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Andi's Dream - A Blizzard in Buffalo



Andi's Dream - A Blizzard in Buffalo

By Duleigh

Description: Trapped in a Buffalo blizzard, Andi Roberts and her daughters were doomed unless someone came to save them. At the same time, Paul Jarecki sat alone in his cabin, wondering why he continued to cling to his solitary life. A panicked call to 911 set in motion a rescue, which became a romance, which became a love that neither Andi nor Paul could comprehend. Is it a dying dream or is it real?

Tags: Romance, Erotica, Adventure, Oral, Intimacy, Desire, Consensual

Published: 2024-04-20

Size: ≈ 123,628 Words

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Andi's Dream - A Blizzard in Buffalo

by Duleigh

©Copyright 2024 Duleigh

Trapped in a Buffalo blizzard, Andi Roberts and her daughters were doomed unless someone came to save them. At the same time, Paul Jarecki sat alone in his cabin, wondering why he continued to cling to his solitary life. A panicked call to 911 set in motion a rescue, which became a romance, which became a love that neither Andi nor Paul could comprehend. Is it a dying dream or is it real?

Chapter One

It was a cold, dreary December day, gray, damp, slightly foggy, one of those days where it seems like everyone and everything is dreading an upcoming funeral. Yesterday was cold but sunny, the breeze scattered the dry leaves that danced across the street, the sound of their moving filled the air. Today was damp and foggy, the moisture gluing the leaves in place. A Jeep Gladiator pickup pulled up to Dr. Paul Jarecki's cabin on Trevett Road. It was a green truck, that odd color of olive green that made it look like a military vehicle, unless you've been in the military and know what kind of green they use. It even had decorative stencils to add to the military look, but the stencils miss that one thing that would make the stencils look authentic… "over spray." No, the green was a good green, the stencils were perfect and straight and the finish was buffed to a gloss. This was not a military vehicle, and the driver was not military, not anymore. Josh Gravely stepped out of the truck, walked up to the barn shaped cabin and knocked on the door, then entered without waiting for a response from inside. "Hey Doc," he said.

Dr. Jarecki looked up from the document he was reading on his laptop. The scent of smoke from his pipe and bacon from the morning breakfast filled the air. It was a manly cabin filled with mementos of hunts and fishing expeditions, photographs of Paul Jarecki and friends, including Josh holding up fish, or ducks, or deer. At one side of the cabin was a wood stove that warmed the cabin with a snap and crackle. The flames seen through the glass door moved in slow motion from the controlled intake of oxygen. A covered iron pot on top of the stove was slowly coming up to heat. There would be beef stew for dinner tonight. "Heading out?" Paul asked without looking up from the document on the screen. "I thought you had the rest of the week off."

"I did, but Eli called and asked me to come in, he thinks there's a storm coming and we have a new hospital to bring online," said Josh as he reached into Paul's fridge and grabbed a bottle of Genesee beer, pulled up a chair and took a drink. Josh worked at an up-and-coming data storage and networking company and owns the property across the street for recreation, but he lives in Orchard Park, about 25 miles away.

"That's the problem with you former military types, sergeant," said Paul. "They call, you haul. You should learn to relax." The doctor glanced over the top half of his glasses and wrote a note on a legal pad on his desk.

"Said the lieutenant colonel who is reviewing his patients records on his day off," said Josh. "Here's the key to my cabin, if there's a fire you know what to do," and he rose and hung the key ring in Paul's key rack.

"I know, save the rifles and clear your browser history."

Josh placed a fresh beer on Paul's desk for his friend, then took a sip from his own beer and said, "Clear the browser history first. I don't have a barn full of hot chicks to keep me company."

"My hot chicks are keeping you in eggs. Besides, don't you have a secretary named McRooster or something like that to drool over?"

Josh sat back down. "It's von Köster and she's the bosses executive assistant. She is keeping this company together.”

"I'm just saying," Paul took a sip from the beer that Josh set in front of him, "she's a neighbor. I could put in a good word for you."

"Thank you Doctor J but we are definitely in different leagues. She's pitching for the Yankees and I'm a benchwarmer for a pre-school T-ball league."

Paul took another drink, then said, "Don't put yourself down like that. You'll be starting as center fielder for the local Ace Hardware T-ball team soon… with practice."

Josh rose and zipped up his jacket and moved toward the door. "See you Saturday?"

"Roger that, the Bills are playing the Broncos, it's going to be a good game." Paul then noticed that Josh was still holding the beer bottle as he opened the door and called out, "that's a nickel!" Josh groaned and finished the beer then set the empty bottle on the table so Paul could collect the deposit. "Do you think it's going to snow?"

Josh looked out of the door at the lead gray sky and shrugged. "Nah, probably not."

"Same here. Bring some beers on Saturday, I'll put on some venison stew."

Josh backed out of Paul's driveway, then stopped to check his mailbox and double checked the gate on his property then headed to work. It was annoying to come in on a day off, but he wanted this project to succeed, so he headed in. The run down to his office in Orchard Park was about twenty minutes, and by the time he got to the office, the snow was soon flying. It looked like this storm grew some teeth and didn't warn anyone.


Chapter Two

Time passes slowly when you're stuck in the snow, and Dr. Adrianna Roberts was good and stuck.

She had flown from her home in Denver, Colorado, to Buffalo, New York for a medical conference to be held at the South Boston Hospital, a new hospital in a growing rural community about 20 miles south of Buffalo. Andi, as she's most commonly called, didn't expect much from this conference, but one of the speakers' name rang a bell. Dr. Lucy Kosis, her best friend in the world who now lives in the Buffalo area, encouraged her to go. Other than the opportunity to come and visit Lucy, there was really no need to go. Looking at the speakers and the list of classes to be held in the seminar, it was all 'stuff' that she wrote many papers on in her past, some even before she got her fellowship. At least University hospital paid for the trip. Andi guessed they figured, "What trouble could she get into in Buffalo?”

She brought the twins with her too; they are the joys of her life. Since Lucy left Denver and moved to Buffalo, the twins were the only joy left in Andi's life. They will start school next year, so this might be the last time she could bring them with her on a business trip, even though this was the first business trip she had been on since they were born. The last trip she took was to a conference in Minneapolis not long before the twins were born.

They landed in Buffalo several days early to unwind at a highly rated B&B out in the country. Then she had the week-long conference while the twins relaxed with Aunt Lucy, then two weeks of vacation; one week spent skiing and tubing in the "snow belt" south of Buffalo, then Christmas week in Niagara Falls and Toronto. Her very best friend and colleague Lucy Kocis would be there to guide them around the area, offer day care during the conference, and being a world-class athlete Lucy would be her instructor for the important Nordic skills of tobogganing, inner tubing, and consuming wine by the fire.

Getting out of the airport and into a rental car was easy enough. In fact, Buffalo International is one of the easiest airports to get out of that Andi had ever flown into. Soon they were in the rental car heading south, singing along with Christmas carols on Andi's iPhone, which she paired with the radio on the rental car. And then it started snowing. She was extremely confident in her winter driving skills, having been born and raised in Denver, and she visited Grandma and Grandpa Olson in Bismarck, North Dakota almost annually.… how hard could winter driving be in Buffalo?

Had they been listening to a local radio station, they would have discovered that the sports talk switched to weather talk, and they were heading into the teeth of a Lake Effect blizzard, the type of storm that Buffalo is famous for. The snow started in small, wet, widely spaced flakes as they passed New Era Stadium, the home of the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, but the further south they drove, the heavier the snow fell. As they got closer to their target destination, Springville, not only was the snow flying in earnest, but there was also thunder and lightning. "Thundersnow?" Andi asked no one in particular, "who has thundersnow?”

"Thundersnow! Thundersnow! Thundersnow!" the twins sang along with 'Let It Snow.'

Her windshield wipers could barely keep up with the onslaught, and to make matters worse, when she exited the 219 expressway, she ended up heading west into the countryside rather than east into town and the cozy bed and breakfast room waiting for them. She wanted to turn around but there was oncoming traffic which prevented a U turn, and there was no intersection visible.

As she drove, the four lane wide highway narrowed down to a two-lane paved country road, something she didn't notice happening due to the heavy snow. She almost discovered that the roads in this part of the world have deep ditches due to the amount of rain and snowfall. Andi stopped and checked her GPS, her right tires perilously close to sliding into the ditch unbeknownst to her. She found her mistake quickly and decided to turn around at the next intersection, which was 5 slow miles ahead.

When she finally reached the intersection, she nearly missed it. Snow was piling up fast, and even though it was still early in the afternoon, the world grew very dark and took on a brownish gray hue from so much snow in the air. She misjudged how narrow the country road that she turned on to was, and without warning her slow-moving car slid sadly into the ditch on the side of the road.

Much of Andi's winter driving experience came from North Dakota visiting her grandparents, and not Denver. Denver is almost tropical compared to Bismarck, North Dakota. Even in the mountains, the roads that Andi traveled on in Colorado were well groomed. In North Dakota she learned that when you go into the wide shallow ditches, you drive on the frozen ground until you find a place to pull back on the road. Western New York is vastly different. She tried to continue with one set of wheels in the ditch until she found a field entry driveway, which is what she would do in North Dakota.

However, the steep sided deep ditches in New York are different from the wide, shallow ditches of North Dakota and soon she was hopelessly stuck, far off of the main road, highway 39. She stopped the car and immediately it slid deeper into the ditch, tilting up to almost forty-five degrees. Immediately the twins panicked, chattering away at the edge of terror as only 5-year-old twin girls can chatter. Andi dubbed it TwinBabble®, and it took Andi several minutes to calm them into a form of quiet that would allow an emergency phone call.

"Nine one one, what is your emergency?" Andi gulped. She had informed scores of terrified patients to call 911, but she has never done it herself. Is there a protocol? What do I say? She realized she must have been discussing this situation with herself in her head longer than she realized because the operator repeated, "Nine one one, what is your emergency?"

"Oh, um, sorry. Hi." Now she felt stupid. Who says "Hi" to a 911 operator? "I'm Doctor Adrianna Roberts and I'm stuck in the snow." Now she felt even dumber. Why would she think that throwing her title at the 911 operator could improve the situation? Maybe if she rattled off her list of publications, the tow truck would arrive faster?

"Where are you located? Take your time if you have to."

Andi decided that the 911 operator was an empath and realized how stupid she was making herself feel. "I'm not sure, we turned off the 219 expressway at Springville but headed west instead of east on Route 39, then I tried to turn around at an intersection and slid into the ditch."

The operator sounded calm. "I know that area pretty well, it's easy to get turned around in a snowstorm, so I'm just going to ask a few questions to help figure out where you are, OK? When you turned, was this the first intersection after 39 narrowed from four lane to two lane? Or did you go further?"

Andi suddenly realized that she did not notice if there were intersections before the road narrowed. No, wait … the only sign she saw was the sign indicating that the right lane had to merge left, so she wasn't completely ignorant of the world around her as she drove, but there was so much snow that she couldn't actually see the road narrow. "Yes, the first one after."

The 911 operator frowned to herself. If Doctor Roberts had turned at the next intersection a few miles further west on 39, she would be safe in the tiny village of Morton's Corners. "Did you turn left or right off of 39?" she asked Andi.

"Left, we turned left onto the side road."

"Ok, here's the good news. I know exactly where you are." Andi gulped. There is another shoe waiting to drop. The operator continued. "The bad news is that the Erie County Sheriff's office has put a driving ban in place, and they themselves are not on the road."

"Oh God, what do I do?" gasped Andi. "I have two five year old girls in here with me." She tried to keep the terror out of her voice, but was fighting a losing battle.

"There is a farmhouse very close to you," said the operator. "Can you see it?"

Andi tried looking out of the windows, but she could see nothing. "No, I can't see past the hood of my car, my girls… I don't think I could walk them to the farmhouse in this snow."

"I'm going to reach out to the Town of Concord, which is where you are right now. They may have assets available."

Andi's heart sank. She verified her phone number with the 911 operator who gave her some tips on staying warm, then hung up. What do I do? She asked herself, lie to the girls that everything is going to be ok? The girls were panicking as they hung in an angle in their car seats, so Andi turned around and released them.

"Do we have to wait in the car or can Sandy and I go out and play in the snow?" asked the younger of the twins, Madeline. She was younger than Sandy by 2 minutes. When Andi told them, they couldn't go out in the snow, the moppets started fighting over who was sitting on who in the car that was leaning on a 45-degree angle, causing Madeline to end up on Sandy's lap. Sandy decided that since she was older, she got to sit on her younger sister's lap.

"No you cannot go outside and play, the police will be calling me soon to tell me what we can do," Andi was exerting considerable self-control to keep herself from screaming, but it was a cute thought, wanting to go build a snowman in a blizzard to pass the time. Her cell phone rang as she was trying to break up the fight. "Doctor Roberts," she answered mechanically.

"Doctor Roberts, this is Sergeant Montgomery of the Town of Concord police department, how y'all doin'?"

"I think cabin fever is starting to set in with the twins, but we're doing ok."

"Ma'am, to be blunt, we do not have any units on the road, nor do we have any plows or snowmobiles in that area." Before Andi could audibly moan, he continued, "I made a few calls, and a fellow who lives just up the road from where you're at agreed to head out to help you. It may take a little time, so stay warm, keep the engine running and the lights on so he can see you, but you're going to have to keep the tail pipe clear to prevent carbon monoxide build up."

"Thank you so much Sergeant!" and Andi turned to tell the twins the good news, which only stoked their desire to go build a snowman before it got dark, which appeared to be happening. They settled for a story, so Andi promised them a story after she dug the exhaust pipe clear of the snow. She tried to open the door, but the car was at such a steep angle she couldn't open the door. As a pulmonologist, she knew the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning far too intimately, so she opened the window and climbed out by standing on the side of the center console and pulling herself out of the window. She cleared the exhaust pipe, which luckily was on the driver's side and not down in the snow-filled ditch, then clambered back into the car. Sandy handed her the thick story book from which Andi had been reading stories to them since before they were born.

As Andi drew to the end of the second story that she was reading to the girls, Madeline's eyes shot open wide. "Sleigh Bells!" she gasped.

Sandy pulled herself up and started looking through the windows, "Sleigh bells! I hear them!"

Knowing how finely tuned the girl's ears can be, Andi turned off the radio and sure enough a putt-putt-putt and a jingle of tire chains could be heard approaching them. As the sound of the ching-ching-ching of tire chains grew nearer, the girls cried, "It's Santa Claus!"

Soon the dim glow of headlights could be seen, and suddenly a smallish gray and red tractor pulling a trailer full of hay bales appeared out of the swirling snow. As it pulled abreast of their car, the driver hopped off the tractor and began inspecting the situation that they were in. He ducked down in the front and was below the hood for a long time, then he rose, walked up to the driver's door, and gestured for her to lower the window.

"You're in that ditch good, ma'am." He said as Andi lowered the window. He was wearing a Buffalo Bills stocking cap and his face was covered with a Buffalo Bills scarf and his glasses were fogged so she couldn't even see his eyes. At least he was tall, but to someone as short as Andi, everyone was tall.

"Can you get us out?" she asked.

"Not with this tractor, I'd be afraid of ripping off your bumper or something like that. I have another one that works a whole lot smoother. And if I did pull you out, where would you go? Route 39 is impassable. All roads south of Orchard Park are closed. But you're more than welcome to wait this storm out in my cabin. It's warm and dry and supper's on."

"Supper!" chimed the twins from the back seat.

"I don't know…" Andi looked back at her girls, her babies. What if this was some pedophile? some rapist? Would it be better to wait out the storm right here in the car? The words "My Cabin" sent chills of terror through her heart. Hundreds of hours of slasher movies she watched as a teen flashed through her mind and the terror set in. "I don't know you," she said. "I can't… I can't risk the safety of my girls."

"That's something I truly understand, ma'am. The safety of the ones you love is of prime importance, there's nothing worse than seeing a loved one come to harm" He paused and looked around. It was snowing so heavily nothing was visible. All was gray and billowing snow. "Ma'am, this is a killer storm. Your car will be buried, you will run out of gas, when that happens you will freeze to death, when the snowplow comes it won't see you and it will crush you. I utterly understand your fear, but your babies back there, I can't… I don't want to see them die."

"I'm sure there will be someone as soon as the snow stops."

"No ma'am, they will not, this is a Lake Effect blizzard; it's expected to last until Saturday. Also, this collection of potholes is what Erie County calls a tertiary road, it's practically an empty road, there's two farms manned by some older folk, and there's a few cabins and camp sites, all empty except mine. The county won't come plow it until all the other roads in the county are plowed. If I had a brain in my head I wouldn't be up here on the lip of Zoar Valley in the first place, I don't know why I'm here, maybe God put me here for you, I don't know, but I can't stand by and do nothing." He looked around desperately, as if trying to see a solution. "Look. If you won't let me help you, I have some MRE's on the wagon, military rations and they're sealed. They'll hold you over.”

"That will be fine," said Andi, now more terrified of the man than the storm for some reason.

"I'm going to turn this rig around first," he hopped back on the tractor, drove it and the wagon past her car to turn around.

"Where's he going mommeeeee?" whined Sandy.

"HE'S GOING…" Andi took a second to recover her temper. "He's going to go get us lunch."

Having swung the tractor and trailer around, he pulled up alongside her car again. He just couldn't leave them like this. He had to try one last time to convince the headstrong but terrified woman to accept his offer of safe shelter. The man stopped the tractor, set the brake, and stepped off the tractor to ask her one last time to get out of this storm, but she refused to open the window again. He held up a large brown plastic envelope with the letters MRE on it, but she shook her head and refused to open the window. Now the girls were crying, calling for their mommy, and Andi couldn't move, she couldn't turn and comfort them. She was paralyzed with fear.

Andi watched as the man's knees sagged and he sank to the ground, kneeling, his arms crossed across his chest. She watched him, not knowing that he was praying fervently that God would do something, anything, to change her mind. At worst, he prayed for the storm to take him first, so he didn't have to watch those little girls die. Maybe his tractor parked in the road would warn the eventual plow to the hazard of the three trapped in the ditch. Andi watched the whole spectacle, cleaning the fog off her window. Was this man dying? Was he praying? Praying for what? Praying for a chance to get to her and her babies, she thought.

Just as she turned her back to the window, her phone rang. It was 911.

"Doctor Roberts, this is Trisha at Erie County dispatch again. The Town of Concord police informed me that a neighbor in your area is coming to help, Doctor Paul Jarecki."

Andi was shocked; she knew a Dr. Jarecki. She thought that she may have even met him once. Isn't he a cardiologist and a specialist in pulmonary sleep disorders such as sleep apnea?

Oh no.

She looked at the catalog for the conference and she was scheduled to hear him speak at the symposium that she traveled so far to attend.

Oh crap.

"Just a second" she told 911, then leaned out of her window. "Doctor Jarecki?" she called out. The man didn't move. Did he die kneeling in the road? "Do you know Doctor Jarecki?" she called out again.

Slowly, as if having been awakened, he raised his snow covered head. "That would be me."

The blood drained from Andi's face. She just insulted and probably angered a man that she traveled 2,000 miles to learn from, a man who left a nice warm cabin to come out in this cold, wet weather to save her and her girls… "Just checking." Did she really say that? Could she possibly have said something dumber? Oh God, she groaned inwardly.

Then she said to Trisha on the phone, "He's here already with a tractor. He said he can't get us out of the ditch, so he's offered to take us to his cabin."

"You should go, you need to go, this storm is going to last for days. You do not want to be stuck in a car out in this weather."

"We don't have much of a choice" muttered Andi as she struggled to get her coat back on. "I'm worried for my girls; I don't know this man and…" her voice caught and she couldn't complete the sentence.

"I understand your fear Dr. Roberts, but I can vouch for Dr. Jarecki. For your own minds sake, I suggest you keep your phone charged and nearby and when there's a break in the weather we'll try to send an officer on a snowmobile to do a check on you."

Slowly, her shaking hand reached out and remotely popped the trunk lid and the fellow, seeing the trunk lid open, rose and transferred their luggage from the car to his hay wagon.

"You really need to get to shelter Dr. Roberts, this is imperative. I'll have Town of Concord PD check on you as soon as we can." They said their goodbyes and Andi packed up her purse, told the girls to get their coats on, then tried to open the door. Seeing the door pop open, Dr. Jarecki held it open for her and held his hand out to help her.

She shunned the offered hand, struggled out of the car, and fell into the snow, which was over a foot deeper than when she cleared the tail pipe. She finally got to her feet and was about to introduce herself, but she paused and looked around. There was no wind, but the snow kept pouring down from the heavens. The flakes were huge and clustered together to make it look like they were being pelted with soft dishware. "What's that noise I hear?" Andi asked Paul. She mentally kicked herself again. The guy comes to help, and she asks him what that sound is.

He patted the tractor. "Plugs are fouled a bit, won't take much to clean them…"

"No, that hissing noise, it seems to be coming from everywhere."

"That's the sound that heavy snow makes when it lands. I take it you're not from around here." He lifted a giggling twin from the stranded car and held her over his head as he carried her to the hay wagon. She held her arms straight out, simulating an airplane or maybe an angel, and she touched down gently in the soft hay.

"Denver actually."

"The snow is drier and lighter up there," he said as he 'flew' another twin to the hay wagon. "Down here by the lakes it's pretty heavy, wet stuff. It's so heavy that it makes a noise when it lands, and in a heavy fall like this we hear it as a hiss." He helped Andi up into the hay wagon, where the twins had already started building a nest in the hay. "That's the idea, you three cuddle up close and cover yourselves with hay, that'll keep you warm." Once they were all settled, he climbed up onto the tractor seat, cracked open the throttle, and they started moving.

The ching-ching-ching-ching sound of the tire chains and the swirling snowflakes got the twins in a festive mood, and they began singing 'Jingle Bells' at the top of their lungs. The snow was piling up fast. It was almost up to the bottom of the hay wagon, but the tractor swam through it without effort. Andi peered ahead into the pool of swirling snow highlighted by the tractor's headlight and saw that the tire tracks laid down earlier as Paul headed to her rescue were almost filled in completely by new snow.

As they puttered along occasionally Andi would see a huge, gnarled tree leaning at them from the left, and once through the snow to the right she thought she saw a small red house, or maybe it was a shed, it was lost in a whirl of snow in a moment. She tried to be cheery to encourage the girls, but they didn't need any encouragement. This was their first hayride, and they loved it! As for Andi, she felt as if she were heading for her doom. Eventually Andi was able to change the Twins Choir from "Jingle Bells" to "Over the River and Through the Woods" but when they got to "to grandmother's house we go" Andi wondered if she'd ever see her Nana again.

After what only seemed like forever, they swung off the road onto a field access driveway and they followed a path that had been plowed clear earlier. Paul shouted over the sound of the tractor that this was his driveway. The driveway seemed to be a longer drive than the road they were on to Andi but eventually she saw some Christmas lights appear ahead, and when they drew close, she saw that there were three barns, two were small hip roof barns situated very close together, both clearly altered for habitation rather than storage. One small barn had a covered patio on the front with windows overlooking the patio and a split Dutch door for access. The small barn immediately to its right only had a few windows and a standard entry door, no big barn doors. The two small barns were connected by an enclosed walkway. The third barn was huge and visibly much older; it sat further off to the side. Flood lights on all three barns illuminated the entrances.

Paul stopped the tractor at the patio, set the brake and hopped off, then helped Andi and the twins and their luggage from the trailer and ushered them through the Dutch door into the small barn. They stomped the snow off their shoes, shrugged off their coats, and looked around. It was warm and inviting inside; the walls were paneled with rough cut wood and decorated with antique tools, old pictures, and on the long wall a fire hissed and crackled in a wood stove. In fact, the only light in the barn was from the fire and the dim gray light that streamed through the windows.

"Go warm up by the fire but don't touch, that stove gets pretty warm. And don't worry none about Wonka, he won't bite."

Andi brought up all the force her four-foot nine-inch frame could manage. "Doctor Jarecki, if you actually are Doctor Jarecki, I am going to protect these girls with everything I have, because they're all I have…"

He took off his glasses and she could see his blue eyes, such a familiar blue. "Ma'am, I fully understand, just let me get your bags off the hay wagon and I'll be out of your hair. Here's my cell number if you have any questions. Just be nice to my cabin, it's not all I have, but I like it very much." And with that he set down her bags inside the cabin door, handed her his business card, which he pulled from his wallet, then got on the tractor and putted off into the storm.

Andi stepped into the cabin and looked around, it was very dark, except for the firelight flickering from the glass door of the very modern but old fashion looking wood stove that gave the only light other than the light coming through the windows from the fading daylight and the outdoors Christmas lights.

The twins were fascinated by the living area. The cabin was a small barn converted into a comfy retreat. The room was just one enormous space with the upper floor's support structure out in the open. There were exposed floor joists, heavy crossbeams, and upright support columns, and all were decorated with evergreen boughs and red ribbons. The walls were paneled with rough cut lumber set horizontally. A large comfortable couch sat facing the wood stove, a table and chairs sat by the windows at the front of the room, and bookshelves lining the wall at the back of the room. A staircase at the back of the room led to the loft. Everywhere there were pine boughs and bright red ribbons decorating the room. Whoever Doctor Paul Jarecki is, thought Andi, he's got an interesting cabin.

She used the flashlight feature of her phone to search the cabin for a light switch, and she found the walls were covered with photographs and memorabilia. Andi checked out the framed certificates, graduated from the State University of New York at Erie Phi Theta Kappa with an Associate's Degree in English, graduated from the University of Buffalo Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Science, got his medical degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo, an osteopath. She was going to look at his residency certificate but got distracted by more photographs.

She found photographs of holidays and parties going back generations, a photo of a man in a set of military dress blues, chest covered with badges and ribbons, standing next to a smiling redheaded woman dressed like a fighter pilot. "Must have been a memorable Halloween," she thought. Pictures of men and women fishing in a small lake and a large stream, random antique tools, the occasional lure, and other fishing equipment, antique looking snowshoes… Andi decided that a woman's touch had never made its way to this cabin.

One of the pictures she spotted looked familiar… awfully familiar. It was of the attendees of a conference gathered together in a group photo, dressed nicely for the occasion. They were packed together in a tight group to get into the frame. Many people were wearing false smiles, those smiles that a doctor will wear when telling patients they'll be alright, when the doctor knows that their patient probably won't follow their instructions. And there, in the front row, was a very pregnant Doctor Adrianna Roberts. "He's got a picture of me?" she gasped aloud, which caused the twins to come running.

"Where? Where?"

"Let me see!"

She remembered that horrible night in Minneapolis. It was so frigid; she was lucky to get a hotel room in the hotel where the conference was being held. She didn't want to walk on icy sidewalks in her out of balance pregnancy. Everyone gathered for a soiree in the hotel ballroom on the last night of the conference, and they had a group photo taken. Being the shortest person there, she was pushed to the front of the group. The photo showed a large group of doctors and nurses, professional people in their suits and dresses and she was there, very pregnant, standing in front of the group, and behind her stood a tall man with incredibly blue eyes. She suddenly felt sick to her stomach as she did on that night, and so very, very stupid. "I'm such a yutz," she said. She found his card on the table where she dropped it, picked it up and dialed his number…


Chapter Three

Dr. Paul Jarecki had spent a long time desperately trying to light a kerosene heater in the barn, but even if it did successfully light, the chances of it keeping him warm were slim because he had only a few ounces of kerosene remaining. Paul had planned on driving to Morton's Corners to get kerosene, but he had gotten involved with the patient records stacked up by his couch. He went up to the hayloft and buried himself with hay, but that didn't keep himself very warm. Paul even tried finding a comfortable position in the heated chicken coop and try to absorb some of their warmth, but the smell got to him quickly.

He found a couple of old blankets and wrapped himself with it and lay back in the hay wagon. At least the babies are safe, he thought. Then, with a prayer of thanksgiving, he closed his eyes and tried to get some sleep. He had almost drifted off when a jingling "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" broke his slumber, it was his phone ringing with an unfamiliar number, the partial ID gave the location of Denver CO. With shivering hands, he picked up his ringing phone, it was Andi.

The tiny doctor stood in a dark but warm cabin, nervously trying to come up with a proper apology for kicking a man out of his own cabin at the height of a storm. The cabin smelled of wood, smoke, evergreens, and rich beef stew, heady masculine smells that were getting to Andi. "Doctor Jarecki, we… I may have acted hastily, I should be thankful, but when it comes to my girls…" Andi sniffed the air. The scent of the hanging herbs and evergreen boughs and beef stew was overwhelming. "Please come here, maybe we could talk about what we are going to do over dinner."

It seemed to Paul that it took an hour to make it from the barn to the cabin. The wind had really picked up, and the snow was so heavy he could barely see and he walked the long yards on autopilot. When finally making it to the door, he paused. He was freezing, his body shook from tremors. Paul realized he didn't dress warm enough when he rushed out to help whomever the Concord township police could not reach. He finally opened the door and walked into his cabin. He could almost taste the fear that overwhelmed the small woman inside.

With trembling hands, he removed his jacket. He heard a tiny, shuddering voice in the darkness. "Doctor Jarecki? I'm Doctor Adrianna Roberts." In the gloom of the cabin, he saw her and saw the fear on her face, and he also saw the tiny faces peering out from behind her.

The light switches Andi couldn't find were behind jackets hanging from pegs near the door. Paul flipped a switch, and the cabin became illuminated by over a dozen electric candles that gently flickered, making the cabin look even more cozy. A small Christmas tree in the back corner lit up, illuminating a small library.

"This is so cool!" squealed the twins in unison as they resumed their exploration. They suddenly stopped short as they grew near the wood stove. A large brown object laying near the stove slowly came to life. With a whine, it unfolded, stretched, and rose from the floor.

"That's my buddy Wonka, he's the worst guard dog on earth."

"Wonka?" asked the girls as the chocolate lab, bleary-eyed from his nap, sniffed them, made a quick decision of approval, and wagged his tail. The twins never had a dog in their lives, but they got over any trepidation in a microsecond and began petting and hugging the dog, whose tail wagged faster with every coo and hug. Dr. Jarecki introduced his dog as "Not only the world's worst watch dog, but the sweetest friend a man could have."

Seeing that the dog was tolerating the attention, Andi let the girls fawn and dote over the overjoyed Wonka. The twins resumed their exploration, and it was then that Andi noticed the twins were clearly looking for something important as Wonka followed them in their search.

"What are you two looking for?" Andi gently demanded.

"The bathroom," said Sandy.

"If he doesn't have one," continued Madeline, "then he's probably…"

"A zombie!" the girls said together, eyes wide.

"A zombie?" asked Andi incredulously.

"Everyone knows zombies don't poop!" intoned Sandy with all the authority a five-year-old can muster.

"Dixie's brother Melvin told us so at day care, it's true," added Madeline, whom Andi thought was much too involved with Dixie's brother Melvin.

"I hate to tell you this," intoned Andi, "but this is a cabin way out in the country. The bathroom is probably outside."

The twins stared at their mother in wide-eyed shock and horror at the thought of a toilet sitting outdoors where everyone could watch them. Paul smiled, seeing the shocked looks on the girls' faces. He pulled off his boots then strode over to the stove where he set his boots to warm and hung his scarf and cap on a hook over the stove to dry and gave Wonka a pat on the head.

"I think Dixie's brother Melvin is right about zombies," said Doctor Jarecki. "Gastroenterologists all over the world complain about postmortem constipation in their zombie patients."

"See?" Sandy struck a defiant pose as she glared at her mother.

"I still gotta go potty and it's cold outside," wailed Madeline.

The whole time Paul passed Adrianna's name over and over in his head, her face is familiar but tonight he's only seen her scowl, which is not a good look for her, but… His mind clicked, it was in Minneapolis when he met a young doctor, flush with the joy of carrying not one but two tiny lives in her womb, the hair is different, but this has to be the same woman.

Dr. Jarecki stood over a foot and a half taller than Andi, with broad shoulders and hands that looked more like a mechanic than a cardiologist. He appeared to be maybe 50, maybe older? Andi was immediately taken with his good looks that were edged by years of concern mixed with the love of the outdoors. Most importantly, he did not appear to be threatening. Andi had a lot of experience with threatening and was always on the outlook. "We were discussing the potential of using external plumbing," answered Andi.

"There is that potential, and those facilities exist, but if you're not the adventurous type, I suggest using the indoor facilities." Paul then turned so Andi could see his face better. "It's good to see you again Doctor Roberts, although the weather isn't much better than at our last meeting."

Andi smiled, and her tense shoulders sagged in relief. Now that she could see his face, she recognized him more fully, but he looked so much younger back then. It's the beard. He didn't have a beard back then. She ignored the internal voice but still remembered his smile and those blue eyes during the brief conversation they had had so long ago. She told him she was pregnant with the twins at the time, and he seemed delighted. "Oh yeah, it was what - thirty below?" He's got a nice smile, the voice in her head pointed out.

"We've got to stop meeting like this," smiled Paul. "We seem to influence the weather. Anyhow, this is it. I built this "garden barn" a few years ago when I bought this land. Not much has changed except this area over here is now an office away from office, it used to be a camp style kitchen. A few years back I got tired of going outside to use the facilities and tired of cooking over a Coleman stove, so I built the second garden barn and added all the modern conveniences including a modern-ish septic system." He let them through the walkway into the other cabin, which contained a modern kitchen, laundry, toilet, shower, and sauna. As Madeline shut herself in the water closet, Paul explained, "The shower is navy style: pull the chain to wet down, then let go, lather up, then pull it again to rinse off.”

"That's weird," commented Sandy.

"Once upon a time I used to have to haul water up here by truck, then pump it into storage drums," explained Paul, "so I set the shower up like that to save water. Now I have a freshwater spring that fills an underground cistern, but it takes a long time to refill the cistern, so we still take Navy showers."

"What's a cistern?" asked Madeline as she exited the water closet and Sandy took her place. Paul realized he had to start the explanation all over again.

As they stepped back into the kitchen area, Paul called out, "Who wants to eat?"

The twin's eyes grew large as dinner plates. They had been traveling all day and had only grabbed snacks on the go, as Andi expected a large meal when they reached their room. "I do! I do!" they both shouted. Collecting bowls, glasses, and utensils, they all trooped back to the first cabin. Paul spread the wings on the small dining table to make room for guests and set out the bowls and spoons, then carried the iron pot from the wood stove to the table, opened the lid and the smell of beef stew filled the room and overwhelmed their senses.

"That smells incredible!" gasped Andi as she leaned over the pot and took a deep whiff of the savory broth. When she looked up, she saw that Paul had gone back to the "modern" cabin and brought back a loaf of fresh baked bread and a carafe of ice-cold spring water to the table. "It's like you were expecting us," she smiled.

"To be honest, I was expecting this storm," he said. "I love watching a snowstorm when I know I'm going to be safe and warm. I had planned to sit by the fire and read and listen to Christmas music. Also, I have elderly neighbors east and west of us that might need help, I can reach them with a tractor or a sled. So, I cooked this stew up to have leftovers to eat throughout the weekend. Stew is an old tradition with my family; a big pot of stew to last us through the days that we're shut in or when the paychecks are far apart."

"I hate to ruin your planned menu for the week, but this smells delicious!" said Andi as Paul handed out steaming bowls of the stew. He then took the loaf of bread, tore it in half and said grace, after which he handed out warm pieces of the bread to the Roberts girls. "That makes this communion too," said Andi.

Paul just smiled and nodded and set out butter for the bread, if anyone would like it. The table was butted up with one end against the windows facing out on the front patio; the twins sat side by side facing the windows while Andi and Paul sat at opposite sides facing each other. The sound of spoons clanking on bowl filled the cabin and drown out Wonka's snoring while outside the Christmas lights strung on the patio roof illuminated the falling snow. In the background, a seasonal piano adagio was played on an unseen stereo.

At first, the twins eyed their bread suspiciously. It looked odd compared to the bread they are used to. Each slice was so thick, and the crust was so crunchy. Andi buttered their slices, and finally Madeline took a bite. Her eyes rolled in pleasure and she said something to Sandy that Paul didn't understand, but it may have been encouragement, because Sandy took a bite, and her reaction was similar to Madeline's. "It's so good!" she cried.

Madeline nodded. "It has a flavor," she said around a mouthful.

"Bread don't have a flavor," said Sandy in a very matter of fact tone of voice, "it just holds the peanut butter."

"But this is good!" squeaked Madeline. "Mommy, can you get this bread?"

Andi sputtered and looked for the right words to answer when Paul said, "I make this bread myself, I made it this morning."

Sandy was incredulous. "You can make bread?"

"Yes, it's easy. I have a machine to help me. Would you like to help make bread tomorrow?" and Paul added quickly, "if it's ok with your mother."

"Can we momma? Can we? Can we?" begged the twins in a well-rehearsed chorus.

Andi sighed. She was still distrustful of a man that, for all intents and purposes, they just met. "Only if you eat all of your dinner, and I'll be there to make sure you don't make Dr. Jarecki crazy." Paul knew she added that last statement was not to be protective of Paul, but to protect her girls from Paul, if needed. A sentiment that Paul understood and admired.

"Done deal," said Paul. "The last one to the bottom of their bowl helps me do dishes.”

With that, the twins tore into their stew with gusto. The famished family ate their fill while they watched the snow accumulate. Finally, as the twins mopped their bowls clean with bits of bread, Andi asked, "So what are the sleeping arrangements?"

"The loft upstairs is a 'bunkhouse' of sorts and it's all yours, as long as you're here and as long as you want," Paul told Andi. "There's a full bed and four cots and several empty dressers and lockers for your stuff, and there's dividing curtains if you want a little privacy. My clothes are in a closet up there, but I'll grab what I need and bring it down here."

"Where are you going to sleep?" asked Andi. "I've already kicked you out of your own home, I don't want to kick a man out of his own bed but thank you very much for the offer."

"It's not a bother. I'll sleep on the couch, it opens to a full bed if I want to do that, and it's where I always sleep on wintry nights so I can keep an eye on the fire and make sure it's burning through the night. Believe me, you'll be toasty warm up there."

"Do you live here?" asked Madeline as she gazed at the dried herbs and other objects hanging from the beams.

"Kind of. I have a place in town. It's a nice house but it isn't much fun when you're alone, I use it to entertain friends and clients, but I spend what feels like most of my off time here. Feel free to use the sauna all you want."

The twins looked perplexed and demanded to know what a sauna was, and Paul just uttered "Uff da!" which caused Andi to laugh. Uff da is a Norwegian expression like "oh shit" and just as useful. She picked it up from her grandparents in North Dakota. Hearing Paul use it in just the correct tone of voice caused her to laugh. Her first laughter in an exceptionally long time, she realized. "A sauna is a small room which gets very hot, your great Grandpa Olson has one, and I'll teach you girls later."

Paul smiled. "Your grandpa - Olson? For real? Is his first name Ole?"

"No, but he likes to be called Ole," said Andi. "he didn't think his real name sounded Norwegian enough.”

"What was it, Dave? Robert?" asked Paul.


Paul snorted through his nose at the thought of 'Knute Olson' not sounding Norwegian enough and chuckled while the twins kept asking, "What's so funny?"

"You know Uff Da?" asked Andi.

"Ja shooore, I mean, I should say so, I was stationed at Minot AFB for several years."

"Why not, Minot," said Andi.

"Freezin's the reason," finished Paul. "I have been to the Norsk Hostefest several times and sampled the lutefisk, and the state fair every year I was there."

"We go to the state fair every year, we take Nana and Oompa Ole every year, right girls?"

"Pineapple whip!" cried Sandy.

"Kettle corn!" cried Madeline.

"You've surely been there," said Paul. "I'm planning to go up there in the spring, a friend of mine is getting promoted to commander of the Missile Wing at Minot, she kind of demanded that I be there."

"She?" Andi looked a little surprised, then lifted her glass. "here's a toast to my sisters in the military!"

Paul lifted his glass too, "to the best rocketeer in the Air Force!"

They touched glasses, and Andi took a sip. "This water is so good! In Denver it would be three, maybe four dollars a liter, what does it go for down here?"

"Not much," said Paul, looking a little embarrassed. "It's my tap water. I'm tapped into a natural spring."

"Oh my gosh, no wonder why Lucy moved here! This must make incredible tea!"

"That can be arranged," said Paul with a smile.

As they carried their dishes into the kitchen, the twins got antsy. "Can we get our tablets?" asked Sandy. "We want to watch YouTube."

"YoooTooob!" added Madeline.

Before Andi could say anything, Paul interjected, "I need to tell you this, we don't have a lot of rules here, but here's my biggest rule - no screens at the table or after sundown except for special shows on TV. That means phones and tablets. Is that ok Mama?"

Andi grinned, "That's great! They watch too much YouTube to begin with."

Paul continued. "The TV I like shut off, only exception is if there's a special show or a game on." The twins bristled in anger, they love watching YouTube Kids, but Paul pointed out "There are shelves full of books and board games, records and audio books, I even have a guitar and a keyboard and if you're good, an autoharp if anyone wants to play for us.”

"Awwww not fair! Why can you watch a game, but I can't play one on my tablet?" whined Sandy.

It probably wasn't much use to tell a child that Buffalo Bills football, no matter how bad, is just as much a part of life in Western New York as snow, chicken wings, Beef on Weck, and complaining about the Buffalo Sabres. "Tell you what, just to make it fair, if there's a game on, I'll let you watch it with me." Which satisfied the 5-year-old for about 4 seconds, then Sandy turned to Andi: "Maaaaa!"

"Ok," said Paul, "If there's a game on, I'll make chicken wings."

"Deal!" shouted Madeline before her sister could complain more.

Paul gazed at the Roberts family in his cabin and said a prayer of thanks to have the chance to share his meal with such a beautiful group. Andi is a tiny woman, well under five feet, dark blond hair to her shoulders, sparkling brown eyes that light up when she smiles, a small pixie nose and a generous mouth with rich lips that need no lip gloss. Her girls are tiny too, reflections of their mother with long silvery blond hair and mischief in their eyes, but they obeyed their mom and helped clear the table after dinner.

The table was cleared in record time, leftovers placed in the refrigerator, and dishes washed and put away by Doctors Paul and Andi. "You have a lot of dishes," said Andi, as she tried to reach the second shelf of the cabinet.

Paul took the dish from her and placed it in the proper place with ease. "Why do you say that?" he asked.

"Well, it's just you up here, but you have tons of dishes. I would figure you'd have maybe a place setting for four."

Paul smiled. "But it's not just me up here all the time. Josh across the street is in and out constantly with fish and game, my brother and his wife are here constantly, the farmers on either side of me stop by quite often and we make a potluck out of it, and I have friends in Florida who come up in the summer and stay here."

While they walked back into the main room, the girls hauled their small suitcases and carry-on backpacks upstairs and argued over who gets which cot. As the arguing continued, Paul put his cold weather gear back on.

"I'm going to go clear the driveway again," he said and hit a few switches on the wall which turned on some flood lights outside, "you gotta keep up with these storms or you'll end up stuck good." The snow was piling up fast out there.

"Thank you so much for everything," said Andi, as she looked into his eyes, trying to read them.

"It's not a problem, I just hope you enjoy my company" he said as he stepped out the door.

"I'm starting to," she said to the air in his wake.

For the next hour, Andi, Sandy, and Madeline unpacked some of their clothes into the foot lockers at the end of their beds and made up the beds from the linen and blankets that they found in a standing locker. The pillows were feather pillows, and Madeline discovered you could pluck the feathers out of the pillows and started surreptitiously decorating Sandy's hair with feathers. Then it was off to see what a sauna was.

Andi locked the cabin doors and led the girls to the sauna in the newer cabin, and figuring out the instructions, she turned on the sauna, set to a lower setting than Grandpa Knute ever used, then she and the girls climbed in to relax in the heat. Madeline liked the steam and Sandy liked the dry heat, which was typical of the two, identical to a point. And the girls couldn't decide if they liked the idea of cloying heat, but Andi convinced them it feels good after playing in the snow. The twins decided to play in the snow and then try out the sauna later.

After their brief sauna, Andi unlocked the cabin door and while the girls who were still grumbling against the ban on tablets fell back on coloring books, she busied herself looking at the collection of medical publications that were shelved in the back corner. She looked over the tomes, many of whom she depended upon on a regular basis. She then looked at his computer workstation. The stacks of folders and documents showed her that Paul works from this corner of the cabin often. As the evening wore on, the fire kept them warm and the sound of the tractor clearing and scraping the driveway reminded them of the storm outside.

"Ok girls, it's getting late, jammie time," Andi called, and the girls, still grumbling about the lack of YouTube Kids, put their crayons and coloring books away.

As they headed back upstairs to get their pajamas on, Andi looked out the window and saw that Paul was clearing the snow from in front of the cabin with a small, modern looking, orange tractor. This one was smaller than the tractor he rescued them with. It had a roll bar, numerous floodlights front and back, and it had a pair of arms up front that could be attached to a bucket, which was sitting nearby. The big difference was the sound. The gray tractor sounded more like a tractor to Andi. This one sounds like construction equipment. Right now, Paul had a snowplow attachment connected to the arms and attached behind the tractor, and he had mounted a drag plow that he dragged when needed. He had cleared a large area in front of the cabins and barn, building up huge piles of snow, and had finished clearing the long drive that curved off to her left into the dark. Rising voices from the loft drew Andi away from the windows and to her daughters and Wonka.

Paul put the Kubota tractor away in the barn after placing the bucket and plow attachments in their proper locations, closed the big barn doors, and trudged through the swirling snow back to the cabin. He was going to have to plow again first thing in the morning to keep ahead of this storm. After doffing his boots and parka and hanging his hat, scarf, and gloves over the stove, Paul headed to the sauna to relieve his aching back in the heat. As usual, he followed his sauna with a step outdoors into the cold. The feeling of snow falling on a hot body after a sauna was indescribable other than "utterly refreshing."

After that, his routine was almost identical to before the Roberts family arrived. He put on tea and while the tea seeped; he checked his email (nothing but colleagues describing the storm from their different locations), then he stoked the fire in the stove, put on some quiet music, then poured himself a cup of tea and sat on the couch reviewing patient files that were emailed to him while he was rescuing Andi.

At the thought of Andi, his concentration on the patient records was broken, and he thought of her smile, her voice, the calm manner she handled this whole crazy situation once she got over her initial fear of him. He wondered what her body was like, but she kept it well hidden under loose sweaters and jackets so far. He allowed himself to wallow in this reverie, then with a sigh he finished up reviewing the records, made a few notations for the morning, and placed them on the end table and turned out the reading lamp. The cabin was now only illuminated by the fire in the stove, the Christmas lights outside hanging from the patio roof, and a few electric candles he kept on in case one of his visitors had to navigate to the toilet.

Out of the gentle darkness, Andi appeared in Paul's oversized gray robe, a worn flannel nightgown, gray sweatpants, and a bright pink pair of fuzzy slippers. "May I?" she asked as she reached for the teapot that was on the wood stove and poured herself a cup.

"Sure," said Paul with a smile after she set the teapot back down.

Andi sat down on the other end of the couch, curled her legs up underneath her, and pulled the end of Paul's blanket over her lap. She took a sip of the tea and closed her eyes and sighed in pleasure. "Now this is Tea!"

"This isn't a girly tea," Paul said. "It's a good strong black tea that you can only get from England. I pick it up at the Niagara Falls Air Force Base commissary."

Andi smiled and sipped again. "Man's tea," she said with a fake growl between sips, "this would make great iced tea."

"Yes ma'am, black as Coca-Cola." Paul gestured to the stairs. "Can't sleep?"

"I was evicted from the full-size bed. The girls couldn't decide who gets to sleep with Wonka, so they took over my bed and Wonka joined them."

Paul just noticed that Wonka's usual spot in front of the stove was empty. "The traitor…" he muttered, "… man's best friend my foot." Wonka has a "Service Animal" vest and acts like a completely different animal when he's wearing that. Would he allow the twins to distract him? Paul chose to mention Wonka's purpose in life later.

Andi continued. "I also want to know what you want."

"What do I want? The only thing I really want at the moment is to get the dump scoop on my Ford tractor fixed. I got everything I need and more."

"What do you want from me… like in exchange for this hospitality."

Paul picked his words carefully. He had to be honest. He knew instinctively that she would see through a lie, but if she misunderstood his words, she might pack up and lead her girls out into the cold. "I'm sitting here in the firelight sipping tea with the most beautiful, most intelligent woman I've ever had the pleasure to meet. What I want is this perfect moment to go on forever."

"Wouldn't you want more?"

"Well of course, I'm a guy, there's all kinds of things I want, but I don't take what isn't freely given, not sex, not a kiss, not a hug."

Andi clearly relaxed. "Can I check your references?"

"There's Wonka…"

"He's a guy too," Andi nervously smiled and sipped her tea. "It's just… I um…"

"No," said Paul, "you don't have to explain. At our age, ok my age, we all have scars and baggage…"

Andi continued anyhow. "My ex, he was… abusive… and every damn thing was a quid pro quo. If I wanted to change the curtains, I had to hit my knees…" she sniffed and studied her tea. "Don't get me wrong, I like sex, I like giving and receiving, but when… when you are forced to… I…" she shuddered, held back the tears and the rage. "I don't like having my arm twisted by a bully. Thank God he's gone. Thank God he never saw the girls."

Andi took another sip of tea, then continued. "Remember when we met in Minneapolis… you and me? While we were posing for that group photo, he was back in the hotel room with a cleaning girl he picked up from the hotel staff." A tissue appeared from the sleeve of the robe. "When I got back to our room he was gone. He left a note, and, in the end, he screwed me in divorce court… never marry a lawyer."

What can you say when a person opens to you like that? "I'm sorry you had to go through that," was all Paul could think of to say.

"Whenever an ambulance goes by, I look to see if he's behind it," she tried to smile. There was a question she needed to ask, but for some reason she was terrified to ask it, but with a deep sigh she plowed ahead and asked, "Is there a Mrs. Jarecki?"

"No," said Paul sadly. "Used to be, but she's not with us anymore." He held up his left hand to show that there was no wedding band, nor was there a shadow of one.

"Do you mind if I ask?"

"No, I guess not. We were in the Air Force, married nearly 5 years. She was a pilot, fighter pilot, flew the F-15, I was flight surgeon for another unit on base."

Andi remembered the photo on Paul's desk in the corner, a photo of a younger Paul in dress blues standing next to a lovely, statuesque redhead in a flight suit. They looked so happy. That must have been her. She mentally kicked herself for thinking their uniforms were Halloween costumes. "Go on."

"It was a beautiful late summer morning, September 18th, she was on a 90-day temporary duty assignment to Osan Korea and nearing the end of her rotation. Only a couple of days and she comes home. They ended up doing an overnight at Kunsan and she had the first mission of the morning, flying flight lead. God how she loved that job. She'd come back from a flight lead mission so excited…" He sniffed and moved on. "That morning Melony, my wife, taxied onto the runway and her flight elements, the other planes, formed up around her. She got clearance to take off, but instead of releasing the brakes and taking off, her aircraft just shut down. They tried raising her on the radio, but she didn't answer, so her wingman moved forward for a better look and saw her slumped forward in the cockpit and he called the tower and declared a ground emergency. It turned out she had a myocardial infarction right there on the runway, her last act was to shut down her plane and set the brakes… the flight surgeon's wife dying of a heart attack in an F-15…" Paul went silent.

The fire snapped occasionally, and the Christmas music continued to play. Occasionally, a giggle could be heard from upstairs, but Paul remained silent. "Oh my God," gasped Andi quietly. "What did you do?"

After a deep breath, Paul said, "I went ROAD, Retired On Active Duty. I climbed into a bottle and never came up. I was no good as a flight surgeon anymore and jerked around until I could retire. Eventually I took the insurance money and bought this chunk of land, went back to school at the University at Buffalo and got a fellowship in pulmonology, then took some law classes. Now I'm a consultant to Springville and to South Boston hospitals, trying to open up a sleep study clinic at the local VA facility."

Andi opened her arms up wide. "Come here, you need this."

He stopped her. "That's not the entire story, I think you should know the rest of the story."

"What happened?"

"I told you that Melony died of a heart attack, I didn't tell you the cause." It suddenly became hard to swallow. Tears filled his eyes as he stared at the ceiling. "Because she died in the cockpit of a combat aircraft there was an autopsy. She was on day 83 of a 90-day temporary duty assignment." He clearly didn't want to continue, and Andi refrained from urging the words out of him. She wrapped her arms around his arm and held on tight. Eventually he swallowed hard and spoke; "She died of a myocardial infarction caused by an allergic reaction to a large dose of levonorgestrel."

The words spun through Andi's head; it actually took her a second to recall that in extreme cases levonorgestrel will cause a heart attack but…

"We had our future mapped out, I was an up-and-coming flight surgeon, she was a fighter jock being groomed for leadership. There was no room for children in our lives, so we were INCREDIBLY careful because she was allergic to birth control pills. But we had decided that when we return stateside from our assignment to Japan that we were going to have children. AFTER we return home."

"Oh, dear God," said Andi sadly. The active ingredient in birth control pills is levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of the hormone progestin and if you're allergic to birth control pills, that component is probably what you are allergic to. If she was allergic to birth control pills and had an allergic reaction to 'a large dose of levonorgestrel' it means she took a "morning after pill" not realizing that "Plan B" is nothing but a large dose of levonorgestrel. She was obviously screwing around behind Paul's back and was afraid of being pregnant.

People can be such bastards to each other.

"I'm sure there's more to your story that you're not ready to tell yet," said Andi softly, and at that Paul shrugged his shoulders and nodded a bit. "Me too, so maybe we're not so different…"

Paul said, "I'll take that hug now, if it's still available."

They moved closer and Andi leaned her head on Paul's shoulder and slowly they relished the warmth of another human being, a warmth they both had missed for so long. They sat like that for a long time, listening to soft classical guitar renditions of Christmas hymns on Paul's stereo and watching the flames dance in the wood stove.

The fire burned down, so Paul got up and added new wood to the fire that he got from behind a small door just to the left of the stove. He grabbed the teapot and topped off their cups. Then he sat back down on the couch and was overjoyed when Andi leaned back against him.

"You have a lot of Christmas music," she said softly. She didn't really care about the music, she just wanted to hear his voice again. It was so nice to hear the voice of a man that wasn't hitting on her, or hitting her, or droning on and on about work, or gasping for breath, or…

"I love Christmas, and I love Christmas music. I love classical chorale to Mannheim Steamroller, country to opera. Anything rich and melodious. What about you? What music do you love?"

"I don't know. It depends on my mood, right now what you are playing is perfect for the moment," she paused for a moment. Right now her life was dominated by music targeted to five-year-olds. "I guess… ummm… yacht rock? Is that what you call it?"

"That's it, gentle, melodic, soft rock. I don't have a yacht, but my brother and I have a sailboat. Next time you're in Florida I'll take you sailing."

Suddenly, the song Sailing by Christopher Cross drifted into her head.

Sailing takes me away to where I've always heard it could be

Just a dream and the wind to carry me

And soon I will be free…

She imagined herself on a calm, warm ocean, a gentle sea breeze pushing them gently along, the boat rocking gently on the mild swells, just her and the girls… and a tall handsome man at the tiller… "Yeah, I like that idea," she murmured. "Let's go sailing." She sipped her tea. "Where will you take me?"


That was a preview of Andi's Dream - A Blizzard in Buffalo. To read the rest purchase the book.

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