~Four months later~
I have been walking along the side of this snow and icy road for hours now. Bleak grey skies and heavy fog loom over my shoulders as I hear crows caw then fall silent. I think they are watching me, waiting for me to fall dead so they can pick my flesh apart. Leaving the road, I stalk through what seems an endless supply of twisted trees and bald branches save for the snow and ice weighing them down. The wind blows and whistles mightily stirring up swirling flakes. Branches bend and crack defiantly resisting the urge to completely snap under the force of the elements. I to need to stay strong, but I’m exhausted. I try to keep my breathing steady, forcing myself to take one step after the other. If I stop now, I will die.
They’re hopping from tree to tree, looking down on me with their curious beady eyes, judging, and mocking me with their caws. If I never see or hear crows again, it won’t be too soon. I climb over the dead limbs that submitted and resigned themselves to the forest floor. I stumble over snow covered logs and rocks as I finally find my way out of this never-ending forest. My eyes behold a cabin that is in the far distance. The only thing standing between it and me is an acre or so of knee high snow and a wooden fence that undoubtedly is meant to keep out wanderers. My heart sinks in defeat with the distance I’m forced to cover. No use in complaining, I just have to push on. No sooner than I lift my leg to crunch down into the snow, I fall over face first into pitch-blackness.
As I stand at my window early every morning, I spot a dark dot in the distance. I chose this place not to be bothered by humans this time of the year. All I want is a peaceful quiet life until spring greets me again. Curiosity tugged at my mind and led me to pull on my boots and coat to investigate further. Leaving my cabin, I lean against the wooden railing and shiver. Getting acclimated to this type of weather proved easy even after all of the missions that I was sent on. Still, I’m staring at this idle dot sunken into the white landscape; it was moving moments ago. Circling down from my cabin, I find my snowmobile, put the key in and start it up. Cutting through the snow was effortless until I ran up on a patch of snow I dared not cross on this machine. I trudged the rest of the way until I reached the intruder. Whoever it was, the stranger was laying face down inhaling shallow breaths. I turned the stranger over and found it was a woman. How had she gotten here and why was she alone? Thankfully she hadn’t been down long. Scooping her up, he carried her through the deep snow until he rode them back to his cabin.
The wind howled at his back as he kicked shut the cabin door behind him. Gently, I placed her next to the fireplace to try to warm her up. I stayed kneeling over her, studying her features, hoping for her to open her eyes. After fifteen minutes she began to shiver, sucking in air between her chattering teeth. Slowly, she opened her drowsy clouded eyes, staring up in mine. Blinking and licking her dry lips, she croaked out something inaudible.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch what you tried to say.”
“I…don’t…let me…die.” She closed her eyes again and I try shaking her awake.
“You can’t sleep, you need to stay awake until I know you’re in the clear.” Her eyes flit open in slits while she shivered. “I need to get you out of these clothes.”
“I’m not going to hurt you. You can trust me. Just relax and I’ll have you wrapped up in a blanket in two shakes of a leg.”
Whatever he did, I hadn’t noticed. If I ran away from Jett only to end up in the clutches of a murderer or rapist, how ironic my end would be. But I’m still breathing with warmth wrapping itself around me. I feel something firm against my back. I deliriously find my body embraced in his. Heat was radiating from every pore of this man’s body and it feel good, too good. I surrendered, melting into him as I dozed off into oblivion.
I haven’t been this close to a woman in years, especially fireside. After stripping her of her coat, wet clothes and boots, I wrapped her tiny body in the largest blanket I owned. I was too concerned with warming her up to look at her body. I was trained to handle matters that were of extreme importance and blocked everything else out. I have patched up so many of comrades that taking care of this woman were easy as pie. She smelled of the woods, pine and birch and the earth that she traveled on. Her hair was hazel, like coffee that was flooded with liquid creamer. She also sporting streaks of highlights throughout her tresses, and from what he could recall, she has gray colored eyes, unusual for a dark skinned woman, but nonetheless, beautiful. When I was sure she was dead to the world, I moved her to the couch and rested a pillow under her head. Falling back to the kitchen, I fetch a few terrycloth towels to soak up puddles of water on my hardwood floor that was left behind from our boots.
Occasionally, I broke my sleep to check on my intruder. She was in the same spot where I had left her, breathing normally, thankfully. Traveling back to my room, I slide back in bed, arms crossed behind my head staring up at the white ceiling. Shadows jutted back and forth from the moonlight washing over nearby trees. I couldn’t help thinking something about this woman felt out of place. My questions will have to wait until the morning, hopefully she will be willing to tell me how she ended up on my property.