When a snowstorm blankets the highways and halts traffic, Mitchell and his daughter take refuge in a motel to wait it out until daybreak. As the snow gets deeper, their desires get darker and begin to run amok.
Traffic had begun to slow to a crawl as I made my way through the icy sheets falling from the sky. I stared out my dashboard window, intent on seeing what was in front of me. Unfortunately, I could hardly see past the blinding snow whirling around the car. It felt like I was flying the Millennium Falcon through hyperspace, and I knew it was every bit as dangerous.
Snow covered the road., camouflaging it in with the rest of the landscape. Fortunately, the shadows my headlamps cast in the ditches gave me at least some indication of where the edge of the road was. That, and this road was anything but unfamiliar. I’d driven it many times. Hell, in good weather I could probably almost do it blindfolded, I’d driven it so much the past several years.
There was a good set of winter tires underneath me, so that upped my advantage some. Still, one false move, or one misjudgment about where the centre of the road was, and I would end up in disaster. I persevered, though. I’d promised my daughter that, rain or shine, I’d come pick her up every other weekend. I wasn’t about to lose out on time with my daughter over a few glistening flakes.
Since I’d divorced her mother, I’d always been diligent on making the journey every two weeks. Honestly, I didn’t actually have to anymore. Sophie was an adult, having turned eighteen a few month ago. She could come and go as she pleased and there was no such thing as visitation rights anymore. But, we still kept up the habit since she was still in high school and living with her mother. It seemed like pittance, really – Sophie would only spend three days out of fourteen with me – so I made the most of it. She always expected me around the same time, but tonight I warned her I’d probably be a little late.
As it was, I only felt comfortable doing 40 or 50mph on the highway. The great Northwest was notorious for bad weather, but this severe system that Canada had sent our way wasn’t going down without a fight. So, deal I must.
I was already forty-five minutes late when I crested the hill and looked over at the town she had moved to with her mother. It usually only took ten minutes to get there from this point, but tonight was anyone’s guess. I let out a sigh of relief, glad to see the streetlamps, even if still a long ways off. A moment later, my cell phone started to ring. I looked down and saw it was my daughter calling. Reaching down to its perch in the cup holder, I half-blindly turned it on, setting it to speaker.
“Hey, Angel!” I answered, using the pet name I’ve had for her since she was a child.
Sophie’s voice flooded the otherwise silent car. “Hi, Daddy!” she replied. “Are you still on your way?”
“Yeah, I am,” I let her know. “I’m looking at town now.”
There was a slight pause. Her voice filled with astonishment. “Really? It’s so bad out there! I’m almost surprised you made it.”
“I wouldn’t miss a weekend with you for anything, Sophie,” I reassured her. “Not even a bit of snow.”
She scoffed. “A bit of snow? Dad, it’s a blizzard. A bad one, too!”
“It’s all good, Angel.”
We chatted briefly for another moment before I excused myself so that I could watch the road. Another fifteen minutes and pulled up in front of her mother’s house. Bracing myself for the blast of frosty air, I booked it toward the back door. Sophie was already there waiting for me as I brushed the snow from my clothes.
“Hi, Daddy!” she cheered, embracing me, not caring about the residual snowflakes adorning my jacket. “Glad you made it! How were the roads?”
“Awful,” I admitted frankly. “But, if you take them nice and slow, they’re doable. I just can’t believe the snow plows aren’t out yet.”
“About time you got here, Mitchell,” chimed in a voice from around the corner. I knew all too well whom it belonged to. Sophie’s mother entered the kitchen. “Not exactly your best time.”
I grimaced, breathing deeply to control my responses. If there was one thing I hated above almost all others, it was getting into it with my ex in front of my daughter. That wasn’t something I wanted her to see. She had seen enough of it when the two of us were still together. It was a calculated tactic, too. Sophie already didn’t get along well with her mother. Seeing her mother’s vindictive attitude toward me without a reaction on my end helped to solidify that animosity. Sophie could clearly see that I was trying to be the bigger person – although, I admit, perhaps my motives weren’t entirely admirable.
With concerted effort, I answered calmly, “Well…in case you haven’t noticed, there is a crap-ton of snow out there tonight.”
“And that’s an excuse how?” she shot back. “You’d think you would maybe left earlier so you could arrive on time.”
I really didn’t see how the woman didn’t realize just how “Yes, that would have been ideal. Unfortunately, I do have work responsibilities that I need to fulfill, and couldn’t get away early enough to make a difference.” “I’m here now, though.” I turned to Sophie before her mother could come up with some other smart remark. “Ready, Angel?”
She gestured to her suitcase in return. “All set!” Sophie turned and grabbed her coat and put on a pair of boots as I picked up her luggage. I caught her mother’s eyes and bid her farewell. She in turn only stood there with her arms folded. “We’ll see you Sunday evening,” I mentioned as I walked out the door.
Sophie said her goodbyes as well and a moment later we were out at the car. “Wow, there’s a lot of snow out here! It doesn’t look like this much inside,” she commented.
“Yeah, and the little bit of wind makes it all the worse to drive in,” I observed, feeling the strong breeze wash over my face. “It’s just below the freezing point, too, so it melts as soon as it hits the road, then freezes, making it icy and slippery.”
“I’m glad you’re the one driving,” Sophie laughed.
I chuckled in response, and put her bag in the back seat. We took our places in the front and we were off. As we left, I took one last glance at the house. My ex stood there in the living room window – sure enough, with her arms still folded defensively.
Before long, we were out on the highway again. In the thirty minutes between arriving on this stretch of road and now travelling on it in the opposite direction, it seemed to have gotten twice as bad. Snow stuck to every square inch, and I slowed down even more than I had on my initial journey. Sophie plugged in her iPod, and started off playing some music for us to enjoy as we drove. The musical distraction provided me some relief and I relaxed, even lessening my grip on the wheel.
“So, how’s school?” I asked my daughter. “Your senior year turning out to be everything you hoped it would be?”
“It’s ok,” she answered. “I hate English, but that’s nothing new.”
I raised an eyebrow, daring to take my eyes off the road and look in her direction. “But you do so well at it!” I insisted.
“Doesn’t mean I like it,” Sophie laughed. “It just means I’m really good at BSing my way through essays and making it sound coherent.”
I laughed. That pretty much sounded like any English class that I’d ever taken. “Partying hard?” I pressed.
She shot me a disbelieving look. “I can’t believe you’re actually encouraging that.”
“As long as you don’t party too hard, I see no problem with it,” I jokingly advised. “You’re an adult now. There’s not much I can do to discipline you if you want to explore your more adventurous side.”
I’d come to grips with my daughter turning 18. It was just one of those things. She was my only child, and I’d probably always be the protective father, but now it was time to let her spread her wings. Even I had to admit that my daughter was a beautiful girl. She was slender, wavy blonde hair, light brown eyes. I’d come to realize more and more every time I saw her that the time I was afraid for was at hand; suitors would be lining up to come knocking and I had to be ok with that – as long as they weren’t knocking her up.
Sophie muttered an agreeing response. “They’re ok, too. I don’t go out much,” she confessed. “I’ve got a lot of dancing rehearsals with the show coming up in a couple months.”
“Right! That makes sense.” We settled into a conversation about her exploits in dance while the snow danced and blew past us outside.
The night was dark. Hardly a vehicle was seen on the road. That was unusual, since this was a relatively well-travelled highway. Then again, this storm was sure to ground a number of travellers, whatever their business. The thought had begun to settle into my mind, too, but where to stop for the night was another question.
A chime rung out. Sophie dug into her purse and pulled out her phone. Opening the message, she announced, “It’s from Mom.” My focus was narrowed on the road, but I kept my ear open for any new information. My daughter made a slight growl. “She sent a link to a travel advisory. The police want people to stay off the road tonight and only travel if they have to.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” I mumbled, though Sophie still heard me. She grimaced a smile sympathetically. “Do you think we should stop? We’re only an hour from home.”
With a slight tone of sarcasm, I answered, “That doesn’t surprise me, either.”
“Dad,” she chided me gently.
“Well…it doesn’t,” I confirmed. I took a breath and sighed. “But…I’ve kind of been thinking about it. It’s really getting bad out here. The fastest I’ve been going is forty.”
Sophie sighed quietly. “So we’re more than an hour away.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I huffed softly. I’d been thinking in terms of just miles. My daughter was right. It was certainly going to take longer at this rate. “Maybe more like an hour and a half or two if this crap keeps up.”