” Oh, ohhh! I think we missed our turn, Ryder. I’m pretty sure I followed the navigation’s direction but this road seems not what we should have taken. (Sighing) And now, I don’t have a cell signal. Ok, let’s just continue and follow the road to the next town, shall we?”
Getting lost on the road while driving long distances has been Joy’s predicament. She has difficulty following directions even with a navigation system. Ryder, her ever faithful Border Collie and driving companion, can sense annoyance and irritation in her voice, although how much she’s trying to calm her nerves.
Joy prefers to fly as opposed to driving, but during this peak season on Thanksgiving holiday, all airline flights are fully booked. To attend her co-worker’s wedding in Lake Tahoe was a last-minute decision, so driving was her best option; after all it would only take about 12.5 hours drive from Seattle, and she can take an overnight rest halfway, in Oregon. She decided to leave work a week early and continue her most-needed vacation for another week after the holiday.
When she got a 2 bar signal on her cell phone, she parked her car on the side of the road to check her location; she is about 10 miles away to the next town. She kept on driving, until she reached a fork in the road. Instinctively, she took the right turn, and continued on, when suddenly, she heard a funny sound from her car engine, vibrated, and then died down.
“Great! just great! Ryder, what have I done to deserve this? It seems that all the planets have aligned to conspire against me. Sorry, buddy. We’ll go through with this together.”
The dog eased to get closer to her, as if telling that everything will be alright.
A tow truck finally came before sunset.
“Evenin’ Miss. I gathered your car engine died down on you? Don’t worry. We’ll get you up and running soon. By the way, I’m Nico…Nicholas.”
He smiled. Joy caught a glance of his glittering blue eyes, dimples distinctly sat deep on both cheeks, and his soothing tone of voice made her relax a bit. They drove the rest of the way until they reached the service garage, owned by Nicholas. His assistant checked and found out that the alternator needs to be replaced. Being an older model of Chevy Blazer, they don’t have the parts available and it will take 2-4 days to get the order delivered.
With no other choice but accept this unfortunate circumstance, Joy agreed to stay at Hanna’s Country Inn owned and managed by Nico’s mother. Then place was cozy, homey, and quiet, as the other guests checked out earlier. She shared an intimate dinner with Nico and his mother, and right away, felt comfortable; but soon, she felt tired and sleepy, that she excused herself. With Ryder following her lead to her bedroom upstairs, she readily fell asleep, only to wake up before sunrise with a splitting headache, body aches, and fever. As a nurse, she knew that she was coming down with flu, and needed to take medicine and be on bed rest until the symptoms subside.
Joy stayed in bed for the rest of the day and the days after. Nico was always there to take care of her needs, and made sure that she continued to recuperate. She was not prepared to get this unexpected pampering and fondness from him. After being married for only 6 months, her husband died in Afghanistan 4 years ago. Joy poured all her time and effort in her career as a nurse, avoiding emotional involvement with a man again. But being near Nico feeling his show of affection, she was beginning to accept that her wounded and grieving heart may have healed.
The alternator of Joy’s car arrived and has been installed. Nico kept pacing inside his service garage. He could not understand his feelings. He was scared that once again, and could not go through the same heartache 4 years ago, when his wife died of childbirth, and their baby could not be saved either. He knew that Joy’s stay was just temporary, but why is it that he doesn’t want her to leave? It’s only been 6 days since Joy showed up in his home and his life, but he felt like he knew her for a long time. He was falling in love with her.
Joy left for Lake Tahoe the day before the wedding. She wished she didn’t have to go. The hugged…that kind of embrace that evoked vulnerability yet unafraid to let each other in. He stood at the curb watching Joy’s car disappear from view.
“Evenin’ Miss. I gathered you have a car trouble.”
Nico jumped out of his tow truck, and walked towards Joy, whose car was parked right at the fork in the road.
“Thank you for coming to rescue me. Well, it’s not really a car trouble…it’s more of a…heart trouble.”
Joy flashed her most beautiful and adorable smile that made his heart missed a beat.
“Well, I can run a test, and see if it’s an easy fix. I have the right tool for that.”
He slowly, yet deliberately walked towards her to close the gap between them, gathered her in his arms, and gave her a tender, lingering kiss.
“There…all fixed. That would last for a lifetime.”
As she succumbed to that sweet and endearing kiss, she knew, this is where she belongs. This is where she wants her life to be. As they drove away from the fork in the road, Nico and Joy clearly envisioned where their life together will be.