The snow fell in a wall of white that obscured her view of the road and the darkening sky. “Why didn’t I stay where I was?” she asked herself as she drove at a snail’s pace along the Shirley Basin Road that wound its way from Medicine Bow to Casper, Wyoming.

As the car’s interior grew colder, she fiddled with the heater knob, but nothing happened. “Dammit! No heat!”

She pulled to the side of the road, ignoring the sliding noise the tires made. She searched for her gloves, but they weren’t in her coat pockets or her purse.  “I must have left them at the convenience store in Medicine Bow.”

After taking several deep breaths and warming her hands in her pockets, she said, “I should go back. There are people in Medicine Bow. There is warmth in Medicine Bow.”

The engine whined, and the tires skidded on the ice under the newly fallen snow. In a frantic effort to free herself, she gunned the engine and rocked the car back and forth. The motor continued to whine as the tires slipped deeper into the drift. After a few more minutes of struggling, she switched off the engine, and stuffed her cold hands into her pockets.

Close to tears, she said, “Here I am, stuck in a snowstorm on a deserted road with no heater, no gloves, no cell phone, and no food. Who knows how long it’ll be before help arrives?  Why didn’t I at least get something to munch on at the convenience store? What am I to do now?”

The night was silent except for the wind and the sound of snow pelting the car. Shivering, she zipped her winter coat as high as it would go. After tightening the hood around her face, she wriggled her toes inside her boots. With a sigh of resignation, she buried her hands deeper in her coat pockets and settled herself more comfortably.

”It doesn’t matter. What do I have to live for? If God exists, and this is his way of punishing me for running away, so be it." She closed her eyes and let herself drift, though she knew this was dangerous.

The sound of a car engine woke her. She turned and gasped in horror when she recognized the angry face outside her window. “It can’t be! He couldn’t have known where I was going.”

Since she had no relatives in Wyoming, the chance of him finding her were slim, but there he was, standing outside her frosted window, glaring at her. The exhaust rising from his idling car made an eerie specter in the freezing air.

His knuckles rapped against the pane with several sharp thuds. Her panic rising, she turned the key in the ignition and pushed the button to automatically lock all doors. Her heart sank when he removed the spare key from his pocket and unlocked the driver’s door. He yanked her out into the freezing cold, slammed the door, and pinned her against it before delivering a hard blow to her cheek.

“How did you find me?” she asked, holding up her hands to protect herself. 

“I followed your tracks,” he said, as he struck her a second time. “I found these on the counter at the Super America in Medicine Bow.” He removed her gloves from his pocket and tossed them into the snow.

“You never did have much common sense,” he said as he hit her a third time, “so I figured you’d be stranded out here somewhere.”

When she bent to retrieve the gloves, he delivered a sharp kick to her backside, sending her sprawling in the snow. As anger rose within her she bent her knee and kicked as hard as she could. Her effort was rewarded when her foot struck something solid and he yelped in pain.

She jumped to her feet. Putting on her gloves she glared at him as he lay writhing in the snow and clutching his crotch. She flung herself on top of him and knocked him flat on his back. With her gloved fists, she pummeled his face.

“Now, you’re getting a taste of your own medicine!” she yelled.

As she continuously struck his face, she wasn’t surprised to smell booze on his breath. She picked up his head and slammed it against the ground a few times, thinking it was odd he didn’t move or try to defend himself. She looked at his inert body in the snow before getting to her feet and removing his wallet from his coat pocket. It had stopped snowing, and a bright moon was shining through the clouds. She got into his warm car and drove away, never looking back, only looking forward.

This story first appeared in the 2008 issue of Emerging Voices, a literary journal produced by Western Nebraska Community College.