Orphan Ch. 04byVjax©
Jenabel had spent all day Saturday sequestering herself in her small house on the compound. She had found that knowing the truth was one thing, accepting it was quite another.
The day passed with Jenabel swinging between every emotion on the scale as well as a few she had no definition for. From wracking sobs, lamenting the life she would never have, to brilliant bright laughter when she allowed herself to be lost in the memories of Alexander. The day had been the worst of her life.
Jenabel was emotionally drained Sunday morning as she entered her parent's house. Still tired and not looking where she was going she ran right into a large wide chest. Jumping back and looking up Jenabel's face clouded instantly.
"Mr. Bouchard." It came out as an acknowledgment, it was plain she was surprised and more than a little unnerved at finding him in her parents home.
"Jenabel, it's good to see you, sorry I can't stay. We'll get a chance to visit next weekend."
Jenabel didn't like the small smile on Mr. Bouchard's lips as he hastily left the house. After the day she had yesterday, Jenabel was in no mood for her father's games as she walked into the kitchen.
"Good morning sleepy head." Sophie greeted her daughter with a tight lingering hug. Jenabel appreciated it. She had felt very alone yesterday trying to come to grips with her feelings for Alexander, trying to accept the truth that they would not be able to be together.
"Good morning Mom."
As Jenabel's eyes opened they met her fathers and she scowled. Releasing her grip on her mother she faced him.
"Mr. Bouchard? Really Daddy, do you really think now is the time for your machinations toward keeping up the tradition?"
Carl Benton frowned. His daughter looked drawn, tired. He had never seen her so weary. He understood her frustration, but also knew that it was best to move on. No matter what Jenabel proclaimed, it was going to be an uphill battle to fight the pull she felt for Alexander. Her best hope lay in finding another to replace him.
Carl Benton's demeanor turned hard.
"You are the one making this choice Jenabel. This isn't easy on any of us. Do you think your mother and I, your brothers and all the rest don't feel the pain you're in, don't understand just how deeply staying away from Alexander is hurting you?"
Carl softened his tone as he approached his daughter.
"We want you to be happy Jenabel. We want you to be able to find peace. The one way to do that is to find someone else, to allow that another can fill the space in your heart and soul that Alexander never can."
He pulled her into his arms. The feeling of her warm tears soaking through his shirt broke his heart but there was nothing for it. All he could do was hold her and let her tears flow.
"Shhh baby, it will be alright, one way or the other we will get through this."
Jenabel looked up into her fathers eyes; she noted the true sorrow held in their depths.
"I know Dad." She said the words but had real doubts about their truth. The thought of her need for Alexander dimming and of someone else holding the strings of her heart and soul filled her with a deep dread.
Trying to lighten the mood as they all sat down Carl addressed them both. "I spoke with Cross this morning, he's going to take a few days off and come up for the party."
This brightened both the women.
David "Cross" Benton was the middle child. A few years older than Jenabel, Cross had just finished up his Masters degree at State. In June he would move to San Francisco to begin work on his doctorate. They would all miss his easy humor and gentle demeanor.
"It will be good to see him." Jenabel conceded. If she had to suffer through her fathers attempts at match making at least Cross would be there to lighten the mood.
Sophie agreed. "He never has time to come home these days, which will only get worse once he moves out to the coast."
Sophie's middle child had a pranking streak a mile wide, if there was trouble to be found you could be sure Cross was right in the middle of it. Its how he got his nickname as his mother was fond of saying that he was her cross to bear so often when he was growing up.
Carl nodded, he loved his middle son. Cross was very different from his siblings, but those differences were what made everyone who met him better for the meeting.
Sophie and Brad were happiest here at home, working for the betterment of the town and the family. Cross was the one who had the wander lust of the clan. When he was young Cross was always getting lost out on the mountain. When his father asked why he roamed so far a field Cross's answer was simple. "Because she's out there somewhere."
Carl shook off his thoughts of Cross. While they got along well they had never really connected. The most he could hope for was that his middle child would find happiness.
Turning back to the ladies he changed the subject to the party.
"Saturday is the new moon, a good time for fresh starts and new beginnings."
Jenabel and Sophie just rolled their eyes at his hopeful tone.
The topics through breakfast ranged far a field, from what was going on at the mine this week to who in the compound was expecting children and when the births would happen.
The easy conversation and proximity to her folks did a lot to help Jenabel's turbulent emotions. After breakfast Jenabel left to get a jump on the company financial statements leaving Carl and Sophie sitting alone at the large kitchen table.
"You can't push her like this Carl, it's just cruel."
Sophie was none to happy to find Thomas Bouchard sitting with her husband having coffee that morning. Carl looked at his wife, knew that she was feeling the pain of their youngest but strongly believed what he was doing was for the best.
"Sophie, Jenabel wouldn't let me send him away. She wants to keep him close, take care of him if she can. While I understand this, I also know that she has chosen the hardest path possible in this situation. I'm only trying to ease her pain some by offering other options."
Sophie looked at her husband; saw the pain in his eyes. She knew that he was probably right but couldn't fully support his reasoning.
"It's too soon Carl, let her find some balance first, let her get a better understanding of what is pulling her toward Alexander, of how to deal with it."
Carl shook his head as he looked away from his wife and stood. He could never bear to see pain in her beautiful eyes.
"Is it better to let her continue like this Sophie? Better to let time pass, let the pull become part of her heart and soul. I don't want her to understand and grow accustomed to the pain. Better if now, at the beginning of it, she tries to move on. The longer it takes the harder and harder it will be for her to see anyone else as his equal."
"It has to be this way Sophie, there is nothing else for it. I promised Jenabel that I wouldn't send Alexander away, and I will honor that promise, for now. But I am going to send him to the west face. He'll be gone about two weeks, long enough for Jenabel to have some space. And hopefully with the party this weekend she will find some small hope that another can fill the void Alexander will inevitably leave."
Sophie looked at her husband's wide strong back as he stood at the sink. She could see the tension in his shoulders, the slight bend they had. He was carrying the weight of this and she knew it wasn't easy on him. Yet, she still firmly believed that he was wrong.
"Have you told Alexander that he'll be away for two weeks?" Sophie said as she stood, wrapping her arms around her husband from behind.
"I'll call him today and tell him to meet me at the yard early tomorrow. I've already had Brad load up the jeep with everything he will need."
Sophie could hear the trepidation in Carl's voice as he spoke of Alexander. There was sorrow there which surprised her.
"You care for the young man?" Sophie was surprised to feel this through their bond.
Carl turned to his wife and wrapped her in his arms.
"Of course I care for him, Jenabel loves him, and he is her mate. That they can't be together is a cruel joke of the universe. I'll do everything I can to help Jenabel, she is my blood. But there is something about Alexander. His strength, his easy way, how he cradles his pain so close, never letting others see it. I felt the connection with him too Sophie. I was sure he was one of us from the instant I saw him."
Carl released his wife taking a step back.
"But Doc's test confirmed that he isn't one of us, can never be so. I'll do what I can for him Sophie, but Jenabel's happiness has to come first."
'He takes on so much.' Sophie thought as she gently palmed his cheek. "Call Alexander, tell him he is going to the west face." Carl nodded to his wife as he pulled out his cell phone.
Alexander had been restless all day Saturday. Nothing could hold his attention but he couldn't put his finger on the cause.
Alexander was always relatively neat. Years spent sharing rooms with others had ingrained in him the need for everything to have a place and for those things to occupy those places. His years in the military only deepened this habit.
The morning was spent squaring away his quarters. The natural stone floors got a good mopping, the laundry was done. Windows were cleaned and the kitchen brought under control.
A few hours were spent in town getting the lay of the land and stocking up on a few days worth of provisions. It was another habit that he would have to break, but it just wasn't in him to get a week's worth of food. While his likes were varied he always knew that today may be the day to leave and he abhorred waste. This lesson was learned when it became apparent Stockton, his first stop after the military, went south and he had to juggle four boxes of food on the Harley to the local homeless shelter.
He appreciated good food and enjoyed the art of cooking so there were spices and herbs to buy. Fresh fruits and vegetables along with lots of red meat.
While Alexander enjoyed the occasional chicken, pork or fish, he had always favored beef and had perfected quite a few dishes that would impress even the most accomplished chef.
After finding a few new books at the local second hand bookstore he wiled away the afternoon on the porch reading, losing himself in the stories of other peoples lives.
Alexander was pleased at his progress for the day but was keenly aware of the undercurrent of uneasiness that was a constant companion through out.
That evening, his sleep was uneasy. Dreams assailed him.
Images of the wreck came to him unbidden.
Hauling Carl's substantial weight away from the crash.
The smell of gasoline permeating the air.
Feeling the gentle rise and fall of Jenabel's chest against his as he shielded her.
A whirling maelstrom of heat and sound.
Soft gentle fingers entwining with his.
The images came haphazardly and left Alexander twisted in his light sheet fighting for freedom from their bondage.
Alexander finally gave up before dawn. He sat on the edge of the bed, the darkness only just now being tinged with gray streaks from the coming dawn. Emerald specters haunted him from the drawing shadows.
Shaking off the demons of sleep Alexander stretched and walked naked to the kitchen. He started a pot of coffee before taking care of his morning necessities.
The morning was cool, steam rose off the lake as he sat on the porch palming a hot cup of coffee.
"If this is what time off is like I need to ask Carl for longer hours." Alexander's words were spoken to no one and brought a small smile to his face.
He had enjoyed his week on the mountain. It felt good to be out in the world again, not being shackled to a set schedule in the same place. He hoped there would be more opportunities like it.
After a quick swim and a light breakfast he dressed in jeans, pulling a t-shirt over his head before lacing his hiking boots. The lazy day in the house yesterday had convinced him that loitering was not his strong suit.
Before he stepped out the door his cell phone rang.
"Good morning Alexander, this is Carl."
"Good morning Mr. Benton."
Carl smiled at the man's inability to just call him Carl.
"I've been looking over what's coming up in the next few weeks. How would you feel about being out and about for close to 14 days? The next big parcel is on the west face, about three hours from the yard, you would need to stay out there 'til the survey is complete, and traveling daily just won't work."
Alexander smiled, two weeks in the woods sounded like just what he needed.
"That sounds good Mr. Benton."
"Excellent, I'll...." Sophie was waving at him from the door of his office. "One second Alexander."
Carl placed his hand over the phone.
Carl's look was bewildered. That look always wanted to make Sophie giggle.
"I'll take him out tomorrow. It's a good opportunity for me to meet him. He has had quite an effect on you and Jenabel. Brad has nothing but good things to say as well. It's time I formed my own opinion."
With a shrug and a nod Carl agreed.
"Sorry about that, I'll have a nice older lady named Sophie meet you at the yard tomorrow at 5 am, she'll take you out to the site."
Carl ducked the pillow that Sophie threw at him.
"I'll be ready and thanks again Mr. Benton."
"Don't mention it Alexander, be sure to bring your phone, there is a small shelter up on the parcel, the generator should be full so you can keep it charged. Have a good time out there and be careful. I'll see you when you get back."
Carl smiled at Sophie as he hung up.
"That's what you get for interrupting my phone call."
He was met with a good natured scowl as she left him to his business. Sophie was looking forward to meeting Mr. Dane in person.
The phone call delayed Alexander's wanderings in the forest a few hours as he packed his duffel for the extended stay away from home.
He caught himself as the thought manifested. It came so easy to him, he couldn't remember another time where a place ever felt that way. The thought gave him pause as he looked around the small house. He noticed the small things he had acquired in his short time in Red Lodge.
Like the small bookshelf that held more than just his three standard books. A piece of gray shale hung on the wall by a leather cord. Upon it a white wolf howled at a full moon. He had found it in one of the small stores in town on Main Street and it had called to him.
His bed was covered by a hand made quilt from the antique store, the sales lady had said she was glad to be rid of it and gave it to him at half price.
"Home." The word echoed around the room, but it did not sound hollow to Alexander's ears. That one powerful word fit this place just right.
The morning started off with clear crystal blue skies, but by noon roiling gray clouds had cascaded over the tops of the mountains and blanked the forest in a muted pall. Alexander didn't mind, he barely noticed. More and more these days he found himself becoming lost in the experience of these woods.
The sites and sounds and smells of it were one thing. Alexander was trained to pick up on those. But this wood, on this mountain did more than just nudge at his highly tuned senses. He felt stronger than he had over the last six months since coming here. While he still limped, it seemed to decrease with each passing day. And that seemed to accelerate the more time he spent under the quickly greening canopy of the forest.
But more-so than just his physical senses, he seemed to be attuning to the natural undercurrent of the place as well. Alexander could feel the energy of the forest here. The way the animals moved through her, the way the forest responded to their passing and his.
He had been in forests and jungles, deserts and mountains during his service, often for weeks or even months at a time. This place was different; it seemed that with every footprint he left in this place, its twin was left upon him by the mountain. Changing him, marking him, making him...more.
A twig snapped off to his right and broke his reverie. Alexander's breathing stilled, muscles tensed. Closing his eyes he found the stillness within him and then pushed out from himself, seeking what didn't belong.
The scent of oranges came to him. A rustle of leaves to the right. Subtle shifts in how the animals moved.
Alexander sensed no malice from whomever he had stumbled upon, or had stumbled upon him. He got the definite impression of...youth.
Alexander's voice was gentle but it carried well in the breezeless wood. He heard the subtle shuffle of leaves.
"I'm sorry if I've trespassed, I'm new to the area and just learning my way around."
Alexander hoped that a conciliatory stance would diffuse any unwanted tension.
He was surprised to hear a girl's voice respond.
"Trespass, you can't trespass in the woods, they're everyone's."
A young blond girl, Alexander figured she was about ten years old, stepped from behind a tree about forty feet to his right.
'A child?' His thoughts were questioning. 'I really am slipping if a child can get this close to me.'
He regarded the young girl with what he hoped was a gentle look. Long, wild blond hair, jeans, dirty sneakers and a thick wool sweater that had seen better days.
"Are you lost?" Alexander asked, not sure that someone so young would be allowed out this far in the forest.
"Lost?" The girl laughed deep and long after repeating the word with an incredulous tone. "I was about to ask you the same thing stranger."
Alexander could see the young girl tense a bit, her eyes darting around 180 degrees, looking for escape routes.
"I'm sorry, I've been rude. My name is Alexander Dane. I just moved to town and got a job with Benton Mining."
Alexander noted that she relaxed after hearing his name and who he worked for.
"I'm Willow; it's nice to meet you Mr. Dane."
"It's nice to meet you too Willow, and please call me Alexander."
Willow looked at him with a cockeyed gaze. Her tone was once again hesitant. "We don't usually call adults by their first names; it doesn't show the proper respect."
Alexander understood this all too well. His days in the orphanage and military were filled with "Sirs and Maams, Mr.'s and Mrs.'s'
"Well Willow, I am a firm believer that respect is earned no matter what your age. And if you call me Mr. Dane it will make me feel amazingly old and we wouldn't want that."
Willow smiled at his easy manner and flashing blue eyes.
"Fair enough Alexander. What are you doing this far out?"
Willow moved closer to him but still well out of arms reach. 'Smart kid.' He thought with a smile.
"Just going for a hike, as I said I'm new to the area. I've found myself drawn to the mountains and forests of the area and I wanted to become more familiar with them."
Willow looked him over again. He was big, bigger than any of the men at the compound, even a little taller than Uncle Carl.
'He must be a new member.' She thought to herself. After another moment she decided that Alexander was someone she could trust. She didn't know exactly why, even with others of her own kind she was not quick to trust. But there was something comforting and safe about Alexander.
"Would you like to see my favorite place on the mountain?" Willows tone was filled with the hope of a child wanting to share something important as well as one who was going to share a secret.
Alexander smiled. "I would love to see your favorite place Willow."
And with that she closed the distance, slipped her small hand into his and led him deeper into the woods. Willow was an inquisitive child. As they walked she asked Alexander all manner of questions, who he was, where he grew up and then...