The cold air stung her throat and made her cough. Her feet burned from the frigid temperatures. Before telling her parents that she was expecting, she’d stolen cash from her father’s wallet as a bit of insurance towards her safety. Anger propelled her forward and again she cursed Albert McLarin. Telltale landmarks told Theresa where she was and how much longer it would take to get to town. On fairer days, Theresa and her friends walked the distance many times. With a brisk walk, it took twenty minutes. Walking against the wind and over slippery patches slowed her down considerably. By her estimates, she’d be at Virginia’s house in about ten minutes and she decided, as the wind picked up and the temperature plummeted, she’d stop there.
The closer she got to Virginia’s, the busier the streets became. Car horns blared and men shouted at each other. There was an unusual energy in the air for a frigid Sunday night in Badger.
Men had congregated on the steps of Jimmy’s grocery store but Theresa couldn’t see who was there. Was one of them Albert? she wondered.
Without a watch, Theresa couldn’t be sure of the time but estimated it close to 10 p.m. She picked up the pace, anxious to get out of the cold and out of the street. Four men stood smoking cigarettes under a lamp post. One turned as Theresa passed and tipped his hat. Not Albert.
Finally, she reached Virginia’s house. A small light glowed from the living room and she thought she detected movement from Virginia’s bedroom window. She went around to the back door where a wreath still hung from Christmas. As she raised her gloved hand to knock, she remembered her mother talking on the phone to someone, telling them all about her immoral daughter. What if she’d spoken to Victoria’s mother? Rather than risk being turned away at the door, Theresa took off a glove and pried some small rocks from the frozen driveway. The first throw hit the side of the house. Her second throw barely grazed Virginia’s window but it was enough to catch her attention. Virginia glanced momentarily out the window but didn’t see Theresa. Theresa tried again. This time Virginia looked more closely. Theresa waved her hands over her head. A minute later, Virginia opened the back door and peered outside.
“Theresa?” she asked. “Oh my lord you told them.” No further explanation was needed. Virginia put her finger to her lips and without removing jacket or boots, Theresa followed her upstairs.
“You’re freezing!” Virginia said quietly. Whether her parents knew Theresa’s situation or not, it would be difficult to explain what she was doing at their doorstep uninvited at this late hour. Virginia stuffed Theresa’s things in her closet and gave her a blanket to wrap herself in.
“Are your parents up?” Theresa whispered.
“They just went to bed. You can stay here tonight but what happened to Albert? I thought he was going…”
Theresa covered her mouth and cried.
“He. Didn’t. Show. Up,” she gulped.
“That prick!” Virginia whispered, grateful for the wind which shook and settled the old house, creating enough noise to drown out their voices.
“I’m going to make us some hot tea. I’ll grab some cookies or something too, okay?”
Theresa nodded and wiped her tears.
“Don’t worry,” Virginia said. “Once they go to bed that’s it for the night. I’ll be right back.”
Theresa stretched her tired legs the full length of the bed and sat with her back against the wooden headboard. Suddenly, a loud CRACK filled the air. Theresa held her breath, certain that Virginia’s parents were up.
Virginia rushed into the room without the promised tea. “What was that?” she asked. It happened again, this time waking her parents.
“Virginia?” her mother called out. “Is everything okay?”