tagRomanceDifficult to Reach Ch. 09

Difficult to Reach Ch. 09

bySarahFennel©

Fen spent a cosy night asleep on her sofa, in front of a roaring log fire with Merlin in her arms. A couple of times during the night she woke to stoke the fire, each time remembering what she had learnt about Daniel. Fen could understand Daniel not ever wanting another relationship; it was exactly how she had felt for some time now. Although it looked like he'd found a relationship anyway, with Charlie. God, how confusing!

By early morning, having slept fitfully, Fen finally surrendered any chance of further sleep as the dawn light began to steal through her curtains. Much of the night, sleep had eluded Fen as she switched between positioning the duvet over her face to keep it warm, and removing the duvet as it prevented her from breathing comfortably. To say she was missing her electric blanket was a gross understatement. Her house had become noticeably colder without her boiler running and once up, Fen was glad to busy herself if only to try and keep warm. As per the instructions she'd been given the previous evening, Fen packed a selection of clothes, any food and all of Merlin's bits and pieces.

Fen then piled on as many layers as she could before braving the world outside her front door. As she and Merlin slid and slipped their way round to Mary's cottage to assist there, Fen noticed how her warm breath immediately condensed in the frigid air that encompassed them. There had been no further snowfall, but the air was bitterly, bitterly cold and ice lay on every available surface. Dressed in her thick coat for warmth, Mary was already fairly well organised, so that by the time Olly arrived with the tractor, both women were ready to leave.

'Morning one, morning all!' exclaimed Olly. 'Gosh, I feel like a bus service. Madeline's already at Daniel's, so just you two reprobates now.' Mary smiled broadly at Fen, clearly delighted at being described as a reprobate.

'Right let's get you into the tractor, young lady,' said Olly, proffering his arm to Mary. 'Fen, we're going to load your stuff into the cab of the tractor, along with Mary's, and then Daniel's going to walk round with you and Merlin, OK?' Fen nodded and assisted with transferring their belongings. She was just waving the tractor off and locking up her own house when Daniel appeared.

'Hi Fen. Good night?' asked Daniel, stooping his head to kiss her cheek.

'Could have been better,' grimaced Fen, her breath catching in her throat as she inhaled his spicy, lemon scent.

'Sofa not as comfortable as your bed?'

'Mmmm. Something like that, yeah. Oh bugger, I've forgotten my toiletries,' said Fen, passing Merlin's lead to Daniel and unlocking her door once more. 'Just give me a minute.'

'Sure,' said Daniel, following her back into her cottage and closing the door to keep in the last of the heat. 'By the way,' he shouted up the stairs. 'I'm sorry if I embarrassed you yesterday.'

'You mean in the pub?' asked Fen, coming downstairs with her washbag.

'Yes. If I was overly familiar,' said Daniel, completely deadpan. Fen wished he couldn't and wouldn't do this. He had the ability to turn her to complete jelly. His voice. The tangy, fresh smell of his taut body. An intense look from those incredible blue eyes. That's all it took. Even worse, Fen suspected he might well be doing it on purpose, in the full knowledge of the effect he had upon her.

'You're blushing!' he noted.

'Really?' replied Fen, sarcastically.

'By the way, I meant to ask. Why do you have so little food in your house?' teased Daniel. Fen could see where this was going and grinned.

'Yeah, OK. It's because instead of being sensible and going out shopping, I got drunk with Sally. Then I was hung-over the following morning after which, it started to snow.'

'You're selling yourself way too short, Fen. Don't forget that in that time you also became the Phantom Sheep Whisperer of Hawksbury Hollow and the Saviour of the Vicarage.'

'Yeah. When you put it like that, I've actually been quite busy, haven't I?' grinned Fen. 'Shall we?' Fen asked, pointing towards the door and trying to ignore his glee.

'Shall we what?' laughed Daniel. Fen smiled broadly, her heart skipping a beat upon hearing the wonderful sound of Daniel's laughter for the first time.

'OK, I walked into that one, didn't I?' But as Fen turned towards the door, Daniel spun round to face her and placed his hand on the wall, effectively blocking her escape.

'Look, Fen. Before we go. I need to explain...'

'Please, Daniel. You don't need to do anything,' interrupted Fen, her hallway suddenly feeling awfully claustrophobic. 'Your life is your own personal business. Charlie explained...'

'But I want to explain about yesterday...when we were on your sofa. I...'. He stopped. 'Charlie? Charlie explained what?' he demanded. Fen opened her mouth to reply, but got no further because there was an almighty banging on the front door. Predictably, Merlin rushed towards the pandemonium and started barking loudly.

'Open this door!' bellowed a harsh, querulous voice.

'What on earth?' said Daniel, quickly turning around and yanking open the front door.

'Daniel. Thank God. I need you right now!' It was Charlie; ugly streams of mascara-stained tears coursing down her usually perfect face.

'What's the matter?'

'Snowflake's fallen,' she sobbed, collapsing against Daniel.

Fen stared at Charlie dumbfounded. You only had to look outside to see that trillions of snowflakes had fallen. She'd clearly lost the plot, poor girl.

'He got spooked, jumped out onto the icy yard and fell hard. I think he's broken his leg! There's blood everywhere! Mummy's saying he'll have to be shot!' she sobbed openly against Daniel's shoulder. 'Please, please help me!'

Ah, a horse called Snowflake. Such was Charlie's distress that, despite everything that had passed between them, Fen felt only enormous sympathy for her predicament.

'OK. I'm not sure how much help I'll be but let's go. Damn!' he added, patting his coat pockets. 'I've forgotten my walkie talkie. Please can you do me a favour?' he asked a stationary Fen. 'Go and get Olly from the farm? Quickly?'

'Sure,' replied Fen, leaping forward to lock up the house. 'I'll go now.'

'Why do you need Olly? To help lift Snowflake up off the yard?' demanded Charlie.

'Not exactly, no,' replied Daniel. 'We'll need to use machinery for that. I'll see you in a minute,' said Daniel, smiling at a departing Fen, whilst Charlie grabbed his hand and steered him forcefully in the direction of her home. Talk about stepping in to reclaim your property thought Fen, immediately feeling guilty for having such uncharitable thoughts.

'Come on, boy,' she added to Merlin, as they rushed off in the direction of Daniel's farm, traversing the perilously icy lane at breakneck speed.

****************

Panting heavily, Fen noisily entered Daniel's kitchen several minutes later with Merlin at her heels. For a moment, her lungs hurt so much she couldn't manage to speak. Madeline, Mary and Olly were all seated around the large pine table enjoying a steaming pot of tea. As they all gazed at Fen questioningly. She raised a finger skyward, requesting a moment to recover.

'Charlie's horse has fallen,' Fen gasped. 'She thinks he's broken his leg. Daniel asked me to come and get you, Olly.' Mary's hand flew to her mouth and Madeline gasped.

'Right,' he said, quickly scraping back his chair, shrugging his coat back on and making his way toward the door. 'Mary? Madeline? We're going to have to leave you on your own for a bit.'

'Of course, dear. You must go and attend to that poor animal,' said Mary. 'We'll be quite comfortable here and I can make myself useful by knocking something together for dinner tonight.'

'Fen, I'll need your help, please. We need to get Daniel's veterinary supplies from the barn and all the blankets we can find.'

'OK. Mary, I'm leaving Merlin with you,' shouted Fen. And without waiting for an answer, she slammed the door on a surprised-looking Merlin and chased after Olly who had already disappeared into Daniel's largest barn.

****************

Upon arrival at the Harris-Jones's, Olly leapt out of the tractor and raced towards the yard with an armful of veterinary supplies. Fen followed on behind, staggering under the weight of various blankets and sacking. As Fen walked into the yard, she was confronted with an absolute hive of activity. Sally had covered poor Snowflake's eyes with a folded rug and was squatting on his neck. This had the benefit of keeping the horse calm as well as preventing him from trying to stand up. Duncan, Tim and Daniel were deep in urgent, muttered conversation about how best to winch the animal upright, whilst Olly was kneeling beside Snowflake, trousers already turning damp in the snow, examining the extent of the injury.

Charlie was openly sobbing, holding towels against the leg of her equine friend to try and stem the blood flow. It was clear the horse had already lost a significant amount of blood. Crimson blood had readily mixed with the white snow on the surface of the yard to produce a bright orange hue which seemed to be spreading and darkening at a worryingly fast pace over an increasingly wide area. Finally, and least helpfully, Charlie's mother was shaking her head, stating that a bullet was the kindest and only option, particularly in the absence of veterinary support. This only had the effect of making Charlie howl even more loudly as everybody else staunchly ignored Belinda's thoughtless comments. Peter seemed to have managed to sensibly keep himself well out of the firing line and was nowhere to be found.

'Where the bloody hell is that useless father of yours?' shouted Belinda at Charlie. 'Typical of him to clear off when he could be of some help for a change. Where can he have gone?'

Amidst the chaos, Olly seemed to take control of the situation and ordered each person to undertake a certain task. Although Charlie and Belinda looked surprised at this unexpected turn of events, they grudgingly did as they were told. Fen was inwardly impressed at Olly's clarity of thought, dispatching Belinda into the house for boiling water and clean, dry towels which effectively gave everybody else a chance to regroup.

Having tranquilised Snowflake and wrapped his shaking body with blankets, Olly worked quickly and quietly to deal with the damaged leg, whilst continuing to issue orders to those around him. There was a lot of tissue damage that required extensive stitching and Olly undertook this thoroughly and without fuss. Afterwards, he explained how a harness should be fixed, in order to winch the horse upright. As a result of their combined efforts, less than two hours later, Snowflake was patched-up, vertical and harnessed from the stable ceiling. Several layers of clean dry rugs and blankets had been carefully wrapped around his shaking body and thick travelling boots finished the ensemble. Although Charlie had long since run out of tears, she continued to sob openly.

'That's all we can do for now, folks,' said Olly eventually. 'Thanks for all of your help. I suggest you go and get some rest. I'll stay here with Snowflake for the time being. He just needs peace and quiet now.' As requested, the crowd slowly dispersed. Olly turned to Snowflake's drooping head and checked his eyes in order to ascertain whether the tranquilisers had started to fade. Despite all their efforts, Olly was saddened to witness the pain and fear he could see in the eyes of this beautiful, noble creature. Olly took a long, deep breath and exhaled shakily. He'd been operating on pure adrenalin since the moment he stepped foot in the yard several hours before but he was now becoming hyper-aware of his cold, exhausted body. As he moved to check the dressings on the horse's leg, Olly was surprised to see Charlie still standing there.

'Thank you so, so much,' she hiccupped. 'I can't ever repay you for what you've done today.'

'He's not out of the woods yet, but I don't believe there are any broken bones, although of course it's difficult to be certain without an X-ray,' Olly quietly explained. 'That was a nasty flesh wound and he lost a lot of blood. He might have damaged some of the ligaments. If so, his leg will always be slightly weaker, but it should mend. Without a future operation, I hope. We'll have to keep an incredibly careful eye on him over the next few days though, particularly to ensure he doesn't get an infection. The operating environment was far from sterile. I've dosed him with painkillers and antibiotics so it's just a long waiting game now.'

'How do you know all of this? I didn't know farriers needed to have so much veterinary knowledge?' asked Charlie. Olly shrugged and rearranged the blankets around Snowflake's neck.

'I'm going to get you something warm to eat and drink,' said Charlie. 'You must be absolutely famished.'

'No thanks. Nothing for me,' replied Olly stubbornly, pushing up Snowflake's drooping eyelid to observe his pupils and then checking his watch. After the way Charlie had treated him in the past, he wasn't going to ease her guilt by pretending they were suddenly friends. 'But you can bring a warm bran mash with molasses for Snowflake in half an hour.'

****************

The snow was falling once again as Daniel drove the tractor back to his farm. Fen was huddled up on her jump seat, watching the passing snowdrifts out of the side window.

'You're unusually quiet,' observed Daniel. 'What's up?'

'I'm just sad about Snowflake. I hated seeing him in so much pain. I felt sorry for Charlie too. She was utterly distraught.'

'Yes. It was a nasty looking injury. Obviously, in an ideal world, he'd have been doped, boxed and driven straight to an equine vet with a sterile operating theatre. But in the circumstances,' said Daniel, 'we had to sort it out ourselves. Not ideal but necessary.'

'Olly was absolutely incredible. I was really impressed.'

'Yes, he was great. It was lucky that Olly stepped in and stopped Belinda prattling on about getting the animal shot. As if that were an option in our current situation, ridiculous woman!'

'Wasn't it an option?' asked Fen.

'No. We couldn't just go and grab my twelve bore. You need a captive bolt gun to put a horse down, which nobody in the village has, never mind all the certification that goes along with it. She was just trying to cause additional angst.' Fen decided against making a joke about Belinda being a potential nightmare of a mother in law.

'Anyway,' continued Daniel. 'Olly doesn't think it's a break and he's not normally wrong about those kinds of things.'

'His knowledge seemed encyclopaedic. How come he was so awesome?'

'Well...' hesitated Daniel. 'He's a vet.'

'What? Seriously? I thought he was a farrier.'

'He is a farrier. But he's also a qualified vet. People can be more than one thing, Fen. He really knows his stuff too. But it's not general knowledge in the village, so Mum's the word, OK?' added Daniel, as they pulled up in front of the farmhouse and he cut the engine.

'So why are you telling me?'

'I'm not sure. I probably shouldn't be but I trust that you won't say anything.' Fen looked thoughtful.

'Why wouldn't he want anybody else to know that? It's an amazing achievement. Something to be really proud of.'

'He's got his reasons. Life experiences can affect people,' said Daniel, turning to face her. To Fen, the tractor cab suddenly felt very small and their bodies seemed dangerously close together. 'Fen. I don't know how to...' started Daniel. Fen looked up into his eyes, trying to read their meaning, at which point Daniel seemed to lose his nerve. He shook his head and smiled apologetically. 'I'd like to talk to you.'

'We can talk,' replied Fen, intrigued as to what Daniel's chosen conversation topic would be.

'First, I want you to understand ...' began Daniel. He shook his head again. 'This isn't the time or the place. Come on. Let's get in the house,' he said, quickly jumping down from the cab and striding purposefully round to open Fen's door.

*********************

Thank you so much for your voting feedback, comments and emails which I am very happy to receive.

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by Anonymous

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by SarahFennel05/18/18

Thank you!

Thanks very much for your comments. The full story is available on Amazon (search for Sarah Fennel) if you fancy reading it in its entirety :-)

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by Anonymous05/18/18

Ahhhh!! The chapter ended far too soon or my liking! What a great clliff hanger.

An itelligently written and thoroughly absorbing story. Thank you.

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by Anonymous05/17/18

Next chapter soon please.

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