A Frightening War Is Raging Within Me

As I stood motionlessly, unable to form a coherent response to his greeting, he stepped close to me. He grabbed each side of the unbuttoned dress shirt hanging from my shoulders, then bent to touch his lips to mine. Thoughts and feelings battled within me. Was he going to try to take off the shirt? I should stop him. I’m not ready for that. Yet at the same time every inch of me responded to his touch, emphatically screaming for more.

My own internal debate raged, my integrity attempting to douse the flames of my desire as effectively as using a thimble to put out a forest fire.

Before either side could claim victory he pulled away, a playful grin on his face adding to my confusion. Looking down I realized he had fastened the shirt around me, brining a mixture of relief and disappointment. How could he have caused such dichotomy within me? This was definitely unlike anything I’d experienced before.

He reached for my hand and entwined his fingers with mine. Holding my gaze intently he filled the silence that threatened like storm clouds in the distance. “I brought lunch out on the balcony. How’s your foot feeling?”

My foot? I looked down. I hadn’t thought about my foot since I had woken up. Pressing my weight onto it I realized it didn’t hurt at all. “It’s fine.” I told him.

He led me to the balcony where he’d set out an array of fruit, cut veggies, deli meat and bread. Sheepishly he explained, “I wasn’t sure what you liked.” He shrugged, looking embarrassed. I reassuringly squeezed his hand and thanked him for his efforts, stretching up to kiss his cheek. At the time, he seemed to be the sweetest man I had ever met.

Sitting at the table I began filling my plate while he poured a glass of ice water from a beautiful crystal pitcher. Suddenly aware there was only one plate I asked him if he would be eating. Looking ashamed he replied, “I ate while you were sleeping.”

Too hungry to worry much about manners I took a bite of my sandwich and rolled my eyes with appreciation. At that moment peanut butter and jelly would have been more than enough to satisfy me. This meal felt like heaven.

Leaning back in my chair I sighed in gratitude. The view was spectacular; the food was delicious. This was the life!

Our eyes met and without looking away he grabbed my shin then placed my foot in his lap. Gently he probed the spot in my arch where the cut had been. Once I gave no indication of discomfort he pressed harder, massaging my foot, then my ankle. Eventually his caress extended up my leg, rubbing and kneading my calf, but his touch never extended above my knee.

The entire time he maintained eye contact with such intensity I should have felt uncomfortable, but his touch was soothing. I felt myself relaxing, wishing his hands would explore just a little higher.

I remember wishing I could stay there forever.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Emphatically and is part of something longer I am working on.

This post is a continuation of the following post:
Should I Leave the Relative Safety of This Luxurious Bed?

How Can We Figure Out What Happened?

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.

I’m Suddenly Sure He Has Found Me

Returning to the cabin I help Caleb carry the supplies from his truck. There are so many bags and boxes I briefly wonder how long he’s planning to stay, but the task of unlocking the door while juggling a large box with three bags dangling from my arm takes all my attention. I insert the key into the lock but my hand slips before I can turn the key. Without actually twisting the lock, the knob turns easily and the door swings open.

Had I forgotten to bolt the door?

I suppose it’s possible. I’ve been very cautious but also preoccupied. I am definitely not at my best. As I’m about to step into the front room I feel a hand on my shoulder, a silent warning. My skin prickles as I realize again how careless I’ve become.

Retreating onto the porch I set down the items that have become heavy in my arms. He does the same and wordlessly holds a finger to his lips. Pulling a gun that had been hidden under his lightweight jacket he slowly approaches the entrance. He disappears inside and I wait impatiently, leaning against the railing, arms crossed in front of my chest. My foot taps a nervous beat on the wooden deck. Taking several deep breaths I try to calm myself but my heart won’t stop its anxious rhythm.

Several minutes pass and I hear a dull thud from somewhere deep inside, followed by a string of expletives. Impulsively I step forward, intent on finding out what happened. I’m stopped by the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs that lead to the loft and upstairs bedroom. Suddenly he appears in the doorframe, so tall he seems to fill the space.

His expression is enough to reassure me, and he lets me know that a large plastic crate filled with sheets had fallen when he opened a closet. He had found nothing out of the ordinary in the cabin.

Reassured, we bring the packages inside and place them on the large dining table. He returns to his truck and comes back with a small cooler. Unpacking this first he pulls out a large ribeye which he hands to me. He asks me to make dinner while he puts everything else away. Grateful for something constructive to do, I set to work lighting the grill and cutting vegetables for a salad.

Working in companionable silence, his presence is remarkably comforting in spite of the fact he is a complete stranger. Once the table is clear of his belongings he takes plates and glasses from the cupboard, setting them on top of cheerful placemats. Grabbing a corkscrew from the drawer next to the stove he opens a bottle of red wine he must have brought with him. He pours a healthy amount into one glass, while he fills the other with blue Gatorade.

I am suddenly consumed with suspicion and something harder to identify. Is it fear? Anger? Both? What makes him think I’m going to drink with him here? Is he so arrogant he assumes I’ll just do whatever he says?

Holding the glass in his left hand he turns and offers it to me. “We have a lot to talk about and you’re already so tight you might snap. I thought you could use something to help you relax.”

I’m torn. I know he means well. He doesn’t know what I’ve been through, doesn’t know about the months when I had unknowingly swallowed drugs dissolved in drinks or hidden in food. Even I’m not certain how they were given to me…I’m sure there were a plethora of ways I’ll never know. There’s no reason for me to distrust the wine more than the other food he brought.

Maybe it’s my apprehension over letting down my guard even just a little that causes such an immediate reaction. I’m going to need to trust him if he’s going to protect me. He needs to know everything, and he’s right that wine will make the story less painful to retell.

I avert my eyes so he doesn’t see my dilemma and mumble thanks as I accept his offering. Taking a large gulp I almost instantly feel the effects, reminding me that I’ve eaten very little for days. Smiling a more sincere appreciation for his thoughtfulness I ask him where he wants me to start.

“Start at the beginning and don’t leave anything out. I need to know what we’re facing and we can prepare better if I know all the details.”

He places the bowl with the salad in the middle of the table before he sits at the head of the table. Carrying the platter holding the steak and my glass of wine I take my seat to his right and stare ahead of me, thinking back to the fateful party that seemed so long ago. Bringing myself back to the present, I’m about to begin my story when a framed photo on top of the fireplace mantel catches my eye. I am confident it wasn’t there before. I would have noticed. I would have recognized the setting. It’s the view I had when I was essentially nothing more than a captive, a prisoner. I will never forget the way the ocean meets the sand on that particular stretch of beach.

Words catch in my throat and I’m momentarily unable to speak, but the terror on my face says it all. He’s been here.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Plethora and is part of something longer I am working on.

With Alarm I Realize What I Have Just Done

Jeff jumps in without even a “hello.”

“I found someone who can help. His name is Caleb. He’s notorious in certain circles but I trust him…and he’s willing to meet with you right away. He’s waiting for you to call.”

Relief washes over me, tears forming in my eyes. “Thank you” seems inadequate but I’m at a loss for words. Quickly I scribble a phone number at the top of the page I’d been using as a journal.

Setting the phone back on the counter, I try to decide whether I should finish my lunch. I haven’t eaten much the past few days, but my appetite has completely vanished. Pushing my plate away I attempt to get the waiter’s attention so I can get the check. I watch him with frustration as he animatedly chats with the locals.

Now that I have a contact I’m desperate to call him, but I hesitate to draw too much attention. I don’t want people to remember me. I have no ties to this town so there’s no reason he would look for me here, but I am learning to be overly cautious. All of a sudden it occurs to me, if he comes to this shop he might ask if anyone has seen me.

Why didn’t I think of this sooner? I should have waited for Jeff somewhere else, but I can’t change that now.

Without thinking I pick up the pen and begin to doodle as I wait for the conversation at the far end of the counter to conclude. I used to draw a lot, but haven’t taken the time for years. With quick strokes I sketch the cabin in the woods, one eye on the paper and the other on the waiter. Growing impatient I add details to the porch: baskets of flowers hanging from the eves, the swing on the far end, a grill around the corner. Once I can’t think of anything else to include, I begin to work on the surrounding forest, the top of steps to the river just visible to the left of the building.

Focusing on each specific detail calms me and helps ease my impatience.

Finally the proprietor looks at me and I signal for the check. Walking over he brings both the bill and a to-go container for my uneaten burger. Certain I won’t be able to swallow another bite, I put my lunch in the styrofoam box and close the lid as he swipes my credit card. Watching as I sign the slip he spots my drawing.

“That’s the Sanderson place, isn’t it? You stayin’ there?”

Alarm fills me as I realize too late what I’ve just done.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Notorious and is part of something longer I am working on.

Bravely Living an Amazing Life!