Stranded Ch. 02byRabbitrunner91©
She made an ugly face, "Yes."
I stoked the fire and put water on to boil. After our visit to the 'outside room', I returned her back to the cot and she mixed pancakes. Both of us were famished. I figured the colder weather had something to do with our increased appetite.
The drizzle had stopped, the sun shown through the trees, the temperature had dropped and ice formed near the banks of the stream. We could be in trouble should snow start falling. After we ate, I took the clothes to the stream, washing them, returning to the cabin and let them freeze dry.
The water was boiling so we soaked her feet. I examined both feet and thought they looked better, the infection was reduced. Perhaps the worst part had been hurdled. I spent a few minutes examining her legs, the bruises didn't look as nasty.
She watched me as I looked at her legs. "Do you like them?"
"They are looking better. I believe you're on the mend."
I finished her feet and she worked with my shoulder, notwithstanding the pain, it seemed more mobile. We were shaking from the cold again so I banked the fire. There was plenty of wood but I knew it wouldn't last forever. If winter descended upon us, as I expected it would, we wanted the wood to last.
Throughout the following week we desperately tried to stay warm. The climate was damp, cold, and windy; one blanket certainly wasn't enough. Each night, we shivered and cuddled.
"I'm so cold. Can't we make the fire bigger?" she asked.
"I want the wood to last through the winter."
"I can't stay here all winter." she wailed. "I should be getting back."
"Is someone waiting for you? Would they come looking?"
Her silence told me volumes. "Not the school. I teach second graders. They'll wonder why I don't return after the conference, and then find a substitute."
"You have any family who is waiting for your return?"
"No. My mom could care less about me. She has a new boyfriend every month and I was always in the way. I think she was happy when I got the teaching job and left her. I've never seen my dad and I have no one else."
"If they find your car, won't they come looking for you?" I asked.
"Huh, not likely. It was scrap when I got it. If someone finds it they'll think it's been abandoned. Besides I must have walked miles and I got lost. What about you?"
"Nope. No luck there. I'm new with the company but the turnover rate is high. They'll think I just took off. My car is at the bottom of the cliff and not likely to be seen. No family to speak of. I do have a roommate, but he is always drunk so he'll not miss me till the rent comes due."
"I'm so cold."
How'd the man live with so few supplies? Either he had other storage or he moved to another location. We'd found the food store. Maybe there was another.
"Where are you going?" Kitty asked as I got off the cot. I covered her back up.
"I've an idea." I started by moving things from one side of the room to the other. Under a pile of firewood, I found it, another trap door. It was quickly opened and I descended the short stairs.
"Peter, what's down there?"
"Just a minute."
I found a flashlight and turning it on revealed the answer to our question. There were two racks of clothes, coats, and outdoor gear. A shelf held several blankets, towels, a large tin box, several pair of socks plus three rolls of plastic and stacks of duct tape. Under the bench were some gear, hammer, saw, and digging tools. Then I spied the chain saw.
I grabbed a wool shirt, pair of trousers, a pull over sweater and a heavy coat. Using my one arm, I managed to lug them upstairs. Kitty's eyes opened wide.
"Now you got some warm clothes. Let's get them on you."
She rolled the legs up and slowly slid one foot through, and then she did the other. I grabbed a section of twine to use for a belt. The pants were large but they'd help keep her warm. I handed her the shirt, then sweater which she pulled over her head. The coat was last.
I stepped back. "My, you've changed. Now you look like a logger."
I went back down and brought up several blankets and clothes for me. Kitty helped me get into my clothes. The socks were wonderful. The problem was Kitty could not wear anything on her feet. Next I lifted her off the cot and placed her on the floor. I took three blankets, doubled them each to use as a mattress on the cot. The other four would use as covers. I placed her back on the cot and covered her up.
"You warm yet?"
"Getting there" she said. Then she asked a question. "Peter, am I pretty?"
"Why do you have to ask?"
She was silent, looking at the floor, then raised her eyes. "I look ugly."
I shook my head. "No you're not."
"Yes, I am. Look at my feet. You saw the bruises and I'll have scars from his beatings. I can't be beautiful any more."
"What makes a woman beautiful?"
"Well, pretty legs, these (as she bounced her breasts), the face, shoulders and hair."
"Kitty, think about some of the teachers at the school. I bet some of the women are heavy. Are they pretty? What about grandmothers?"
"Nope. Guys don't look at them."
"Kitty, what I ... "
She scooted around on the cot and I sat on the stool facing her.
"You want a man to like you and you believe if you're not pretty they won't notice you. I am guessing you don't have a boyfriend. You've had a few but most last for a few months. Mainly they try to get you into bed; and if they do, they've made their conquest and are soon gone. But the cycle repeats and once they've gotten you in the sack, they leave."
"I never told you that."
"Your actions talk."
"You don't think much of me?" she hung her head.
"Kitty?" I reached out and lifted her chin. "I told you the other day, I like you. Just be yourself."
Her smile was worth it. "You want me to be Kathy?"
"I want you to be YOU, nothing else."
She looked at me, then down to her hands. "Are you getting warm now?" I interjected.
She wrapped her arms around herself and nodded 'yes'.
"Let's take care or your feet, then."
I put the water on the stove, and stoked the fire. While waiting for it to boil, I fetched the plastic and duct tape. Kathy helped cut it into sheets while I covered the cracks in the walls. Beauty wasn't our intent; we wanted to keep the cold out.
By now the water was hot. Examining them closely I was encouraged for the first time, I saw areas of pink skin. With both feet soaking, my fingers worked the muscles in her calves and massaged her ankles. She dried with a towel.
She worked on my shoulder; though the pain remained intense, additional mobility was noticed.
"I think we're on the mend" I remarked.
"Yes" was the short reply. She was strangely quiet.
"Are you okay?
"Can you call me Kathy?" she whispered.
"Sure, Kathy. No problem."
I figured it best to drop the subject and to tackle the day's needs. I applied more tape to the walls for a tighter seal. Like I'd said earlier, it wasn't pretty but it was functional. The rest of the day was taken up with routine. Our biggest improvements were the warm clothes and warmer cabin. Kathy was no longer shivering; that evening we slept very well. Before dropping off to sleep I asked "Tired of these 4 walls? Would you like a walk in the woods and see what's out there?"
She moved her head, looking me in the face. She watched my eyes, "You're serious, aren't you?"
"Yep, I am"
"I can't walk, you know?"
"I know. Just thinking of rigging up a sling to carry you."
"Think you can carry me with your shoulder?" She was excited.
"Let's check into it in the morning. Right now get some sleep."
She was too excited to sleep, which kept me awake. Every time I moved or opened my eyes, she was looking at me.
"Are you going to sleep?" I asked.
She shook her head 'no'.
"You're too excited?"
This time she shook her head 'yes' and had a grin.
Daybreak was still an hour away, "Come on, lets get up."
She fixed breakfast while I went in search of a few tools. The sling from the gun would provide the basic support with a few modifications. After we'd used the outhouse and eaten, she sat on the end of the cot. We dressed warmly and I wrapped her feet in a blanket and tied with twine.
Taking the sling I opened it completely, and placed it over my shoulder. I picked her up and sat her in my lap. She used her hands to run the sling under her bottom and around my good shoulder. We had to work at it, to get the clasp on the sling to snap; then we headed out the door. The sun was above the horizon.
For several minutes we juggled and scooted around until we were fairly comfortable. This did put her face right next to mine. "We are going to be a close couple for the day, aren't we?" I asked.
Her hands were free and she placed them on my cheeks, leaned over, and kissed me. "Yeah, but I kinda like it," a grin spreading across her face.
We walked down the path and followed the stream. The sun was shinning as it came through the trees, but the air was nippy and we could see our breath in the early morning light. I walked a ways in the quiet until I moved off the path and my feet were kicking up some fallen leaves. A branch crunched under my boots and a rabbit jumped up. We spied a squirrel in the trees ahead, and the birds were chirping.
"I have never been in the woods like this." She said. The first time was coming to the cabin and it was dark then. But this is really nice, it's beautiful."
"Are you cold?"
"Just my ears and nose."
I kissed the nose and she looked me in the eyes. I walked for a while, and we chatted.
I figured I'd walked a couple miles and that was when I tripped. I sought to regain my balance; it felt as if Kathy was slipping. Instinctively I moved my left arm to catch her and a stabbing pain shot through my shoulder. I then lost my stability, tumbling against a tree. A loud pop came from my shoulder and I screamed. The pain was horrible.
As a youngster, a friend taught me, if I were going to fall, it's best to release your knees and dropped straight down. Instinctively I did, but not wanting to drop Kathy. I ended up squatting, my right hand on the ground for balance, Kathy in my lap and the sling still holding. Shifting my weight a bit, I maintained my stance. My eyes were grimaced in pain and when I opened them, she was staring at me, fear in her eyes; not for herself, but concern for me.
"Peter, are you okay?"
Slowly I took stock. My arm hung by my side and the pain had ceased, only a dull hurt. Gently I flexed my elbow and brought my hand up under her. My shoulder ached, but no pain. Kathy reached down and pulled my hand between us, clasping it in hers. "What about you?" I asked.
"I am fine. You were holding me the entire time. How'd you manage that?"
"I don't know. What happened to my arm?"
She unclipped the sling and slid off my lap. I extended my legs and sat with my back to a tree. She removed the sling and then my coat. Gently her fingers probed my shoulder and muscles. Nothing was broken and the sharp pain was gone. Whatever had happened didn't aggravate the injury. We decided to rest for a while before going on. The sun was mid morning and we could see clouds through the trees towards the west. While she massaged my shoulder, she was talking about anything and nothing, her voice had a clear ring.
"Kathy, do you sing?"
"Can you sing a song?"
She paused a moment, then opened up and sang. Her voice was the most beautiful sound I'd heard in a long time. The birds stopped to listen as the tune flowed upwards, into the trees. Finishing, she selected another tune, the sounds floated among the trees to the rising and falling of her melody. It seemed the angels had come to brighten our day.
When the last note finally melted away, I spoke, "That's beautiful. You've a lovely voice."
She laughed out loud. "I haven't sung in years. I remember as a small girl, singing to my dolls. Most were nonsense, no meaning. Just a bunch of words with a pretty tune."
"Take time to sing more often. It'll make the day much brighter."
"Okay," she said, "But now let's eat." She opened the bag we'd brought with some jerky and a can of peaches.
"Peter, do you have a girlfriend?"
"No, I don't."
"I haven't found one yet. I've dated, but no one interested me. So I'm still looking."
"What are you looking for?"
"I am looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with. Someone I could love with all my heart."
"What'll she be like?"
"I don't know. I haven't found her yet."
The day was lazy and after eating and not having slept much the night before, we stretched out and took a nap.
The wind picked up and blew the clouds across the sun. A shiver woke me up. I nudged Kathy. "I think we should head back." She stirred, looking at the sky.
"Okay, looks like the weather is changing."
I put my legs under me and leaned against the tree. She scrunched around and got onto my lap. We had to work at getting the sling under her and clipped across my good shoulder. The wind was quit brisk when we got started. The breeze pulled at the strands of her hair and wisped them across her face. I thought she looked cute and I told her so. She whispered a thank you.
I followed the clearest route, not wanting to stumble again. The wind was continuing to increase and I was wondering what kind of weather it was bringing. The return journey went more quickly and as we sighted the cabin in the distance, the first flakes of snow fell. We stopped at the outhouse before heading inside. I placed her on the cot and dropped the plastic across the door, then stoked the fire back to life. With the wind held at bay by the plastic, the room warmed quickly. We were tired and decided to turn in early.
As we snuggled on the cot, she whispered in my ear. "I had fun today, thank you. That was special." She kissed me.
The next morning, the wind was howling around the cabin and I could feel the temperature had taken a tumble. I opened my eyes and watched Kathy sleep in my arms. Her breathing was slow and even. Her mouth was wide with full lips and her nose was cute. Her cheeks were smooth and when she smiled, there would be the hint of a dimple on the left side. The gash on her brow was healing. Her hair was disheveled but she kept it free of tangles.
Quietly I sang a tune I'd heard a long time ago.
Sometimes in the mornin' when shadows are deep
I lie here beside you just watching you sleep
And sometimes I whisper what I'm thinking of
My cup runneth over with love
She opened her eyes when I finished. "That's pretty. Where'd you learn it?"
"When I went to college, years ago. It was popular on the radio and I learned it."
"Do I what?"
"Love me, like the song says?"
Suddenly I wanted to change the subject. Why'd I ever open my mouth? To sidestep the issue, "I like to lie here watching you sleep."
She just looked at me with a raised eyebrow but didn't press the issue.
"It is snowing outside." I say.
"And you can't sing very well either." She laughed
I gave her a peck on the cheek and slipped out from under the blankets. I walked to the door and looked out. There was about 6 inches of snow on the ground, but the wind had blown some drifts up around the side of the cabin which were 3 feet high, or so. Stepping back inside, I moved to the stove and added more wood. The fire began to grow inside the stove and the temperature steadily rose. With the wind kept at bay by the plastic, we could remain reasonably comfortable.
"You ready to go outside?"
"Yes, but only with you."
I was about ready to ask who else; when I realized she was teasing. I picked her up and we stepped out the door. With the wind blowing so strong, she buried her head in my shoulder. I had to trudge through the snow drifts to the outhouse where we took turns before returning to the cabin.
We hadn't soaked her feet yesterday and with nothing better to do, this was the plan. The snow was coming down hard, and the stream frozen, so it wouldn't be safe to get water from there. I grabbed a bucket and scooped up some snow, putting it on the stove. This took a while before having enough to boil, but patience paid off. Kathy sat on the cot and I poured the water into the basin over her feet. We soaked them till the skin wrinkled and then examined them. I was much encouraged. The wounds were healing over and I could see pink skin growing over her sores.
"You are healing nicely. You'll be up and running around before long. Seriously, I think maybe in a few days you could put some weight on them."
"You think so?"
"I'm no doctor, but I'm seeing improvement. You are on the mend. Your bruises are fading." Then in mock teasing mood, "If you were to spend time up at that cabin of yours, it might do the trick, getting you back on your feet. You have a servant to help you?"
"So now you are my servant." she laughed. "How about polishing my shoes or doing the dishes."
I stood, bowed with a sweeping gesture and told her I was ready to do her bidding. We both laughed and had fun with this make believe. In the last few days she was smiling more and this was a good sign her emotions were healing. What she'd been through, shouldn't have happened to a dog. She hadn't mentioned recently but I didn't believe it had been forgotten. If I could help her get the fun back in life, this would be a help. For the rest of the morning we pretended. Twice she was laughing uproariously at my antics and tears rolled down her cheek.
Towards the middle of the day, I sat down for a minute to rest from our acting when she spoke, "Peter?"
"Your arm. You've been using it."
Mentally, I stopped and shifted my attention to my shoulder. It was out of the sling, hanging, with the forearm lifted. Slowly I extended my arm straight out, then moved it to the side. No pain. It was stiff with some soreness in the shoulder, but no pain. Gently I rotated it, finding a spot where it hurt, I winced. The range of motion was reduced, but I had the ability to move it.
"Can you lift anything?"
I tried several small items before moving to some larger ones. The arm and shoulder were weak, not having their full strength.
"Something must have been fixed yesterday when I stumbled. I thought I'd re-injured it."
"Let me work with your shoulder." She requested.
I moved closer and sat on the floor beside the cot. Her fingers pushed and probed into the muscles of the shoulder, finding pockets of tight and soreness. Gently she worked and I felt the tension reducing.
"You are getting better." She commented.
The storm continued to howl outside, blowing the snow up around the cabin. We had enough wood to keep us warm and food to eat. This storm lasted 2 days and by the 3rd morning, the sun rose over the trees to a crisp wonderland. The air was frigid and the snow lay deep on the ground. I guessed about 9 inches had fallen. Except for trips to the outhouse, bringing in firewood, and getting snow for water, we stayed inside huddled around the stove.
To the reader it may seem like everything between Kathy and I was just peaches and cream. Sadly that wasn't true, we had our spats. It was a day after the storm and I'd gone outside to get firewood. I'd carried in several loads and gone out for more. In the distance I spied a couple of deer. Leaving the firewood, I followed them into the woods and lost track of time.
When I returned, Kathy was angry. She needed to use the outhouse and I was nowhere to be found. She'd called, but received no reply. She'd waited but could no longer hold it, using a corner of the room, she took care of business. The room was closed up, the odor wasn't pleasant. When I entered, her words weren't very kind. My reaction was to defend myself and we argued loudly. I cleaned up the mess but for the remainder of the day, we didn't speak. That evening I figured to sleep elsewhere but she'd calmed down and we both slept on the cot.