(Now just remember I haven’t had a chance to edit this at all. You are getting a sneek peek at this chapter in it’s raw core state. Let me know what you think)
The next morning I was awoken to the sound of silence and the bitter winter chill freezing any of my exposed skin. I really needed my robe but all I had was the same comforter currently wrapped around me. I didn’t have my slippers either, so I tucked the ends of my borrowed pajama bottoms under my feet. Sure it looked hokey but it was the best I could do. With the morning lights shinning in through the windows I could see the real craftsmanship in the bare beams in the entry-way and ceilings. The whole house had a rustic sense to it. Sure a log cabin always has a way of making you feel comfy and at home but this house could really be something with a little…ok a lot of cleaning to it. The warm glow permeated every piece of furniture, every corner of this beautiful house.
I wandered around the living room. I resisted the urge to pet the dead animals displayed on the walls. Besides once I got closer to them they were covered in dust and cobwebs; even the cobwebs had dust on them. The walls had book shelves in front of them. Every space on the shelves were filled with so many different kinds of books; all fiction though. Some had intricately designed hard covers and some were well-read paper backs with yellow crinkled papers and worn edges, but like most of the items in this house, they too were in a desperate need of a dusting. Does he live here all year or is this his vacation home?
Making my way around the living room I had to stop at the gorgeous black piano snuggled in the corner. The keys were covered but not a single finger print was in the dust. Just then Jessica’s whimpering came from behind two French doors just off the living room. I believe the windows on these doors were the only windows in the house covered with curtains. I cracked the door to let Jessica out. I didn’t want her to wake Travis up if he was still asleep.
“Hey girl,” I said as I knelt down beside her so I could scratch her sides, “good morning sweetie.” I caught a whiff of her smell just then; I guess everything in this house needs a good cleaning.
“Good morning, Layla,” Travis called out to me from inside the French doors sitting behind a huge oak desk stacked with piles of papers.
“Good morning Travis,” I replied as I stood up, “sorry if I disturbed you. I didn’t want Jessica to wake you up.” I stepped just inside the doors of what was obviously Travis’ office.
“I’m an early raiser,” he winked at me, “did you sleep ok?”
“Yes…except for the almost frost bite I got on my face. I’ve never been in weather like this,” I said as I continued into his office looking around at his wall-to-wall book shelves; he apparently loves books or there isn’t a library around for miles and this was the towns library and I just didn’t know it. That’s when I realized I didn’t have my morning stuff with me. My tooth brush, floss, hair brush; crap! “You wouldn’t happen to have a spare tooth brush would you?” I asked as I face him from across the room.
With a cute smirk, “I think I do. They’d be under the sink in the bathroom.” He starred at me as he spoke, like his eyes could see right through me. It made me feel as though he was interested in every word that crossed my lips but I was only talking about a tooth brush yet I felt shy and awkward too. I had to get a grip on myself.
“Thank you,” I started back towards the doors when I seen the love-seat and matching chair in the middle of the office. Were those there when I came in? “You have a beautiful home Travis. You’re an avid reader I take it?” as I paused in the door way.
“Yes, I study whatever I’m researching,” he said as he walked over to the window next to his desk.
“Do you read the books completely or just sift through until you find what you need?” I said as I noticed the books in his office were non-fiction. Mostly instructional books, manuals, documentaries and stuff like that.
“No, I read them completely, just not the books in the living room; they’re not my kind of books. Are you hungry?” he asked as he held the door open for me. That must be my signal to leave the man-cave.
“Coffee would be nice,” I said as I squeezed beside him. Oh gosh I could feel the heat coming off him.
“I make a mean pot of coffee,” he said with such an eager tone, it surprised me.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” I countered with a teasing grin.
We were in the kitchen for a little more than ten minutes, just long enough for the coffee to permeate the air and finish brewing. Travis fixed my coffee and handed it to me. I could hardly wait for the eye opening flavors to hit my tongue. Just as I put the mug to my lips the handle broke off spilling the scalding hot coffee across my lap. It wasn’t entirely my fault, how was I supposed to know the handle was loose.
“You weren’t kidding…mean coffee barely begins to describe the feeling,” I said as I dabbed my lap with the hand towel Travis threw me.
Travis went out of the kitchen in a hurry; I heard the sliding glass door open and a moment later he returned holding a plastic bag full of something. “Here, let me put this on your leg.” He bent down in front of me applying the ice cold bag to the tops of my thighs with a gentle ease.
“What’s in the bag?” I asked looking down at him. His hair looked perfectly messy and soft. Resist the urge to run your fingers through it, I had to tell myself.
“It’s ice from my private stash out back,” he said looking up at me without a single facial expression. I starred at him right back. “It’s snow and rock salt silly. I didn’t want to take any ice from the freezer; we need to keep the meat frozen.”
“I’m not as stupid as I look,” I smirked.
“I know that. Listen, this storm is supposed to last a few days. So I thought maybe I’d make dinner tonight. Do you like venison?” He was pressed the plastic bag onto my lap with his hands gently moving it to cover a larger area.
“Remind me what cut of beef that is?” I questioned innocently.
“So you’ve never had venison before?” he asked with a smile.
“No…why are you starring at me for?” I said defensively.
“No reason. How are your legs?”
“Fine, what animal is venison?”
“It’s the cow’s cousin,” he answered with an impish grin. All I could do was gaze into his beautiful blue eyes.
“It’s cousin.” I laughed.
“It’s deer Layla.”
“Bambie smothered with ketchup…could be tasty,” I smiled back at him nervously.
“I have some work to do for a little bit. Will you be ok out here alone?” he asked.
“Yeah; I’ll just sit and read if you don’t mind?” I replaced his hands on the bag of snow with mine as he stood up.
“Help yourself. If you need me I’ll be in the office.” He turned and made his way out of the kitchen again.
I looked down at Jessica who was becoming a permanent fixture against my leg. “It’s just me and you girl.” I poured myself another cup of coffee. Making sure the handle was secured to the side properly.
Just as I took my last sip Jessica ran to the front door in a hurry. By the time I got there she was whimpering and pawing at the floor. I figured she needed to go potty. I pulled on a heavy blue and white flannel jacket hung by the door and slid into a pair of big boots sitting on the floor. I opened the door even though Jessica’s nose was touching the crack. The second the door was open she took off like a bat out of hell. “Jessica!” I yelled as I cleared the porch, clomping into the snow. I rounded the corner just in time to watch her run up a hill. Damn it, now I’ve lost his dog; “Jessica!” It was colder than a witch’s nipple outside. “Jessica. Come. Here,” I called out again more firmly.
I made it to the top of the hill. I could see my breath on every exhale. I climbed up the hill but not without effort. My feet kept sliding around inside the boots causing me to lose my footing on the hill. I slide down once and the ice wasn’t making it any easier either.
I had to get Jessica back or I wouldn’t have a job anymore. I found a plateau on the hillside just as I was about to call out for the dog I heard a loud crack and the ground gave way under my boots. I fell through a few planks of wood scratching the outer parts of my thighs. I was wedged in real good here. It was scary and painful. I had to have scratched the top of my burned thighs as well because they felt on fire now. It was ice cold outside and I couldn’t get free. I tried pushing up on the sides and grabbing hold of the snow and ice covered ground but that was pointless. “Jessica! Come on girl,” I called out to the dog hoping she’d rescue me. Isn’t that what dogs do? I had to get free or I’d really become a human Popsicle out here.
I’d been struggling for months trying to work through this lull. I had to come up with something before I leave to present to Wesley or else I’d have no reason to leave; he’d surely drop me as a client if I didn’t bring him something.
I’ve tinkered around in this office so much in the last 6 month’s and I’ve gotten no where. Layla is a little distracting but it’s nice having some one else around and Jessica sure seems to life her. Speaking of Jessica I haven’t heard her nails clicking on the tile; or Layla for a while. I could use some more coffee anyway.
I went into the kitchen and was heading back to my office through the living room when I felt a cold draft come into the living room from the foyer. I went into the foyer and noticed the front door was wide open. I tried to grab my flannel jacket but it was missing along with my boots. Why did she go outside and leave the door open? I ran outside to check on her when I noticed the boot prints in the snow leading around to the side of the house.
“Travis!” I ran so fast, my heart was pounding in my chest. Something was wrong, I could hear it in her voice but I couldn’t see her. Once I rounded the corner I could see my blue and white flannel sleeves waving in the air.
“Help, I’m stuck. Jessica took off and I fell.” Layla was trying to wiggle herself free.
“Stop moving, you’ll fall all the way through the well. It’s 30 feet down,” I said as I grabbed a hold of her under her arms. “You acres of mountain and you find the only hole. There are much quicker ways to end your life if that’s what you’re intending on doing.” I couldn’t help but to laugh. The look on her face, was a mix of sheer confusion and anger before she started with a pouty lip.
“I’m not trying to end my life,” she said looking up at me with her soft brown eyes, “I’m freezing-,”
“Again,” I finished for her. Just then Jessica came bounding out of the forest, the cold obviously not affecting her. She stopped in front of Layla and licked her face.
“Oh now you come to help” Layla said towards Jessica.
“No, she came to gawk,” I said chuckling as I lifted Layla out of the hole safely. Her skin was scraped up from what I could see through the ripped pajama pants and she was missing a boot. “I assume you came outside with both boots?” I questioned.
“Yes!” She had her arms crossed over her chest as she sat on the cold ground.
“Can you walk?” I asked as I helped her to her feet but she stumbled forward into me when she tried to bare any weight on her left ankle. Looking down onto her face I could see her cheeks were red; from the cold, but her eyebrows were pushed together as she pouted.
“Dang it,” she said against me as I held her up.
“I just finished with physical therapy on my ankles and now I’ve injured them again.”
“What’d you do…hurt yourself vacuuming?” I teased as I looked at her leg and covered up the hole again.
“Just get me inside…please,” she said sternly. As I walked inside carrying Layla back inside I couldn’t help but wonder why she went outside again underdressed for this weather.
“Why were you outside to begin with? We’re in an ice storm. You’re at best dressed for bed, why would you go outside dressed like this, didn’t you learn from yesterday?” I said as I placed her gently on the couch taking a seat on the ottoman.
“I’m not an idiot Travis. Jessica needed to go to the bathroom so I opened the door before she clawed it down. She took off and I was afraid she’d run away and I didn’t want to lose your dog.”
I grabbed an ace bandage out of the bathroom and began wrapping her ankle. “I think you just sprained your ankle. Stay off of it for today and use the ice pack from this morning. You really need to start being more careful going outside in this weath–,”
“No, you listen to me, your not my mother and I can manage my own life without you…ok?” she said firmly with so much anger in her voice it surprised me. “I didn’t put on my jacket because I don’t have one and I was in a hurry. I can take care of mys–,”
“Well apparently you can’t. I’ve saved you tons of money and time from being spent in the E.R. You’d survive in these mountains a lot easier if you’d just listen to me,” I confirmed, “and Jessica chases anything with a heartbeat and she knows her way around these mountains.” I didn’t mean to come across so roughly but this woman is going to get herself killed if she keeps up with the same routine she’s shown me. Layla tried to storm out of the living room with her anger but ended up stumbling onto the floor instead. “Going some where?” I asked.
She began to tear up, “Yes. Just take me to my…er…your guest bed. I want to be alone. I don’t think I’m going to be…able to…live here…while I work…for you,” she said as her chin quivered and traitor tear ran down her cheek.
“Maybe that’s best,” I responded. Maybe she was right, maybe this wasn’t going to work out. I set her gently on the bed and walked out shutting the door behind me. Leaving her to her own devices, beside there’s not much in the room that she can get hurt with.
How could he be so rude? He must really think I’m a moron; I was just trying to save his stupid dog, how was I supposed to know she lives in these mountains like a wild animal. I tried to cry quietly but my hiccups wouldn’t allow that. I was really messing up just being here with him. I was becoming dangerous to be around.
I scooted further under the covers and started getting comfortable and sleepy when I realized my truck is broke down. I couldn’t leave unless I asked him for help again. Maybe I can’t take care of myself like I said. Maybe Travis and Mother were right; maybe I do mess everything up around me.
Not long after I fell asleep, I had nothing else left inside me to cry about, all I could do was sleep.