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The Stranger

February 25, 2010

I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel, keeping time to the music filling the car. The wipers were moving quickly, trying to stay ahead of the downpour enough to see. It was my own fault, I’d stayed a bit late in town. Now I was trying to make it home in the dark. It was good and bad that I lived so far from town. At least out this far there wouldn’t be any other traffic on the road, but I was also far from anyone else if something happened.

It was sheer luck that let me see you, walking along hunched down in a leather jacket, totally drenched. You were far enough off to the side that you weren’t a hazard but it was almost too far for you to be seen. I heard my father’s voice in my head, “Don’t stop for strangers, you never know who they might be.” But I knew, I couldn’t leave you there. Eventually you’d make it to another town down the road, but you’d have a long wet night of it. I eased off the gas and let the car slow down alongside you. Quickly I rolled down the window and shouted at you, “Get in, it’s too damn wet and cold out. I’ve got a barn on my place, you can spend the night there.”

See dad, I was thinking ahead! I knew the barn would be cold, but not as cold as it was on the side of the road in the rain. At least it was dry. There was even electricity out there and you’d be able to use a heater to get warm. I grabbed an old towel from the back seat as you opened the door and quickly slid inside. “Sorry,” I said. “It’s one I keep in the car for emergencies, but it probably is dusty.” You took it silently, using it to dry they rain from your hair and face, then using it to dry off your jacket.

“Thanks,” you said gruffly.

I tried to get a look at you but without obviously turning on the light, there wasn’t anything on your side of the car but shadows. “How did you get stuck out here in the rain,” I asked as I drove down the road slowly, watching for the mailbox the identified the road to my house.

“Was hitching a ride, got dropped off in town,” you muttered. “On my way to a job in Candera.” You rubbed the towel down along strong thighs encased in jeans, wicking out the moisture all the way down to your boots.

“What kind of job,” I said a little breathlessly. “I know some folks in Candera, but didn’t know there was much call for new hires.”

“Kind of a fix-it man. I can work on cars, build a house, redo wiring, whatever,” you said with a shrug.

You could do everything but talk it seemed. Rather than pester you with more questions I concentrated on the road, soon seeing a reflection ahead. My relief was palpable as I explained “Almost there. That’s my mailbox up ahead.” A minute later the familiar reflecting strips with my address was visible; they seemed to be floating in a see of darkness, but at least now I knew where I was. I quickly turned down the road and put the car in park, preparing to get out and open the gate when you stopped me with a hand on my arm.

“I’ll get it,” you said as you slipped out of the car before I could protest. At least the rain had slowed considerably. As soon as the gate was opened enough I drove through, stopping on the other side to wait for you. As soon as you were, I headed straight down the road for the barn. It was far enough away from the house that I knew I’d be in no danger from you. Besides, I had a sense about you. You wouldn’t hurt me. And you certainly wouldn’t be talking me to death anytime soon. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with such a quiet man when I was such a talker myself.

I slipped out of the car with my jacket over my head, quickly opening the barn door and leading you inside. “It’s not much, and you’ll have some company, but there’s a cot in the back and a small heater.” I pointed out the room that we used to stay in when we had more horses and needed to stay close to watch them. “There’s even a shower of sorts, though I can’t say the water would be very warm. It’s pumped in from outside and there’s been no sun to warm it for days.” I stood on my tiptoes to turn on one of the many bare bulbs strung up high. One of these days I needed to fix that, make them more manageable for someone vertically challenged. You reached up easily and turned on another, slipping past me to finish brightening up the barn.

“There are some blankets in the corner on a bale of hay, you’re welcome to use them.” I watched as you slipped out of your leather jacket, your back to me. More strong muscles were outlined by the wet shirt you wore. I wondered if you wore anything that wasn’t black and then as you bent over to work off your boots I saw a hint of white peeking over the back of your jeans. Ah well there was something at least that wasn’t black I thought. “I’ll leave you to it then, I’m a bit of an early riser so um, I’ll see you in the morning. I’ll make you some breakfast and give you a ride to Candera.”

All the response you gave was a bit of a grunt as you sat down on the cot. I closed the barn down behind me surprised to see that the rain had stopped. The lady moon was showing her face from behind a cloud and stars twinkled around her. Maybe it was going to clear up, but there was still a crispness to the air. It felt late but really it was only 9. It had take me over an hour to get home, what with stopping to pick you up and driving slow. My stomach growled and I realized you probably hadn’t eaten either. I’d fix a quick bite and bring it back to you, something to warm you up and stick to your ribs.

It didn’t take long for me to reheat some of the stew I’d made the night before. I filled one of the handmade stone bowls with a generous helping and placed it and some rolls on a tray. A quick thought had me searching under the kitchen sink for an old thermos of my dad’s. The coffee would only be instant but it would be warm. Hmm, I turned back to the cupboard and sure enough, in the very back, was a bottle of whiskey. The good stuff, a little dusty but that just meant it had been aged to perfection.

I grabbed up the bundle of clothes in one hand while trying to balance the tray and whiskey. Somehow I made it out the door, across the yard, and to the barn. Wrestling with the door, the tray against my hip, it suddenly gave way. You turned, startled, stepping forward into the light as I slipped inside with the door swinging shut behind me.

“I – I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I thought you might be hungry, and cold and didn’t know if your clothes were wet in your bag. There’s coffee and stew and whiskey and oh no I forgot a cup.” The words seemed to spew from my mouth as I nervously set everything down on a bale. “God I’m sorry, I didn’t think to knock first, it was windy and you wouldn’t have heard and I’m sorry.”

“There a shirt in that bundle,” you asked. “Guess I could use one.”

I quickly pulled thermal shirt out and passed it to you, ducking and fussing with the tray. I heard you pulling it over your head and waited. “Um, the stew is from yesterday. It’s got meat in it, I hope you’re not one of those vegetarian people. This is pretty much beef country and it gets served with every meal. The whiskey is old, it was my dad’s, but it doesn’t go bad I don’t think. Coffee is only instant.”

You came to stand beside the tray, now covered up, and poured some of the coffee into the tin cup, adding a generous dose of whiskey. “Whiskey doesn’t get old, it just gets better. Kind of like women.” You looked up at me with a crooked smile. Now that I saw you in the light, I couldn’t imagine how I’d mistaken you for a man. Well, I suppose from the way you were dressed, you were one of those women who liked women. Not that there was anything wrong with it, it was just that this was a small town. You didn’t see things like that here. Although I’d heard of a couple that lived up the road a few towns away. I’d never seen them though.

It was funny, I was looking straight at you, hell I’d even caught a glimpse of breasts earlier; but I couldn’t seem to think of you as a girl. You were nothing like any of the girls I knew. I wasn’t like any of the girls I knew. I’d never been one of the fussy ones; working out on the ranch along side my dad it was easier to live in jeans and boots. Make-up just got wiped off or covered in sweat and dirt. The town girls had snickered at me a little, but I’d never paid any mind. I’d done alright with the boys and I enjoyed their company in bed. I was just quite capable of living without one.

“Okay well, I’ll say goodnight. If you’re up early, come knock on the kitchen door.” I ducked my head shyly and headed for the door.

“Thank you,” you said. “For the rescue, and the food. And the clothes.” It seemed you became more talkative when you warmed up – both physically and socially. I caught a glimpse of a gleam in your eye as I slipped out, something that sent a shiver through me. I couldn’t help but feel that maybe I’d picked up trouble along the road that night; either trouble or a big change.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. Blazer permalink
    February 25, 2010 10:10 pm

    I am in awe of people with the ability to tell stories that transport me to a different place, as if I am actually there as a witness. You have that talent. I am really enjoying your writing, this is now my new favorite.

    • sweetspice permalink*
      February 25, 2010 10:13 pm

      Seriously, you just made my day. Totally. Thank you.

  2. February 26, 2010 8:02 am

    I have to agree with Blazer, what a great piece! Gonna continue?:)

    • sweetspice permalink*
      February 26, 2010 10:16 am

      Thanks darlin’! I do have definite plans to continue this one.

  3. thepinkpoppet permalink
    February 26, 2010 10:10 am

    Please say you are gonna continue this.

    • sweetspice permalink*
      February 26, 2010 10:17 am

      That is the plan – but you never know if these two will cooperate *grin*

  4. Truly permalink
    February 28, 2010 11:00 am

    I really enjoyed this. Your style is so evocative, and yet restrained (very refreshing!). And nice job building the tension between the characters, too. I’m looking forward to the continuation.

    • sweetspice permalink*
      February 28, 2010 12:56 pm

      What a great compliment – thank you! I’ll be definitely continuing this one.

  5. March 8, 2010 4:35 am

    girlfriend! How have I been missing out on your blog all this time? I’m ashamed of myself. You are a wonderful storyteller…and, as that is the genre that I prefer…is probably the highest compliment I can pay. I just loved this and can’t wait to read more! Huzzah! xoxo

    • sweetspice permalink*
      March 9, 2010 9:53 am

      I thought I replied to you but evidently it didn’t work. Thank you for that great compliment! I definitely plan on seeing where these two go.

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