The car coughed on its last breath of vaporized gasoline.
“You couldn’t hold out a little longer?” I banged my head against the wheel. “Of all the places,” I muttered.
I unbuckled my seat belt and zipped up my coat. The car’s thermometer read twenty degrees. A shiver scuttled down my spine.
I flipped open my cell phone. Lovely, dead battery.
I grabbed my flashlight, pulled my hat down over my ears, and got out. The door slammed harder than I’d intended.
The roads were plowed, but the snow was still thick on the sides of the road.
Sticking out from the drifts, were four wooden signs. They were spaced so that drivers could take in the message, one phrase at a time. My car stopped right between “Sin is the cause” and “Christ is the cure”.
They were all scrawled in the same sloppiness, as if the message was too urgent for good penmanship.
I rolled my eyes at the signs, and then tramped over to the driveway. I regretted my decision to wear sling-back heels. More so, I regretted not taking the boots my roommate Julie offered me before I left.
I can’t let Scott see me in those clodhoppers yet, not until we’re married.
Everything from my calves down was numb when I reached the door. A bulb overhead emitted a faint heat that warmed my face. I uncrossed an arm to knock on the door.
I stamped my feet about a dozen times before I decided no one was home, and turned to walk back down the driveway. That’s when the door opened.
In the doorway, stood a slight girl, not more than seventeen, in a conservative blue dress and covering.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, I hope so.” I said. “My car is out of gas. It conked out right at the end of your driveway. Do you have a phone I could use?” Idiot, she probably doesn’t have a phone. “Or, um, do you know someone that could help?”
She nodded and let me inside. It was warm, dark, and smelled of kerosene.
She led me to the end of a hallway. “The phone is in here,” she said.
“Thank you,” I said, surprised. I sat down on the chair next to the telephone and dialed Scott’s number.
I unzipped my coat while it rang.
“Scott? It’s Kelsey. Can you come pick me up? My car died. No gas.”
The girl came back in the room while I gave him directions. She carried a steaming mug in her hands.
“You looked cold.” She started to smile but stopped as her eyes caught sight of my low-cut dress. “I thought you could use some hot tea.”
I hung up the phone, and pulled my coat closer. “Thank you.” I said, taking the tea. “That was sweet of you, and thank you for letting me in to use the phone.” I didn’t even know her name. When I talked to Scott, I told him to look for the place with the signs. Guilt warmed my cheeks.
“I’m sorry. I haven’t asked your name. Mine’s Kelsey.” I extended my hand.
She took it lightly, too lightly. I could hardly feel it.
“Bethany,” she said, bowing her head slightly. “Please excuse me," she said before she walked out of the room.
I wandered around while I waited for Scott.
“What are you doing here?” A man’s voice startled me. An older man, in plain clothes, stood across from me.
I couldn’t tell if he was surprised or angry.
“Bethany let me in,” I stammered. “My car broke down. She let me use the phone.”
His face went as white as the snow outside. “Bethany’s dead. She’s been gone twenty years.”
Now my complexion matched his. My skin prickled.
Mr. Miller told me what happened to Bethany, while I waited for Scott. He told me how she lost her way after Rumschpringe. It’s when he posted the signs. She died when the car she was riding in flipped over. Right between “sin is the cause” and “Christ is the cure”. She and the driver were drunk.
I slid into the passenger seat, dazed.
Scott looked over at me with his hand paused on the ignition. “Wanna stop at my place first?”
His intention sent a wave of shame through me. “No, I can’t do this anymore. You’d better take me home.”
My eyes glimpsed a sign on the other side of the road; it said, “Repent.”
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