It was cold and foggy along a stretch of remote country road where I saw her walking. I was driving my grandaughter and her friend to a movie in Bonsall, about 17 miles from our home in Fallbrook. The young woman was walking toward Fallbrook.
The girls were busy chatting and didn't notice her – but I wanted to go back and ask if something was wrong and if we could help. However, the narrow road between the rural towns was busy that night and there was no place to make a U-turn. So I kept driving.
Nonetheless, the vision haunted me all the way to the theater. And I knew I'd try to stop and see if she needed help on the return drive. I rather expected to see a disabled car left alongside the road, but none was to be seen. If she were actually going to Fallbrook, she would have to travel at least another ten miles to the outskirts, where there was a gas station and a grocery store.
Why would a young woman, not warmly dressed, be making this trip by foot on a cold, moonless night?
I dropped the girls at the theater and anxiously returned to the road. A few minutes later she came into view.
I slowed down, passed her by a few yards, and pulled to the side of the road. I got out and began walking toward her. Not surprisingly, she stopped and began looking around in a helpless way. She didn't run, probably because there was no place to run to. In any case, the headlights of passing cars made it possible for her to see me clearly.
Well, I'm a harmless guy who actually looks like a harmless guy. So she started walking toward me.
I called out that I'd spotted her while taking some kids to the movies, and wondered if she needed some help.
Well, she didn't need much encouragement to get in the car – she was shivering from the cold and said the car's heater felt good.
I explained that I had dropped kids off at the movies and would be going back for them in a couple of hours. Then I asked if she wanted to tell me what had happened.
Her face turned pale as she looked straight ahead and said, "My boyfriend – he made me get out of the car back there."
"Really?" I exclaimed in genuine amazement. "Why would he do a thing like that?"
"An argument. He was really, really mad at me. I'd rather not talk about it."
"Do you live around here?" I asked.
"No – Los Angeles. We were going to see some friends in San Diego, but stopped in Murrieta to see some other friends first."
"So what are you going to do now?"
"If I can get to a phone, I'll try calling the friends in Murrieta. Maybe they'll come and get me."
"There's a gas station and a strip mall up the road a ways," I said, "along with some phone booths. Do you have money for the call?"
"I guess so – got some loose change in my purse."
As the gas station loomed into sight through the fog that had begun to gather, I said I could give her money for the call if she needed it. (This was back before cell phones.)
She smiled and said, "Thank you, but I think I have enough. I may even be able to reverse the charges."
"They must be good friends," I said.
"Well, when they hear what he did to me..."
The gas station phones were in use, but there was a phone booth across the road next to the all-night grocery store.
"I'll wait while you make the call – I don't want to leave you alone here."
She smiled and thanked me again as she reached for coins in her purse. She was about five minutes into the call when she put the phone down and ran back to the car. "Can you tell me exactly where we are? They need to know so they can come and get me."
I told her and then followed her back to the phone booth, to make sure she gave them accurate directions.
She thanked me again and said her friends could arrive in about an hour.
"Let's wait in the car," I suggested. "It's cold out here."
She agreed with a smile and quickly got back into my car.
Then she did something that took me totally by surprise – she leaned over and gave me a big warm kiss, full on the lips.
"Uh – thank you," I stuttered, "but you didn't have to do that."
"I know," she smiled, "but you've been so nice to me – and I appreciate it."
Then she took one of my hands in hers, gave it a squeeze, and said, "Now I want to do something nice for you. What can I do?"
I was in a mild state of shock, and tried to think of an appropriate answer. In the meantime, she had glanced briefly over my shoulder – and I turned to see what had caught her attention. It was the local Best Western Motel with a VACANCY sign shining brightly through the fog.
She sighed and leaned in close. "So...?
I can be very good at showing my gratitude in a motel room."
Well, I'd be lying if I said the thought of having sex with an attractive twenty-something in a cozy motel room didn't have a certain appeal. I even rationalized that it would be more comfortable than waiting in the car, and that, instead of sex, we could just talk while we waited for her friends.
And maybe someday I'll write a fictional ending to this story that will be more exciting than how it actually ended. I told Melody I'd be glad to wait till her friends came, but that she didn't owe me anything.
She smiled again and gave my hand another squeeze. "Okay," she said, "but you don't need to stay. I can wait inside the grocery store and will be able to see my friends when they grt here. Besides, your wife is probably wondering why you aren't back yet."
Well, as for explaining the absence to my wife, that would have been no problem. In those days I was on the road a lot between my office in Anaheim and my home in Fallbrook, which were 75 miles apart. Consequently, pulling over for a nap was something I had done many times before. Also, taking a car nap while the kids were at the movies would be nothing new.
However, I just smiled as Melody opened the door and told her to take care of herself. Before getting out, though, she leaned over and gave me another kiss – this time on the cheek.
"I wish I had a boyfriend like you," she said.