Valentine on the MountainbyJagFarlane©
Tammy leaned on the makeshift crutch she'd fashioned out of a dead oak branch and winced with each step that put pressure on her left ankle. She was fairly sure she'd torn at least one tendon in it, and was thankful that she was fairly sure she hadn't managed to break it. The tumble down the side of the trail had been softened by a thick layer of snow, the same snow that had lured her out onto the trail this the day before Valentine's Day. Now she was stopping every thirty minutes or so to try and pack some of that snow around her ankle to keep down the swelling.
On the most recent stop, she pulled the water bottle out from inside of her jacket and drank down her fill then repacked the bottle with fresh snow and put it back inside of her jacket to melt and stay liquid. Through dark tinted sunglasses she peered over the snow, noting that she couldn't figure out just how far she had to go to even meet up with the trail much less how much she had to cover to get back to her car. Her pack was packed for at most an overnight trip, she'd at least brought enough to keep her for one night out of habit, but considering how slow the going was trying to break through the snow with her ankle, she was figuring it would be a few days before she could make it back. The trip had been spur of the moment, and while she'd left a note that she was going hiking and the general area, it was anyone's guess at how long it would take a rescue team to find her. Not the worst situation she could be in, granted that she had the ability to have makeshift cover and could get a fire going, but not a great situation in the least.
As she rested yet again, working on wrapping her ankle in snow again, she could hear a rhythmic crunch of snow like someone walking through the snow pack. Tammy restrained the urge to yell in the direction of the footsteps, instead shuffling as quietly as she could to take cover alongside a small evergreen. Instinct told her to call out for help but she was still suspicious of anyone else, wanting to at least see them before they found her. It didn't take her very long to find the person making the noise, the bright orange winter coat they wore made it fairly easy to find him.
She studied him for about a minute, he seemed to be strolling at a decent pace, that way that people walked when they were headed somewhere not like he was looking for something or someone. The man had a bow held in his right hand, all the arrows were in the quiver, and a small daypack upon his back. He had a trimmed beard and while he appeared well accustomed to walking through the woods, he didn't have the "wrung hard and put up wet" look that the hard lives some mountain men had upon his face. Instead he looked like he had taken decent care of himself, at least indicating to her that he was most likely not desperate for money. Perhaps he was one of the people who lived out this way more by choice than by necessity.
A bitter wind cut through her jacket and she was quickly reminded of her situation. Whether the throb in her ankle was clouding her judgment, or perhaps the wind was what pushed her from a normally wary nature, she wasn't sure. Either way, slowly she rose, leaning heavily upon that oak branch as she battled the stiffness that had developed in her ankle from sitting. For a couple of seconds she paused, wondering what the hell to yell, not sure how best to break the silence and alert him of her presence, a shrug and all she could think of was a scene from Goofy as she yelled, "HELLLLOOOOOO!!!!"
She watched him stop in mid stride, looking around for the source of the yell. Slowly she moved a bit to be more in his line of sight and sheepishly smiled as his eyes immediately locked onto her, noted the branch, and cautiously began to make his way over to her. "Ummm, hi? I hate to interrupt your hunt but ummm, well I'm kind of needing some help if you wouldn't mind," she said once he was in auditory range. He paused and nodded slowly as he looked down and saw the wrapped ankle that she was keeping only lightly touching the ground.
"Hmmm, looks like you injured your ankle then? And you're quite a ways away from the park's trails. Wouldn't do for you to try to make the trailhead tonight, not in the coming storm." He sighed, and she felt a pang of guilt for interrupting his peace. "Alright, well we should get you to shelter, my place is about a half mile. If you'll take my pack on your back, it would probably be easiest if I just carried you."
Her face was beet red as he carried her upon his back, making her feel like a child again, but her ankle was feeling much relieved from not having any pressure upon it. It didn't help that up close she could see a few wisps of gray hair upon the side of his head. His grip though, was firm and he felt quite solid underneath of her. As they closed in on his house, she could see the smoke trickling from the chimney, hear the soft bellows of cows, and looked over to see a pair of horses munching on a hay bale in their pen. It was so quiet, and again she felt a bit of guilt at having interrupted his evening.
Tammy hadn't realized just how cold she'd gotten outside till they were in the living room and the heat coming off the woodstove hit her. Gently he let her down on the floor, then rose up to straighten out his back, groaning a little as he stretched out and muttering, "Not as young as I once was." He offered a little smile to her when he realized the guilty look on her face, "Oh I'll be alright. Feel free to set yourself down on the couch. I'll get you some Icy Hot and a pain killer for that ankle."
She just nodded and hobbled over to the couch, placing a hand upon the arm to steady herself while laying down on it. The couch faced the woodstove and so she settled in to watch the flames, gratefully soaking in the heat coming off the stove. Tammy made sure to keep her boots off of the material, leaning down to undo the laces and kick the boot off of her one good ankle. When she attempted to work the boot off of her injured ankle, she quickly realized there was no good way to get it off and decided to leave it on for the time being.
When he returned with the container of Icy Hot and an unopened bottle of Aleve, handing the bottle to her so she could open the tamper seal herself, she cracked the seal and took out a pair of the little blue pills. Downing the pills with an offered glass of water, she gave him a little smile, "Thank you. I'm Tammy by the way, and I really do appreciate everything you're doing for me." He took back the glass and placed it upon the coffee table then knelt at the foot of the couch, taking the boot in his right hand and while holding her leg steady he slowly removed it from her foot, followed by her sock.
"I'm Mark, and you're welcome." He looked over her ankle, she could see the dark colors against her light skin from where she was seated. Gently he pressed against a few areas and she bit down on her lip through the pain. "Mmmm nasty twist, I'd call it a second degree sprain, partially torn tendons but you should heal in time." He opened up the Icy Hot, spreading a thin layer of it over her ankle before propping it up with a pillow off the couch. "So, dare I ask when the last time you had a decent meal was?" Mark looked up at her with a little smile, having caught the soft rumbles her tummy was making.
If her face could get any redder it did so, "I'd guess this morning. I brought along the usual trail food, energy bars, trail mix, and so jerky that I snacked on through the day. There are a couple of freeze dried meals in my pack, I keep them on hand in case I get stuck out overnight. Like tonight, heh."
He nodded a little at that, "I have a stew on right now, if you'd rather that you're welcome to it. I always make extra so there's plenty to go around. It's hot and ready now, besides those damned freeze dried meals are expensive."
"Well, if you don't mind then I'll certainly try some of the stew then and save them for another day." She offered a little smile and watched as he rose up, walked over to the stove to chuck in a fresh log and open the dampers a bit, then walk off to the kitchen. While he was in the kitchen she looked around the house, taking note of the mixed decorating between cabin and country. The place was certainly lived in, and quite a few tools were spread out around, she got the feeling there wasn't a woman around the place, at least not regularly. The place was comfortable, it seemed the furniture was fairly new and she guessed by the inside that he was indeed someone who lived out this way by choice and not necessity.
The smell of fresh cooked stew soon filled her nose as he ladled it into bowls, then brought them out, passing one to her. Gratefully she took the bowl, waiting till he had a seat and to give him time to bless his meal if he was going to. When she realized he didn't do that, she hungrily dug into the meaty stew, sighing in content as the first bite hit her taste buds. It wasn't until she was about half way through the bowl did Tammy realize that she didn't recognize the flavor of the meat, "Just curious, what did you make the stew with?"
"I was wondering how long it would take you to pick up on that. It's squirrel, hope you don't mind, I kind of forgot that most people don't regularly eat it until you were already working on that bowlful."
She just nodded her head slowly, mulling it over and deciding that she hadn't minded the flavor up until that point. "No, it's good, just different. How many does it take you to make a stew like this though? I can't imagine there would be much meat on them."
"Oh, usually three or four to make this large of a stew. There's quite a large pot of it back in the kitchen, I try to make plenty for leftovers, or ahead of big storms like the one coming tonight just in case I lose power and need to warm something on the woodstove."
She grimaced at the mention of the oncoming storm, "So I didn't exactly catch the weather this morning before I left. How big of a storm are we talking?"
"I think the last forecast was for 6 to 9 inches of snow, not huge but enough to slow everything down for a couple of days. It's large enough that I'll be keeping an eye on it as the power seems to go out here on a fairly regularly basis during storms. I'm afraid you will most likely be stuck here through tomorrow. Sorry if you had plans with a special young man or lady friend."
"Oh..."she breathed out hearing the news, "well no special person waiting for me, just some friends for an annual Valentine's Day Sucks party. I hope I won't be a third wheel to any plans you might have?"
He laughed a little at the party name then shook his head a bit. "No Valentine's plans here, just a quiet day planned. I guess it will be nice to have a little company, someone other to talk to than the animals. They're good listeners but rarely really talk back." He finished his bowl of stew off and offered to get her another but when she just shook her head he took the empty bowl back to the kitchen, washed them up, and put them into the drying rack.
She felt bad, considering that she was basically an uninvited guest and unable to really help with at least the dishes. At the same token she was quite happy to be able to rest her leg in a warm place with a full stomach and have dodged having to spend the night out camping during a snowstorm. To that she decided to dwell more on the things she felt grateful for as they put her in a better mood and he deserved someone in a good mood instead of self-loathing.
He surprised her with a mug of hot chocolate on his return, taking a seat in the recliner next to the couch. Mark was curious as to what she was doing out hiking in the snow and she explained that she loved coming out to the mountains, tried to come out at least bi weekly during the warmer weather and occasionally during the winter. This time she'd just needed to get out and away from the love obsessed world, with jewelers, florists, and chocolatiers hammering the airwaves and pink and red hearts everywhere. It was a constant reminder of being single, and while she didn't mind it for the most part, the steady stream of reminders was heart wrenching. So she'd come to the one place that she could find solace, the back of the trails and had unfortunately taken a wrong step, leading to a long tumble down the side of the trail.
He laughed a little, and when she asked why he was laughing, he mentioned that she probably wouldn't have to worry so much about dealing with commercials. The snow had a tendency to pile up on the satellite dish and so he wasn't expecting there to be much in the way of television during her stay, though there were plenty of books if she wished.
Tammy bit down a bit on her lower lip, "Is there ummm, any chance that I could get cleaned up? I'm kind of sweaty from trying to find my way back to the trail and would like to get cleaned up before there is the chance of a power outage?"
He just smiled, "I should have anticipated that question. Yes, there is a tub you could use to soak in and get cleaned up. Sorry, I don't have any soaps that a woman would use, just Irish Spring. I wouldn't recommend the shower as that ankle is going to be difficult to stand on for a few days. If you give me a few minutes, I'll get the water running and the tub filling." Mark finished the rest of his hot chocolate and rose up from the chair, disappearing down the hallway and shortly afterwards the sound of running water filled the air.
Tammy shimmed to the edge of the couch, put her good foot on the floor and used her arms to push herself up onto her foot, balancing by the toes of her injured foot. It was painful but in a way a lot better than just relying on someone else to do everything. Slowly she hobbled her way to the hallway, leaned against the wall and used it to steady herself as she made her way to the bathroom.
She stopped against the doorframe of the bathroom and just stood in awe, Tammy hadn't expected much being as far out as they were. So she was astonished first to find that there was a large garden tub, shower stall, and an overall up to date, modern bathroom. Mark looked at her with a little bit of a grin at the look on her face, "I've been doing a few upgrades to the place since I bought it. Takes me a while to do each room, but keeps me busy when I'm not working on my writing."
"Oh," all she really could do was stare at the room, wondering how many he'd already redone and mostly missing the part about being an author. Soon though, her ankle began to ache and slowly she made her way over to sit on the edge of the tub, watching it fill with steaming water. He picked up a small bottle and squeezed some liquid into the tub under the running water, which immediately began to bubble up, "Shampoo bottle from some hotel I stayed at, they had some foo-foo designer stuff that smelled nice. Thought you might like it."
Tammy blinked a little at the thoughtfulness, wondering just how lucky she'd been to find Mark after her injury. There was the creeping thought that she wondered how lucky she would be to find a guy like him at all, all things considered. She'd had the bad habit of going for the guys who weren't so good for her, and always wondering why she went for them. Those thoughts went out of her mind when he shut off the water and rose up. "Just yell if you need anything," and out the bathroom he went, shutting the door behind him.
She thought of latching the door lock shut for a moment or two, but didn't want to upset him if he heard and honestly she couldn't care too much if he saw her in the nude. For now she was just looking forwards to the warm water and eagerly stripped herself of the clothing on her torso, then slowly worked the rest of her clothing off, putting it neatly onto the floor near the tub. Grasping the edges of the tub tightly, Tammy wiggled her way into the water, lowering herself as slowly as possible.
A soft moan escaped her lips as sore muscles were enveloped with the hot water and gently she settled into a seated position. Looking up she saw a skylight and the incoming clouds at the front of the weather system. Tammy wondered if perhaps she might be able to spend some time here the next day and watch the snow fall, it just seemed like an ideal setting for it. She closed her eyes and leaned the back of her head against the rim of the tub, soaking in the heat. After about ten or fifteen minutes, Tammy finally opened her eyes and picked up the wash rag and bar of soap, wetting the rag and rubbing a layer of soap on it. Gently she began to scrub herself down, wincing a little each time she hit a bruise or a scratch, being sure to take her time and slowly get each part of her body scrubbed clean.
Finally she slid down into the water to get her hair soaked, holding her breath for a few seconds so she could run her fingers through the strands to work a few loose. Tammy then took the bottle of shampoo and worked up a healthy froth on her head and let it sit to soak in, then slipped underneath and played with her hair to work all of the sweat and dirt out. Resurfacing she grabbed the length of her hair and wrung it out then contemplated the best way to get out of the tub. Off to the side was the sink and just enough ledge for her to grab and steady herself enough to pull and push up to the side of the tub.
A couple of minutes elapsed as she just sat there, surprised at the effort it took to get out of the tub and then debating what clothing to put back on. She wasn't a huge fan of putting on a pair of panties she'd sweated quite a bit in. Leaning on the sink countertop, she moved over to where the towels were hanging and slipped one off the rack. Back to the tub she went to sit and dry herself off. A light knock at the door caused her head to snap up. "I uh, wasn't sure if you wanted to put those clothes back on tonight. So uh, I got you a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, they're probably going to be quite big on you but they're at least clean. If you want I'll just crack the door and put them on the counter."
Her lips turned to a soft smile when she heard that, "That would be great! Thanks!" Freed from not having to wear dirty clothes, she didn't care how they fit. The towel was pulled up to cover more private parts while he opened the door just enough to slide the clothes onto the counter and shut the door. Tammy put down the towel and hobbled her way to the pile of clothes, sliding on the t-shirt and giggling when it reached her mid-thigh. Leaning against the counter, she gingerly put on the pants, partly sliding her rear onto the counter for support when sliding her injured ankle through the pant leg. Not surprisingly they drowned her, but they were clean, dry, and quite soft. She put the towel back up to dry, then grabbed the waistband of the pants to keep them from falling and worked her way out of the bathroom.
She could see that Mark was fighting hard to keep from laughing as she came out of the bathroom and down the hallway, so she flashed him a grin. "Oh go ahead and laugh, cause it feels as silly as this looks but didn't know if you'd want me to parade around in just the shirt." With a thankful look on his face, he just laughed for a few seconds then grinned back at her, "Well it would certainly improve the look in the house."
"That settles it then, we're both adults after all." She let go of the pants, letting them fall around her ankles and pool on the floor, slowly stepping out of them. The shirt did go halfway or so down her thighs after all, and she'd definitely worn skirts that revealed more than this shirt. Feeling her bare thighs rub together, she was suddenly glad that her usual leg shaving day had only been a few days prior. Tammy made her way to the couch while Mark filled the woodstove with a couple more pieces. She curled up on the couch, tugging the shirt down as far as it would go.