This Side of Death Ch. 02

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Ch. 2 Tea for Two

In a world of magic and miracles, I returned to my fallen comrade of the sea. She remained as I had left her, curled up like a sleeping kitten. Kneeling beside her, I slid a hand in beneath her left breast. Her heart beat was shallow but steady. Maid Marian was still struggling to survive. My unlooked for guest was alive but only just. I wondered who she was and what trouble she had gotten herself into. Brushing the glistening anthracite hair back off her forehead, her skin felt as cold as the water I had fished her out of.

Cradling the lifeless body up into my weary arms, I was taken aback by the lightness of her being. Fear struck at me as I raced her toward the growing fire. Having fallen into that near frozen midwestern river years before, I too once had to be rescued by strangers. I hadn’t realized then what I suddenly realized now. For everything there is a season? For everything there is a reason? Being rescued then in order to know now how to rescue another? That had been thirty years earlier yet remembered as yesterday. The fall hadn’t killed her but hypothermia would if I didn’t act quickly.

My tent had been my wilderness cloister for more than seventeen years. It was a light, three seasoned affair with good resistant to wind and/or deluge. With a doorway at each end and netting on top, it was rarely hot or stuffy. I had pitched one door facing out across the raging sea, it’s sister facing fireside. Setting the dark haired mermaid down in front of the glowing warmth of fire light, I retrieved a many bandaged woolen Army blanket from the tent. Warm when dry, I cloaked the shivering elf maiden of the woods in army green. The gathering storm about us suddenly spiraled a sparkling blaze of pine needles and drift wood up into the darkness of the night.

The air now had a moist, salty chill about it. The hedge which had grown up along the edge of the forest ridge was thick enough to stifle most of increasing gusts. Only hours before I had sighed because that same hedge hindered a full panoramic view. However, as the storm began picking up steam, I said a small prayer of thanksgiving for its buffering. Stray gusts of forceful intensity sent shivers through both of us.

“We’ve got to get you out of those wet clothes or you’re going to catch your death.” I yelled to her above the fury of the storm front suddenly pushing its way over to us. “Get out of those wet things. I’ll get you a towel and some dry clothes. GET UNDRESSED!”

My words fell on deaf ears. Shivering in the yellow firelight I saw the woman for the first time. She was no spring chicken. I guess her to be in her late thirties, early forties. It shocked me. For the eternity it had taken me to tow, drag and carry her from the middle of Witch Candle Bay to sitting upright in front of my fire, I had it planted somewhere in the back of my mind that I was rescuing a forlorn college girl. Perhaps the presumption had come from the juvenile voice which had argued with artemisbet yeni giri┼č Mr. Doe on the bridge high above my silent kayak. Perhaps it had been something I thought I had seen deep within the horror filled eyes that first bore through me. In an instant of survey, Missy Doe morphed into a woman of many subtle perfections.

Returning with a large beach towel in hand I held out to her a heavy fleece pull-over and my spare pair of swim trunks. Kneeling before the god of fire, lost in a trance of unawareness, I tried calling her back into the world of the living.

“Come on now, be a dear. We’ve got to get you out of those wet clothes.”

The woman seemed quite unconcerned about her situation. I knew she was asking herself, “Did he really throw me off the bridge? Did I really almost drown?” She was fighting against the harsh reality that had sought to plunge her into the dark underworld of death. Moving around to stand behind her, I began unfastening the small white cloth covered buttons that ran down the back of her salt stained dress.

In between fire light and shadow, her skin appeared to be toffee colored. It was darker than area standards but the woman was no mini-mall artificial sun bunny. Tan lines hidden within the deep cleft of her bra were more a product of my imagination than anything real. Unconsciously I considered her heritage. Transparent in its wetness, the dress revealed only two other articles of clothing beneath.

“Come on hon, won’t you help me?” I pleaded as I finished the last of the buttons. Gently I began drawing the dress up over of her. I wrapped her in terry cloth and began trying to rub some life back into her. Like a sleeping child, she was obedient yet not cognizant. Cautiously I unfastened the bra from behind and slipped the silky ribbon shoulder straps off.

“Hon,” I almost whispered to her,. “Be a good girl now and lift your arms up for me.” Holding first one hand and then the other, I proceeded to slide the fleece shirt down over her head and shoulders. Almost immediately it seemed to warm her.

“You’re almost done dear. Can you slip out of those panties and slide these on for me?” I begged, thrusting the trunks between her and the firelight from behind her.

Her head continued to stare blankly into the fire. Finally, with an almost imperceptible nod, her movement signaled agreement. Like a new-born colt, I helped her to find her feet. Held steady, she exchanged wet for dry before being wrapped back up into that heavy green woolen blanket. Standing above her, I watched the little woman draw the blanket tight about. I deemed her safe to be left alone by the fire while to took care of other matters.

I had brought enough fresh water to easily last me three days. Three, two and a half gallon collapsible containers sat next to my make-shift kitchen table -two large logs with piece of flat drift wood planking laid on top. Two containers would have been used for sun warmed showers. artemisbet giri┼č The third had been destined for cooking and kitchen cleaning. Two, one gallon canteens remained in the aft hold of my boat for drinking. I contemplated rationing and rescue.

Unpacking my little Swedish cook set I reminisced about other times and other places. So long ago the beginning seemed. Madison, Wisconsin. My first boat and all the trappings. Three grand had me headed home with sixteen feet of fiberglass. Persuaded by the salesman, I ordered the boat complete with skeg, paddles and skirt. I was one of those men who never shopped. I hated crowds and even more sales people. Still, when I am extruded into the situation, I usually splurge. Collapsible two man, four season tent, collapsible saw, collapsible fishing gear, collapsible water storage bottles, second set of paddles, dry bags, bug clothing and my little Swedish alcohol stove. It was small enough to hide inside your standard Pyrex casserole dish while housing a skillet, two pans, a kettle, fuel cell and convertible stand which allowed for easy ignition in even a gale storm. Fueled and fired, I had the little three cup kettle percolating in less time than it had taken to persuade Jane Doe out of her wet clothes. Instant cocoa for her. Royal Raspberry Bigelow tea for me. Returning to fireside, I held out a steaming cup to the black haired beauty.

“Here you go. Drink this -but not to fast. It’s hot.” For the first time since our landing, I saw hope as two slender feminine hands took hold of the cup. Still shaking like Jacob’s Ladder, she continued to remain silent. Waiting till half of the mug snaked its way down her naked throat I tried conversation.

“You know, it’s not every day that I have someone drop in on me like that,” I teased my silent companion.

Sometimes tears are a good thing. I watched helplessly as the picturesque Mrs. Doe sat her mug of half finish coca down beside her before hugging her knees, softly crying like a little girl. Dragon slayers rarely fair well before crying damsels of distress. I was no exception.

“It’s okay,” I kept reassuring to her. “It’s all over now.” Crying seemed to bring her closer to the world she had nearly left behind. The world of reality. A world that was cold, hard and cruel. One which had only a few hours before, tried to discard her. “

Look at that moon shine so bright.

And tonight he smiles

Especially for you.

It is never as real as it seems.

And in the morning when you wake up

I will be right here.

In my mind I sang a duet to her. “Nobody is going to harm you here.”

As soon as I said the words, it occurred to me just where here was. Here was twenty miles from the nearest haven of civilization. Single kayaks simply do not lend themselves to unexpected company the way my Fiat Spyder had in the sixties. Trekking overland would be no simple feat either. Old Harringer Road curved deep into the forest artemisbet g├╝venilirmi just beyond the bridge. It would take us as long to find that road from our location as it would for me to paddle back to my car.

Caught in contemplation before the fire, I knew my body would need rest before another such adventure. If the weather let up, as it had been forecasted, I could have the boat back in the water by noon and if all went well, have it loaded on the truck and headed to town by eight the next night. But then what? By the time I found me a bush pilot sober enough to fly or a mariner willing to motor me twenty miles north, it would be dark again.

The fire had begun to wane as she regained control and began sipping the last of her cocoa once again. I talked her into letting me rinse the salt out of her hair after which I sponge bathed a bit of her sticky flesh. As the fire began to die the rain began to fall a little harder. I pulled a tarp out of the front compartment of the boat which I had finally found time to pull back to safety. I secured the tarp over my kitchen table and hoarded firewood. A morning fire would be easier to kindle if the wood were dry.

Eventually I trotted Mrs. Doe off and into the tent. Sliding her down into my one and only sleeping bag, she curled up and drifted off even as I knelt next to her, petting her wet hair, assuring her that all was right with the world.

I must have sat there in my own little Perelandra longer than realized. Rolled up in the discarded blanket, I sat back and listened to the sounds of a sleeping woman in my tent. I knew the ordeal had spent her completely, both psychologically as well as physically. Like fiery darts in the night, questions hurled themselves my way. What had she done to deserve this? Who was the owner of that sing-song voice which had discarded this beautiful eyed beauty?

Somewhere between rescue and bedding, I had noted no jewelry of any kind. No wedding ring nor ring shadow that I could discern. No ear rings either; only two holes on her left lobe and one on her right. Her hair was the color Pennsylvania coal. It had an oriental element to it but I wasn’t for sure. She was a small woman, not standing more than five foot and that in heels. Her breasts were both adequate and interesting, her stomach firm and her buttocks trim but slightly dimpled. There was the briefest of evidences that she had born children via a surgeon’s scalpel. Her thighs were lean and her calves muscular -not an uncommon sight in a land of hills and valleys. Her feet were as tiny as a child’s complete with red painted toe nails. Was it any wonder why I had, at first sighting, though her a child. At first landing, a youth. But by fireside, I guessed her to be all woman. None of it made any sense to me. Though tiny even for an Elfin Queen, she had a beauty about her that I had seldom seen before. The healthy glow to her skin spoke of money and her nails of pampering. This was not the kind of woman a man in his right mind would discard without first being possessed by some dark evil within. More questions. But why on earth any man would throw this woman off a bridge in the middle of the night was beyond me? Dazed and confused, I slipped off into a deep, dark, icy pool of my own.

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