If Only

She steered her BMW 530i into a rest area located on a lonely stretch of highway south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. There were only a few vehicles and a state police car in the parking lot.  It had been a long drive from the Florida Panhandle and the older lady was tired.  She slowly got out of her car and stumbled across the black top to the bathrooms, her legs almost numb from the long drive.  After a quick stop inside, she left the red brick facility and looked across at her white car.  An old truck with two men inside had parked extremely close to her driver’s side door.  She was alone, in a strange place and it was late afternoon.  The situation was potentially dangerous.  Just then a Tennessee State Police trooper came out of the facility behind her.  He stopped and put on his sunglasses.

“Trooper, can you escort me to my car?”

“Sure, what’s wrong?” He looked at the slender woman and quickly made a professional assessment based on his years in law enforcement.  She was clearly not a threat, he determined.

“That truck is parked too close to my car. I won’t be able to get inside and I don’t feel comfortable asking them to move.”

“I’ll walk with you and we’ll stand by the passenger side of your car. Maybe they’ll see me and leave.  Let me run their plates first.”  He talked to dispatch on his radio.  The answer came back with no wants or warrants.  “Let’s go.”  He walked in front of her.

The Trooper was close in age to the woman, she thought, as she checked him out from behind. In her experience all the cops she’d met had been mere babies.  Yet this older man moved easily and obviously worked out as he was in good shape.  He gently took her arm and had her stand against her car.  He faced her which gave him a direct line of sight to the men in the old truck.

“Why are you traveling alone? That’s a bit dangerous.”

“I can sit at home and be afraid or I can risk it all for adventure.” She smiled up at him as he removed his sunglasses.  His eyes were red as if he had been crying.  Obviously his day was not going well yet he was professional and kind to her.

“You have a good attitude. What’s your name?”

“Amanda Pace. Yours?”

“Joshua Cash,” He looked at the lady who was shorter than him, around 5’4” he decided, with long brown hair, light makeup, red fingernails.  He had smelled a light perfume when he stood closer.

“Miss? Mrs?”  He pushed the questioning further, looking away from the nearby truck’s occupants and directly at her.

“Miss.” Amanda became shy and tongue tied, wanting the Trooper to stay and talk, enjoying the closeness of a good looking man close to her age.

He hesitated. The truck left and the couple watched as it drove behind her car and took off north on the highway.  “I probably should get your driver’s license and registration in case you’re wanted in fifty states.”  He teased her, also wanting to prolong their meeting.

“I’m not even wanted in one state,” She said sadly. She opened the car door and removed the license and registration from her purse.

“Walk over to my car with me.” He suggested.

“Now you’ll know my age, unfortunately.”

“If it will make you feel any better I’ll tell you my age too.” He countered back to her.

They were the same age and he found her vehicle and criminal history clean. He walked her back across the rest area to her car.  Amanda wanted to ask him for his email address or give him hers.  But a wise stranger had advised her how a real lady should act around men.  The stranger had said that men are hunters.  They like to do the chasing and were often turned off around pushy, aggressive women.  Amanda had been on her own for a long time.  She was used to being assertive to get what she wanted.  But in this case she held back.  The waiting was painful.  Would he send her down the road and that would be it?

“You look like something is bothering you,” She said softly, looking at the Trooper’s red eyes. “I hope it works out for you.”

“No,” He looked down. “Too many friends are dying lately.” He took a deep breath and said, “Where are you going?”

She told Trooper Cash about her planned three day trip through The Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg and who knows where else.

“Sounds like fun. In that car you’re probably going to meet many of my co-workers.” He crossed his arms and tilted his head at her.

“Yes, I’ve met a lot of men with this car. All Law Enforcement.  No tickets though, just warnings, comments and driving advise.  It’s been fun.”  She took a chance.  “Can you give me your business card?”

“For your collection?” He chided her.

“No, really, in case I meet someone other than Law Enforcement.”

He handed her his card, writing something on the back. “You don’t have a concealed handgun, do you?”

“There’s a knife in my console.” She opened the car door and let him reach inside.  He pulled out a Bowie knife in a leather sheath.

“Damn, lady. You really don’t want to pull this out.  It could be turned against you.”

“I know but it’s my insurance policy. Just in case.”

“I wrote my email address on the back of my card. Contact me if you get into any trouble.  But I have a feeling you’re gutsier than you look.”

“Who, me?” She laughed.

He leaned against the car next to her. “Email me tonight regardless, okay?  And try not to fillet any criminals.”

She couldn’t help grinning back at him. “Definitely.  I mean I won’t use the knife.  But I’ll be in touch with you when I stop for the night.”

He helped her into the BMW and watched as she backed the car and headed north toward Chattanooga. As she easily pressed down on the gas pedal she yelled out loud, “Now THIS is an adventure!”

IN REALITY:

I’ll let you know this fall on my road trip to The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. I’ll stop at this rest area and maybe, just maybe there will be a State Trooper there waiting to help this damsel in distress.

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