Author’s note: Although our heroine cusses a bit, this Young Adult Novel is rated PG.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated -Confucius
The power was out.
I knew I should have paid more for the alarm clock with the battery back-up, she chastised herself. She was going to be late for History class – again. After the ritual feline stretching, that had to be done, before she could even get out of bed, she proceeded out to the hallway bathroom. Out of habit she flipped the light switch. Nothing happened.
“Dammit!” this was her first word of the day. And the second, when she went to the kitchen and realized the coffee pot needed power to brew. Washing her face in cold water helped wake her, but did nothing to help her mood. And Monday mornings were usually bad mood days even when the power was on.
History was her first class on Monday’s and she hated it. Even her teacher, Mr. Benson, seemed bored out of his mind, his monotone voice made everything sound just as boring. Why history was a requirement for a computer science degree, she could not figure out. Before the 70’s there were no computers. Or was it the 60’s? Who cared? The point was computers were here now, and she wanted to learn how to program them. The Civil War had absolutely nothing to do with computers.
With no time to shower (in cold water? – Ha!), let alone apply make-up, she gathered her wimpy strawberry blonde hair into a ponytail. Studying herself in the mirror, all her flaws glared at her as if she were at fault. She supposed she did have a part in some of them. Hair like straw (forget the berry) from too much bleaching and not enough trimming. One more thing on her to-do list that she did not have the time or money for. Along with facials. The kits you can buy and use at home did not suck the evil blackheads out of her pores like the professional ones did. And when was she able to get full 8-hours sleep? Like never.
She was almost eighteen and already looked haggard. But she blended nicely with other high school students during finals week, who were just as haggard as she was. Then there were the pretty, perky girls who did not even have the brains to study – but don’t let yourself think about them! She was grumpy enough without thinking about the Barbie’s.
All the guys wanted to flirt with them. She saw them at every football game and party she went to, pretending to be tipsy or drunk and asking a cute guy for a ride home. They made her want to puke. She thought of these kinds of girls as “Barbies”. They reminded her of junior high and the way the pretty (and always mean) girls laughed and made fun of those who were not good-looking enough to be part of their glamorous world. Not that she wanted to be – she hated snotty people. She was tired of men – and society as a whole, worshiping them. Because they were pretty.
Even the teachers (male and female alike) catered to the Barbie’s. Somehow, the Barbie’s had a lot of free time to party and goof off. Teachers looked the other way when they cut class, didn’t turn in their homework, or even attempt assigned projects. There was no way she (a short, small chested, plain girl) could get away with that.
Class! If she wanted to get her paper in on time, she had to leave – now.
She gathered books, papers, and her lunch (an apple and a diet smoothie), and stuffed them into a denim bag. In her haste, she scooped her keys out of the little ceramic bowl a bit harshly, causing it to fall and shatter into a dozen pieces.
So… this is how today is going to be. In her experience, days that start out bad, stayed bad. Her mom said she was far too young to be bitter. She wanted everything ‘just so’. But everything had other plans.
She checked her bag (again) for the history paper due today. It was still there. She had researched and written the paper last Thursday, and she knew it would get at least an A-. That would bring her grade up from ‘C-‘to a ‘B’. This would still drop her 4.0 average to a 3.8, but when she passed Mr. Benson’s class, she would not have to take any more history. Ever! Just thinking about that helped her make it through the hour and a half torture 3-days a week. Only 3 more weeks left in the semester. Yay!
She unlocked her car as she opened the front door. The first thing she noticed was silence. Even after she pushed the button on her FOB again, there was no beep.
Why would there be? There was no car.
She stood there, numb.
Along with her car, the entire neighborhood had vanished.
“Holy Crap!” became her fourth and fifth words.
≈ ≈ ≈ ≈
conclusion of Chapter One…
Pavement, sidewalks, houses, cars – everything, was gone. Vanished. She stood, alone, in the middle of a forest. Pine, cedar, and oak trees towering above her. Some of them were so tall that she could not see the very top of them. Sunlight penetrated between them, where it could, but the trees were so dense, there was more shadow than light. Sunbeams, she thought. Only sunbeams could get through. They looked very pretty like that. And a piney, woodsy smell wafted by her, carried on a slight breeze. She inhaled deeply. Now this is what fresh air should be like.
She sat down Indian style on a pine needle covered dirt and closed her eyes. She inhaled slowly and deeply, and then slowly exhaled. She was obviously having a hallucination, and needed to stay calm until it passed. Her apple lay on the ground next to her. The backpack vanished along with everything else in it.
Where the Hell am I?
She never hallucinated before. Who knew what kind of terrors her subconscious brain would manufacture. Her dreams were bad enough for her to deal with. Mostly nightmares and occasionally the frustrating ones like being naked at school. She had that one a lot.
She didn’t think this, whatever this was, was a dream.
When she did turn her head and look around, she saw a clearing with a small log cabin. It could be part of a movie set, she thought. It was rustic and weathered just so. A bit too perfect for reality. But it looked solid enough to be real. The rust colored dirt and dried pine needles were real enough on her hands and jeans.
She paced about until curiosity overcame fear, and she walked up and tapped one of the logs. It was solid. She lightly stepped inside – the door was conveniently unlocked. A beautiful solid oak table and four matching chairs were next to the front window. The floorboards were worn pine. There was the rust colored dirt under them. The kitchen area was neat and tidy. She assumed it was a kitchen because the open cupboards and shelves held bowls, pans, and utensils. She recognized a rolling-pin, a potato masher, a well-seasoned iron-skillet, and what she believed was a biscuit cutter. The other items were a mystery. Like the large wooden boxy thing in the corner, next to the wood-stove.
She also noted that this ‘kitchen’ did not have the usual stuff – like a fridge or a stove. No microwave. No coffee maker. Hell, not even a sink! How could people live like this?
Maybe it was just a ‘get-away-from-it-all’ vacation home. She scoffed at the thought – what kind of vacation would that be? Not her kind. She was not an outdoor girl. Oh, she loved to be out in nature, soaking up the sunshine and breathing fresh air. But only for so long. And never overnight. When she went camping, she preferred the Hilton.
Up a few steps, in the back of the place, there was a loft-like area, with a wood framed bed. It took up all the space except for an old-fashioned wardrobe. She debated, even looked around for witnesses a couple of times, and then climbed up the three steps to try it out. The frame held a fluffy mattress made from what felt like clouds. She could fall asleep for a week in this bed. On top of the bed was a lovely patchwork quilt. She had seen one like it before – somewhere. She even thought she recognized some of the fabrics in it. And why not, this was her hallucination after all.
Someone obviously lived here, and was probably close by, judging from the hot coals that were going out in the fireplace.
She didn’t know where to go, but she didn’t want to be discovered, like Goldilocks, snoozing in a bed that did not belong to her. Inside her denim bag had been her iPhone, iPod, tablet, along with her lunch and history paper. Only the apple came with her. She knew this fact was significant, but not why.
“I better get out of here before the 3 bears come home”, she told herself. Bears? Bears lived in forests. She hoped not this particular forest. Squirrels, raccoons, skunks and opossums she could probably handle. A bear? She did not want to think about it.
She didn’t want to let herself think about the Uni-bomber, terrorist cells, or chain saws either.
She walked back into the trees, making sure the cabin stayed in sight. She came across a small clearing area, where she could see the cabin, while remaining hidden. No one should be able to see her. Deciding to stay here for a while and rest, because she was at least near someone, and the place she originally came (beamed?) down, transported or hallucinated from. She found a small tree stump in a sunbeam to sit on. I’ll warm myself like a lizard here, while I keep watch on the place, she decided.
She sat. After an hour she decided to eat her apple. And she sat.
Questions collided in and out of her head. Not able to think of one reasonable (or even non-reasonable) explanation for what had happened, made her feel panicked. This doesn’t happen in real life, only in the movies. And she watched a lot of movies. Which probably explained why the first things she thought of were like, she was in a Twilight Zone episode; or Scotty beamed her up to the forest planet; or aliens transported her here; or maybe, she was on Candid Camera. Any minute now, Allen Funt would jump out from behind a tree and explain the entire funny episode to her. She was very fond of that explanation, but she thought it was as unlikely to be true as the others were.
She had not spoken many words, since she woke up, except for cuss words. She must owe her niece at least ten bucks by now. Cuss words cost a quarter apiece. The “F” word cost a dollar. The deal they made was supposed to; 1) deter her from having a “potty mouth”, and 2) the money went to her niece’s college fund. It was not working so well today, for herself. Her niece may be able to go to Harvard if Aunt Chloe did not mend her ways.
If a girl, alone in the woods, cusses – do the trees tell on her?
She suddenly had to stifle giggles that threatened to burst out of her. She wanted to keep quiet and not draw any attention to her hiding place. Although she didn’t know what she was hiding from (except bears), she wanted to be cautious.
“Don’t assume anything.” She told herself. “Shut up and see.”
Whoever lived in the cabin might be willing to tell her where she was. Of course, the occupant could be a demented serial killer or worse, a terrorist. That would not surprise her a bit, considering how Monday had gone so far. However, since she saw for herself that there were no dead bodies or explosives inside, she decided that waiting right here was still a good idea.
She sat on her stump, still and thoughtful, taking in her surroundings. She began to feel calm in spite of herself. The warm spring day and scent of pine in the calm breeze, made her feel drowsy. She watched a cute gray squirrel scurry about and dig for an acorn not five feet from her. A slight movement in the bushes to the right of her, almost freaked her out, but when two deer, a buck and a doe, emerged; she held her breath so she would not startle them. They were so beautiful! In addition, not cooped up in some zoo, but out here, with her, in the forest. They didn’t stay long; she startled them when she sneezed.
There were probably a lot more creatures out here. She tried not to dwell on that.
It seemed like hours had passed by. She grew bored with her stake out and decided to hike around a bit and stretch her legs (thank God she wore sensible shoes today), while it was daylight. Maybe, she would discover other log houses, or, hope against hope, a town. She began hiking uphill so she could improve her field of vision. If she weren’t afraid of heights, she would climb a tree. They were certainly tall enough.
One thing, she thought, I should have paid attention in science class. She had been too busy staring (drooling over) at Rich Hansen to learn anything, now she was lost in the forest, and she needed to figure out what direction she was going, and when she would run out of daylight. “There are apps for these things on my iPhone!” she whined. Why did this happen to her?
The truth was, if she had a compass and a map she would still be lost. She ‘could not find her way out of a paper bag’, was how her dad put it. She did not inherit the ‘sense-of-direction-gene’, like everyone else in her family. She was so happy when GPS units became available and affordable. She named her GPS – Tom (short for Tom Tom). Tom always got her back on track after she took a wrong turn. Although Tom told her exactly what to do, like,” “After 200 yards, turn left” Sometimes a left turn showed up after only 150 yards and she took it. Tom never laughed or yelled at her. He simply recalculated the route and guided her from there. She loved him.
What felt like an hour later (damn her missing watch!), the light blue sky began dissolving into darker shades of blue. A pinkish, orange glow, that reminded her of those tall popsicles called missiles that she would buy from the ice-cream man, slipped toward the horizon. The sunset in the West – that much she knew. But what good would that do her when she didn’t know where she was or wanted to go? The more she thought about it, her plan to stay close to the log cabin was the smartest thing to do. If she explored farther into the forest, she would never find her way back.
She wished whoever lived there would come home and take her in, at least for a day or two. The she wished that whoever lived there would never find her.
The trees looked ominous (and creepy) in the diminishing light. She wasn’t afraid of the dark. But in a forest full of strange noises, no flashlight and no sleeping bag, she was becoming very afraid.
“Perfect.” she grumbled. “I hope there’s a full moon tonight, I left my flashlight at home.”
She got the giggles then. Wasn’t that a sign of going crazy? Laughing for no reason. Like a loon? Once she got it all out of her system, she sat cross-legged on her stump, and gave in to exhaustion. She was afraid to lie on the ground to sleep (who knew what kind of bugs and reptiles lurked), so she dozed on and off, mostly upright, then listing to the left until waking just enough to sit back upright and pray she would wake up in her own bed, and this was just a really bad dream after all.
An owl swooped over her and screeched. My God! No wonder they call them screech owls! She was not in her own bed, but still in the forest, sitting on an uncomfortably hard stump. Except now it was completely dark. A faint glow on the horizon got her attention. She watched as the near-full moon rose in the sky. She couldn’t believe how bright it was. With no competing city lights around, it was brilliant. And the stars! She could see so many of them that she knew she was not in California. Even when in Wyoming’s the middle of nowhere, the night sky did not have all these lights. She finally spotted the Dippers. They were in the wrong place – farther away from the North Star and almost on the horizon. How weird.
Before she could wrap her mind around that, her neck began protesting her stargazing position. Forgetting about insects and rodents, she lay on her back, propped her head with her arms, crossed behind her. She must have drifted off to sleep, because the next thing she knew was the moon was higher in the sky and the air was much colder.
“I would know the temperature if I had my freaking phone,” she complained to the large rock next to her stump. It was damned cold. It didn’t matter how many degrees a thermometer said it was. She was cold, hungry and frightened. Each of those things made her crabby, so all of them together made her insane. She needed to get off her ass and move around. Get her circulation going.
She began doing jumping jacks, then running in place. When she finished going through stretches, she noticed two yellow eyes straight ahead of her, but deeper among the trees. She kept her eyes on them, still running but slower than before. By the size of the eyes it could be a skunk, opossum or raccoon, which was curious about the stranger in their woods. Not curious enough to come closer, she hoped.
The light between the trees, now from moonbeams, helped her find a trail, that led farther up the mountain. Thinking she would be able to see better, she climbed it. From this height, the little cabin stood in a fair-sized clearing. Behind it there was a large barn, she thought it was a barn even though it was not painted red, and a tiny shack set away from both barn and cabin. She could see a faint light inside the cabin! Whoever lived there came back while she was dozing.
A movement inside got her attention. A man, she was sure it was a man, walked past the front window. He then stepped out on the porch, followed by a big dog that immediately ran to a tree and lifted its leg. The man leaned against the porch railing, took what looked like a small bag out of his shirt pocket, and began doing something – it looked like he was rolling a joint, but she couldn’t see clearly. She stood up and made her way through some bushes for a closer look.
That was when she heard the click sound.
She froze. Her heart pounded up into her throat. There were two things that made a sound like that. A land mine and a gun cocking . Knowledge she acquired watching television and movies. Her instincts screamed, “Run!” However, before she could react, she heard something else.
It was the sickening sound of metal closing around her shinbone.
Her scream was so shrill, that only the man’s dog could hear it.
≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈
She knew she was not in her own bed, before she opened her eyes. I’m in the bed of clouds she realized, and smiled. Her eyelids were too heavy to open more than a fraction, but she could sense that it was daylight. I haven’t felt this relaxed in years, she marveled.
Mollie’s eyes shot open – what if I’m not relaxed – and dead?
Pain throbbing through her right lower leg answered her question. She guessed right – she was inside the little log cabin, tucked into the cozy bed in the loft and covered with the beautiful quilt she admired yesterday. So, she reasoned, that man she saw on the porch rescued her.
Rescued her from what exactly? All she remembered was a click, then serious pain. The kind where you see red flashes and pass out. The passing out part could have happened a lot sooner.
“So where is he? My hero?”
A sound, like a humph, came from the foot of the bed.
The end of the bed sunk down and peeking over the edge was the sweetest doggy face ever. Mollie saw his tail wagging crazily.
“Were you the one who found me?” The dog’s tail wagging and happiness increased.
“What’s your name fella?”
The dog yapped a short bark, and came around to her side of the bed. He bent his head forward and down as if he were paying homage to her. When she reached out to pet him she saw he had a leather collar around his neck that had letters burned into it, spelling “Zeus”.
“Your name is Zeus?” Another short yap.
Now fully awake, she saw that all of her was tucked in except the leg in question. It was propped up using an upside-down cooking pot, covered with a pillow, and swaddled in what felt like a pound of cement. Her toes, poking out of the bandage were swollen and a gruesome shade of purple.
“Holy Crap!” she exclaimed.
What she dismissed as a bizarre dream, must have been real. The steel jaws crushing her leg, 6 inches above her ankle. The dog found her and brought back a man to help her. The pain was so overwhelming that other details went unnoticed. She could only whimper after her vocal cords gave out. After that – she must have fainted.
On the floor, next to that mysterious box thing, were torn and bloodied Levi’s, soaking in some kind of kettle. And next to them was what had to be a large animal trap – also bloody. Her face suddenly reddened. Somebody, hopefully the guy’s wife, but probably that man, took my pants off.
OMG! What panties am I wearing? She hoped they weren’t old granny-panties. If she’d known a guy would be taking off her pants, she would have put on cute underwear. But she put them on Monday, so they were definitely not cute. In fact, they had to be worn flannel granny-panties because she wore those on Monday. Monday’s were bad enough without adding uncomfortable underwear to them.
Her blouse and bra were still intact. Frankly, she wouldn’t have minded if her bra vanished. Eight hours was her tolerance level for brassieres, and it was probably over 24-hours now.
And just where was her rescuer? Somebody rescued and doctored her up last night. Where was he now?
“Man, have I got to pee,” she said to the ceiling.
When her need to pee became urgent, she decided to get up and start looking for the bathroom. Hopping, if she had to.
“Some hospital this is,” she sighed, ”not even a nurse call-button.”
The dog suddenly barked twice at her, nudged the door wider, and ran outside. Weird.
Gingerly, she maneuvered to the edge of the bed. The wooden frame was wide enough for her to sit on, and tall enough that her feet didn’t touch the floor. With both feet together she could tell how swollen the right foot was. Anticipating horrible shooting pain, to add to what she considered the constant pain, she closed her eyes shut and scooted to the very edge. When her left foot was firmly planted on the floor, she put a tiny bit of weight on the injured one.
Not as bad as she expected, but that was without any of her weight on it. Maybe it wasn’t broken, just cut. Feeling braver, she tried to get off the bed using only her uninjured leg.
“Just where do you think you’re going?”
The voice came from behind her, startling her enough to fall back onto the edge of the bed. The dog had returned, but was panting, not talking. He had brought his master back.
She couldn’t answer his question. Not only was she out of breath, but the moment she saw him, she immediately forgot what his question was. Her brain stopped working.
“Do you speak English?” he asked, not so harshly this time.
At least she could nod her head ‘yes’.. She could not breathe in enough air to speak. Or swallow. Her heart pounded so hard that she could hear it pumping blood through her ears. She felt faint. She never felt faint.
“Ah, it must be the laudanum,” he told her, his face softening. She managed a smile. He was wrong of course, no drug could cause what she was feeling.
It wasn’t only his deep voice that was masculine. He was handsome, not like a model, but ruggedly so. When he took off his hat she saw that his hair was a light brown and on the shaggy side, but it was clean. His shoulder and arm muscles filled out his worn sleeveless T-shirt – in a very nice way. A tuft of chest hair peeked out of shirt. And, Lord have mercy, the man had the most devastating hazel eyes. He had a slight sprinkling of freckles over his nose, and when he smiled, a dimple winked at her.
He was absolutely perfect.
“Do you need something?” he asked. He came up to the loft and felt her forehead with the back of his hand. His frown confirmed her suspicion she had a fever.
“Just the ladies room.”
He shook his head and shrugged. In his puzzlement, he was cuter than before. If that were even possible.
“Um- I have to pee.”
“Oh, got you.” He scooped her up, like she was a ragdoll that weighed nothing, and carried her outside. Ever so gently, he put her down in front of the tiny shack she saw last night. She now could see it had a crescent moon carved into the door. He opened the door for her. Then he handed her a cowbell.
“Ring this when you’re finished and I’ll come back.”
“Thank you,” she said, thinking seriously? An outhouse?
“Don’t put any weight on the right leg.”
Expecting to be grossed out, she was surprised how clean it was on the inside. Way nicer than any port-a-potty she ever used. The only light inside came from a sunroof. There was a Sears & Roebuck catalog on a shelf, right of the open hole. Most of the pages had been torn out. What’s next – corn cobs? Well, here she was, with her Charmin spoiled butt, having to scrape herself with the tool section. She just better not get a paper cut on her hoo-hah – or somebody would pay.
Mollie giggled – Somebody!? Right. I must be stoned, she realized. Instead of freaking out, I’m laughing.
She felt like an idiot ringing a cowbell. If she got enough practice at it, maybe she could join a band. Har-Har. Mr. Perfect soon returned and scooped her up into his arms again. She could really get used to this. The way he held her against his chest, was so – fine.
She needed to smack these thoughts out of her head – they were going to get her into trouble! But for now, she laid her head on his shoulder, to rest her neck, because she could. His stride was long, so her ride was short. His dog, which stood guard while she was in the outhouse, now trotted next to them back to the house. He was a beautiful dog who looked like the offspring of a Border Collie and a Golden Retriever. His curiosity about her was obvious and endearing.
When Mr. Perfect got her tucked back into the clouds, her leg propped up again, he told her that he wanted to take a look at the wound.
Mollie was feeling strangely agreeable and perky. I’m flirting with him, she realized. The dude was at least 25 years old and most likely thought of her as a child.
“You should just look at the ceiling, or out the window,” he told her. “It’s not sight for a lady to see.” He gently began unwinding the gauze from her leg. She watched him closely.
“It’s OK. I’m not a lady.” Wait, Mollie thought. That came out wrong.
“Well … Watch if you want – but I warned you.”
When she saw what appeared from under the gauze, she tried to stop the tears leaking out of her eyes, but couldn’t. Her legs, her best feature, or were until now. Her right lower leg had hideous purple and black bruises and was swollen three times larger than normal.
But that was not the worst. Oh no. The worst thing, the most horrible thing, was that Dr. Frankenstein had sewn it back on. Huge black stitches, sewn in a ragged circle around her calf, about six inches from the top of her ankle. She could not take anymore, and laid back and closed her eyes.
“Am I going to die?”
“Don’t worry – I know it looks bad,” he said, handing her a handkerchief that was in his back pocket. “The stitches have pulled a bit because of the swelling.”
“Could you bring me some ice?” she asked. He just looked at her. “To help the swelling and the pain,” she explained.
“Sorry, there’s no ice up here unless it snows.”
“Oh.” She said. What the Hell?
“Doc will be up to have a look this afternoon, so if it’s OK with you, I might as well leave it unwrapped, let some air get to it.”
“I hope he brings some pain killers with him,” was her response. Wrapped or unwrapped, she had seen the horror. And by Mr. Perfect’s expression, the chance of any pain relief was nil. Which was too damned depressing to think about. Her mangled leg throbbed in a rhythm of pain that demanded her attention. She lost her focus and there was only pain.
He brought her a glass of milk. He stood there, waiting, to make sure she drank it. Not only was it warm, but it had a nasty after taste, that would not leave her mouth.
“It’s Laudanum,” he told her. “For the pain.”
Laudanum. She was drugged. She remembered that drug from a movie about the old west. It was that movie about Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral guys. One of their wives was addicted to it.
That was comforting, Mollie thought. It must at least have opiates in it.
“You should get more rest,” he told her. After fluffing her pillow and covering her, he carefully propped up Frankenstein’s leg again.
“Thank you for saving my life.” She blurted. “Is that thing,” she pointed to the bloody trap, “a bear trap?”
Mr. Perfect was a man of few words. Pulling information out of him would be a challenge, but Mollie decided that would have to wait until her brain worked again.
He blushed slightly and smiled his sexy dimply smile. She wanted to tell him to please stop doing that, but her thoughts were really fuzzed now, and she forgot what he did.
“Zeus,” he commanded the dog, who immediately appeared and sat eagerly for his orders. “Keep an eye on her and come get me when she wakes up.”
Zeus looked over at her, then back at his master. He laid down next to the side of the bed she was on.
A dog was going to babysit her. That fact didn’t even seem out of the ordinary. Whatsoever.
She did feel sleepy. She closed her eyes and tried to think. She still hadn’t figured out where she was and how she got here. But her body and the laudanum took over. She was floating away before she could think of any more questions.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Doc”, was just how she imagined him. An older gentleman, with graying hair and a thick mustache. He was on the portly side, but not fat, and his eyes twinkled when he smiled. He would make a fabulous Santa Claus.
As if she weren’t in the room, Doc and Mr. Perfect discussed her injuries, and the stitches he did.
Mr. Perfect was doctor Frankenstein? The conversation became even more interesting when they stepped out of the cabin and onto the porch. Lowering his voice to a whisper, Mr. Perfect told Doc , “She can’t stay here. I’m too busy this season to play nursemaid to a dim-witted city girl.”
What? He doesn’t even know me! She bit her tongue, so she could keep eavesdropping.
“She seems normal enough to me.” Doc told him. “Kind of cute too. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”
“Yeah, I noticed.” He said reluctantly.
He thinks I’m cute!
Enough of this crap. She wanted to jump into the conversation, but her throat was really sore and she didn’t want to yell. She was going to have to get out of bed and outside somehow. Dammit! When she moved, Zeus began barking and ratted her out.
“Et tu’, Zeus?” The dog lay down with his snout between his front paws, watching her with sad eyes.
Both men came inside to see what was going on.
“I may be a city girl, but I’m not dim-witted enough to stay here if I’m not welcome.”
She watched him redden, hearing his own words thrown back at him.
“Speaking of where you’re welcome,” Mr. Perfect challenged, “Why the Hell were you roaming, or should I say trespassing, in the middle of the night?”
“What are you trying to catch with that big-assed trap?” She countered. “Besides women, I mean.”
Doc nearly choked on his coffee.
“Women?! –” Mr. Perfect was perfectly tongue-tied.
“Look,” she interrupted, pulling herself up in a sitting position. “I don’t want to be a burden, I’ll just be on my way.” She scooted off the bed and stood using her good leg, but it was shaky and weak. Instinctively, her right leg compensated, to keep her balance. The pain that shot up her leg went all the way to her ribs, taking her breath away. She fell over sideways. Neither of her legs could hold her up. Dammit!
With all the dignity she could muster, she climbed up the bed and stood again – this time not putting pressure on her wounded leg, and steadying herself with the bedpost.
“Of course, I’ll need to borrow a pair of pants,” she said, looking directly at the guy who ruined hers.
“I’ll be happy to give you a pair of pants,” he said, “and a ride back to wherever you came from.”
Doc jumped into the conversation.
“Whoa! Now listen – She needs to stay off her feet, keep the wound elevated, and swab it with the medicine I will give to you. And you already set up a bed for her -“
“Just wait right there,” Mr. Perfect interrupted, “That happens to be my bed.”
What a big baby! She thought but did not say. After all, she may be staying here a bit longer.
“I promise, I’ll stay on my own side,” this she did say.
He actually blushed. What did he think she meant?
Doc cleared his throat to get their attention. “So? What’s it going to be?”
Before Mr. Perfect could answer, Mollie asked Doc if he could give her a ride to town.
“I don’t think you’re up to the trip, my dear,” Doc said, “its 16 miles of mountain roads to contend with and some are very treacherous.”
“I’ll deal with it,” she said, glaring at Mr. Not So Perfect After All.
“You two need to work this arrangement out between yourselves. Zeus and I will wait outside,” Doc opened the door and whistled for the dog. They heard Doc settle into the rocker and strike a match for his cigar.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *** ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Well…?,” Mollie demanded.
“All right,” Mr. Perfect said. His tone softened and he sat on the edge of the bed. “I know your accident was my fault. And besides, my pants won’t fit you.”
The sudden flash of his dimple was the convincer. She wondered if he was aware of the power that small indentation had.
“By the way, city girl, what is your name?”
“It’s Mollie,” she said.
“Nice to meet you, Mollie.” He took her hand. “I’m Travis”
Travis. His name suited him well. You could say it was ‘perfect’ for him. Ha!
Since she didn’t have anywhere else to be, she supposed she could stay here. Let Travis take care of her for a while. Catch up on her beauty sleep.
Doc explained to both of them how to care for her wound. He left them with extra gauze, a pair of crutches, and some foul smelling crap that she was, gratefully, not required to drink.
“I’ll check on you in a couple of days,” Doc told her. “Keep your leg elevated above your heart and do NOT put any weight on it – no matter how angry he makes you.” Doc winked at her. “Oh, and I’ll consult with my wife about what clothing she can live without and bring it up with me.”
“Thank you so much!” she gave him a big hug.
She hoped that included undergarments. She cringed, wondering what condition her granny-panties would be in after “a couple” days. And she would need some feminine products in a week or so. She decided not to bring that subject up, for now. She figured Mr. Perf- Travis, had all the TMI he could take for one day.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *** ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
After sleeping a few more hours, a hideous smell woke her. Travis was sitting at the table cutting up veggies, while some kind of meat fried in the frying pan, propped on the fireplace.
“Is that bear meat?” she asked.
“Cooking? No, it’s a rabbit, for stew.”
Molly gasped. “Bunny stew?!?”
“Believe me, it’s way better than bear stew,” he stopped chopping and dumped the veggies into the frying pan with the rabbit. “Besides, I did not catch a bear. Remember?”
“My leg will never forget.”
“And it won’t let me forget either.”
“What? I haven’t said a thing about that!”
“I know you haven’t,” Travis said. “It’s just that I know how lovely it used to be.”
Mollie frowned. “But you never saw it before!”
“I assumed it was as lovely as your left one.”
She was stunned. Never had anyone said something so sweet to her.
Trying to be a good sport, Mollie tried the Bunny Stew. It did not taste like chicken. It tasted like greasy and gamey liver.
“You have the worst poker face I’ve ever seen,” laughed Travis.
“Sorry – My brain and my taste-buds can’t get over the fact that it’s a bunny. I like my bunnies chocolate.”
Mollie laughed. “Next time you go hunting for rabbits find a chocolate one for me.”
Our saga continues-
The next couple days melted into one another, separated by dozing and sleeping. Mollie was only out of bed when carried to the outhouse. After breakfast, he removed her bandages, applied medicine and carried her back to bed. She only wore bandages at bedtime now, so she learned to ignore her leg. It was too hideous and upsetting to look at even though the swelling was subsiding.
Travis did not own any books, or a computer. Apparently he didn’t believe in electricity so that ruled out radio and TV as well. The lack of available water was barbaric. No telephone was cruel and unusual punishment.
Mollie came to the conclusion that Travis was one of those survivalist nuts. She envisioned the barn to be stocked with lockboxes of rifles, ammo, dried and canned foods, gallon jugs of water. Camo colored fatigues and jackets, gas masks, binoculars, rain hats & slickers. This mental survivalist inventory list kept her amused for a while, but then she would move on to thinking about how many men might be in the ‘militia’ with Travis. Were there women too? Probably. Men did not have exclusivity when it came to fears and paranoia. How often did the militia meet? Where did they hold their meetings? Since she didn’t see anyone visit Travis, either they met elsewhere, or did not meet often.
Mollie allowed her imagination to attended some clandestine militia meetings. She sat in the back, hoping to hear something interesting. Most of the meeting was rednecks venting over how this country was “going to have a rebellion soon”.
Travis left the house once she was propped up and tucked in and did not return until lunchtime. After feeding her and escorting her to the outhouse, he left and did not return until almost dark.
In case she needed him, Travis put his cowbell on her night stand. Mollie often got tempted to ring it, just to have him come in and be with her. If only she could think of a valid excuse to ring it.
At least he slept inside the house now. The first few nights she was there, Travis slept in the barn and she got no sleep at all. Every noise and every creak frightened her. At breakfast, she pleaded with him to sleep in his own bed, where they both could be warm and comfortable. He sat looking at her in disbelief.
“Wait. You want us to sleep, in the same bed, together?”
“People do it all the time.”
Mollie laughed, “I won’t make you marry me.”
“Really? What if I roll over in my sleep and brush against you?” he asked. “I’d rather not be bashed in the head with a cane.”
Mollie giggled. “I promise I won’t bash you either.”
“It’s not a -”
“Pleeeease!” She interrupted. She didn’t want to hear his reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. She just wanted him inside the house with her. “It’s your house, it’s your bed – you should be sleeping in it.”
Travis opened his mouth to say something, changed his mind and sighed instead. Mollie smiled to herself. He was almost convinced, now she just had to wait for him to make the final decision.
Why did she feel so comfortable and trusting with this man? She had no clue. The weird thing was, she didn’t really care what the reason was. Normally she was Miss Analyze Everything to Death. Maybe she knew him in a past life. Maybe it was the laudanum.
All she knew was that she didn’t feel like a scared little girl when he was close by.
When she woke up the morning after Travis slept next to her, she lay there comfortable and cozy; in fact for the first time since she found herself in these woods, she felt completely safe.
She woke up alone. Feeling the sheet on his side of the bed and finding it warm, she knew it had not been very long since Travis left. The smell of coffee was enticing. She hated drinking it black, but the man had no sugar or coffee creamer in the pantry. Determined to do something herself, Mollie reached under the bed and grabbed her cane. She wished she had slippers to wear. Her already chilled foot protested the ice-cold floorboards.
She made her way to the wood stove and poured herself half a cup. Then she held the cup with both hands close to her face, to enjoy the aroma and to warm her hands. When she heard Travis stomping his boots on the porch to knock off dirt or whatever before entering the house, she smiled. He was right on time for her much-needed outhouse run.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *** ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Today, after breakfast and Travis left the cabin, Mollie snuck out of bed. She was getting pretty good at using the cane since she went “exploring” twice a day. That, and she could tuck and prop her leg up nearly as good as he did, to keep him from knowing she had gotten out of bed. She kept her mouth shut about these new skills because she loved him tucking her in and carrying her everywhere. She caught herself thinking about it often.
And that’s when it came to her. She had seen him before! Not in person though. It was in a photo that was nearly identical to this one. The closer she looked, she remembered in the other photo he was wearing the very same flannel shirt. He had the top two buttons undone and chest hair was peeking out. She nearly drooled when she looked at it.
Now, as Mollie stared at it, she was horrified.
In the other photo, the black and white image was faded, and the border had cracked and turned yellowish brown, as old photos are known to do. He still looked very hot in that photo, which was why she remembered it, and where she’d seen it, so vividly.
She refused to accept it, it was so absurd! It was only her imagination and the result of watching too many movies. Way too many sci-fi movies to be specific.
And yet, it would explain everything going on, except for the why and how. She had seen this very same photo, pasted into her great-grandmother’s family album, with her own eyes.
This very same photo! Under it, written in great-grandma’s neat and precise handwriting, read: “My Cousin, Travis Richardson- at the County Fair.” May, 1894
“Holy Shit!” she said.
“I beg your pardon?” A voice that was not Travis’s spoke behind her. “I assure you that shit is not, nor ever will be, holy.”
After a short pause, giggles burst out from this person. Why didn’t I stay in bed next to the cowbell? Mollie got up from the table and turned to face the comedian. He was not much taller than she was, and he could not have been older than 20. What she noticed next about him was his halo.
To be continued…