Because she no longer trusts men or in her own decisions, Courtney lives a secluded, careful life. Fate, however, reminds her of what she is missing. Sweet, strong Dustin might be a safe choice, but Courtney isn't ready for the risks involved in a committed relationship. If she doesn't face the challenges ahead, Dustin may move on without her.
When a blizzard tries to prevent her from travelling to Dustin's for the weekend, she is forced to confront her fears. Is she up to the physical and emotional journey necessary to reach happiness? Time is running out since Dustin has decided this is the make or break weekend.
Snow choked sidewalks, driveways, and roads. The plows had been unable to keep ahead of the overnight blizzard. Then more precipitation had fallen during the day. Lumps of snow covered fence posts and trees like giant popcorn balls.
While Courtney made coffee, she stared out the window and down at the silent, sunny morning. White mounds blanketed the cars in the parking lot. Luckily, she had purchased a spot in the basement car park. At least her Chevy Cavalier would be clean. Her neighbor in #314 skied into view and down the street—a sensible way to travel on a day like this.
After she finished her coffee, Courtney drove her Cavalier out of the car park; the wheels rocked and churned through the deep snow. A small snowplow, skirting parked cars, struggled to clear the parking lot of her condominium. She hoped she wouldn't get stuck and become another obstacle.
Her Chevy lurched onto and down the side street. The city plow had cleared the major thoroughfare, dumping even more snow into the intersection. The only way she could exit her street was to ignore the stop sign and gun the Cavalier full blast through the build-up, even though she lacked a clear view of the busy road.
"Either take a risk, or don't go at all," she told herself as she pressed on the gas pedal.
Her car sashayed through the intersection, fishtailed wildly, and finally settled in the proper lane. An oncoming truck blared its horn in reproach. Courtney's heart pounded in her chest. Resisting the urge to flip the other driver off, she headed for work. She congratulated herself on surviving.
During the day, the clouds returned, and more snow fell. The city plows could not keep ahead of the precipitation. By quitting time, the sun had come out again. Courtney checked the weather website. No severe weather warning. The worst was over. She could drive to Dustin's for the weekend. She had no reason to feel anxious. No physical reason anyway. She felt more trepidation about what would happen upon her arrival than about the actual journey.
She was busy. Many of her co-workers had not made it into work, but the office still had to meet its deadlines. Thankfully, she did not have to deal with any foreclosures. Thinking about what a family had lost always made her sad. By the time the files came across her desk, it was well past the date when anyone could help them.
Michele, her boss, was pleased when Courtney brought a complete file to her office and said, "There are no irregularities on the title. Everything looks good to go."
Because Courtney was dependable and efficient, Michele was able to relax and allow Courtney autonomy. Courtney prided herself on a thorough job and was willing to work overtime when necessary. She and Michele had spent many evenings together over pizza, completing paperwork before a deadline.
"Awesome," said Michele. "And thanks again for being prompt today."
"No problem," said Courtney. "If I'm lucky, they'll have my street plowed when it's time to leave. I hope the highways are good."
"Where are you off to this weekend?" asked Michele.
"I'm visiting a friend out of town. Would it be okay if I ate lunch at my desk and skipped out an hour early?"
"Absolutely," said Michele. "You accommodate my crazy demands."
"Thanks. I'm not comfortable driving after dark in the winter in the middle of nowhere," said Courtney. "Leaving early will give me an extra hour of light."
"Make sure your cell phone's charged," said Michele. "You want to be able to call Triple A if you run into trouble."
"You bet," said Courtney.
"And be careful."
"Yes, Mom." Courtney laughed.
"I just don't want to have to try to replace you," said Michele with a smile. "Nobody else can read my notes."
Courtney chuckled as she closed her boss's door. She did not tell Michele that she would be driving through areas without sufficient cell tower coverage. At times during the trip to Dustin's house, Courtney's cell phone would be useless.
Gratefully, Courtney slipped out an hour early and struggled home through the rutted streets to pack. Some roads were decent, some partially obstructed, and some impassable. Fortunately, the plows had reached her street. The parking lot was now cleared and sanded.
She plugged her beeping cell phone in to charge and then dug her partially packed suitcase out from under the bed. After throwing in the last few items, she slipped into jeans and a sweater. Standing before the mirror, she combed out her left part, swept her golden-brown hair into a ponytail, and then brushed her long bangs to the side. She put on her black, rectangular glasses with round-edged frames, compulsory for driving.
After flicking on the television, she turned to the weather station. The highways remained open although they were snow-covered and more clouds were approaching. Getting to her destination would be a challenge. However, figuring out what to say when she arrived would be harder still. Why did Dustin have to complicate things? He had dropped the "M" bomb the last time they were together. She had responded with stunned silence. Now, she would have to deal with it. He would expect a response. On a Friday after an exhausting week of work, she wanted to avoid conflict. Relationships were supposed to be uplifting. Courtney felt as heavy as the barometric pressure. She did not want to lose Dustin, but neither did she want him to push her into something . . . well, something she didn't want.
Though they had spoken several times on the phone that week, they hadn't said a word about the incident. But Dustin was bound to bring the subject of marriage up again when they were face to face. She didn't know how to respond; her emotions were muddled and confused. She would have to figure out what to say when she got there. Not the best strategy, that's for sure. She hated the unpredictable.
Courtney was a planner. She labeled, filed, and cross-referenced everything in her life. Her DVDs sat in alphabetized rows. Before she went shopping, she prepared a detailed meal menu for the entire week. Using spreadsheet software, she carefully designed monthly and yearly budgets and then followed them religiously. Despite the demands of work and her frequent weekend trips to see Dustin, she stuck to a regular exercise schedule. After her last experience with love, she had become obsessed with rigid organization, preparation, and routine. Sometimes she thought it might feel good to relax, but spontaneity and randomness raised her anxiety level.
Dustin was an unknown. Somewhat unknown, anyway. Courtney wondered if you ever really knew anyone. Relationships depended on an illusion that was based on seeing only the best in the other person. Partly because that was the side people initially showed, and partly because lovers perceived with their irrational hearts and not their rational minds. Courtney kept waiting for the day when she would see past the warm glow and know the real Dustin. All illusions, fantasies, and wishes shattered. That would be a horribly painful day, but at least she would know the truth.
She decided to call Dustin before she left. They had been unsure last night if she should come at all, given the heavy snowfall warning. He could tell her about the weather on his end.
Weather was always a safe topic. Only recently had they struggled with conversation. From the moment they met, Courtney and Dustin had chatted like comfortable friends.