Wednesday, April 16, 2008
For those readers out there hankering for some western action:
Mud seeped through my clothes, caked my scalp. Water dripped from my body when I crawled from the muck. I managed to collapse on the bank, where the damp mud held me in a wet embrace and fresh snow blanketed me. I panted, watching the plumes of my breath rise while the cold soaked into my bones, into my guts which lay inert beneath my skin.
Irony struck me like an icy club. I’d left Matt because I was afraid he’d kill me; now here I lay, dying. A sick, strangled laugh escaped me. Black fields encroached on my vision, and a chilly invitation to a long cold sleep tempted.
“What in the world?”
A voice rang in the little snow filled dell. I lifted my head from my icy bed and saw a man in a low profile Stetson hat riding toward me on a white horse. The image of him sitting astride the horse framed in snowfall was etched like ice in my mind. Our eyes locked. “Gid-up!” He spurred the horse and it charged around the edge of the pond I’d stumbled into.
The man dropped from the saddle and pushed his hat from his head. Steam rose from his dark hair, but it was his expression that flared hope in me. His eyes were as blue as polar ice, but as soft as an angel’s robes. I wanted to look at his face forever, but my eye lids sagged. His hands were clear in my hazy vision. Hands weren’t always good--Matt hit me with his hands. A little knot of fear unwound in my gut, but this man was gentle. “Come on, Girl. Stay with me.”
I tried to speak, but when my jaw unclenched nothing come out. He nodded, and a frown knit his brows together. He pulled the gloves from his hand and patted my thighs and arms. “You’re soaked to the bone and freezing.” I wanted to nod my head in agreement, but my fine motor skills were frozen, too. His fleece lined jacket smelled of Stetson cologne when he pulled it off, the scent of sweat sweetened with fabric softener rose from his long underwear shirt. “Let me help you.”
I couldn’t fight him if I wanted to. I had no strength left. My field of vision narrowed as my eyelids drooped again. He wadded the shirt into a soft mass, and patted my face dry. The brush of the shirt stung my cheeks, but I was grateful. He wiped down my arms as my head lolled to one side. I was less appreciative when he used the shirt to sop water from my shoulders and chest. Pain blazed from my shoulder socket and radiated through my arm and chest. A weak cry escaped my lips, but onsetting hypothermia had iced over my tear ducts.
“Oh my, I am so sorry!” He stopped, placing a warm hand on my cheek and shushing me. “We have to dry you before you freeze to death.”
It might be too late for that.
He stood, more silhouette than man, to my fuzzy vision. Putting his hat back on, he bent to wrap me in the clothing he’d removed. But I couldn’t feel him touching me--I was beyond that, slipping into the numb, quiet dark. The pain eased. The cold eased. My vision failed. There was only me, and him. His chest was the last thing I saw when he wrapped his arm around my back. The last thing I felt was the warmth of his bare skin.
Me and him.