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When Olivia’s stranded with a broken down Jeep and no way to pay for repairs, I know we can work something out.
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Two thousand miles, twenty fast-food stops, and about three gallons of coffee later, and there I was, standing on the side of the road without any place to go. My car, my reliable car, decided to crap out on me just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’d traveled all the way from New York City, only stopping to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom. When I left the city, I didn’t know where I would end up. There wasn’t a destination in my mind, but still, I never imagined I would be stuck somewhere without cell service or a working vehicle.
Feeling helpless, I flopped down on the curb to wait—waiting felt like the only option. My car was too heavy to push, and the nearest town was five miles away. While I sat there, I tried to work up the nerve to start walking, but my legs felt weak from all my hours in the car. Just sitting on the curb caused tingles to vibrate through my shins. I sighed and looked up at the sky, silently wishing for help.
Not one minute later, help arrived. The sun was beginning to set; the air around me grew cool. I knew night was almost upon me, and just when I felt fear creep up my spine, a pair of headlights blinded me. I squinted and stood up quickly, watching the passing car slow to a stop. My nerves immediately took control, and I hesitated. What if this person was a rapist? A serial killer? My New Yorker instincts told me to hang back until I was sure it was safe.
“Hey there!” a female voice called. “Need some help?”
She rolled down the passenger side window and smiled at me from behind the wheel of her beat-up Subaru. Her eyes were kind, and her smile soothed my nerves.
“Actually, yes,” I said, taking a small step forward. “My car broke down, and I’m… well, I’m not from around here.”
“I figured.” She laughed. “Saw your New York plates.”
“Yeah.” I nodded. “I was thinking about walking the five miles back to… um… whatever that town was…”
“Nah,” she said. “No need. You’re almost to Santa Fe. There’s an auto shop about two miles up. Man who owns it can fix anything.”
“Really?” I felt hope blossom in my chest.
“Yup.” She nodded. “I can give you a lift up there. It’s on my way.”
I hesitated for just a second. My heart beat a little faster as I weighed the safety of this situation. This woman seemed kind, and she had already proved herself to be helpful. Still, I didn’t like the idea of getting in the car with a stranger. As I stood there, watching the sunset, I knew I didn’t have a choice.
“That would be great.” I smiled. “Thank you so much.”
“No worries,” she said, waving me over. “Hop in.”
I pulled open the passenger side door and climbed inside. She smiled and shot forward, driving me the two miles to the auto shop she promised. We made small talk as we drove, and I knew immediately she was just as sweet as she seemed. When we pulled up outside the shop, I worried it might be closed. The garage doors were already pulled down, and only one light was on inside.
“Are you sure they’re open?” I asked.
“Bradley’s always here,” she said with confidence. “If the door’s locked, just knock.”
I nodded and stepped out of the car. “Thank you for the lift.”
She waited until I was safely inside the shop before driving away. Nervously, I turned toward the front counter, walking forward. The entire office was neat as a pin, everything clean and orderly. As I looked around, I was surprised to see flowers set out on each table with brand new chairs lining every wall. There was a coffee machine in the far corner and a fridge full of bottled waters.
From the outside, the auto shop looked to be run down and home to a few lowlifes. Once inside, my opinion shifted drastically. Part of me wondered if the owner’s wife had something to do with the comfortable décor.
“What’s up?” a voice said, startling me. I jumped and whipped back around to face the counter. A man who hadn’t been there before was staring at me with wide-eyed expectation. “Whatcha need?”
I blinked. I wasn’t expecting someone to sneak up on me, let alone someone as handsome as this man. He was wearing an old, tattered T-shirt that was covered in grease. I could barely see his jeans from my side of the counter, but I could tell they were old and worn too. His cobalt eyes were locked on my face, and his sandy blond hair fell just above his eyes.
“Um,” I said, clearing my throat and trying not to stare at the tattoos peeking out from beneath his shirt sleeves. “My car broke down about two miles down the road. A woman dropped me off here. She said you might be able to help me.”