|* *All Events, places, and people are fictional and a product of this author's imagination.* *
AS THE WIND BLOWS
by Kathy Priebe
Copyright © 2006
"Hey Fred! Come take a look at this." Steven Bilow, one of the two full time meteorologists began punching in numbers on the keypad of his computer.
Fred Blackwell spun out of his desk chair, walked over to his partner's desk and stared down at the radar screen. "Damn!" He muttered while pushing his fingers through his hair. "Did you chart its course?"
"If it stays on its present course it'll come straight across the Key Islands, and it looks like a category four."
"Call the governor and let him know."
"We have four days, it could veer and head out back out into open waters."
"With all the hurricanes last year, I rather not wait."
Steven nodded; he had to agree, and picked up the phone.
* * *
"Oh God this is going to be a mess!" Dave Culver leaned back in his chair after turning on the small television in his office. He just hung up the phone with headquarters in central Florida.
"You got one coming your way Culver. Better pull the files now so you and your people are ready when the mop up begins."
They've just finished with last year's claims! Dave picked up the phone and dialed home. He liked living on the Florida coastline, but it was times like these that he wondered why he stayed, and these times were happening more and more. His wife answered on the third ring.
"Hi Honey. Pack us up and be ready to go. We got one coming." He hung up and walked over to his office door. He may as well have his guys start pulling files for the region and have them download it onto their laptops. They could leave afterward to do whatever it was they had to do before heading out of the area. "Todd, Justin and Brad? Get in here." He was glad the main office okayed the building in of full length window shutters. Pull them out and bolt them down. Of course, if they got a head on hit...Dave sighed as he looked out over the ocean through the front office windows, it wouldn't make a difference.
* * *
"Come on Mom! We have to leave now to catch the last ferry out." Mira Monteque took one last look around and thought of all the times last year when she had to do this. They were lucky last year, would they be lucky now? She sighed heavily. Maybe it was time to look for a place on the mainland. Away from the ocean. "Mom!"
"I’m coming!" Daffodil shuffled toward her daughter. "I couldn't leave without your father, you know." The older woman clutched an urn to her chest.
Mira gently helped her mother out of the door and then locked up. She did what she could. She bought waterproof chests to pack up what they couldn't take with them. No one said anything on how to find them if everything washed out to sea. She screwed the cupboards and closets shut and boarded up the windows. Now all she could do is pray. She helped her mother into the car and headed to the ferry. She glanced at her mother's profile and smiled a sad, little smile. She could guess what was going through her mind: No sense looking back, when all you can do is go forward. The wind coming in off the water pushed at the little car as it made its way down Ocean Blvd. At least they had insurance.
Mira risked a quick look out over the ocean. The waves had to be three to four feet already! It was going to be a rough ride to the mainland. She cast a worried look at her mother.
"Now child, don't you be worrying about me none. I'll be fine." Daffodil reached an unsteady hand out and patted her daughter's thigh.
The medical company came and took away the oxygen compressor early today so all her mom had with her was her small portable tank. They assured her that it would be enough to see her to the hotel where they were registered. The compressor would be there waiting for them. Mira sighed again. It's been an uphill battle since her mother's lungs started failing. Her lungs went, then her heart.
She slowed down as she approached the ferry. There was no one else in line to be loaded. She stopped as she came up to the loading line and rolled down her window to hear what the fireman was saying.
He looked down at a clipboard, "Ms. Monteque?"
"Is this your mother?"
"It's going to be a rough ride, is she going to be alright?"
Daffodil Monteque leaned over her daughter to shout at the young man, "quit talking about me as if I weren't all here. I'll be fine!"
The fireman tried to hide his smile, "yes madam!" He looked back at Mira, "you're the last ones. Please proceed slowly. They're going to want to anchor your vehicle down before taking off." He watched as she did as directed.
It wasn't long before they pulled away from the dock. Mira and Daffodil, being the last one, got a front row seat to the retreating island. Mira reached out and took her mother's hand in her own, both women were wondering the same thing; would they ever see their home again?
AS THE WIND BLOWS
by Kathy Priebe
Copyright © 2006
Mira looked over her shoulder, good they were almost to the main land. She glanced over at her mom to see if she was doing okay. They shouldn't have waited as long as they did, another swell rose the ferry and dropped it back down leaving her stomach to catch up with the motion. "You going to be all right Ma?"
Daffodil exhaled sharply. "This one's a rough one." She clutched tighter at the urn in her arms. "We should have left earlier." Her mother sat as still as she could and stared out the window of the car at the island they left behind. "Docking is going to be tricky. I'm glad we're at this end, I don't want to watch!"
Mira wasn't sure how they did it, but they managed to pull the ferry in and dock her. She didn't think she would ever look at the ship's personal the same again. These people deserve every ounce of respect given to a doctor or lawyer. They ended up pulling the ferry into a dry dock well and sealing her in. They unloaded the passenger’s from there. The ferry would ride the hurricane out in the well.
They waited on the dock for the rest of the traffic. A gust of wind pushed at the side of the car as the waves started cresting the dock. Mira hoped they didn't wait too long and would be trapped here. Navigating the Causeway to the main land was going to prove challenging. She watched as a man flagging a taxi started to get in as the wind hit him and four elderly people standing huddled behind him.
The man started to grab the car door for support and stopped. One of the elderly women dropped to her knees from the wind. He turned and helped her to her feet and motioned for the four of them to take that taxi.
"Nice man, but I don't see anymore taxi's." Daffodil pointed out the obvious.
"There's got to be a bus or something he could catch." She knew what her mother was thinking. Always one to take in a stray.
"This is not like any other time Mira."
A gust of wind blew a rather larger wave across the dock. Mira had to turn on the windshield wipers and caught a glimpse of the man turning up the collar of his jacket against the wind and salty spray of the ocean.
"Just think. It hasn't even started to rain yet." Daffodil needlessly pointed out.
"I got it Mom!" Mira sighed heavily. "But if he's a murder, it's your fault."
"Have faith, child."
"Hmp!" Mira rolled down her window as she inched through the intersection. "My mom and I saw what you did." She called out to the man, not knowing what else to say.
He turned at the sound of her voice. The salt water from the crashing waves stung his eyes and he squinted to see through his blurry vision. The woman framed in the car window appeared to have a halo. An angel driving a car, sent to rescue him from his own foolishness. He wiped at his eyes with his free hand. Ya. Right!
"We wanted to know if you needed a ride out of here, you can go with us as far as we're going."
The man smiled. Yeah, saved from his own foolishness.
Mira's heart did a little flip-flop. It didn't matter that his hair was a wet mess, the man was gorgeous!
"I'd appreciate it." Seeing the older woman in the front seat, he reached for the back door handle. "You know ladies, you can't be too careful these days." He spoke up from the back seat after he settled in next to his suitcase.
Mira nervously laughed. "If you turn out to be an axe murder," she pointed to her mother, "it's her fault."
She watched in the rearview mirror as the guy humorously smirked. "What was that?"
The vehicle behind them honked. "Never mind," and traffic started moving. "How far are you going?"
He unzipped the front of his suitcase and pulled out a red bandana. "I thought I would be able to ride it out," he wiped his face before any more water could drip off his chin. "Changed my mind. I thought I go to a shelter I know that the Red Cross set up outside of Homestead."
"We're heading to Homestead." She looked at her mother, "this is my mom, Daffodil, and I'm Mira."
"Nice to meet you ladies. My name is Brad."
AS THE WIND BLOWS
by Kathy Priebe
Copyright © 2006
"Nice to meet you Brad." Daffodil smiled. "My daughter got us a room at Hotel Six as soon as she heard the news."
"Yeah well," Mira's breath caught in her throat as a rather large wave crashed over the causeway in front of them. "God, I'll be glad when we're off this road!" She sighed as she carefully maneuvered the hydroplaning car through the water. Her eyes met his briefly in the rear view mirror and he nodded, lending her strength with just his presence.
"Anyway," Mira continued a few tense moments later. "I didn't want to take any chances with my mother's health, so I called and reserved a room as soon as I heard."
Brad looked over at Daffodil. "Heart disease?"
Daffodil smiled sadly and nodded.
Mira cringed inwardly as the silence in the car grew awkward. There was nothing she could do about her mom's health, so she came to accept it, but it was still hard to deal with the pity from others.
Daffodil's sad little smile brought back memories for Brad. He knew how hard it was to take care of an ailing parent and the gut wrenching hurt when it came time to say goodbye and let go. His heart went out to Mira; he frowned, as he strangely found himself wishing he could lighten her burden.
He looked up as Mira's voice broke through his thoughts. They were off the Causeway and heading towards Homestead at a steady pace. It wouldn't be long till they got there.
Mira found the shelter with ease. All they had to do, after they got off the freeway, was follow the signs that were posted every hundred feet or so. Now finding a place to pull over and park was a different matter. It looked like everyone showed up at this particular shelter!
"Why don't you go about two blocks down and try?" Brad caught Mira's eyes in the mirror. "I don't mind walking."
"It could start raining at any minute here? You sure you want to walk?" Mira pulled over into the first spot she could find.
Brad smiled. "I don't melt." He reached a hand forward and patted Daffodil's shoulder. "It was nice to meet you." Brad then reached into his shirt pocket and took out a twenty he had stashed there earlier and handed it to Mira. "Towards your gas."
"I..," Mira turned sideways in the front seat to better look at Brad and refuse the money.
"Save it. It was a nice thing you ladies did for me. I would probably still be stuck by the ferry." Brad opened the car door and got out. "I hope everything ends up okay for you two." Brad didn't know what else to say. He didn't want to say goodbye. He wanted to ask her to stay.
Mira and Daffodil smiled.
"You too, Brad." Mira didn't want him to leave.
"You could come and stay with us?" Daffodil blurted out.
Brad and Mira spoke at the same time.
Mira lowered her eyes, "Mom, we only rented one room."
"That’s okay Mira. It would be better if I went to the shelter." Brad smiled over at Daffodil, "thanks anyway."
He closed the door and both women watched as he started down the street.
"Shame," Daffodil muttered under her breath, "he seemed like such a nice young man."
"Mother!" Mira shook her head, "quit trying to find someone for me." She pulled back into traffic and headed for the hotel.
"What do you mean, you're all booked up?" She shouted at the front desk clerk. "I reserved a room over a week ago!" She couldn't believe this. She called and made a reservation to avoid just this very thing. If it were only her, it wouldn't be so bad. She could live out of her car for one or two days, but not with her mom!
"I'm sorry Madam." The harassed clerk looked frantically around for the manager.
"Can I help you with something?" A man in a three-piece suit hurried over.
Mira pushed her hand through her hair in an aggravated gesture. "I made a reservation over a week ago for a room for my mother and I."
The manager looked over Daffodil, taking in the presence of the oxygen. "Ah yes, I remember we made special arrangements with a health care company to set up a room with an oxygen compressor."
Mira sighed in relief.
"But," the manager continued.
"in light of the emergency circumstances that have arisen with the coming of the hurricane, any reservations were given a specific time period to show up and register, Miss. A letter went out to all those that had advance reservations alerting them of this."
Mira closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. She could feel a headache coming on. She seemed to remember her mother saying something about getting a letter from the hotel. She figured it was confirming their reservation and didn't give it another thought.
"If you didn’t show up by that time," the manager continued. "Your room would be considered vacant and ready to be used by another." He looked back over at Daffodil and shook his head sadly. "All of our rooms are taken."
Mira started to turn away when she caught sight of the compressor. "Can you at least help me get that," she pointed to the unit, "into the car? I am responsible for it."
The manager turned and looked at what Mira was pointing at and nodded. "Yes, of course." He talked quietly with the desk clerk for a minute and then the clerk came over and helped Mira get the unit into the back seat of her car.
Mira got her mother into the car and stared out into space. Now what?
“Guess we’re gonna see Brad again after all!” Her mother sat there smiling like the cat that got the canary.
Mira just rolled her eyes and pulled out into traffic.
AS THE WIND BLOWS
by Kathy Priebe
Copyright © 2006
"Well, let's see if that shelter still has space for two more people." Mira got lucky and found a parking space right across the street from the shelter. It was metered, but at least she would be able to find Brad and see if he would help her unload the compressor. She hated to ask someone she just met, but she didn't have much of a choice. "Stay here Mom. I'm going to see if I can find Brad."
"Hurry Honey," Daffodil looked through the car's window at the threatening sky. "It looks like it's going to start raining at any minute."
Mira got lucky. Brad was sitting with a group of people surrounding a television watching a movie in what looked like a room that served as a day room. Even if she didn't find him right away, she didn't think she would have had any problem spotting him. He has what she considered, a commanding presence.
Brad looked up and toward the doorway as if sensing her standing there and a smile lit up his face. "Hey," he came over to her, "what are you doing here?"
Mira quickly explained to Brad what happened at the hotel.
Brad seemed to understand without Mira having to go into details, and before she could ask for his help, he offered it.
They were able to get Daffodil and the compressor inside before it started to downpour, but that still left their luggage and finding a more permanent place to park. Brad once again, took matters into his own hands. Mira relaxed for the first time in a long while. There really was no one else to turn to for help, just her and her mother. It felt good to let someone else take charge; even if It was only for a minute or two. Brad suggested that she get the luggage, and if she would trust him, he would find a parking place for the car.
They made a mad dash for the car. She grabbed the suitcases and he hopped into the car.
"I'll be right back."
Mira nodded, hoisted the two cases and ran back towards the building. Dripping wet, she waited just inside the doorway overhang for Brad.
It took about fifteen minutes to find a spot to park and another five to jog back to the shelter. "You waited for me?"
Mira shrugged, looking up at him.
He smiled. "You know, you look good all wet."
Mira looked down at her shirt, "Oh my gosh!" Her wet tee shirt molded to her like a second skin. She folded her arms over her chest then looked down at the suitcases.
Brad chuckled and bent over to pick them up. "I'll carry these."
"Hey, stuff happens. Let's get inside and dry."
Brad set the suitcases on the end of two empty cots.
Mira rummaged through one of them until she found a dry shirt.
Brad pointed up the stairs, "bathroom's up there."
Brad was able to get the compressor set up for Daffodil in the amount of time it took her to get into the bathroom and changed. She found them sitting on Daffodil's cot playing cards.
Mira leaned against the stair railing and watched them for a minute. She couldn't believe how easy it was for Brad to fit into her life. What there was of it right now, anyway. She wondered what it would be like to have someone around to lean on and talk to all the time.
"Hey everyone," one of the people watching TV called out. "There's been an update."
"Well, turn the dang thing up!" Someone else called out.
Mira smiled wistfully. Musing time is over and reality settles in. She pushed herself away from the railing and went to sit on the edge of the bed by Brad and her mom.
"...Hurricane Albert is expected to hit land further up the coastline than originally planned. While..." The commentator went on as half the people in the room sighed in relief while the other half groaned.
Brad, Mira and Daffodil looked at each other and Daffodil held up crossed fingers for luck.
AS THE WIND BLOWS
by Kathy Priebe
Copyright © 2007
"All right guys," Brad's boss spoke up from behind his desk. "Here are your assignments." He handed each of them a piece of paper of the areas that were hit worse from the hurricane. "We'll work our way through each site. Don't forget to document your pictures with notes and dates. It's starting to get confusing with as many hurricanes that we've had in the past two years." Dave sighed heavily, "we'll start at the worse hit and work our way to those with the least damage."
"Brad?" Dave called out as the three men started to file out of his office.
"You have the furthest most Key Islands. They aren't letting the residents back yet, so you are going to have to hitch a ride with the disaster teams. They're using boats. I guess Rt. 1 was damaged in spots." Dave handed a pass on a neck chain to Brad. "From what I understand, some of the areas on the islands were hit bad. Field any inquiries from the residents to either the Disaster Hotline or our Central Field Office
* * *
"Now Mom, you have everything you need right here. The television, your meds, your oxygen and here's the phone in case you want something to eat or help with something." She was glad she was able to get into a room at the hotel. Everyone cleared out once the bad weather was over.
Mira sighed, clean up time, except for those on the Keys. Route 1 was closed for repairs and clean up. There was no going home until the causeway was open, of course she supposed, one could always rent a boat , if you had the money to do so.
Mira picked up her laptop and sat down at the small desk in the room. She had every intention to continue her work on an ad campaign she started right before the hurricane was announced, but her attention was elsewhere. She smiled to herself as she wondered what Brad was doing.
"Mira girl, you got that dreamy-eyed expression. You ain't going to get any work done today."
Her mother had an uncanny way of figuring her out.
"Why don't you go and see how our place feared?"
She closed her laptop, her mom was right. She was friends with the emergency help and was sure she could hitch a ride with any number of them. "Okay Mom, your right. I'll head over and see if I can't get a ride to the island."
* * *
Mira got out of her car in the parking lot for the ferry. She hurried over to a group of firemen that just broke apart from their meeting. She waved, spotting one she knew. "Hey Jeremy?"
"Mira! It's good to see you didn't blow away in the hurricane."
"Oh Jeremy, you're such a kidder!" She watched as a warm smile spread across his face.
"How'd your mom fare?"
"You know Mom. I don't think nothing bothers that woman!"
"I hear you. Now, I don't suppose you want a ride over to the island?"
"How'd you guess?" Mira smiled, because of her mother's health and unplanned emergency trips to the mainland, the whole department knew her and her mom fairly well.
"It'll cost you at least a platter of your cookies. That's the only way I'm going to get out of deep water with the chief."
Well, that was easier than she thought. "As soon as I can, you know I will."
"Hop on in then."
Mira loved the ocean. She took a deep breath. She loved the smell, the sound and the mysteriousness of it. She looked out at the water. The sun was dancing like jeweled diamonds along the surface. So calm and blue now.
"Here we are." He gave her a hand out of the motorboat. "Just look me up when you need to get back."
"Thanks again Jeremy." With a final wave, Mira took off towards her place.
She started out at a good clip, but her pace slowed as she saw all the devastation around her. “Oh my!” She turned in a circle as she walked, gaping. This one was bad. She cringed, thinking about her own place as a knot began to form in the pit of her stomach.
“Hey! What are you doing here?”
Mira looked up from what was left of old man Steller’s place. It couldn’t be. “Brad?” She watched as he jogged over to her. He was in a pair of jeans that molded to his hips and a dress shirt that he rolled the sleeves up on. As he got closer, Mira noticed that he carried a thick notepad clipped to a clipboard. He also had a camera hanging around neck. "I live around the corner from here. What are you doing here?" She knew just about everyone that lived on the island. He wasn't one of them. She would have noticed him!
"I'm one of the insurance adjusters for The Right Way Insurance. This is the area I was assigned to cover."
"Hey, I think that's my insurance company."
Brad fell in beside her as she continued walking towards her place. "Is your property far from here?" There was concerned in his voice.
She looked around. If she didn't know the island as well as she did, she would be lost. Nothing looked the same.
"A lot of damage."
She nodded. The man seemed to read her mind. "About ten minutes from here."
"If you want, I'll go with you."
Mira sighed. "I'd like that." It would be nice to have someone there with her when she surveyed what was left.
"Okay, right around this..." Mira stopped as her hand flew to her mouth. "Oh no. No!" She ran the rest of the way, not even noticing if Brad was following or not.
“AS THE WIND BLOWS”
© Copyright February 2007 by Kathy Priebe
She didn't feel as Brad place his hand on her shoulder for some small measure of comfort. All she could do was stand there and gape. And she didn't realize she was crying until he pressed a handkerchief into her hand.
"All of it...gone." She absently wiped her eyes.
"Not all of it." He pointed out the stone shed that was still standing.
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "At least we're still alive."
Brad's admiration for her went up a notch and he watched as she walked through the rubble picking her steps with care.
"Well," she looked around as she spotted things worth keeping. "Shouldn't you be getting back to work?" She didn't want to monopolize his time any more than she already had besides, she really wanted some alone time. She didn't want to break down in front of him.
"Are you going to be all right?"
Can this guy read her mind or what? She pulled her lips up into what she hoped resembled a smile. "I'll be fine. Really. I'm going to start going through this stuff. I want to lock up the bigger things that are salvageable in the shed."
"Do you have a ride back to the main land?
"Yes. I've got a ride with one of the rescue workers."
"Okay then." He looked like he was going to say something more but didn't, just stood there looking at her.
"Yes?" She could of swore that he was a little miffed by her having another ride back.
"Well, I'll look up your property when I get back to the office."
"Do you have a pen and paper?" She walked over to him suddenly not wanting him to leave yet, but knowing that it was probably best. At least she could give him her phone number and where she was staying with her mom.
Brad looked down at the small, neat handing writing. "I'll call as soon as I find out anything."
"Okay." She started to turn away.
She turned back.
He reached out, cupped her chin and dropped a light kiss on her unsuspecting lips. Then he turned and left.
Her hand flew to her lips and she smiled as she watched him walk away.
"Are you sure Dave?" Brad couldn't believe it. There had to be some kind of mix up.
"There is no such policy in our data banks."
"Can you check with corporate?"
The branch manager looked at the growing stack of policy folders sitting on his desk and looked back at Brad. "In my spare time, Gable! She isn't the only policy holder we have, you know. If she has even has a policy!"
"She has one."
Dave's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "What makes you so sure?"
"She too responsible not too."
The manager sighed and pushed his hand through his hair. "I'll see what I can do."
"Don't hold your breath Gable.” He’s seen it before. Another one looking for a free ride. “Now, get back to work!"
Brad walked over to his desk, sat down and stared at the legal pad full of notes that he had to go through. He couldn't get the sight of her eyes lighting up when he dropped that kiss on her lips. He knew when he called with this latest bit of news, the light would go out. He didn't want to tell her but it would be better coming from him then his boss.
He got up and grabbed his pad. “I have some follow up calls I have to make Dave. I’ll be back.” It wasn’t exactly a lie.
"Brad! This is a nice surprise!" Daffodil stepped aside to let the young man in. "Watch out for my oxygen hose. Don't want you tripping."
"Okay Mrs. Monteque." He came into the room stepping over the hose. "Is Mira here?"
"Call me Daffodil. She's in the shower. Worked hard all morning going through our trash on that island." Daffodil pointed Brad in the direction of the small table. "Have a seat lad. I heard you were hard at work all morning too. You know, I told her not to worry herself about what's left. The insurance should be enough to cover it. I don't have long to live, so she don't need much."
"Well Daff..." The sight of Mira coming out of the shower with nothing more than a towel wrapped around her, drove all thought from Brad's mind.
"Mom, who you talking...,to? Oh my!" Her hand grasped the front of the towel more tightly. "You could of told me mother!" She looked over at Brad, "I..., I'm so sorry." She grabbed her clothes off the chair by the door where she was standing and dashed back into the bathroom.
Mira leaned against the closed door and sighed. "Nothing like making a fool of yourself girl." She chided herself as she dressed and quickly ran a brush through her hair.
Daffodil just smiled.