“Kellan, if you don’t … your ass here inone hour, you … dead man …not gonna repeat myself!…you hear me?” A horsy,menacing and yet desperate voice yelled over the stereo of the car, which was,unfortunately, connected to Kellan’s phone when the call came in. It was soloud that even the windows reverberated.
Before Kellan O’Connor could say anythingbut “Sir” back to his furious boss, the conversation ended abruptly, leavinghim wonder whether the old man hung up or it was just the poor reception.Either way, he had no interest whatsoever in dialing back and finding out.Kellan swallowed dryly and squinted, taking a hard look at the clock: 9:45 AM.Traffic was light going up to Denver at this hour and Kellan was a mere 40-mindrive away, at the most. He should be able make it - that’s what he wasthinking.
Kellan was supposed to be back in Denverthe night before, bringing with him the final version of a signed businesscontract from the Colorado Springs office. But he decided to stay the nightthere since something unexpected turned up.
After Kellan picked up the company files,flurries of snow began to take hold of the city. During his stop by a Starbucksto get a large Americano for the road, the clouds quickly thickened anddarkened, with only a faint purple glow traversing the west side of sky abovethe Rockies far away. The flurries then quickly turned into a major snowfall,like a white plague creeping into all veins of the city. Growing up as a localhere, Kellan never took the snow too serious, although it got real badsometimes.
To avoid traffic, Kellan had taken a backroad off the main street. And there he found himself driving past a group ofkids with a couple of adults, who appeared to be stranded in front of a churchor some sort of community building, Kellan could not be sure. With no mistake,Kellan saw them waving at him in the headlight. He stepped on the brake of hisSubaru Impreza and slowly pulled over to the road side.
He lowered the window on the passenger sidewhile a woman bent over to talk to him, a gust of chilly wind blended withsnowflakes rushed in to squeeze the cozy warmth out from the car.
“Can I help you, ma’am?” Kellan askedpolitely, eyeing the blonde, young lady laced with snow. She was very pretty,with clear, blue eyes and natural red lips. He felt embarrassed by calling thelady “ma’am” since she was so young. Well, Kellan blamed the poor lighting inthe neighborhood.
“Thank you for stopping. Please, ourdriver’s supposed to be here twenty minutes ago but we‘re informed that the busencountered some mechanical problem. I don’t know if it’s weather related. Butanyway, long story short, he isn’t coming any time soon. We’re okay but thekids’re not dressed for the cold. So…”
“Where can I take you guys to?” Kellaninterrupted. He had wanted to tell her to use an Uber drive or something. Butwho would know? Maybe she had never used one. Besides, this was ColoradoSprings and Uber rides could be scarce, particularly in this kind of weather.He really did not want to complicate things and the best way was to offer hisown help, he figured.
“Would you really? Oh my Gosh. Thank you somuch!” The young lady almost shouted. “Well, there’re eight of us, so you mightneed to come back again, if you don’t mind. I’m sorry. I will totallyunderstand if you can’t do this. I mean this is a lot to ask of you.”
“That’s alright. But you guys need tofigure out who are going first. I am ready whenever.” Kellan shrugged, soundingrelaxed. Being an orphan himself, Kellan always tried his best to provide ahelping hand to whoever in need. This made him feel satisfied, fulfilled andabove all, having a purpose in life. Kellan knew that he would not havesurvived to this day weren’t it for those good-hearted strangers who decided todonate to help children like him. Although the love he felt in his childhoodwas perhaps minimal, compared to a lot of the spoiled, lucky bastards, henonetheless was grateful all the time and was ready to give back.
The pace of the night chill caught up whilethe evening sky lost the last sliver of light. An elderly woman ushered threeyounger kids to be seated at the back first before she descended painfully ontothe passenger seat with one hand bracing the faux leather cushion and anotherpulling so hard on the handle by the passenger side. Kellan smiled and noddedat her, wondering whether she had knee problems or weight issues.
“Hi there. I’m Gina. Gina Bombelli. Ivolunteer at God’s Angels. Thanks for letting us in our car. You are such afine young man.” The woman extended her hand to shake Kellan’s as her smilemoved all her meaty cheeks to the upper side of her face, leaving very littleroom for her brown, beady eyes.
“My pleasure and my name is Kellan. Nice tomeet you, ma’am.” Kellan was pretty confident that he used the word mostappropriately this time. “God’s Angels you say?”
“Oh, yes, we give care to our little angelsback there, don’t we?” Gina turned sideways and reached her arm out to rufflethe hair of a small boy. The heat inside the car had melted the snow, and hishead felt wet to her hand. The kids at the back seat giggled and seemed quitecontent.
“What do we say when people are being niceto us?” Asked Gina still facing towards the back seats.
“谢谢你 - ”三个孩子都把他们最大的音量炸开了。
“Thank—you—” All three kids blasted outtheir maximal volume.
“You are welcome—“ Kellan stretched hiswords just to match the kids’. “Alright, everyone, buckle up. We are going …”Kellan suddenly realized that he never asked the woman their destination.
“Oops, my bad. That is 9945 North 30thStreet. Thanks.” Gina chuckled.
“Alright.” While Kellan was driving, hefound that Gina smelled overwhelmingly strong of something vaguely familiar,like what you would find in a Yankee Candle store in a fancy mall. Kellansometimes ditched classes just to hang out in the mall during high school,admiring things he thought that he could never afford. Ah, it was vanilla beansand cinnamon, Kellan might not purchase those himself but he did have a memoryof an elephant. Maybe this was what his mother would have smelled like? Hewould give up everything just to know that.
Kellan was quiet the whole way driving Ginaand the kids to the foster care. Gina on the other hand, had been talking toone of the girls about Christmas gifts and stationery supplies. Occasionallyshe asked the boy how he was doing but largely left Kellan alone. Maybe sheknew better not to disturb the driver on a snowy night.
When they arrived, Kellan helped the kidsrelease themselves from the seat belts while Gina quickly led the kids into thebuilding after thanking Kellan’s help again. After waving them goodbye, Kellanheaded back immediately to help the rest of the gang.
“C’mon, hop in guys.” Kellan got off andopened doors for the young woman and three older kids, who could be nine or tenyears old. “You guys doing okay? Tried my best to hurry back, but the road waslittle jammed. Fr–freezing weather you know.” He was going to curse but quicklyrealized children presence. So he substituted the word, sounding a littlefunny.
“我们其实很好。在最后一个人不得不离开之前，他们让我们回到那里一会儿。所以，是的，我们只出去了五分钟左右。”这名年轻女子在进入汽车之前拍了拍自己的雪，她的动作如此优雅，就像芭蕾舞者的舞步一样。凯兰不想被人看见，但是他设法好好地窥视她 - 可能在二十多岁，邻家女孩类型，看起来非常单纯的样子。
“We are actually fine. They let us back inthere for a while before the last person had to leave. So yeah, we’ve only beenout for five minutes or so.” The young woman patted herself clear of snowbefore entering the car, her movement so graceful, like that of a balletdancer’s. Kellan didn’t want to be seen staring but he managed to get a goodpeek at her – probably in her mid-twenties, girl-next-door type, and almostinnocent looking.
“I’m Kellan! How are you?” This time hetook the initiative to introduce himself, his warm, firm hand touching a cold,soft one.
“Thank you Kellan. I‘m Kate. And theselittle buddies are Kevin, Juan and Lizzy.” Kate’s dimpled face looked beautifulwith a little blush, perhaps from the cold air. Unlike Gina who smelled likescented candles, Kate was fruity sweet and definitelyminty, the wintergreenkind of minty, which was much more pleasant to be around.
“So you’re also volunteering? Like Gina?”Kellan broke the ice first while he drove, glancing over at Kate, who waschecking her cell phone. None of them made a noise, not even the kids who wereeither looking out of the window or semi-dozed off. Kellan was not in general atalkative person but being with Kate and the kids made him feel a little awkwardand yet excited. Or scared, which could be difficult to distinguish sometimes.Lacking basic social skills might just be one of the downsides growing up in afoster care house.
Kate instantly looked up at Kellan andsmiled: “No, not really. I work full time there. But we do need kind peoplelike Gina. You are welcome to it. I mean it’s like positive energy and goodkarma, like what you are doing.”
“Well, let’s hope it is good karma.” Kellandidn’t latch onto the thought too much and focused on driving instead.
Momentarily, the passengers safely arrivedat their destination, a man in an oversized winter parka already waitingoutside. He opened the passenger door for Kate, took the kids out and thankedKellan for what he did. He even handed Kellan one of those stickers forsupporting their deeds: “it normally costs $50 bucks, man. What you did,priceless. I am impressed.”
让凯兰吃惊的是，这个家伙在回去之前给了他一个男人的拥抱。凯特走过去，再次感谢他，并邀请他在某个时候访问他们。凯兰并没有说他是否愿意，而是以一种简单的点头表示感谢。回到寄养机构的想法令人不安;他长大的时候并不是那么可怕 - 很多陪伴和不错的伙食 - 然而也不是特别难忘 - 当成年人并不总是在那里监督的时候，孩子们可能是非常坏的，甚至是残酷的。白天比较容易度过，但是晚上很麻烦。凯兰梦到过很多次他的父母，他们带他到商场买了很多很多的礼物。每当凯兰试图看他们的脸时，这个甜蜜的情节变成了一场噩梦：那两张脸是不明晰的，中空的，像阴影一样，但是带有颜色。他越是仔细看，他父母脸上的轮廓就越模糊，直到他喘着气醒来时，眼泪滴落在他的嘴里，非常咸，非常苦。
To Kellan’s surprise, the guy gave him amanly hug before going inside. Kate walked over, thanked him again and extendedher invitation to visit them at some point. Kellan didn’t say whether he wouldor not, but brushed off the thanks with a causal nod. The thought of going backinto a foster care facility was unnerving; it wasn’t terrible where he grew upat – lots of company and decent food and clothing – and yet it wasn’tparticularly memorable either – kids could be really mean and even cruel toeach other when adults were not always there to supervise. The day was easierto come by, but the night was trouble. Kellan had had numerous dreams about hisparents: they took him to the mall and bought him lots and lots of presents.The sweet episode turned into a nightmare whenever Kellan tried to look attheir faces: featureless and hollow, like shadows but with color. The harder helooked, the fuzzier the contours of the faces, until he woke up panting withtears trickling down his face, and into his mouth, immensely salty and bitter.
Kellan’s mind drifted back; he turnedaround, feeling a little tired, and mechanically popped open the car door. Hegot inside and promptly started the engine to warm himself. “Well, that wasthat.” He murmured, gazing at himself in the rear-view mirror, and tossed thesticker into the glove box. Like any other help he’d ever given, a sense offulfillment was his reward.
Then a loud thud and “clank” almost threwhim out of his seat, if it weren’t for the safety belt. “Oh man, Really?!”Kellan grudged. The car was stopped short with the engine still roaring. Heflew out to inspect and found that the front wheels got all messed up from theroad-side fence. The snow had gotten so thick that he didn’t even notice howfast he was driving.
“Good Karma, huh?” Kellan bitterly thoughtto himself. If only he had ignored those strangers, the accident would neverhad happened. He definitely should be safely in Denver and handing thedocuments to the secretary, who couldn’t have stressed enough “how important itwas to deliver these documents in time” in the evening. Now with the car inreally bad shape, he imagined how long his first professional job could last.Estimating the damage alone, it was at least 600 hard-earned dollars to bepaid, in addition to the money needed for the toll company and cash for anight’s stay in Colorado Springs. He couldn’t bear the thought of being lateagain for his rent. But that was the least of his worry at this moment.
The weather just became gloomier than ever.The snow fall had turned into a monster storm, slapping Kellan’s face hard likeit was meant to be an insult. There was no way he was leaving Colorado Springstonight.