Author’s Note: Once again Tim413413 has proved his mettle correcting my grammatical ignorance and logic flaws. Thank you sir!
The new snow hung like frosting on the evergreens. It was simply beautiful. Last night’s snow had refreshed the whole mountainside and the morning sun made it glitter. The air was crisp, but not overbearing. I could still breath comfortably and my fur-lined boots were easily keeping my toes toasty. I stopped briefly to take it all in. This was nature’s finest show. A brownish hawk was circling high in the sky off to the west. There was no wind and the winter silence was thick in the air. The only unsettling things were my footprints that had marred the perfect landscape. Even the snow-covered cabin, with its slow-smoking chimney pushing up through the fresh whiteness, looked like it belonged.
I took a deep breath and smiled at no one. The logs weren’t going to move themselves so I violated the landscape some more by brushing the snow off the wood pile. I had enough stacked to last a month. That’s all I really needed since I wasn’t planning on needing any after the end of the year. I just wanted to enjoy the world without anyone else in it. Just for a while. Long enough to quiet my brain and center my thoughts. I didn’t want to think about work, family and civilization. It is harder than you think to not think about something. The silence and scenery helped. Being alone had me cheating once in a while. Playing back scenarios, wishing I had acted differently, keeping my mouth shut instead of sticking my foot deeply down my throat. It was difficult to forget, but I had bourbon to help me through.
I had stocked a full case of Woodford Reserve. I had asked the owner of Tri-County Liquor for the best that money could buy. He didn’t hesitate to recommend Woodford Reserve with the seasoned oak finish. I spent my life buying the cheapest so it made sense to splurge now. This was my time. I couldn’t tell you if it was the best bourbon; I only knew that the owner of Tri-County Liquor thought it was. It took him a month to secure the case so at least it was more rare than most. That, and its smoothness, made me happy. December was all about my happiness. Sitting by the fire in my warm cabin with a glass of Woodford made me happy.
I grabbed a few pieces of firewood off the stack. I knew it would take me about ten trips to get a day’s worth inside. This type of work never bothered me. Mindless manual labor was refreshing. It allowed me to think about other things and be productive at the same time. Packed in each of these logs were minutes of warmth. The job was necessary and fulfilling. There was no wasted effort, nothing to coordinate and certainly nothing to justify. It was simple, healthy work that didn’t require a committee and ten meetings to complete. This was life at its core. Simplistic and satisfying.
There wasn’t any power, not even a generator. I had oil lamps for light and a fireplace for heat. Nothing else was needed. No cellphone, not that it would work on the mountain, no TV and no internet. This was my Christmas present to myself. Total isolation. Time to breath, refresh and forget.
I am an accountant. That alone should speak volumes regarding the tedium that is my life. My marriage failed a year ago. That was last year’s Christmas present. She told herself lies as to why, but I knew it was rooted in boredom. I knew I was bored and didn’t really have the energy to generate newness in the relationship. Love had always been enough for me. I didn’t need much else. For her, it wasn’t nearly enough so we threw away seventeen years and pretended it never happened. I didn’t even fight it. I released her from my bog of nowhere so she could find some happiness. I still loved her, I just didn’t care about her enough. At least, that is how she put things. It hit hard when she quickly found someone who did care. I was easily replaceable. My mark on this earth was tenuous at best.
It took me eleven loads of firewood to assure a warm night’s sleep. Except for cooking, my workday was done. I finished the last of the coffee and headed out into nature. The cabin was in a clearing about the size of a football field. It was surrounded by trees that sloped downward to the south. I always went to the north, higher and closer to the top of the mountain. It seemed more isolated, more free and certainly farther from humanity. The snow wasn’t too deep yet. They told me it would be much deeper, but it was barely knee high and under the trees it was only half that. Maybe it was global warming or maybe just a random roll of the winter dice.
I trudged to the trees ’til I could relax my step. I had seen deer a few days ago and hoped to see them again. They fit into my quiet winter wonderland, nuzzling their snouts into the snow, looking for vegetation. They didn’t need all that mankind had created. They had no stress or sense of wanting more. They were just here and they seemed to like it. That is how I wanted to feel. I had felt that way Bostancı Escort once, long ago. I wanted it back. I wanted to be happy just being me.
The trees were calming. A lot of the branches looked comfortably sleepy, bending low with the new snow. Every now and then, one of the branches would release its burden in a shower of white and bounce back to a stronger look. I moved through the white forest slowly, relishing the lack of human trespass. I disturbed some small bird that chirped its way into the sky and flew off to parts unknown. I could see the snow-covered mountain tops in the breaks of the trees. They were tree-barren with jagged rock outcroppings. More majestic than friendly and many miles away.
A sharp reflection, from my left, attracted my eyes. It was too intense to be a glare off the snow. I headed off to investigate and caught a few more mirror-like bursts on the way. I neared a dead tree, ancient by the look of it. It was just a trunk standing tall with stubs where all the branches once grew. Near its base, two chrome handle bars stuck out to either side like antlers. At first I thought they were from a motorcycle. As I closed the distance, it became obvious that a snowmobile had ended its journey on the other side of the tree.
Last night’s snow had covered a good portion of the machine. I wouldn’t have noticed it if it hadn’t been for the handles sticking out into sun. There was a small indent of a trail, mostly covered by new snow, that led directly to the tree. I brushed the snow off the front and realized the machine was totaled. The front end had collapsed into the tree, obviously destroying any of the steering and controls. The machine was cold so it had been there a while. That the trail was even slightly visible, indicated it happened sometime last night. I quickly brushed off more of the snow and looked around for footprints. I knew the snowmobile didn’t drive itself.
An even fainter trail lead off to the east. It was barely noticeable in the new snow. I followed it to a large evergreen with low-hanging branches. I lifted one of the large green boughs and caused a powdery shower that obscured my view. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what was under the tree. I also couldn’t leave without knowing. The snow slowly settled as dust onto a puffy, blue down parka. I saw one boot and knew the other was beneath the snow. My first thought was to turn and leave. It was quickly followed by the human duty to make sure the rider was dead.
It wasn’t that I was squeamish. I just hadn’t been around many dead bodies. I wasn’t sure what I could even do about it. I had isolated myself on purpose. No one was coming back until March and I had no way to contact anyone. It wasn’t my plan to contact anyone ever again. Thoughts of dragging the body back to the cabin, burying it the snow until spring or building some kind of coffin cluttered my brain. Just the thought of that was ruining my mountain. Maybe I could build a marked trail to the site here. That seemed a bit more reasonable. The rider couldn’t have come up here alone. There had to be someone looking.
I crawled under the tree and slowly rolled the body on its back. It wasn’t stiff like I expected so I crawled closer to the head. A woman’s face, half-covered in dried blood, was framed in the hood of the parka. She looked thirtyish with light brown hair. Her expression was soft and serene. The stress I expected to see in her face just wasn’t there. A light puff of breath escaped her nose into the cold air. She wasn’t dead. I removed my glove and felt her pale face with the back of my hand. It was very cold. She wasn’t dead yet, but she was close to it. I suspected she wouldn’t have made it much longer if I hadn’t come along. I wasn’t even sure she would make it with my help.
I dragged the shoulders of her parka and slid her out from under the tree. I was a good half mile from the cabin. She needed warmth and I didn’t have confidence I could carry her more than a hundred feet. The snow was too deep for that. She certainly wasn’t waking up on her own and the blood indicated a head injury. I needed some kind of sled.
I went to a smaller evergreen and crawled in among the branches. The lower boughs were less than an inch thick at the trunk. I stepped up on a branch and jumped a bit until it snapped. I repeated the process until I had sheared off four branches. I ripped the straggling tendons free of the tree and brought the branches out. They were about five feet long with a good bed of green foliage. I laid them together and grouped the sappy trunk ends together. My gloves were already pretty sticky when I slid the woman’s body onto the makeshift sled. I had the bulk of her weight on the branches with her booted feet trailing off the end. I merged the thick ends together and pulled.
The going was slow and I was thankful it was basically downhill. It took me a good half hour to drag her back to the cabin. The small trail of debris behind us spoke well of the sturdiness of the Kadıköy Escort makeshift sled. My gloves were covered in sap. I had to remove them before I half-lifted, half-dragged her limp body into the cabin. I laid her on the rug before my dwindling fire. I threw on a few more logs and it quickly turned back into a small inferno. She hadn’t moved a muscle during the entire process. I feared she may be injured more than I had the capability to deal with. It was a moot thought, she was here now and I would have to deal with it.
Once the room temperature warmed up, I returned to my guest. She still hadn’t moved. I felt her face and it still felt way too cold. I figured the first thing to do was to get her out of her jacket. By now, it may be doing a good job of keeping the heat out. I unzipped the full-length parka and was surprised to see nothing but jeans and a UCLA t-shirt underneath. Not the type of clothes I expected on a seasoned snowmobile rider. It took some time to get her arms out of the parka. I noticed her body’s core temperature was way down. Her entire body had an aura of cold radiating above the skin. I wasn’t sure how much a body could stand, but this just felt way out of line.
When I removed her boots, I was met with ice cube-like bare feet. No socks, just feet on the verge of turning blue. I had seen enough movies and documentaries to know what I should do in this type of situation. I had to use my body heat to quickly warm her. Her t-shirt was thin enough, but the jeans had to go. I undid the button and prayed that, unlike her feet, she had something on underneath. Sensible lime green panties let me breath a sigh of relief. I know this was a clinical situation, but I was a man and naked females always sent the brain the wrong message. I slipped off her jeans and grabbed the thick quilt off the bed. Her body had started shivering slightly. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.
I took a deep breath and striped to my t-shirt and boxers. I threw another log on the fire, laid down beside her and wrapped us like a mummy. She was an ice cube. I had never felt anyone so cold. I rolled her on her side and spooned into her. I hugged her close to me and tried to maximize my surface area to hers. I could feel breathing. It was shallow, but consistent, which I took as a good sign. I ignored her blood-matted hair for now. The wounds didn’t seem to have fresh blood, so I figured it could be dealt with later.
It wasn’t long before I recognized she was a sexy ice cube. All I had to do was lie there so my brain wandered. She was slim and tight. Her butt felt like it was designed by Joseph Pilates himself. I forced my brain back to more important things as her shivering increased. I couldn’t think of what else to do. I lay there and held her. Her body would go through a small set of shivers then stop. I think she was getting warmer; either that or I was getting colder. I whispered encouragement to her, telling her she was going to be fine. She wasn’t responding, but I kept up the soft rhetoric in hopes she didn’t freak out if she came to.
I woke in a sweat. I had fallen asleep and the cabin felt like it was a hundred degrees. The first thing I noticed was the woman was gone. I sat up quickly in a panic and was met by a weak smile from the couch.
“Hi,” the woman said with little confidence. She was wrapped in the blanket from my bed. I was glad to see she wasn’t shivering. Her eyes were unexpected. For some reason, I had pictured brown eyes with tiny pupils. Although her face looked exhausted, her eyes seemed alive. They were a different kind of blue, almost a powder blue. Her pupils were strong and steady. They weren’t shying away like her voice.
“Ahh…hi,” I fumbled, “I’m sorry about the intimacy. You were pretty cold and that’s the only thing I could think of.” I pulled the quilt back over my shorts. I was underwear to underwear with her a short time ago, but now it felt uncomfortable. Her eyes sparkled a bit and fine lines radiated from the corners of her eyes as she smiled.
“I know. I’m just glad I wore underwear today,” she said offhandedly. I blushed, more at my previous thoughts than at her humor. “Since we’ve already slept together, I guess I owe you a name. Julie.” She pushed her hand out from the blankets toward me.
“Bill,” I responded as I shook her hand lightly. It felt warm so I knew the worst was over. I noticed the blood was cleaned off her face and her hair didn’t look as matted. “Your head okay?” I asked, gesturing to her left side.
“Yes, I guess so. It was more of scrape than cut,” Julie answered, “I think I may have ruined one of your towels cleaning up.” She had a look of contrite concern, like someone who had unwittingly overstayed her welcome and was asking for even more time. The look was appealing that I smiled on instinct.
“No worries,” I responded casually, “can I get you something hot to drink – tea, coffee? I might even have some hot chocolate packages I stole from the hotel on my way here.” Göztepe Escort I looked around the cabin, trying to remember where I stashed the chocolate.
“Chocolate sounds divine,” Julie answered with a look of hunger, “I still feel so cold on the inside.” She shivered a bit, giving evidence to support her comment. I found the chocolate in my travel bag. I had enough for three cups so I decided I would make coffee for myself. Usually, I am a bit more selfish, but I felt I had a doctor-patient commitment right now. If she liked chocolate, she could drink it all. I fired up the propane stove and put on a kettle.
“How did you end up piled into a tree?” I asked as I fished cups out of the cabinet. There was an uncomfortable silence I let brew a bit before I turned back to Julie. She wasn’t looking at me; she was looking at her hands while playing with the edge of the blanket. At first, I thought she didn’t hear me. I was thinking about repeating, or maybe waiting to ask her later, when she raised her head.
“Is it okay if we don’t talk about it right now?” Julie’s voice was quiet and her eyes were pleading. I didn’t expect there to be any intrigue about the situation. It was just my brain trying to put together the pieces. Of course, her question led to a bunch of speculation.
“No problem,” I smiled kindly. I suddenly remembered I was walking around in my boxer shorts. I moved quickly to my pants and, with a little blush, donned them quickly. Julie’s smirk was adorable. The one-room cabin was going to severely limit our privacy. At least my embarrassment got us off the accident topic cleanly.
“So why are you up here, Bill?” Julie asked to break the silence. I was about to make a joke and repeat her dodge back to her, but I resisted. I didn’t want to build any more regrets since I had so many already.
“Just a getaway,” I answered, “you know, leave the rat race behind. Get back to nature and unwind.” I shrugged my shoulders to make it plain that I didn’t have any single driving reason. I did, but that was for me alone. “I used to come around here with my dad when I was young. I still think this is the most beautiful place in the world.” I moved toward the kettle that had begun to boil. “This time of year is the best, not horribly cold and the fresh snow makes everything so…clean.”
“It is beautiful,” Julie agreed, “and so quiet. Why aren’t you sharing it with someone?” I felt she was inching into my life story. I didn’t want to rethink my past. I came up here to forget it.
“There isn’t anyone right now,” I said, not wanting to go any deeper than that. I ripped open a hot chocolate package, poured the contents into a cup and filled it with the boiling water. I set up the gravity coffee machine and pulled the boiling kettle off the burner. “What about you? Someone roaming the mountain looking for you?” I didn’t want to go back in that direction, but she was digging deeper than I wanted to go. I figured she would get the message and we would change the subject.
“Nope, all alone,” she conceded and then quickly changed the subject, “that cocoa smells delicious.” I was expecting evasion. I was surprised she told me she was here alone. The way she was dressed didn’t quite jive with her answer. She didn’t look like the type that would come up this far alone. Then again, I suspected I didn’t look the type either. Even though my brain wouldn’t let it go, I made sure my mouth did.
“Here we go,” I said cheerfully as I brought over her cocoa, ” this should warm you up nicely.” Julie carefully took the steaming cup. Being within arm’s reach, I noticed her head wound wasn’t as clean as she thought. “Pardon me,” I said as I hesitantly moved some of her hair back behind her ear. She shivered a bit at my unexpected touch. “You still have a bit of bark in that scrape. I think we should clean it. This is not the place to get an infection,” I reasoned.
“Okay,” Julie agreed, “right after the cocoa.” She smiled and blew across the cup before taking a sip . “Oh, that feels so good.” I could hear the relief in her voice. “I’ve never been so cold in my life.” I went back to pour a cup of coffee. I wasn’t sure why I felt good about her liking the cocoa. I was enjoying it as much as she was. I poured a cup of joe and joined her on the small couch.
We talked about small stuff. Julie was excited to hear about my deer sighting. It was rare to see them this high, this time of year. I explained the workings of the chemical toilet. That got me a few grimaces, but the alternative was outside in the snow. We laughed at each other’s stupid jokes and talked about the latest movies and TV shows. She read romances and I read spy novels. We decided they were basically the same thing. One just had more action. I let that point slide a bit. Julie was incredibly easy to talk with, as long as we stayed away from personal history.
Once Julie finished her second cup of cocoa, I collected a washcloth, a bowl of water and some spray antiseptic I found in the cabin’s first aid kit. I sat on the couch and asked her to lean over a bit so I could get a better look at the scrape. Unexpectedly, she laid her head in my lap and hugged my leg. I was surprised by her trust, but I guess we did just sleep with each other.