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Submitted by btmindi on 14 December 2006 - 1:49pm.

Kylee pulled her knees tighter into her chest and tightened the grip of her arms around them. The cold of the cement she sat on was creeping through her worn jeans, chilling her flesh. Cold was seeping through the worn-out tennis shoes as well. Her socks had too many holes in them to hold any of it out. How had she gotten herself into this mess? What was she going to do now? A snow began to fall, gently drifting onto her hunched shoulders.

A car pulled into the parking lot, its headlights playing across the side of Kylee's bent head. Kylee didn't notice it. She remained in her hunched position, shivering. Where could she go? She had nothing anymore. Her car had broken down finally on the freeway several miles away and she had managed to walk this far, but could go no further. This rest stop, somewhere outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, was her last stop.

The muscles in her stomach tightened again, frightening her. What did it mean? Nothing? Trouble? There was no one to ask. Her dad had never been around at all, he had left Kylee and her mother when Kylee had been only days old. Her mother had died three years ago leaving fifteen year old Kylee on her own. She hadn't told anyone at school that her mother had died. She hadn't wanted to go into state programs for underage children and been put into foster care. Bad stories went around about teenage girls in foster care. Kylee didn't want to find out first-hand if those stories were true or not. She had lied about her aunt moving in. She had no aunt. At least none she knew of. Once she had graduated, she had left her tiny town on the Texas/ Louisiana border and taken off across the country looking for work and a place to call home. Six months later, here she was, stranded at a rest stop, watching happy families drive by, cars full of smiling faces and wrapped packages.

Voices drifted around her, but she paid no attention. The headlights played across her face again as the car left the rest stop. Two more pulled in and children, boys from the sound of it, burst from the cars, bodies delighting in the ability to move around and stretch.

“Are you ok?” a gentle voice asked at Kylee's shoulder.

Kylee nodded, but didn't turn around.

“Where's your family?” the soft voice asked again.

“Bathroom.” Kylee mumbled. The feet waited, but when Kylee refused to look up or turn around they finally drifted off.

Another car came in. The two cars full of children left. A semi truck pulled in. Another car. Voices sang Christmas songs as they headed toward the bathrooms. A car pulled out. Two more cars pulled in. A van full of people pulled in, its contents dumping themselves at the tables behind Kylee for their dinner. Kylee hadn't even noticed that it was getting dark. She would freeze here all night. It was getting colder quickly and she had no coat. Her stomach rumbled, reminding her that she hadn't eaten since leaving her car hours and hours earlier. The last of her money had put some gas in the car and bought her a bag of pretzels, although she'd been afraid that her feet would swell from the salt. Swollen feet were the least of her problems now. She pulled her arms tighter, hoping that they would somehow provide some heat.

“Oh, help,” Kylee prayed. When was the last time she had gone to church? She couldn't even remember. Would God hear her any more? She had been sure He heard her when she had been much younger, but that certainty had left her years ago and she had quit trying. “Please, help me.”

A car left, then the semi truck, followed by another car. The Christmas Song car left, taking the songs with it. A car pulled in and parked not too far from Kylee. Doors slammed shut and voices moved away. Another car left.

#

Dan noticed the huddled up figure when he parked the car. He didn't pay it much attention, however, and went around the car to help his mom out.

“Thanks, Daniel,” she said, heaving herself out of the car, trying to stretch her travel-weary legs.

“Sure, mom.” He closed the door behind her and followed her up the sidewalk and toward the bathrooms.

“Are you doing ok?” he asked when they met again.

“Sure,” she nodded. It was proving to be a long drive. She had wanted Daniel's grandmother to see him after his mission so she had driven from Mesa all the way to Boise, Idaho. Well, Daniel had really done much of the driving, but it had been her idea to go and visit her before he got a job and began school. Eighteen hours each way was too long in a car, especially when they didn't stop over night. They just left really early.

“We're almost home,” Dan reminded his mom.

She nodded.

“Only about two more hours.”

Another nod.

“Why don't you take a nap?”

“That sounds good.” she agreed. Mary Tyler looked around the rest stop, watching the snow fall.”It sure is pretty.” she commented.

“What is?” Dan asked, not paying that much attention.

“The snow. It sure is pretty.”

“Hmmm.” Dan agreed.

“What is that?” Mary pointed.

Dan looked to see where his mother was pointing. The hunched over person was still sitting there. Snow flakes were beginning to accumulate a small pile on the top of its head and the hump of its shoulders. Dan glanced around to see where its car was but didn't see another car in the parking lot. Had the person been dumped out two days before Christmas?

“Stay here.” He left his mom standing beside the car, holding onto her door handle. He took quick steps to the hunched up figure and touched its shoulder. It jerked, but didn't turn and look at him. “Do you need some help?” he asked.

The figure didn't answer or turn. It didn't move at all.

He tried again. “Can we help you?”

Still nothing. Dan turned to leave, but as soon as he turned around he felt a gentle hand push him around all the way so he was again facing the lump. He took that as a sign that he was supposed to help here somehow. How? Not knowing what else to do he stepped down off the curb and squatted so he could at least talk to its face. He noticed the perpetual shivering. There was no coat in sight.

“You need some help. What can I do?” he asked.

“Nothing.” it mumbled.

“I'm going to do something. I won't leave until you are warm and on your way.”

“Just go.”

“I'm not going until you are ok.”

“I'm fine.”

“You aren't.” Dan stated. “You're shivering, I can see it myself. You are sitting here by yourself at a rest stop without a car or any food that I can see. That is not fine. Where are you going?”

The shoulders moved in a shrug but the movement at least moved off some of the snow.

“I need to know where you're going.” he persisted. “Is someone coming to get you?”

The head shook, shaking off a bit more snow and unleashing a flood of hair that spilled all the way down her back from where she had tucked it up and out of the way. “Great,” she muttered. “It took me an hour to get it to stay that way.”

“Sorry,” Dan grinned at her. At least he knew it was a girl, or rather a woman, now. “So where are you headed?”

“Anywhere.” she said.

“We're driving down to Gilbert. Can we take you that far?”

“Who's we?” she asked hesitantly. She peeked up at him showing her smudged and rumpled face with brown eyes fringed with dark eyelashes. They had to be the only clean part of her face.

“Me and my mother.” He gestured toward the car where his mom still stood waiting for him.

The brown eyes followed his hand to see the stout woman standing beside the car all bundled up in the coat. Dan noticed that his mom's dark hair was beginning to look a bit white from snow.

“Look,” he finally said when she refused to say anything. “My mom is probably getting cold and I know you are. Why don't you come with us and we'll take you to our house in Gilbert and you can decide what to do from there. At least you'll be warm. And we have some snacks in the car.”

He thought she looked tempted but she remained stuck to the curb she was perched on. He stood and felt the joints in his knees complain from squatting so long. “Come on,” he held out a hand to her.

Her head tipped up to see the hand. He felt her eyes searching his face, for what? He stood and waited, hand outstretched. He turned to see his mom watching him and felt a smooth , but freezing cold, hand slip into his. He helped pull her to her feet and stopped, stunned. When she stood she was almost a foot shorter than his six feet, but it was her belly that shocked him. She had to be at least eight months pregnant.

He decided that it might be better not to say anything and instead just put an arm around her to guide her to the bathroom. “Why don't you wash your hands and face with some warm water to start warming you up and I'll get the car started and the heater running so it'll be warm for you.”

She nodded and walked slowly into the bathroom. He wasn't sure if he would ever see her again.

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