I received my very favorite Christmas present of all time that wonderful winter evening last December. It was a few days before the big event and I had just returned home from university for the holidays. Unfortunately, because of studying for examinations, I had not yet had much time for shopping.
My mother suggested I travel to the gigantic mall located in a large city a hundred miles away. Mother told me she got all her shopping done in one day at the place. I took her suggestion and headed for that mall early the next morning, despite the weatherman's dire prediction of blizzard-like conditions.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. I didn't care. My father suggested I take his brand new Lincoln Navigator with four-wheel drive and plenty of room for presents. Nobody but father had driven the two week new black beauty yet.
The Christmas spirit really began to affect me as I traipsed through the huge mall, selecting appropriate gifts for all my family and friends. I especially enjoyed playing in the toy stores. That sure brought back some fond childhood memories. I picked out a Chicken Dance Elmo for my favorite cousin's little daughter. When Elmo squawked "Elmo wants to be a chicken! Elmo wants to be a duck!" I burst out laughing and all the other adults stared at me.
Returning home from the mall, I decided to take a short cut over back country roads my father had told me about. It had turned dark and snowed so hard I could only see a few feet in front of me. A deer suddenly jumped out on the road and I panicked and slammed on the brakes. Big mistake. I slid off the road, over an embankment and into a small ravine.
The Lincoln landed on its roof with the front pointed slightly upwards, which turned out to be a blessing. The air bag had deployed which prevented me from being injured but I could barely move. I couldn't free myself and I couldn't get to my cell phone in my purse on the passenger seat. The vehicle's engine had shut off and I was pinned such that I couldn't reach the key to attempt to start it, just to keep warm. While driving I had taken my coat off and opened the window slightly which seemed to keep the windows clearer, and cranked up the heater/defroster.
I sat there for what seemed to me to be hours just shivering. Hardly any other vehicles had been on this road and they couldn't see me now anyway. I couldn't move and I couldn't summon help. Snow and wind blew in the open window. All seemed hopeless.
I thought I just might freeze to death if my dire situation didn't change for the better soon. Finally I got some sort of idea. The possibility anyone would see my signal seemed remote but I thought it just might be my only chance to be rescued. I could reach the headlight switch. I turned the lights on and alternated between high beams and low beams for a few minutes and then turned them off and then repeated the process over and over and over. Like I said, the nose of the Lincoln did point up in the air. I did this for what must have been hours as the headlights got dimmer and dimmer until there was no juice left. I started to pray.
Oh my God! I saw lights. I saw another vehicle approaching. It got fairly close. Not a car. It looked like some sort of ATV. The driver got off and came up to my window and spoke. "Not to worry, lady, I'll get you out of there. But first, do you think you're injured?" Sweet music to my ears let me tell you, a human voice other than my own. I had feared I might never hear one again.
"No, no, nothing hurts. But I'm freezing in here. I might have frostbite."
He forced open the door and deflated the air bag and cut the seat belt with a knife. But I still was upside down. "Okay, miss, now move your arms and legs and let's make sure there is no reason I should summon emergency medical personnel instead of just yanking you out of there."
"Pull me out! It will take forever for them to get here. I'm not hurt. I need to get warm. God, I'm so cold!"
"Yes, I would imagine. But you'll be fine soon."
He began to gently inch me out of the Lincoln and I was out and standing on my feet in ten minutes. But not for long. I fainted but only momentarily. He picked me up and carried me in his arms to the ATV. After wrapping me in a blanket he put me behind him. "Now, you have to hang on to me," he advised. "We'll be someplace warm real quick." I hung on for dear life.
It seemed like forever but I'm sure it took only about twenty minutes until we entered a house and he carried me into a large den with a wood burning stove right in the middle of it. Logs burning brightly. Heat! Hallelujah! He put me upright up again. I could stand this time.
"Okay, miss, take off your clothes."
"Your clothes. Remove them."
"Why? Are you a doctor or something? Are you going to examine me?"
"Miss, your clothes are cold and wet. I'm going to get you a sleeping bag. You get in that and sit or lay by the fire and you'll warm up. As a matter of fact, I am a doctor... an intern at a hospital in San Francisco. This is my parent's home. I'm spending the holidays with them. I won't examine you unless you want me to. Perhaps I will have a look at your hands and feet to check for frostbite. But first, get warm. Now, I'm going to get the bag. You take your clothing off and cover up with the blanket. I'll throw your stuff in the dryer. Are we communicating effectively?"
"Yes, sir, doctor, sir." I laughed lightly and began to feel a little better. And my, the doctor was good looking once he took off the stocking hat and scarf.
Soon I lay naked in the sleeping bag by the fire, but I still shivered and he noticed. "I have another suggestion," he offered.
"Cook me in the fire?" I jested. He laughed. Delightful smile. And those eyes!
"What about a drink? Cocoa or tea or something?"
"How about a shot of Jack Daniels?" I responded. That's what my father drank but I hated the stuff.
"How about a small glass of wine?" he countered.
"That would be nice."
"Be right back. Something to eat? I could make you a sandwich or something." I shook my head indicating no thank you. "Are you a student at PUMA university?" he asked with a smirk as he picked up my sweatshirt, black bra and panties and other clothing. "The sweatshirt with the logo."
"Close on the PUMA. My school also has four letters and starts with a P."
"That would have been my first guess. I saw the bumper sticker on your vehicle."
"My father put that on. You don't really think I can afford a Lincoln Navigator, do you? Daddy is one of those fanatic alumni."
"And black underwear? Surprise, surprise."
"I bet you wear pink boxer shorts."
"Only because I washed the boxers with my red sweater. Let me get you your beverage, young lady, before you accuse me of being a child molester."
He soon brought a bottle and two glasses. "This is an Argentine wine, specifically 2001 Catena Chardonnay. Crisp and fresh, with pear and apple aromas." He handed me a half full glass. "I suppose perhaps we should make a toast. But first, I'm Mark."
"I'm Annie. Well, actually, the name on my birth certificate is Annebelle. That was my great-grandmother's name and I got stuck with it too. No one calls me Annebelle because I hurt them if they do. Old Annebelle, the name suited her, called me Annebelle but she's with the angels now, rest her soul. Quite a lady. She taught me how to knit and crochet when I was a kid."
"Here's to your good heath, Annebelle." I gave him a dirty look. "And no more accidents, 'eh, Annie?" We clicked glasses lightly and I tasted the wine.
"This is excellent, funny guy, but I'm not legally old enough to drink alcohol in this state. Almost, but not quite. You are contributing to the delinquency of a minor, doctor! I'll reserve judgment on the child molester charge." I winked playfully.
"Heaven forbid! But as a physician I do sometimes advocate treatment that is considered illegal and/or unethical by some. For example, prescribing marijuana for terminally ill cancer patients. If you are almost old enough to drink, then I am about five years older than you."
"A dirty old man! By the way, where are your parents, Grandpa? I suspect you require a chaperon. They might frown upon naked young ladies in your den."
"I'm glad to see you have retained your sense of humor throughout this ordeal, young lady. My parents are in Las Vegas with my brother and his wife. Kind of a Christmas present junket. I'm picking them all up at the airport tomorrow. Speaking of family, isn't there someone you should call to let them know of your whereabouts?"
"Oh, my, yes, yes, yes! Geez, I hope Daddy isn't mad about his Lincoln."
"The important thing is that you weren't injured, Annie. I'm sure your father will understand and be thankful rather than upset. Here's my cell phone."
"Thanks, Mark. I left mine back there in the blizzard. Couldn't get to it when I was stuck."
"You call and I'll go get some more firewood."
.... There is more of this story ...