Chapter 15

Katarina cleaned the dishes off the table, Stephen had left the cabin. Mumbling about checking on the hanging bear. Kat hadn’t even responded to his statement before he left, she was a little stunned. Her mind was spinning, Stephen was so gentle, so kind and calm yet he was suddenly seemed beyond irritated with her. She didn’t understand why he was getting so angry with her asking about the truck, he should know she wanted to travel to town. He was the one that had suggested it! She felt it deep in her that she needed to speak with the sheriff, even if no one was looking for her. She had to at least try to reach out.

She concluded that he was possibly just tired and sore from the hunt, she hadn’t done a whole lot to help him. He had pulled the heavy sled back to the cabin by himself and she slept like a princess in the leather hammock. A pang of guilt crept in her mind and she suddenly realized she was taking advantage of this generous man, the man that saved her from her captor. He was feeding her, sheltering her and helping her build a life and her response to him was that she wanted to leave. Kat finished washing up the dishes and placed them neatly in the sink to dry. She stuffed a few more logs into the wood stove, to save Stephen that extra task, and headed to bed. She thought it was best to leave him to sleep now, he must be worn-out.

Laying in her bed, Kat couldn’t seem to find sleep. It eluded her and in place of peaceful rest; she tossed and turned in frustration. She spaced out staring at the walls, trying to find comfort or answers in the shadows of the cabin. The ceiling brought some added entertainment. The wood rafters were low and dusty, she could see cob webs in the corners and tiny insect bodies clinging to fresh webs. Squinting her eyes, she tried to make out where the spiders were hiding. She figured her luck was they hid under her pillow, waiting for her to gape her mouth open and snore so they might find warmth.

She felt a little selfish for taking over Stephen’s bed. It had been months now that he had been forced to sleep on the floor. She could imagine him now, coming back in from the cool spring night, feet cold and muddy. After a long day’s work and having to curl up on the floor. To sleep in front of his own wood stove to sleep with a thin blanket as a strange woman sleeps in his bed. Kat’s chest felt heavier the more she thought about the relationship they had been developing. She felt a sadness to realize to really was a one ended relationship. She has been taking more and more from Stephen and not offering much in return. She determined that she needs to help him more and decided to set the alarm clock beside her to make breakfast for them. She ended up spending far too long fiddling with the old-style bell alarm clock. It had been a decade or more since she had to set one of these things. Coincidentally the concentration of trying to figure it out, finally put her into a deep sleep.

The sunlight glinting through the black out blinds in Kat’s room roused her eyes. She jumped out of bed as quickly as her brain told her it was morning time. She glared at the inanimate alarm clock, scowling it for not working to wake her up early. Throwing on her repurposed jeans of Stephens, that she made into a cute coverall piece for herself; she tips toe quietly out of her bedroom. Stephen was still sleeping under the wood stove, there was almost no glow left from the ambers. It appeared he not stocked it much more than what Kat herself had put into the wood stove. She placed the pot of water on to boil and prepared the two bowls of oats and readied the coffee press. She leaned against the countertop waiting for the water to begin spitting and popping at her. She could see the hood of the yellow Chevy through the kitchen curtain. The windshield had been taped up as Stephen said he would do, and her heart jumped in excitement to think they would be heading into town today. She threw on her pink camo boots and left the cabin to head to the truck.

An invisible tow rope pulled her without thinking to the truck. Her mind in a whirl wind of thoughts about speaking with the sheriff, maybe finding the brunette braided hair girl, locating her family if she had one. Her anticipation took her through the deep mud that had encroached on the ranch, it seeped into her open boots which she failed to properly lace before dashing out the door. Katarina opened the door on impulse, which creaked stridently, and she wasted no time clambering into the driver seat. The steering wheel was thin, cold plastic.

No leather encasing as she would think there should be. She couldn’t conjure up an image of her own vehicle, she was having a hard time even thinking if it was a truck itself or maybe a car. She patted the middle seat, there was a large gash in the leather and the cotton was poking out. Instinctively she stuffed it back into the crack. There was no rear-view mirror, she opened the sun visor to find it missing as well. Strange, she thought. Suddenly it dawned on her that she had not seen a mirror in so long, she couldn’t even think what her own face looked like. She pictured herself as a young beautiful 20 something girl, but maybe her eyebrows had grown together and became a unibrow? The pictures of girls in the newspaper Stephen had brought home, had shown beautiful women with perfectly plucked brows. Kat put her fingers to her own short hair eye protectors, but they felt grossly bushy.

Kat went on touching her face, she tried as a blind person would to envision her own look without a mirror. She became frantic to find a mirror, opening the glove box, looking behind the seats. She used the hand crank to roll down the driver’s side window and found even the side mirrors were gone! Her heart was pounding now; the adrenaline that her confusion was causing choked her throat, she felt as though she would vomit.

She didn’t know how long she had been captured for, maybe her whole family was dead now! Breathing became more difficult and she found herself clutching her own chest, trying to force more oxygen into her cavity to relief the anxiety that was crushing her. The over whelming feeling of needing to locate a mirror was making her bang around in the truck, she was slamming her fist into the glove box. She felt there may be one hidden, just behind a hidden compartment. She was feeling under the seats when she remembered the slit in the leather on the centre seat. It was stashed in there, her irrational anxious mind screamed at her. She began pulling the cotton fluff back out of the rip.

“What the bloody hell are you doing?” Stephen appeared and slammed both his arms on either side of the open truck window. She turned to face him and screamed out in a tortured cry. He pulled the door open just in time to receive her throwing her body into his arms. She was sobbing heavily, and she wasn’t even sure why. The emotions were smacking into each other so fast that her panic turned to grief which turned to horror at the thought her family may be dead, the family she didn’t know.

Stephen’s voice softened, “What is it? What are you doing out here?” His empathetic hands lifting her face, she couldn’t find the right words to say to him. Unsure herself of what had come over her, she felt deflated and empty. She supposed it was a better feeling than the panic that ensued a moment earlier, or the fear that had crept in the day prior. Stephen stood her on her own feet and motioned for her to return with him to the cabin. She leant against him as they walked and nearing the torn apart garden she recalled the horror of watching him destroy the seemingly perfect, now gone, fence. As they arrived at the log cabin door, she no longer remembered why she had been outside in the first place.

“Would you like honey in your oats today?” Stephen asked, holding the clay honey pot up for Kat to see. She was sitting at the kitchen table, her hands folded. Her face illegible of any emotion or thought.

“No, maybe some eggs today?” Kat replied, her stomach was overly hungry this morning and she is dreaming of a pile of cheesy eggs. Oats boiled, with honey just didn’t sound like it would cut her hunger. Stephen stopped mid pour of the water into her oats, he looked back at her with a strange look. His face pinching, almost saying ‘really?’. He dropped the bowl of her oats into the sink allowing the oats to splash dramatically on the back splash of the sink and pulled out a frying pan to cook eggs. She knew there had to be at least two dozen in the fridge, so it shouldn’t be a hardship. It made no sense for him to be angry, he must just be tired. She thought to herself. She sat happily and watched Stephen cook their breakfast. The smell of coffee filling the air, her mouth began to water the aroma was so thick.

The plate was put in front of her in no time and Stephen turned back to pour two cups of coffee.

“Are we going into town today? I would like to speak to the sheriff.” Katarina stuffed a large mouthful of eggs. Stephen had just picked up the cup of coffee to bring to her when she vocalized her question, she was confused as to why the question made him drop the mug, causing it to shatter and coffee to fly everywhere.

“Everything okay?” Kat asked, watching him clean the mess of the coffee. She didn’t move from her chair as she could feel the tension in the room. He was cursing under his breath but not talking to her.

“No, the truck is still not running.” He finally answered. He stood and threw the broken bits of mug into the garbage can and pulled a fresh mug from the cupboard.

“Tomorrow then?”

“Look, I don’t know! I’m working on the truck as soon as it’s running we can go!” Stephen was raising his voice at Kat. He turned to slam the cup of her coffee on the table in front of her and was near snarling. His face contorted with each word he spat out.

“Oh, well, I dreamt of the braided girl again” Kat stammered and picked the mug up. She was unsure why he was getting angry at her again, she just needed to know where her family was.

“God damn braided girl! She’s not real, she’s in your head” Stephen slammed his fists on the table, causing Kat’s half eaten plate of food to jump and clang back down. Her eyes shot wide open and she stared at him, with her cup halfway to her mouth, she just watched him. Stephen took a step back and sighed.

“I’ll work on the truck again today” He turned and left the cabin, his bowl of oats still steaming on the counter beside his cup of coffee.

Katarina was left sitting in the silence of the wood stove. The fan giving a small hum to blow the warm air around the living space. She watched through the kitchen curtain, Stephen stomp seemingly like a child having a fit, towards the truck. He had a small bag of tools in his hand as he walked. She was shocked, the number of out bursts he had had were starting to concern her. There really was nothing she was doing wrong other than asking questions, she had even woken up and started breakfast for them this morning. She found herself tapping her fingers on the table, growing more irritated at the fact that he was yelling at her recently. Deciding enough was enough she pushed herself away from the table and went to the bedroom.

She pulled out her red fur jacket and piled the diminutive amount of clothing that she had sewn for herself, into the centre. Turning the corners into itself, she made a small clothing bindle tied to the end of the broom handle. She couldn’t imagine Stephen sweeping the cabin himself, that had been her job through the winter and spring, he wouldn’t miss the broom anyway. She stood herself up and readied herself for the fight out side.

Stephen had his head deep in the engine of the Chevy truck. The hood resting against his back, since apparently the hood struts had broken as well. Causing the hood to no longer stand open on its own. His jeans were dirty, and Kat could see obvious oil hand prints rubbed down the back side. She cleared her throat as she approached him from behind, the last thing she wanted to do was startle him and cause another out burst.

“Stephen” She spoke his name softly, adding all the fake syrup in the world to ease the blow of what she had to say. His hand came up to lift the hood off his back, so he could turn just halfway to face her. His eye shot straight to the bindle on her shoulder and he stood straight up. Dropping the hood with a loud clang.

“What’s that for?” He pointed to the ball of red fabric slung on a stick on her shoulder. She played coy for a minute by following his pointing finger and pretending to not understand what he was pointing at.

“Oh, these are my belongings.” She smiled, trying her hardest to keep her cool composure.

“Are you going somewhere?”

“Yes, I think it’s best I go back.” Kat stated, holding her ground.

“Go back, to where?” Stephen had a grim smile creeping onto his face. A smile that was mocking her, saying; we both know you don’t know where.

“Well, maybe when I speak to the sheriff. Maybe then I’ll know where” She replied, she could feel embarrassment creeping into her face. Her nerves would give away her indecisiveness. She had no idea where to go, all she knew was the brunette braided girl was calling for her to look. She had to look and if that meant leaving the ranch, then that’s what she would do.

Stephen laughed and wiped his hands on his pants, making them as clean as he could before he approached Kat. Her knees buckled slightly as his rugged face, brushy beard and ice blue eyes came closer. She had to admit, he was a handsome man and the smile he painted on his face was one of seduction. There was no denying she had one or two fantasies about him but there was something larger at play here. Someone from her past that was needing her, plus he was too old for her. Maybe she even had a boyfriend back from where she was from. She attempted at a step backward, but his arm came around her waist and stopped her from moving.

“You don’t want to leave” He spoke sensually in her ear, brushing his face against her own. She had a rush of erotic goosebumps through her body but willed off the desire.

“Yes. I need to, the girl…” She replied, holding strong to her decision. His hand slipped under her shirt and rested on the small of her back.

“But our kiss” He started again, and she felt the heat of his lips touch her neck. The wet of his tongue run up the side towards her nape. She couldn’t deny that she felt aroused, but she refused to give in to his touch.

“I don’t want you to go” Stephen continued, kissing her neck and holding her tight against his own body.

“I have to, I don’t belong here.” Kat finally summoned the courage to break the embrace and step backward. She felt strangely cold now, no longer engulfed in his kisses.

“Yes, you do” Sadness replaced the passion in Stephen’s eyes. He stood and appeared a lost man, his arm still half stretched out for Kat to resume his hold.

“No, I don’t” Kat replied stubbornly, turned and began walking back to the cabin. “The truck will be ready tomorrow, right.” She called back, not so much a question as a statement. She was ready to leave, she was ready to find out who she was.

The day became estranged between the two, Kat could feel Stephen was very unconvinced. She busied herself trying to fix the garden fence. It was quite useless; the fence was broken in so many places. She might as well be building a new one with scrap pieces with how it looked, and she didn’t want to ask for help. She tried to stand the pieces on their own, but they would quiver and fall back to the ground. The mud was almost clay like, it had absorbed so much water she was unsure it would ever grow a proper garden, let alone prop up a solid wood fence. Yet she still pulled the dirt around with a small trowel to create planting mounds. She played into the vision that one day a garden might grow in this place.

Stephen never offered her lunch, and Kat never asked. As the sun began to dip towards the far horizon she realized she would have to speak to him again. Her hunger pangs were taking over again, and she had to make the plans with him as to when they would travel to town. She stood, her pants covered in mud and she felt damp almost to the core. Her clothing was soaked, and mud bogged, she ached for a warm shower and hot food. Kat searched the property for Stephen without luck. The truck was all closed, the barn and storage shed’s doors were both closed as well. She figured the only place he could be was in the cabin, so she turned and headed into the no longer cozy log cabin to hopefully find a happy man.

Walking through the door she found the cabin was empty, it was much too small for him to be in a different room or hidden. The fire was almost completely out, and Kat was already chilled. She stuffed a large log into the wood stove, causing a plume of ashes to spit back into her face. She decided a hot shower would be the best idea. Her bindle still sitting by the front door, she headed to the nook in the wall that Stephen called a washroom.

The warmth of the shower refreshing Kat, making her feel as Wonder Woman does when she spins and becomes an alter ego. Kat is washing away the mud from the garden and awaiting her alter ego, after she speaks to the sheriff and finds the brunette girl. The alter ego that she was stolen from so many years before may return. She just needed to spin off this timid mouse woman that had taken over her persona, she needed to recapture her inner goddess and return to her former life.

Katarina emerged from the shower, feeling that she had a clearer understanding of who she was. Or at least a more focused goal on speaking to the sheriff, to find out who she was. The plan was gyrating in her mind as a train with no brakes, around and around almost making her head hurt from the spinning. She felt relieved when she saw Stephen stoking the wood stove fire and it broke her obsessing on the sheriff.

“Good shower?” Stephen asked, his face calm and controlled as she approached him.

“Oh yes,” Kat replied, “I decided I must still have family. They are still looking for me, surely.” She spoke as though she believed it, however she felt a smidge of doubt creep into her words. Stephen’s face sunk, and he no longer looked happy to engage in conversation. He stepped past her and began opening cupboards.

“Hungry?” He asked simply, not turning back to look at Kat.

“Very. You know, with such a small town; the sheriff ought to have heard if someone went missing.” She continued. Kat was trying her best to convince Stephen it was the right choice.

“And he never came to follow up on your letter.” Kat stated.

Stephen stopped his dinner makings and stood silent for a moment. Kat could feel the rooms energy shift. His shoulders stiff and unmoving, he appeared to have not appreciated the comment. She hoped she hadn’t just called on a fight, her body and mind were too tired for him to snap again. A solid minute passed, and he still said nothing. Kat interjected before the situation escaladed.

“Which is more reason I need to go to him. Otherwise he won’t know where to find me, and my family won’t know where to find me.”

“Yes” Stephen’s voice finally came, and he moved his arms again to continue cooking. “You are right. We will leave in the morning.”

“Great!” Kat jumped up and down and almost slipped on the hard wood floors with her wet bare feet. She pounced over into the kitchen area and began to help prepping dinner. Stephen began to glow with Kat so close, she could see the smile grow on his face. The way he would insist on standing so close to her even while she was doing a task such as chopping an onion.

“So, till tomorrow then.” Stephen nodded to Kat as she headed to bed. The conversation during their dinner was light hearted and easy, she felt that he was beginning to agree with her. That she did need to speak to the sheriff, that she needed to find this girl from her dreams. Kat went to sleep with a heavenly smile on her face. Excited for the day ahead, she dreamt fondly of meeting with the young freckle girl. Hugs expanding forever with her lost friend and a happily ever after ending.

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