Chapter 14

Having laid the beautiful woman into his bed, tucking her in with compassion Stephen left the room silently. He could see she was drained from the physical activity. Maybe too the passionate kiss they shared wore her out mentally. The taste of her lips, the salt from her tears till lingered in his mouth. He had a burning love for her that he was sure she matched. So why would she push him from her? The look she gave him when she was tending his chest wounds, it was a look of love. A spark behind her bright green eyes told him she shared it but then the way she froze when he touched her side. His mind was swimming with worries, in circles they kept contradicting themselves. Like a young boy with a flower, pulling the pedals off ‘she loves me, she loves me not’. He was sure the love was there, he saw it, he felt it. It just fluttered away as quickly as it appeared.

The time was far past morning coffee, but his chest burnt from the over use of energy with little substance he had put in. Stephen knew a good quick fix was a steamy black brew. He turned the trusty silver pot on to boil and sat at his home-made table. He cherished the smoothness of this table, wished his wife had seen it through her own eyes before leaving this world. Wished his wife had known the sacrifice he put into this table. Kat only looked at it as another belonging, his wife would have acknowledged the time, strength and art put into it. His wife would have cooed over it for weeks, asking him time and time again the story of how he found the stump, cleaning of the it and varnishing. She would always be mesmerized by the simplest stories told by Stephen, that’s what seemed to keep their relationship interesting. She always fed into the need he had for teaching people. She would happily sit and listen to him instruct her on how to plant a garden, how the rows should always seemingly go east to west and not other ways. Kat showed frustration when Stephen would interject his opinion, she would shrug and go back to the way she had already been building the garden row.

Glancing through the deer hide curtains, he could see the sun was full in the sky now. Gleaming its blithe rays through the glass pane and landing on the table. Picking up the browns and natural teals burnt into the wood from decades of growth. That monster of a tree that had fought against storms time and time again. Resisting winds threatening to rip its roots straight from earth. Those storms creating rings of mastery hidden deep underneath it’s bark. He traced his fingers around the swirls, enthralled by the beauty nature can produce.

The pot of water boiled and spat steam angrily, telling him it was almost coffee time. Stephen wasted not another breath before brewing his French press coffee. Waiting for the beans to heat with the fresh boiled water, Stephen unwrapped the freshly purchased newspaper from the plastic sheathing that encompassed it. The date on the front was nearly a month old now, having purchased it the day he went into Lemoray to retrieve antibiotics for Kat. It was still much newer than what he was used to reading. The last paper he had, he was certain had sat on the back seat of his truck for two months before he unfolded the creases. Leaning against the counter top, pressing slowly down on his silver coffee pot to brew; he read the front page. Again, never happy news.

Local Farmer Charged in Death of Milled Puppies

Chetwynd authorities confirm that local farmer, Joshua Habitua has been charged for Animal Cruelty. Locals had been purchasing breed Huskies from the farmer for near a decade. Recent reports lead authorities to investigate the farm in search of reports of interbreeding and abusing of the dogs.

Huskies, being the most popular breed among the northern community, is popular for dog sledding sports and hunting life styles. Reports were that the animals were being sold without proper vaccinations and occasionally under weight or too soon to be away from the mother. While investigating the property, local authorities found several fresh dug graves sites among the tree line. When excavated it appeared Joshua Habitua had been purposely killing off dogs that passed the age of public wanting to train the dog. It became apparent that if the dog had not been sold by the age of one, the breeder then turned to extirpating the dogs and burying them around his property.

Aside from the few fresh graves that were found, over three dozen old grave sites were located. Among the older grave sites, some young puppy’s corpses were recovered prompting a new investigation. Veterinarian Dr. Dani Lotaskui performed post mortem examination to determine the young puppies had died of starvation and exposure to harsh elements. Proving that Joshua Habitua did not provide proper food, water, shelter or general care for the puppies. The new findings resulted in a second charged of neglect to be laid, and the farm has been reprehended.

The article went on, but Stephen closed the paper and turned his attention back to his coffee. His stomach felt sick reading about the abuse of animals. Even though he was a hunter he still respected and appreciated all creatures. He acknowledged his kills, saying a small thanks to Mother Nature and the animal for allowing him the meat. He used every bone, meat and tissue he possibly could. It was these types of stories that made him not want to read the newspaper. How someone could think in any way that was okay to torture and starve puppies solely on the fact that they were just puppies. This was why he enjoyed living so far out of town, with no news channels, radio stations or word of mouth on the hideous acts of man kind. It disgusted him. He seemed to be continuing a down ward spiral of thoughts, he was getting himself angry. About the dogs, about Kat not reciprocating his love and even the vet doctor that he seemed to be continuously put in his face.

Knowing only one way to get past his train wreck of thoughts; Stephen went about busying himself with ranch duties. He had a large bear he had to tend to and hopefully get it into town within the next day. Meaning he also had to get that truck running, he grumbled out loud at the thought of the truck. With it’s crumpled hood, who knows what the engine looked like. It could possibly just a write off now, or he might spend several hours working on the old girl to have it end up being a lemon from now on. Stephen downed the last remnants of coffee from his mug and glanced at the wood stove, the ambers had burnt down to a soft hearth glow now.

He needed only a small round log to throw on top to keep the cabin warm these days. Soon he would be able to put the fire out for a couple months. He looked forward to those days, not worrying about wood supply and never coming back home to a frozen frost door. Fighting with it for minutes just to open, to end up crouched in front of the stove fighting with wet logs to get a fire started. He exited the cabin and with it, left all the swarming thoughts of craving affection from Kat.

His property was beginning to look alienated, clean up was long past due. The snow was nearly all gone from the warm spring rain earlier in the morning. The dirt mounds turning to slick mud, piles of household compost now exposed needed to be dug into the ground as well. Splinters from wood chopping that had been cleanly covered with snow fall, now exposed and everything just looked messy and unkept. Sadly, the bear was priority. Sitting in a pile in the back of the wooded dog sled. He reluctantly walked to the sled and dragged the bear only to his cold shed. Leaving the sled half sunk in mud just past the tree line.

Stephen couldn’t afford to allow the meat to spoil, and with the sun keeping the day time temperature rising, it would take no time at all for the already putrid bear to begin to stink. He threw open the cold storage shed door and the remnants from the last hunt’s smell lingered. The metallic tin smell from blood clung to the wooden walls and cement floor. Seemingly seeping from each crack in the lumbers, it’s a stench that does not leave easily. Large meat hooks hung from the rafter ceiling, rusted from rain drops leaking in. The large white deep freeze was the only item left sitting in the storage shed, the elk had been removed, butchered and packaged neatly. He pulled one large hook along the steel tracks creating an ear bleeding screech noise. The hooks affixed to the rafters above his head were from previous owners, and drug it to the middle of the room. The ceiling was high which worked great for hanging an animal to bleed out.

With the hook positioned in place he begrudged looked to the mound of bear. The size of the bear was daunting compared to what the elk had been. Stephen had shot and hung bears in the past, this guy was by far the largest yet. He tried to picture lifting of this bear, high enough to reach the hook and all he could picture was falling backwards on his bottom with the stinky garbage eating bear landing on top.

With some great effort, and many curse words during his struggle; he managed to have the bear hanging. He attached several hooks consecutively to have the hooks hang lower to the concrete floor. One at a time he would flip the hooks up towards the roof, making a monkey tree game type of mess in the rafters, but at least the bears hind legs were off the ground. The heaviness of the beast’s body caused the roof to creak and moan, he was sure it would withstand the weight but decided he was not about to stand under the roof while waiting to be sure. He closed the door to turn his attention to the truck, his reliable yellow Chevy that had crashed into the tree.

Kat’s voice startled him from under the truck, he had not heard her walk. He had been so engrossed in fixing the small exhaust pipe that had come loose from the collision. Stephen bumped his head on the thick steel on the under side of the truck as he tried to reposition himself to see Kat.

“What was that?” He asked, he hadn’t heard her words, just the sound of her voice. He was pulled in immediately to her attraction.

“How’s the truck?” She repeated herself, standing just above Stephen who was half hanging out from under the truck. He could smell the freshness of the shampoo on her body. Her fragrance was heaven and he pulled himself completely out from under the truck to see her better. Her hair, recently washed was still wet, laying flat and long; encircling her body. The sun was just past high noon, giving her an angelic glow. Stephen smiled, and she returned the warm gesture.

“It’s good. I think she’ll make the trip no problem. Just minor fixes.” He finally himself up to his feet, his clothing covered in slick mud now. It paid off as he was happily greeted by a kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you! That’s great news” Katarina blushed slightly from the spontaneous kiss she gave him.

“How was your shower?” He asked, looking her up and down. He could imagine how her whole body smelt when it was clean.

“Hot” She laughed, “Do you think you can do me a favor?”

“Anything” He was her pony, he would jump over backwards if she asked him to. She said nothing more, just turned to walk into the cabin and motioned for him to follow. Like a good pony, he wagged his tail and followed eagerly. Covered in mud and grease he never even strayed but walked straight into the cabin with her leading.

“Can you cut my hair?” Kat asked, holding up a pair of heavy steel scissors. They type that last an eternity or more. Her face beaming with excitement.

“Oh?” Stephen was shocked, he had not been expecting that type of a request. Kat pulled a chair out and positioned herself for her the pampering. He knew he could manage the task, it was easy enough to cut women’s hair, but he was shocked by the request. Standing, looking at her with the large grin and equally as stout scissors. She had already made this decision, he knew there was no swaying it. Her hair was so beautiful and long, it was a shame she wanted it cut.

“How short?” He asked placing his hand on the lower hair hanging to her back to indicate possibly just an inch or so off. She pulled his hand up to her shoulders to show him where to cut, resting his palm just above her shoulder blade.

“Here” She replied, and Stephen was without words. He stood silent for another moment until Kat pushed the scissors into his hand and insisted he cut it. Stephen brushed her hair gently, being sure all the knots were gone. He smoothed the long venetian red strands down her back with his hands. Placing the scissors on the table for a moment so he could bask in the illusion of love her hair gave him. Feeling the silkiness between his fingers, he wished he could just tell her no and walk away. What if then she decided to do it herself and made it look crooked.

He sighed and made the first drastic cut. A solid 12-inch chunk fell to his feet. He looked down at it for moment more before cutting the second and third strip. The locks buried his feet and he felt sadness watching them drop. The silver lining was that her neck was now exposed. He could see the full downline of her collar bone. He was shocked she suddenly became more attractive to him, the hair shorter made her appear younger. In an instant she had transformed into another classy woman and he felt more fascinated by her ability to transform.

Kat lifted her hands to touch the newly short bob. She made an appreciative sound and without her turning back, Stephen pictured the size of the smile on her face. The gratefulness she had, made him feel better about cutting all her gorgeous locks off. Her hands twisting and twirling the cut ends, the feeling of the pieces matching together so perfectly was a new game for her finger tips. Lifting the hair up and pulling her hands back down through it, as any woman on a hair dye commercial do.

“It’s perfect!” She squealed.

“Yes, it is.” Stephen replied and couldn’t help running his hand down her now short strands of hair. He wanted his hand to continue to her neck line, he wanted to lean over her and kiss her passionately. To pull all that short hair to the back side of her head and show her was love really meant. She placed her hand on top of his before his palm reached her neck.

“So, we can go to town tomorrow then?” Kat asked, lifting his hand away from her as she turned in her chair. Her free hand was still twisting the ruby locks.

“That’s the plan yes, to trade the bear and you can pick out seeds.” Stephen turned to wash the scissors off in the sink. Adding a small amount of soap to make sure he wouldn’t get hair then on food next time he used his trusty snips.

“Maybe the sheriff will be available? I was hoping to speak to him too” She continued on. Stephen dropped the scissors from shock of her words.

“What for?” He couldn’t help that his reply was callous. He was sacrificing his chore time to fix the truck and drive her to town just for seeds and she wanted to speak with the sheriff? Stephen thought to himself and couldn’t help becoming agitated.

“I want to know if anyone is looking for me.” The chair squealed as she stood from the table. Kat turned to see the expression on his face, but his back was still to her.

“Who would be looking for you?”

“I don’t know. There’s a young girl, I keep dreaming about her. I think she’s my friend, or sister maybe” Katarina explained, her voice becoming excited while she thought of the girl with brown braids again.

“You’ve been gone a long time, you say.” He was unsure how to answer her, he was shocked she was thinking of looking for relatives. He had begun to feel that she was happy and secure with him.

“Yes, all the more reason for me to find out.” Kat approached and stood at his side. “If you were looking for me, you would want to know, wouldn’t you?”

“Know what?” Stephen asked, he tried to keep the sarcastic tone from his voice, but she was talking about leaving him. His blood was thickening, growing cold through the sadness of his heart. He didn’t want her to leave, he loved the company. Even if she wasn’t his wife, she was someone more than no one at all.

“Know that I’m okay. If this young girl is looking for me, she just needs to know I’m alive and well.” She put her hand on his arm, he was not welcoming of the touch. He turned and walked angrily, as a toddler having a stomping fit, out of the kitchen.

“I know you’re okay.” He snapped back as he left the cabin and slammed the front door. He immediately went back to fix the truck. He was irritated, and his anger grew intensely when he heard her boots trudging through the mud to follow him.

“That’s not what I meant.” Kat persisted, Stephen knelt in front of the Chevy and began hammering out the crimple in the hood. The clang of the hammer against the steel drowned out her words but he could see that she went on talking. Her hair added fuel to the fire, is that why she cut it all off? Maybe she wanted to look better for the sheriff? His thoughts were furrowing his brows now, bringing hot flushes to his cheeks. He felt betrayed by her show of affection.

“I need to know my past, I need to know where I’m supposed to be. Where I came from!” Kat raised her voice to carry the words over the banging of the sledge hammer. The steel bending under the weight of his blow, she waved her arms in front of his work to catch his attention.

“I’m not saying I’m leaving here, I’m just saying I need more answers.” Her persistence finally cracked the shell that Stephen had built up. His anger broke out and shattered the peaceful relationship they had built. The red blood in his face flooded his thoughts and he could near see red as he threw the massive hammer through the windshield. Crying out a loud howl such as Tarzan would and snapping his attention directly to Kat, just as she wanted. The sudden out burst caused her to stumble backwards and fall in the mud from the shear energy he put out. Fear had been long gone from her mind by this time, it very quickly returned, full force and nearly suffocating the last bit of will Kat had acquired.  Kat could see the tremors of anger coursing through his arms, causing his hands to shake. As red as his face was, she could feel her face drained of blood as he turned to face her. His knuckles digging so hard into the hood of the truck, it almost appeared he was sinking his finger tips into the crumple.

Stephen’s thoughts were spinning faster than words would come out, he tried to open his mouth, but he saw Kat was stepping backward from him now. He was so angry he felt he wanted to rip the hood off the truck and just scrap the whole idea. Forget driving to town, forget hunting down the massive bear. Forget the cuts he has in his chest just for her, to get her the bear to trade! He wanted to tell her everything he had just done for her, but his vocals wouldn’t work, his mind was too angry.

“For your ridiculous garden!” Were the only words he could force out loud before he stormed past Katarina seemingly to the log cabin. Her face held the painted look of horror, one that causes additional wrinkles to form. She was left standing starring at the smashed windshield behind the crumpled truck hood. The sounds of his foot steps sliding and slopping through the mud broke her fixation on the smashed truck. The sounds behind her caused her attention to shift, as she realized she just heard the found of her small garden wood fence creak open. She sunk to a sitting child like position in the mud as she watched her savior unmask his anger on the little bit of sanity she had.

Stephen was fuming, his body running on auto pilot as his brain spun in a downward spiral of anger. All the work he did around the ranch just for her to taunt him about leaving? The love he had for her was so deep and pure and all she was dreaming of was speaking to the sheriff? His emotions boiled over and he began kicking and ripping the fence ties apart. Throwing pieces of wood in every direction, relieving his exasperation through brute force. Not even caring if one fence pole would accidentally hit the woman sitting in the mud behind him. She had no gratitude for him anyhow.

“Everything I do for you!” Stephens raging voice echoed through the ranch, enunciated by the wood pieces banging against each other. By the time he kicked the last garden tie over, he was out of breath. He stood in the mud, with the sun beating down on his bald head, struggling to fill his chest with clean air. The testosterone slowed, and he felt his boiling over pot begin to slow. It seemingly drained through his body and into the earth below his large rubber boots. His work trousers, stained by oil from the truck, were now covered in splinters of wood and mud and grass. His muscles released the last few twitches before he slumped and calmed.

There were no sounds around him, not even a bird chirping in the distance. All he could hear was his heart beating, slowing to a normal rhythmic tone. He hunched his shoulders as he looked around at the carnage he created in Kat’s garden. The woman he loved so dearly, he ruined the one thing that was grounding her. He looked back to where the truck was sitting against the tree.

Kat was gone, she was no longer sitting in the mud and he didn’t blame her. He suddenly felt ashamed of his outburst. He dragged his feet to the log cabin, head hung low; imaging what a child he must have looked like. The front door of the cabin was open as he approached, Kat was sitting at the kitchen table crying. Her face in her elbow and her chest heaving in a deep sob.

“I’m so sorry” He stepped into the cabin, “I don’t want you to leave.” He explained, he put his heart on his sleeve for her and all he could do was hope she was receptive of it. She sniffled and raised her head to look at him.

“I’ve been alone for so long. Kat,” He sat in the chair next to her and kept his sight to the floor. He truly felt as a child would once they realized of their wrong actions. “I need you here, with me”

Kat’s hand touched his arm and Stephen looked up at her. Her face strained and white, streaked with tears, she sniffled hard again and forced the sobbing to stop. He had no other words for her, he couldn’t tell her he loved her. That would force her away. He was sure she felt the same to him, the way she touched him, the way her eyes knew his soul.

“I am here. I am right here with you.” Kat started and then her eyes trailed back to the door. “But I need to know what’s out there for me. I am still so young, I don’t know who my family is.” Stephen stared at her blindly, he had no words to respond to what she was saying. He lifted his hand to clasp over hers and they sat and stared at each other. Kat finally took another shuddering inhale and turned the conversation.

“Are you hungry?” She smiled softly and removed her hand from Stephen’s arm. The vacancy of her hand left his arm cold in the spot, the realization of her lack of love left his heart cold.

“Yes.” He stated simply and watched her buzz around the kitchen, diffusing the situation with food.

“Is the truck good now?” Kat asked while piling chopped potatoes into the pot. Pouring cold water over top and turning the stove on to cook them into soft pieces of heaven.

“No, I need to fix the windshield now.” He replied, not embarrassed any longer with his earlier out rage which resulted in a broken window. He realized it will buy him extra time with her, he couldn’t bare to see her wanting to leave.

“How will you fix the windshield? You have extra windshield’s kicking around?” Kat chuckled, trying to keep the conversation light hearted. He felt as though she was laughing at him. She pulled some elk steak from the fridge and sprinkled salt and pepper on them.

“No.”

“Then how will you fix it?” She persisted, and Stephen began to grow angry watching how much salt she was putting on his steak.

“With duct tape and plastic” Annoyed that she would not know how to fix a simple hole in a windshield, he stood to take the salt from her. She was still laughing loudly, and the sound was piercing his ears now.

“That’s enough salt” He snapped as he plucked the bottle from her hand, she looked at him with a glint of the fear returning to her eyes. Kat took a step back and Stephen assumed cooking dinner. How could she be so silly with the salt, dumping it on so heavily, he thought to himself.

She didn’t speak another word while he finished cooking the meal. She said next to nothing while they ate as well, Stephen minded no attention to it. He was annoyed from her behaviour today, as if she had become another person in one day.

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