"Rob, come on up. I've found something."
"And bring the lunch and beer."
That sounded like a great idea. I tied the boat off and scrambled up the rock to the right following the same path Aya had just covered. There was indeed a plateau that stretched between the two granite rocks. Aya was correct in doubling back as the plateau angled down to the right and became thick bush. To the left however the narrow lichen covered ridge varied between five and thirty foot wide and gently rose with the rock itself. There were several mature trees growing along the ridge and some deadwood but nothing particularly unusual. As I made my way towards where Aya was, the ridge widened into an area which was covered in naturally stunted cedars.
"Wow," I said as I came up to Aya, "looks like you found the mother lode."
Aya was beaming a great huge grin. Looking around I said, "There must be fifty potential bonsais here."
The sun was shining on the little plateau, it was warm up there. I dropped the two cooler pouches into the lichen and stripped off my wind jacket and sweater, leaving me with just a t-shirt. Aya did the same. I guess I hadn't really had a close look before but with just a yellow t-shirt and sports bra on, I could see that Aya had a pretty nice set on her.
We each walked around with a sandwich and a beer in our hands stooping down to give each tree a little wiggle. We found eight good candidates.
"Do you have one in mind?" I asked.
"How about that one?" she asked pointing to a cedar that stood about two and a half foot tall with a straight trunk. The taper on the trunk was fantastic, from about two and a half inches diameter at the base to nothing at the top. The top had some deadwood already -- a natural 'jin' in bonsai and except for one longer branch, the remaining branches were short and compact. These trees had barely hung on for decades, maybe centuries in this little microenvironment.
"It's a natural formal upright Aya. In collecting, that tree is a ten, or close to it. I hope we can get it."
I left Aya and the cooler with the beer and brought our spent lunch and empties back to the boat. Fifteen minutes later I was back with the bonsai collecting backpack.
"Take a picture of it before we start," I suggested. Aya retrieved her little point and shoot camera from her jacket and snapped off a couple of pics.
We got down to work. Aya was enthusiastic about what we were about to do. She had already uncovered the lichen from around the tree and had started to brush away the soil with her gloved hand. Her khaki jeans and t-shirt were already filthy. I tried lifting the tree straight up but it wouldn't budge. There was plenty of side to side movement of the trunk indicating that it wasn't bound to the rock.
"We have to take as much of the root ball as we can," I explained to Aya. Most of it was inside a little depression, but one root extended inside a thin fissure to the right. That root was snipped free. Using hand trowels we managed to pry most of the root ball up but something was still binding it to the rock. I held one side of the root ball up as Aya, lying on her back in the lichen, reached under to try to ascertain what still held it in place. She looked lovely in her yellow t-shirt, covered in soil. Eventually she felt a root extending down which she eventually managed to snip, freeing the tree from its terrestrial home.
"Woo-hoo!" Aya exclaimed.
"Well done Aya. That's hard work isn't it?" Aya was brushing the sweat of her brow with her soiled, gloved hand. Her forehead and face became covered in mud.
"Another one?" I asked.
"Sure. Are you going to get one too?" she asked.
"Only if you're done picking from this patch," I answered.
We set out to collect another. It was a similar task to the first. The root ball had to be teased and lifted from the underlying rock bit by bit. We worked on it together.
"Can I ask you a question?" she asked, "I hope you don't mind."
"What is it?"
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
Where the hell did that come from? She was staring at me as she worked away at the root ball.
"No, do you?"
Clearly I shouldn't have asked that. She was firing darts at me with her eyes.
"I'm sorry, it is a fair question though," I tried to recover from my faux-pas.
"I suppose you're right. No, I don't, nor do I have a boyfriend."
We continued to work away. After a few minutes I asked, "Why did you want to know?"
She didn't answer me at first but then after a while said, "I'm just a little confused that's all. Don't you like me? Or don't you find me attractive?"
I stopped what I was doing and sat up on the lichen and looked at her. What the hell brought that on?
"I like you a lot. And I think that you are a gorgeous, sexy woman."
Her face became expressionless as she sat up too. The little soon-to-be bonsai was right between us as we sat on the grey-green lichen carpet.
She thought for a moment then said, "I thought that I had made my intentions quite well known yesterday, but you didn't act on it. I thought maybe you had a girlfriend already and that I was being out of line."
"I don't think you were out of line," I stated and simply regarded her reaction.
"Is it because I was in a lesbian relationship?"
What an odd thing to ask. "No," I stated flatly.
"What is it then?"
"Aya, maybe you were just being friendly yesterday. Maybe it was the martini talking I don't know. And it doesn't really matter. If I had made a pass at you yesterday and had gone too far, how would you feel about it today? Gee I'm sorry I tried to rape you last night, but don't worry -- when we go deep into the bush today and it's just you and me with not another soul around for miles, don't worry I'll be a perfect gentleman. You can trust me to keep my grubby hands to myself."
Aya sat there on the lichen and smiled at me. "You're not like other guys are you?"
"Nonsense," I answered right back, "I'm just like every other guy."
"No you are not," she was grinning at me, "you're not like other guys that I've know or gone out with."
"Were they all just a bunch of stinking self-centered boors?" I stood up to stretch my legs, "only interested in one thing?" Before she could answer I bent my knees down a little and started flapping my arms back and forth while pumping my pelvis in and out. "Ma ego needs ta eat! Feed ma fetish! Uugh. Uugh. Uugh. I need sex! Gimme gimme."
Aya fell back into the lichen clutching her belly laughing, "Yeah, that's pretty well it! I think that pretty well sums it all up." Buy the time she recovered she had to brush tears of laughter from her face. She just managed to adhere more mud onto her face.
She tried to brush the teary mud from her face, but in reality just smeared it further. She said, "But you're not like that. You're not like that at all."
"That's nice of you to say that Aya, but I'm still not going to make a pass at you." We resumed work again.
"Are you afraid that I'm just trying to recover from my relationship? That I'm just trying to figure out if I am lesbian or not?"
"Are you?" I asked, but immediately knew I shouldn't have.
"Don't you question your sexuality?" Nice little dodge on her part.
"You must have at some point in your life."
I sat up again. Paused, then answered Aya. "I can recognize what a good looking guy is. Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and whatever that guy's name is that played Edward Scissorhands..."
"Johnny Depp," she interrupted.
"Yeah, that's him, but my point is...although I recognize them to be good looking, sexy men, I have no desire to come up to them, run my hands up and down their chests, give them a big hug then plant a big fat wet kiss on their stubbly lips. It just doesn't do anything for me."
Aya just glared at me.
"Actually, that's not true. It does do something for me. It's called revulsion."
She continued to glare at me.
"If I can't even kiss a guy without gagging, how am I supposed get off having sex with a man? So to answer your question about me questioning my sexuality, I guess I did. For about a nanosecond." Clearly that little tirade was foreign thinking to Aya.
We got back to work, managed to free the tree, then started on another tree.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," she answered.
"Tell me about your girlfriend, what was her name?"
"Helene. What do you want to know about her?"
"Was she butch, to your obvious femme?"
Aya sat up. She was covered in dirt, as was I. "Not all lesbians fill the stereotypical butch-femme roles."
"I know that. I was just wondering if she was butch...I was wondering, if she filled some sort of male substitute role for you."
She gazed at me.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't be asking. I don't mean to pry into your life."
"She does keep her hair short and she only wears pants or slacks. But that doesn't make her butch. She's very feminine."
This time I gazed at her.
"Would you call Ellen DeGeneres butch? She has short hair and seemingly only wears pants or slacks," she asked, or stated, or I guess argued.
"I don't know. Maybe," I answered.
"Maybe you're right, maybe she was a male substitute for me deep down on some sub-conscious level. I don't know. But what I can tell you is this. She is who she is. She dresses and cuts her hair in a manner that makes her feel good about herself. She's very comfortable in her skin. That's the person that I fell in love with. Her, not a butch dyke. The outward appearance makes very little difference to me. It's what is in the heart, what is in the soul that I find sexy and attractive. Gender is a secondary consideration altogether."
This time I was at a loss for words. We continued to work on the tree. Maybe I had a chance then.
"Do you still love her?"
"Do you still love your wife?" She came back with a bang.
"Ex-wife. But no, sadly the love is gone." I paused to reflect for a moment, "There'll always be a place in my heart for her. But no, the love's gone."
"It's true too for me and Helene. It seems that love is something that has to be worked at and nourished. You just can't take it for granted."
"Don't I know it?" I said almost under my breath.
We collected four trees altogether. Three for her and one for me. The first being the best one amongst all of them. By the time we were finished, all the beer was gone and we were beat. And filthy. I had Aya collect up two full plastic garbage bags of reindeer lichen. I tied each tree root ball into plastic sheeting that was cut to size then bundled securely with twine. It took a good forty five minutes to get everything stowed away into the boat. The little boat was nearly overflowing with the leafy cargo.
As I was about to start-up the engine Aya turned to me and asked through the branches, "Martinis when we get back?"
Back at the dock I said to Aya as I tied the boat off, "We still have work to do." I unloaded all four trees onto the dock. "I'll go get us martinis while you untie the trees." I showed her how to take clumps of lichen and sponge up cold lake water with it. "Just leave each clump on the dock to drain a little."
Aya was finished with the task by the time I returned with martinis. Oliver Twists, just as she liked.
"We did well didn't we?" she asked, obviously delighted with the day's hunt.
"Very well I'd say. Cheers."
Each tree was rebundled, this time with wet lichen and securely tied with twine. Once secured and perched on the dock, we had the opportunity to really check each tree out, rotating each in its spot so that we could comment about likely bonsai styles, the good potential in each and the challenges that each tree appeared to have. It was a fun way to admire our work and to enjoy our martinis. They really were stunning catches.
"You really enjoyed the bonsai hunt didn't you?"
She smiled and slung her arm over my shoulder, "I'd kiss you but you're filthy," she said with a devilish little grin.
"You have no idea." I answered back grinning.
She leaned her face right into mine then said in a low voice, "Maybe if I seduce you, I'll find out."
"You can try." I retorted with an optimistic lilt to my voice. I know I was grinning.
We finished our martinis. I suggested to Aya that she should have a quick shower while I packed the trees under the protected overhang of the cabin. I managed to do that and find a broom and sweep the dock clean. I brought wood in for the Franklin stove and lit it. I open up a Pinot Grigot and put on a CD -- Pink Floyd, A Momentary Lapse of Reason. She was still not out. I was so filthy myself I dare not sit down on the furniture. As I was getting some clean clothes out for myself Aya emerged from the bathroom.
"Sorry, I used up all the hot water."
I grabbed my fishing rod and cast off the dock for a few minutes just as dusk approached. So Aya is going to try to seduce me. Did I get that right? I've never been seduced. Or at least, I am not aware that I've been seduced before. It's kind of a two way street isn't it? Would I let myself be seduced? Probably. I was pretty sure that Aya understood what the litmus test for me would be. Whatever happened -- I needed to be comfortable, that she was comfortable with me afterwards. Maybe it's me? Maybe I'm just plagued with self-doubt and insecurity.
And how the hell does she figure she's going to seduce me? Come slinking up in a skinny black dress, long sleeve gloves and a cigarette in a foot long holder, femme fatale style? Would she growl at me in a Germanic accent '...I know za difference between light und hard...I can sleep with ze light on next to me'; or maybe like Mae West 'is that a gun in yer pocket...or ya just happy to see me?'
The whole situation was preposterous.
I caught a small pike, thankfully it jumped off the lure's treble hook before I had to get my fingers involved. My pike gloves and pliers were already stowed away up at the cabin.
I made my way up to the cabin. Aya was in front of the fire dressed in black sweat pants and a red t-shirt. Her wavy wet hair trundled down her back and shoulders. She was painting her toenails a bright red. She smiled at me with a devilish grin as she picked up her glass of white wine.
"I slipped into something a bit more comfortable, I hope you don't mind."
Has she actually seduced anyone before? With her looks why would she have had to? Between the jerk guys that she's known and the butch girlfriend she had...I'll bet she's never seduced anyone. 'Let me slip into something more comfortable'. Yeah, sweat pants...that does it for me. Sheesh.
I hopped into the shower.
When I got out and changed, into sweat pants too, something was cooking that really smelled fantastic.
"What's for dinner?" I thought it was an innocent question.
I went about setting the table as Aya continued on in the kitchen. "Shall I set out the red candles? It'll go with your nail polish."
"Oh you noticed."
"Is that part of the seduction?"
Aya laughed and asked, "Is that all it takes?" Why is it she always seems to answer a question with another question?
"Hey I did notice you're wearing a little make-up. That's a first on this trip. And...Aya...those sweat pants," I shook my hand vigorously, "so hot."
"Oh, you don't like my sweat pants, should I take them off?" she held a mock innocent grin on her face, eyes wide open.
"If you do, I won't be able to eat dinner." She smiled and turned back to the kitchen sink.
I finished setting the table and asked Aya with my tongue firmly in my cheek, "What music would you like to set your seduction by?"
"How about something classical?" she answered grinning.
I put on a collection which started with Beethoven's Piano concerto No.1.
"Red or white?"
I opened a Chablis and a Sangiovese. So she wants to get me sloshed, is that how the seduction works? The last glimmer of sunlight painted the sky outside pink and purple.
She brought the plates to the table as I sat down. "Oh look at the sunset," she said, isn't it beautiful?"
I breathed in the sight through the window but was immediately enamored by the absolutely exquisite aroma of the lightly coloured spicy stew in front of me. "Fantastic." I said. The stew sat on a bed of rice and was ringed with alternating slivers of red and green peppers and topped with chopped kalamata olives, fresh cilantro and something I couldn't quite identify.
"This is great," I said, "but what is this?"
"No, I mean the whole dish?"
"Moroccan lamb tagine."
She brought also a pair of salad plates consisting of chopped cucumber, red, green and yellow peppers, tomato, red onion, chickpeas, olives, feta cheese and baby salad greens all sitting atop of grilled eggplant slices. A dressing adorned it with fresh herbs, lemon juice and olive oil.
"I hope there's enough," she said as she sat down.
It was magnificent. I wouldn't expect food that good in a an expensive restaurant, yet here we were, in a cabin in the middle of the boreal forest.
Aya grinned at me as we ate.
"So, how are you going to seduce me?" I couldn't help myself.
The way she said it left no doubt in my mind that it was game on already. Certainly the dinner was winning my stomach over.
"You're a superb cook Aya."
She smiled at me and said with wide, feigned innocent eyes, "I've other talents too."
She was good. Devious. I knew she was reeling me in just like I had the little pike a few minutes before. Was I hooked lightly enough that I could jump off too, or had I already swallowed the proverbial hook, line and sinker?
"Seriously Aya, why are you even interested in me?"
"Aren't you interested in me?" Question with a question again.
"I've already told you how I feel, you're beautiful and sexy. You are intelligent, full of life, and I think you're a kind, sweet person. Plus you are one hell of a good cook."
Aya smiled at me.
"But why are you interested in me? I'm a nobody."
"Robert Winstanley you are hardly a nobody. You're kind hearted, intelligent and very good looking. Maybe a little shy, but that's okay. Remember it's the inner person that I'm attracted to, a person's heart and soul. And you are so different from all of the other men I've met in my life. How can I not be attracted to you?"
"I'm not rich."
"Money shmoney. What good is a coin in your pocket if your heart is empty?"
"Still I live in a modest house."
"So do I. But you've not run away from your family obligations, you have a nice truck, a boat...you have a good mind, you will never be poor."
"You didn't answer me though, just how do you plan to seduce me?"
Aya smiled demurely as she finished off her dinner. "If I simply stripped myself naked, I'm pretty sure your hormones would drive you into my bed." She paused to gauge my reaction.
I could feel my face flush a bit.
She continued as she stood to clear the plates, "That would be pretty easy I think. But I'm not just interested in your body...I want your mind and your heart too."
"Can we just work on the first part for now?"
She stopped mid-stride and placed the dirty dishes on the island. With her back to me, she stepped out of her slippers, pulled her red t-shirt over her head and dropped it to the floor, then the same with her sports bra. Then she pulled down and stepped out of her baggy, black sweat pants and dropped them on the floor too. Her glorious ass was shining at me with only a red thong strap between her enticing cheeks. Her back was feminine, draped with her glistening, wavy black hair. I could see her natural curves, her legs were shapely. At the top of her thighs there was a gap about an inch wide.
I could feel the pressure building in pants. She was right about the stripping, hormone thing.