It was snowing in unlikely places that day. He remembered that. He remembered how he saw her behind the wheel of her car, dressed in an old bathrobe and absently clicking away at numbers and letters on her cell phone. He stopped walking when he saw her and thought more than twice about what he would say if he dared to approach her. The cold and the snow gave him every reason to just give her a quick wave with his hand and hurry towards his car. Everyone knew it would start coming down hard soon.
"Is everything okay?" he asked, quite foolishly. "Haven't seen you in a while."
She used a stock phrase to falsely report that everything was just fine. She looked away from her phone for a moment but avoided meeting his eyes with hers. Whether intentionally or just a result of needing to brush the falling snow out of her hair she raised her left arm, placing her hand clearly in his view. The ring she had taken off months ago was back on her finger. Every picture tells a story, and the snapshot of this moment scrawled itself clearly in his mind. She wasn't going to explain. She didn't have to.
"I have to get going," she told him. "I'm just waiting for my brother. I need to drive him up to Salem."
"Supposed to be quite a storm," he said, figuring it was pretty much the only safe direction in which to take this conversation.
"Only supposed to be a few inches," she told him with a weak smile. "I'll be okay."
"I'm sure you will be. I have to run. I have some thing today I can't be late for." It was a terrible lie. It didn't even sound right, especially considering his plans today had until recently involved her. "You take care of yourself."
"You know, you don't have to worry so much about me," she said, looking tired and sad at the same time. "I appreciate it, but I'll be fine."
"Did I say or do something wrong? It is just that..."
"No. You are fine. You are, just, well, you're better off not wasting your time on me."
He watched her in the rear view mirror as he warmed up his car. She started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot, very slowly and then sped up after hitting the road. Her brother never showed up, which wasn't surprising since he hadn't seen her brother in the plaza. He waited a few minutes, trying to find a song on the radio that matched his mood, but there wasn't one playing on any station that was even close. After sighing and punching the steering wheel a couple times he turned off the radio and put the car in reverse.
Ten minutes up the road he saw her car again. It was on the side of the road with a flat tire. He didn't see her, but the windows were covered with snow and the engine was still running. He had to stop. There wasn't a choice. He pulled up in front of her car and tapped on the driver's side window. She rolled it down.
"Need some help?"
"Thanks, but I've got someone coming."
"Just a flat," he said, looking over at the evidence. "I can throw the spare on for you."
"Yeah, I wish, but I'm kind of an idiot. I don't have a spare or even one of those donut things."
"You have auto club or something?"
"Not really. Look, Doc, I appreciate the help, I appreciate everything, but--"
Another car pulled up behind her and a tall man got out from behind the wheel. He looked more than slightly annoyed as he pushed past Doc.
"What the hell did you do with the spare?" he snapped at the woman behind the wheel.
"I took it out. I needed the space in the trunk for--"
"Don't you know I have better things to do than bail you out every time you fuck something up?" He pulled open her driver's side door and glared at her. "Get in my car."
Doc had stepped away, watching from minimum safe distance, not knowing what to say or even if he should say anything. The things he wanted to say didn't exactly work on any level.
"Thanks for stopping, pal," the man told him. "Appreciate it." He was dismissed with a quick wave.
Doc walked back to his car, opened the door and looked back to see the man push his wife into his car, slam the door and walk around to the other side. He looked far too angry, and Doc wanted to do something, but nothing he could do would make anything better.
He got back into his car and waited for it to be covered with snow.