(photo, C. Peterson)

Sophie takes a deep breath as she bites her chapped lips, her clammy skin sticking to her thermal underwear, after a full day of skiing. Shifting his weight, Scott pulls his hoodie over his head, tucking in his thick brown ponytail under his black hat. Checking himself out in the rearview mirror, lifting his chin up, tightens the hoodie’s drawstring under his neck. His large rough hands slap Sophie’s left thigh. “Ready? Let’s go.” His Oakley sunglasses block the glare from the snow, he stops himself taking a moment to look at her. She nods, giving him a weak smile.

Driving towards the eye of the storm, the large snowflakes turn to chunks of hail. The windshield wipers squeaked back and forth in a steady beat as the hail knocked on the windshield. Sophie’s chest tightens as she realizes why Scott seemed so familiar. She read a story in the local paper last week about young girl who was assaulted, early in the morning, while jogging alone on a bike path. Twirling her aquamarine earrings, she visualizes the police sketch of the suspect from the newspaper: white male, six-foot or taller, wearing sunglasses and a hooded jacket. She turns her back towards Scott, biting her lips even harder.

Scott opens the window just enough to let a rush of cold air enter the bright red Range Rover. Lighting up a joint, he takes a hit, holding it in front of Sophie’s face. “Want a hit?” Sophie shakes her head. “No thanks, I’m good.” As the smell of marijuana overwhelms the SUV, her nausea begins. Scott fumbles with the radio with one hand, the other on the steering wheel and nearly veers off the unplowed road. “Whoah!” His wide stunning smile that used to turn her on, now made her cringe. Stroking the side of her neck, she felt a tickle in her throat, which triggered a loud coughing fit. Grabbing her inhaler after rummaging through her backpack, she deeply inhaled two puffs. “Hey, you ok over there, sweetie?” She glanced at him for a moment, then looked down. “Yep. I’m OK. My asthma has been acting up from the high altitude.” He nodded as he kept his eyes on the snowy road, taking a hit from his joint every few minutes. “Let’s see what this baby is made of!”, stomping his boot on the gas pedal. Driving off the narrow mountain road, he takes the turn too fast as he skids out on the empty highway. The Range Rover’s back-end swerved, jerking Sophie from her seat, bumping up against Scott. Her heartbeat pounded faster. He grabs the steering wheel tight, coaxing it back to the center of the highway. “You know, for an old truck, this thing handles pretty nice.” Forcing a smile, “I bought it knowing about the bad storms out here.” He chuckles in his deep voice and smirks, checking out her body, head to toe. His cold stare penetrates her entire being. Sophie’s eyes fill up with tears, as her throat starts to tighten again.


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