I stop suddenly, afraid to approach him. What if it’s my ex? Staying just out of arm’s reach I circle slowly to the left around his head until I can see his face.
Oh my God, Caleb! Why isn’t he moving?
I hurry to his side and gently lift his right shoulder so I can turn him over. I need to see if he’s hurt. I can’t think of anything else. As I move him, he groans. Easing him onto his back I see a large gash on the left side of his head, the side that had been resting on the ground. He has other more minor cuts on his face as well.
I crouch there wondering what I should do, more aware than ever that a nursing career is not in my future. My stomach is queasy from the sight of his injuries but concern for his safety, and mine I admit, have me fighting for control.
As I wait, mired in uncertainty, he moans again, eyes still closed, and he raises his left arm to his wound. I want to speak but I don’t want to startle him.
Quietly I say his name and his eyes flutter open. I sigh with relief as he meets my gaze and offers a weak smile. He tries to push himself to a sitting position then flinches with pain before he rests back down on the ground, his breathing unsteady.
“You’re hurt. Let me help you.”
“I can do it. Just give me a minute,” he responds curtly.
With his eyes closed again he isn’t able to see me roll mine in exasperation. Why are men so obtuse? He obviously needs help. Sitting in the dirt next to him, I wrap my arms around my legs and rest my head on my knees, watching him.
He looks at me again but this time doesn’t try to move. “What happened?”
“I was going to ask you that,” I reply.
He shakes his head and then winces. I long to help alleviate his discomfort but I don’t move, reluctant to be rebuffed again.
“I can’t remember. I was just doing my rounds, and something seemed…I don’t know…wrong I guess. I don’t even know what it was now.”
As he speaks he carefully moves each arm and then his legs, checking for injuries. Apparently deciding nothing is broken he pushes himself upright, and then tries to stand. I rise and hold my hand out to help him. At first he refuses, but as his foot slips from under him he relents. I brace myself against his weight as he lifts himself up.
Once he’s standing he doesn’t release my hand as I expect. Instead he turns to face me, our bodies almost touching. With his free hand he reaches up to brush hair out of my face and he tucks it behind my ear.
“Thank you.” His whisper is barely more than a breath, his lips so close to mine I’m sure he’s going to kiss me. I’m at once scared and excited by the idea.
Just then we hear a loud crack and we both turn to look at the top of the ridge where the sound came from. Silhouetted against the trees is a man holding a shotgun. We stay frozen where we are, almost afraid to even breathe.
This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Obtuse and is part of something longer I am working on.