Even if you were born with half a brain you would know that picking up a hitchhiker spells danger. If you happen to be a young woman, it goes without saying, you wouldn’t even consider doing such a thing unless you were reckless. In the first place, he wasn’t hitchhiking, so I have no idea why I just went down that path. He was walking down Wildwood Canyon Road. Mother nature had just seen fit to unleash a cloudburst, an unseasonably torrential downpour so extreme my windshield wipers had a difficult time keeping up. All I could see was a struggling figure with no jacket, no protection whatsoever, hunched forward in an effort to buck the deluge, rivulets of water poured down the beyond-drenched shirt plastered against his strong back. I pulled over. It seemed to be the only humane thing to do.
“Wow,” he said, as soon as he slid into the passenger seat. “Thanks.”
I handed him a roll of paper towels. On Saturday’s I cleaned my grandmother’s house, so my cleaning supplies were easily accessible from the backseat. “You’re soaking wet,” I said, stating the obvious. I fiddled with the knobs to crank up the heat, and warm air began to blow vigorously out of my vents. The rain pounded harder. I couldn’t see out the windshield, and the wipers were wiping as fast as the engineers at Ford knew how to produce back in the nineties. Yes, my car was old, old, old.
“I went for a hike earlier this morning,” my passenger said. “Didn’t bank on this unexpected storm.”
“You know how it is here in the foothills when the weather comes down off that mountain, “ I reminded him.
“Actually—I don’t. I’m from New York. We have weather—you better believe we have weather. But, it was so sunny this morning, clear skies and so warm. The rain seemed to come out of nowhere. I was clear up the trail behind the state park when it hit. Torrents of water turned the steep path I’d taken up into a virtual waterfall. You wouldn’t know it to look at me now, because the pouring rain rinsed most of the mud off, but I was filthy. I slipped and fell at least five times trying to make my way back down.”
He finished drying his entire head, leaving his locks wild and untamed. God, I thought, he’s a doll. A living doll. And what did I look like? I was make-up free. I’d haphazardly pulled my bed-head mop into a ponytail with a hair tie that morning before leaving the house, and I reeked of bleach. Wonderful. “You’re lucky you didn’t get hurt,” I said. “I’m just going to sit here until I can see to drive. Hopefully, my little car won’t wash down the canyon.” You couldn’t make out anything outside the windows but water, that’s how stinking hard it was raining. “So, are you visiting then?”
“Just moved to California three months ago,” he said. “I’m in pediatric residency at Loma Linda.”
“Ah, a pediatrician?” I had three neighbors that worked at Loma Linda Medical Center. Two nurses and a dentist.
He offered his hand. “My name’s Kevin Lovejoy.”
Love. Joy. I smiled and shook his hand heartily. “Glad to meet you, I’m Rosie Murillo.” I thought he might get a gander at all those cleaning supplies and form the opinion that he’d just met a Merry Maid. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Merry Maid, but dusting and scrubbing wasn’t my calling, that’s for sure. I had spent four long years working my butt off at The University of Redlands, graduating with a degree in accounting. I wanted to make it clear that I was fine dating material for an up and coming doctor. Yes, I was aiming to please, and I’d just met the guy. Pathetic. Maybe. “I live here in Yucaipa, but I work in Redlands. I’m CFO for Turner Environmental.”
We sat there talking until the rain let up. He was the oldest of nine. Imagine, nine kids in one family. His favorite food was pizza. Once a month he went for a hike despite his insane schedule. Sometimes he felt overwhelmed. Life at Loma Linda bore no resemblance to Scrubs.
I realized that I could now make out a car snaking down the hill on the other side of the road. “I can see now,” I said. “Where do I drop you off?”
“Just up the road. Above Mesa Grande.”
Reluctantly, I made my way down the hill. I didn’t want to part with him. What a romantic—I had expectations—I wanted more. He called out directions: left here, right here, another left, there it is, that odd Frenchy-looking house, go ahead and pull in the driveway. I stopped the car and smiled at him, saying some lame something. Good to meet you, blah, blah, blah. I was saying good-bye to one of the sweetest, quite possibly the best-looking guy I’d ever spent time with. He reached for the door handle. “I don’t have much free time,” he said, “but I’m free tonight. Would you like to go to dinner? I’m living with my aunt and she’s a terrible cook, but she doesn’t know it. I’d love an excuse to miss out on tonight’s Hawaiian delight. It’s a sin to put mandarin oranges and tomatoes in the same dish, a mortal sin.”
Broad smiles ensued and excessive nodding. I was a bobble-headed, reckless girl, brave enough to stop and pick up strange men from the side of the road during fierce rainstorms. I had a date with a promising young doctor named Kevin Lovejoy. Wait until he saw how cute I really was. Wait until he saw me with my hair combed and straightened, wearing coal eyeliner and plenty of mascara, in my red dress and heels. He would fall madly in love.
I hurried home to get ready. I would call my mother and drop three words on her. Love. Joy. Doctor!
All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.