The chilly wind and snow swept down the road, leaving everything within its wake shaking with cold. That included a lone figure traversing an older part of the highway. She suddenly wished she’d stuck to the main roads. It seemed unlikely that a car would come along to pick her up. Consequently, her brown eyes began searching for some other form of shelter.
Katrina Simpson was just 15-years-old but she looked older. She’d been on her own for two years. After her parents died, the state arrived to take her to an orphanage since she had no living relatives. Luckily, Katrina slipped out the back while they were still pounding on the front door. She made it into the woods before anyone was the wiser.
Because she knew the woods like the back of her hand, she out maneuvered the dogs that came searching for her. She hid for three days until the search party finally gave up. After all, she was an orphan and not worth the state’s time and money.
Once the coast was clear, Katrina made a run for it. She dyed her brown hair red and cut it into a short, spikey hairdo. Then she bought some tattoos and applied them along with a few fake piercings. Even the people who lived in the town where she grew up didn’t recognize her. She was home free.
Nonetheless, Katrina decided the country Oklahoma town wasn’t where she wanted to stay. That’s when she took to the highway and began hitch hiking across the country. She travelled west first, making it all the way to Los Angeles, California. She figured she could blend in there with all the other runaways hoping to make it big in television of the movies.
Katrina loved the weather and settled down for a while, working two jobs to pay her way. She let her hair grow back out removed the tats and piercings. It was then that she got “discovered.”
A customer came into the diner that everyone knew was a producer of films. He liked Katrina’s small hometown girl look and asked her to audition for one of his movies. She did, easily landing the part. It was small but memorable, allowing the young girl to discover she had real talent.
Once the movie came out, Katrina hoped other offers would come pouring in. They didn’t and she couldn’t afford to hire an agent. Returning to the producer who discovered her, she asked for help.
“Sure, I’ll be happy to take you under my wing,” he grinned. “But what’s in for me? I doubt you can afford to pay me on a waitress’s salary.”
“I thought you’d take a percentage of the work I get, like you did before,” Katrina offered.
“It could take a while to land you a new role. In the meantime, I’d be putting out all that time and effort for nothing. That is, unless you have something else to offer.”
Katrina might have come from the country but she wasn’t stupid. She knew what the man wanted but she wasn’t willing to deliver it. That’s when she decided it was time to move on. She decided to try her luck in New York instead.
Hitch hiking cross country was difficult. Katrina walked as many miles as she rode and she often slept on the side of the roadway, which was dangerous. Additionally, she had to dodge more than a few dirty offers. If she wouldn’t give her body for a part, she certainly wasn’t going to do it for a ride.
Sadly, Katrina’s timing was well planned. She hit Denver during the coldest part of the year. That’s where she was when heavy snow began to fall.
Leaving the main road, Katrina spotted what appeared to be an abandoned cabin. Unable to stand the cold any longer, she broke a window to enter. Once there, she started a fire in the fireplace and used cardboard to cover the hole in the window.
A few provisions remained in the pantry. They included beef jerky and a few cans of soup. There was also bottled water in the small frig and candles in the storage area. Katrina thanked her lucky stars and settled down to get warm for the first time in weeks.
Snowed in for days on end, Katrina struggled to make her provisions last. She melted fresh snow in the fireplace to replace the bottled water. She divided the jerky into pieces to stretch it further. She limited eating only one-third can of soup. While she remained hungry, she counted herself lucky. She was safe and warm and it felt like home.
The snow seemed to know when Katrina’s provisions were winding down. She awoke one morning to find that it had stopped. Still, she knew she’d have to wait for some of the snow to melt before she returned to the highway. She doubted anyone was out and about quite yet.
A few more days passed and Katrina planned on leaving the following morning. However, those plans changed when she awoke to the sound of a vehicle right outside the door. Without a back exit to take, the young girl felt trapped as a tall, thin man entered the cabin.
“So it was you who broke my window,” he said as he removed his jacket to reveal a man around 55. “I’d venture a guess you used my provisions as well.”
“I’m sorry,” Katrina moaned. “I got caught on the highway when the snow started falling. This was the only shelter I could find. Here, I have this silver necklace. It should bring enough money to pay for your window,” she blurted. “I can’t pay for the food though.”
“Good Lord, child, do you think I’m going to have you arrested for protecting yourself from the cold? I’m just glad this cabin was here when you needed it. As for food, I brought a truckload of it with me. We can dine like kings tonight. I’d venture you are tired of soup and beef jerky.”
Katrina stared into the man’s face and found a form of kindness she had not witnessed since her father’s death. She felt humbled in his presence.
“You are going to let me stay?” She figured she must have heard the man wrong.
“Of course you can stay,” the man replied. “Stay as long as you like. I only come here on the weekends to hunt. The place is all yours during the week. I won’t even be here much on the weekend. I’ll be out there hunting. It’s good for the place to have someone watch over it.”
“What do you want in return?” Katrina couldn’t help but be a little curious.
The man understood immediately what she was asking. “I want nothing more than your polite company and maybe a little light housekeeping. I’m not very good at that. Does that sound fair?”
Katrina nodded, still a bit uncertain. The truth was she’d grown to love the cabin and she really didn’t want to leave it.
Weeks passed and then months. Katrina and the man, whose name turned out to be Jerome Hunter, grew closer. He told her about the death of his family in a car accident.
“I had a daughter. She’d be just about your age,” he muttered sadly.
“My parents died when I was 13,” Katrina explained. “I’ve been on my own since then.”
Jerome looked at the girl with a mixture of pity and pride. “You must be very strong to survive alone that way. How have you done it?”
“I work as a waitress a lot,” she explained. “I even made one movie but that went sour when the producer wanted another kind of payment.”
Jerome reached out to pat her hand. “That’s why you were suspicious of me,” he said matter-of-factly. “I suspected something must have happened like that. Katrina, I would never hurt you or take advantage of you. I promise you that.”
“I know,” the girl returned, her face softening. “You remind me of my father.”
“That makes me very happy,” Jerome smiled. “You remind me of my daughter. She was sweet and kind like you.”
Years passed and after a while, Jerome stopped coming to the cabin regularly. He sometimes made it once a month.
“I’m getting too old to hunt, Katrina,” he explained. “Why don’t you come to Denver and live with me. You know by now you can trust me.”
“I love it here,” Katrina returned. “This place has become my home. I’d come to visit you in Denver if I could but I can’t do that without transportation.”
Two weeks later a car was delivered to Katrina’s doorstep. Inside of it was a note from Jerome. “Come and visit when you like. The enclosed map shows you how to find me. Love, Jerome.
The duo traded visits back and forth for a few more years until it was evident that Jerome could no longer travel. Then Katrina came to stay with him. He died suddenly of a heart attack days later.
Readying herself to return to the road, Katrina was surprised when a strange man came knocking at the cabin door. “Katrina Simpson?” He asked the question already knowing the answer. Jerome had provided him with a picture of her.
“Yes, but you don’t have to evict me,” the girl offered. “I was just getting ready to leave.”
“Why would you do that?” The man asked with uncertainty. “I came to bring you the deed to this house and the one in Denver. Jerome wanted you to have them.”
“Why me?” Katrina looked shocked.
“Because he loved you,” the man answered. “You were the daughter he didn’t have. There’s also a small monthly stipend for upkeep and so that you can buy food and supplies.”
“I did nothing for him,” Katrina mumbled. “I can’t accept this generous gift.”
“You gave him the one thing he needed most – family. He felt you gave him the world.”