Authors: Marcia Dickson
by Marcia Dickson
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may
be reproduced in any form or by any means, including scanning, photocopying, or
otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder.
Copyright © 2013 Marcia Dickson
Allison was in a hurry. She’d left Lonoke later than
she should have, and would miss the beginning of the fashion show if she didn’t
make up for lost time. She was normally a cautious driver and kept to the
speed limits, but really didn’t want to be late. Even the countryside decked
out in its spring finery didn’t distract her. It was a business matter; she
needed to stock up on casual wear for next Fall, and wanted to be right on the
walkway to get a close look at the models as they went by. So she swallowed her
scruples and floored the gas pedal.
She was tensed up at the speed she was going, so when
she heard the sound like a shot, she panicked and hit the brake hard – just the
wrong thing to do, since the “shot” was the sound of her left front tire
blowing. Almost immediately, the car was out of control, careening across the
highway, off the shoulder, through a couple of rhododendron bushes and into a
tree. The bushes slowed the car down enough to prevent total disaster, but
nevertheless, if I hadn’t been for the airbag, she probably would have been
killed. As it was she wasn’t badly hurt, just stunned and trapped.
As she came to, the first thing she was aware of a
terrible agonizing noise in her head – not in her head, she realized after a
moment- just the car’s horn blaring, no less agonizing, but at least her head
was OK. She struggled to get out of the car, but when she realized it was
hopeless she had a moment of panic. What if the car caught fire? Or even
exploded. She was fighting off hysteria when she heard a car door slam and a
man’s voice shouting, “Are you OK?”
Just like a man
like I’m OK
? “Sure, I’m just peachy
“Sorry! That was a stupid question. Of course you’re
not OK. But at least you’re conscious. Let me help you out.”
Allison started to refuse. The last thing she wanted
was help from a strange man on a deserted road. She didn’t even want him to
touch her, let alone help her. But after a moment, she knew she had no choice.
“Thanks! If you can just stop that noise before it drives me crazy and then
just help me get out of the car, I’ll be OK.”
Without bothering to reply, he went around to the
hood, which fortunately the impact had sprung, and disconnected the battery.
The sudden silence was blessed beyond belief, but when he reached in to put his
arm around her to help her out, she froze and gritted her teeth.
“Sorry! Am I hurting you?”
“Just a bit, but it can’t be helped.” She struggled
for control as he lifted her in his arms and eased her out of the car.”
“Can you stand?”
“Yes. Thanks very much. I’ll be OK, now, if you’ll
just put me down.” But in fact, when he
put her down, she had to
hold on to the car with both hands to stay upright.
“Look, you need to get to a doctor. Let me drive you
to the hospital.”
What Allison really wanted was for him to go away and
leave her to figure out what to do. She preferred to solve her own problems –
much better than being dependent, especially on a strange male. But when she
tried to collect her thoughts, she found she couldn’t. “Could you just call
“I could, but this is Arkansas; they’ll take hours to
get here and you could bleed to death internally. I can’t leave you alone
here, that’s for sure, and frankly, I’d rather get you into the hands of
professionals than be faced with dealing with you on my own.”
Allison was clear headed enough to see the sense in
what he was saying, and also that there was no help for it. Besides, the sooner
she could get him off her hands, the better. “OK, you’re right. Give me a lift
to the hospital and then you can be on your way.” That she needed his support
to get to his car was galling and frightening, and even worse, he
the one who remembered to retrieve her purse and keys from the car. But
finally she was in his passenger’s seat, and he was a safe distance away, so
she could relax.
As they set off for Little Rock, which was about 15
miles away, he said, “My name’s Doug, by the way.”
Allison knew he was expecting her to reply with her
name, but said nothing. She didn’t
to make friends, just get to the
hospital. But then she felt guilty. He was really being a big help. The
least she could do was be civil. “I’m Allison,” she said.
“There’s a garage just up the road. Shouldn’t we stop
just long enough to get them to collect your car? “
Allison hesitated but there was no avoiding the fact
that he was right. That was exactly what they should do. “That’s a good idea.
Thanks.” Allison knew she must seem ungrateful, but hoped he’d think it was
just the shock.
She closed her eyes, hoping to avoid further
conversation. The fact was that for 3 years her stepfather had abused her
sexually, starting with “just touch me here, sweetie; it’s a kind of a game”
but soon progressing to things more sinister. It had only ended when he was
killed in a car accident.
was a death she was thoroughly grateful
for. But 3 years was long enough to sour her on all men. She wanted to have a
little to do with them as possible. Even being in close proximity made her
uncomfortable and she avoided their touch whenever possible, which it mostly
was. It wasn’t this man’s fault. He couldn’t help being male.
That made her feel guilty again, and she tried to make
amends. “Sorry,” she said,” I’m too discombobulated to even be civil. I’m
really grateful for your help.”
“Don’t worry,” he answered. “I understand. The last
thing you want right now is light conversation.”
“You’re right. Sorry!” Allison reflected that she really
must try to remember that there were men, and there were other men. Every man
wasn’t her stepfather. Doug seemed like one of the “other” men. He’d been
really thoughtful and considerate. There’d been absolutely nothing in his
manner to suggest that he might come on to her in any way. She
that the way she felt about men was neurotic, but she couldn’t break out of
it. She figured she was scarred for life.
Doug, for his part, sensed that her feelings about him
were at best ambivalent and that her unwillingness to engage with him was more
than just shock. His work as a lawyer in civil and domestic disputes had
fine-tuned his intuition regarding relationships. It was a pity, he thought.
She seemed like someone he’d like to get to know better. She was certainly
attractive, even in her present dishevelment, and her clothes showed that she
was a woman of taste. He was, in fact, looking for someone to form a long-term
relationship with. He’d had a series of lovers, and had enjoyed the freedom of
casual relationships, but the shallowness of them had irritated him, and the
last break up had been bitter and protracted. She set out to wound him and knew
just how to do it, succeeding deeply. He wanted something better and more
meaningful than just fun and games, which gradually stopped being fun and
games. A pity that there was no sign of warmth in Allison.
They stopped at the garage long enough for her to make
arrangements for her car to be towed and shortly after that drew up at the
emergency entrance of Hope Hospital, a private hospital just off US40, near the
eastern edge of town.
Allison had intended to ask him to just drop her off,
but she was feeling increasingly ill, and when they reached the hospital, she
got the car door open just in time to vomit on the pavement.
“Just stay there,” Doug said. “I’ll get you a wheel
“OK,” Allison said weakly. She couldn’t summon up the
strength to refuse.
As luck would have it, the emergency room was busy,
and as Allison was in a less serious condition than most, it was clear that
there was a long wait ahead of her. Doug insisted on staying with her, despite
Allison’s protests. “Look,” he said. “I’ve nothing particular planned, and I
would be worrying about you the whole time.”
Allison saw that she couldn’t refuse without being
really rude, and anyway it would take more energy than she had, so she agreed.
It was clear that there were others who needed the wheelchair more than she
did, now that she was inside, so she sat on a bench, fortunately one against
the wall, so she could lean against it. Unfortunately, however, there wasn’t
more than just enough room on it for the two of them, so Doug was closer than
she really wanted. But there was, once again, no help for it. She was uncomfortably
aware of the scent of his aftershave or cologne or whatever it was, and though
he did his best to keep a space between them, she could feel his warmth against
her thigh. That was
good and she had to struggle to stay calm.
They sat in silence for quite awhile, and Allison was
grateful that he made no attempt to make conversation, but eventually he asked
her if she’d like something to drink. When she thought about it, she realized
that she was very thirsty, and asked him to bring her some mineral water –
sparkling, if they had it. When he got back with coffee for himself and the
water for her, she drank it all almost at once, and felt a bit better.
When he’d finished his coffee, Doug said, “If you feel
like talking, it would make the time go faster. But I’d understand if you don’t
Allison, to her surprise realized that she was curious
about Doug, and she
need something to occupy her thoughts. So she
asked him where he had been coming from when he found her. He told her that
he’d been doing a bit of teaching in the Drug Abuse Program at the prison near
“You teach at a prison?”
“Just now and then in my spare time.” Doug explained
that he was a lawyer and watched a lot of guys that really didn’t deserve it
end up inside, so he wanted to help them if he could.
“That’s really great,” Allison enthused.
“Oh, a guy has to do
to justify his
existence.” This led on to a number of details about his life - that he lived
in Little Rock, was single, and liked hiking when he was free to do so. He
talked quite a lot – partly because he saw it was easier for her to listen than
Allison was impressed, despite herself. He showed
none of the bravado that she’d seen in many men, and hadn’t set out to convince
her how great he was. By the time the intern came to deal with her, she was
feeling quite comfortable with him, comfortable enough to notice that he was
quite handsome, clean shaven, with a shock of tawny hair, blue eyes and a trim
body. It surprised her somewhat to realize that she was thinking of him as a
person, not just a man.
He escorted her to the examination room, and told her
he’d wait until he knew what the intern said. She could see that there was no
use arguing, so she told him she’d see him later.
After a thorough examination, the intern decided that
there was probably nothing very seriously wrong, but that it would be better if
she stayed overnight for observation. Doug went with her to the admissions desk
in case there were any problems, but when the formalities had been completed,
he had no excuse for staying longer. He realized that he
longer which was a little puzzling.
“Listen,” he said, “I’ll drop by with a change of
clothes for you in the morning – just some things I’ve got in the apartment -
not up to your standard, I imagine, but better than nothing. “
Allison opened her mouth to refuse, but then realized
that she didn’t
Whatever is happening to me?
“Is there anybody you’d like to call?” Doug asked. Sher
realized then for the first time that she’d dropped her cell in the car – at
least she hoped it was in the car. So she gave him the number of her best
friend, June, which he called, but there was no answer. That she was willing
to give him a number which he might use to get in touch with her was another
surprise. Normally she didn’t give men ways of getting in touch with her, even
“I’ll keep trying,” Doug said, and Allison agreed.
Doug walked her to the elevator, and said goodbye.
That he didn’t want to escort her to her room was a relief. “
she thought. “
He was a most unusual man.”
Doug was very thoughtful on the way home. So far,
he’d just been operating as a Good Samaritan, and had done nothing he wouldn’t
do for anybody he found in trouble. But he was interested in seeing if more
was possible. It was clear that he’d have to proceed with the utmost caution,
but she intrigued and attracted him. He’d give it a try.