incoming rainstorm so I relented and offered my tools to this young man. As he bent his long, lanky body to the ground to get to work on my flat tire, I saw "Sam" written in red on his green work shirt.
As Sam worked on my flat tire, I tried my phone again. It was still in a roaming area so I decided not to worry Mom with another car crisis. I believed that I would be just fine. Sam was quick at putting on the spare tire.
It was probably five minutes later when he exclaimed, "All done Ma'am!"
"Thank you," I said with a smile on my face. "It would have probably taken me an hour to get my spare on."
"I'll wait right here until you are safely on the road." Sam stood like he was serious and was probably the kind of man who kept his word. Hi mother probably taught him well. For the last ten years of my life, I hardly encountered helpful young men. They were only helpful when they had an ulterior motive. With Dad being gone and my brother out of the country half the time, I needed to learn how to stand on my own so I would not have to rely on men.
"If you insist," I said. "Thank you again."
Sam returned my smile with a megawatt smile of his own. He had a few front silver caps and looked adorable. If only I was fifteen years younger. I returned to my car and prepared to get back on the road. Sam walked up to my car and motioned for me to pull my window down. Since it still would not roll down, I opened my door ajar.
"Be careful getting out there and drive a bit slower than the speed limit," he instructed.
"I'll be sure to do that," I said. I already knew that but I wasn't going to say so.
"Why don't you roll down your window?" Sam asked.
"It won't roll down," I said. "But I can roll down the passenger's side window."
"Get out and let me take a look."
I glanced at my wristwatch and saw that it was 5:30 and the sky continued to grow even darker than before my tire gave out.
"Okay," I was reluctant and somewhat in a hurry to get home before the rain came down. Just as that thought crossed my mind, I felt some drops on my arms. "My window should be fine for the next hour. I need to get back to Hope."
"Where's that at?" Sam asked. "I'm not from around here. I was actually heading east to Hobbs."
"It's about thirty or forty miles south of here," I told him. "Where are you from?"
"Oklahoma, I'm passing through. I'm working on one of the oilfield rigs in Hobbs."
"Oh, okay." If it wasn't for the increasing rain drops, I would not have minded making small talk with Sam but I did not want to stand out here near a stinky cow farm looking like a drowned rat.
We both continued to stand out in the rain in silence. Only we were silent. The cows mooed, vehicles flew past us, and the rain poured. We also heard thunder but did not see lightning.
"Like you said, Sam," I broke the silence. "If I just drive slowly and carefully, I should be fine getting back to Hope. It's okay if my window won't roll down and who cares about the air not working in my car anyway?" I was getting frustrated and feeling exhausted from my day out.
"I don't think it's a good idea for you to be driving home right now," Sam insisted. "Get in my truck and we'll wait until the rain dies down a bit."
I hesitated because I did not know what kind of person Sam was. He could probably be the next Ted Bundy or Jack the Ripper. I have seen way too many true crime documentaries and have learned a lot as a member of CPO.
"I'll sit in my car," I said. "Since you sound really concerned for my safety, you can sit in your truck and when the rain dies down a bit we can both head back to where we planned to go."
"Okay," Sam sounded disappointed. "But you don't have to worry. I'm harmless." We both went into our own vehicles. I was not taking any risks. Although Sam seemed like a kind, young man I had learned from past experiences that a woman should not trust a man so easily.
As we each sat in our vehicles waiting for the rain to die down, I tried to send Mom a text message but the phone was still in roaming. I hoped that Mom was not getting worried because I promised her that I would let her know when I left Roswell and I forgot to let her know.
Luckily, Sam turned out to be harmless and once the rain died down he watched my car head out safely on to the highway. I never saw him since and did not expect to being that he lived in Oklahoma.
While Bobby was at work on my car door, I ate my breakfast and realized that Mom was probably right about raining men. None of these men I have recently come in contact with were no more than men coming to my rescue. After Officer Thomas took me home after my accident, I did see him around town a few times and we exchanged small talk. His offer to help me and my mom still stood but I felt too independent to need another man's help.
Before Dan went on his mission trip in late June, he helped me learn how to perform a few home maintenance tasks such as mowing the lawn. Well, so much for that because the last time I tried mowing the lawn the riding lawnmower died on me. I would just have to wait until Dan came back from Africa. By that time the grass would be dead and there would not be any reason to fix the riding lawnmower until spring.
The sound of my doorbell startled me out of my thoughts. I got up from the dining room table to walk the short distance to the front door. I peeked through the curtains on the window which was next to the door. There was Bobby.
"It's all done!" he exclaimed to me on the other side of the front screen door.
"Thank you," I said. "What do I owe you?"
"How about letting me take you out for lunch?" Wow! That was the best proposition I have had in such a long time. It sounded like I did not owe this man anything.
"I should be the one taking you out to lunch," I insisted. "After all your hard work today."
"It was my pleasure." Bobby showed me his handsome, megawatt grin. I could see a few dimples underneath his stubble. I also noticed his dark blue eyes and for the first time all morning, I realized that I knew him from somewhere.
"Well?" Bobby spoke into my thoughts. "What are you waiting for? I just promised you that I would take you out to eat."
"I just finished breakfast," I said. "Besides, you promised me lunch and according to my mental clock, lunch does not usually begin for me until around noon or one o'clock." I just glanced up at the clock on the fireplace mantle and it read 8:35.
"Sorry, my bad. I had just gotten off of a twenty-four hour shift before I drove by and saw your car door opened."
"Oh, okay," I said. "Your meal schedule must be far different from mine." I had always been known as someone who always ran a tight shift. Everything I did usually ran on a schedule, give or take an hour or two of flexibility.
"I'll just come by later," Bobby spoke after an awkward silence. "I could use a few hours of sleep then I'll come by and pick you up."
"Since barely know you Bobby," I cautiously began. "I think it would be better if we met at a certain restaurant."
My statement probably caused him to lose interest because in the past I had dealt with men