Two hours later it was still snowing hard. It had even picked up, with a freshening wind from over the nearby mountains, causing it to blow around. This kind of weather was common up here once winter began. This was the first major storm of the season, and it was early.
Steve began to worry now. He should have heard something from Mr. Moranis by now, surely. They’d be drifted in by tonight for sure, so Bab’s father was stuck out there. He prayed that Mr. Moranis had found her and that neither of them were caught up in this.
It didn’t look good. Visibility was down to maybe a hundred feet and getting worse. It was getting dark, too.
Mr. Moranis had mentioned the possibility of a loss of electrical power in the house if any trees came down across the lines, so had told him about the fire, and the generators. Steve and his father had installed those two generators; a small one, for essential services, and a large one for the whole house and the upstairs heating, he knew all about them. Wet snow, lower down the mountain, might bring trees down, but the snow up here was too light for that.
Her father also been well enough outfitted when he went out on the four-wheeler, that he’d have little difficulty in this weather. Steve should stop worrying about him.
He put on the outside lights, to guide anyone back in. One had to be prepared for anything in this weather.
Babs; the first girl he’d fallen in love with, and the last, was still somewhere out in that. He hadn’t known she’d just come home until a short while ago, when her father had told him. That news had hit him hard; ate at his gut, but the older man hadn’t noticed. Fortunately.
Ten years apart from the girl, the woman one loved more than life itself! A lifetime.
How would they greet each other?
What would they say to each other after all of this time, with them parting as suddenly and unexpectedly as they had?
Would she feel guilty about not having written?
She’d written. He knew that. He just hadn’t got them, but hadn’t understood why, at the time. He knew why his own letters hadn’t got anywhere and why they’d been returned.
What would she say?
What would he say?
If, she got back.
He shrugged, knowing that he would have to be patient, no matter how he was feeling.
That time, ten years ago, was water under the bridge. It was both prologue, and epilogue to their brief, exploratory, love affair. But it was something he would never forget for as long as he lived. He still felt nauseous, thinking about that loss.
Everything in his life, had been shaped by that first encounter… that first love… that first experience of a woman in the most wonderful and memorable way, unfolding over the next few days as they had.... And they certainly had!
Nothing else he would ever do could ever come close to that.
He sighed heavily and turned away from the window. He had to ‘do’ something.
He dressed warmly and walked around outside of the house, looking back at the windows and up at the roof, getting an impression of the weather, and seeing that everything was closed up as it should be. He’d check inside too.
That window up there on the corner, was to Bab’s bedroom. He’d spent a lot of time up there in her absence, as he’d worked in different areas of the house. He’d also day-dreamed of what they’d had; what they’d shared together as they’d progressed on their voyage of discovery with each other.
He’d wandered the upstairs at that end of the house taking measurements, writing them down on his sketches while sitting in that empty room at her desk, looking around, soaking in what she had seen and felt, lying there in that bed and undoubtedly thinking about him after they’d parted, just as he’d thought of her. They had both been impatient for the next day to come, and their next explosive sexual encounter at the lake.
He’d often talked to her up there in that room; had poured his heart out to her. Except, she hadn’t been there.
She must also have been thinking of him in those last days and weeks. Their minds could almost have linked across that distance from their respective beds, dreaming about what they’d just shared and done; all of which left him breathless and aching for that time again.
It had all been new to him... a mere youth, barely into puberty, and he couldn’t help being aroused with anticipation, thinking only of her at those times, just itching to get out after lunch and head to the lake, knowing she would be there, waiting just as eagerly for him, and just has ready for them to continue what they had been doing, and to make love yet again. The progress they had made together in that brief time still amazed him. There were times it seemed more like a dream than a reality.
They’d soon got to that intimate stage as the barriers between them had come down, but it had been touch and go after that one day that had suddenly turned difficult for them both after she’d taken him off guard and exposed him.
There’d been no clues left in her room as to where she was at school. As far as he’d known, she’d never come home again after that. She’d also not written to her father-- that he knew about-- to give him any direction, and her father never spoke of her to him. Why would he? He’d known nothing of what the two of them had been doing at the lake. No one had known that, but it had taken a little while for Steve to convince himself of that.
Everything in her room had been neat and tidy, and he’d left it that way. There were a few photographs of her from that time, of her family and brothers. Steve had studied them each time he’d come up here as he’d passed through the house, making changes. There were her dolls, sitting on the dresser overseeing everything. What had their lifeless eyes not seen as she’d undressed? He envied them. In the corner was a large doll’s house. Bookcases, holding scores of well-thumbed childrens’, and girls’ books.
Steve always left everything as he found it, tidying his work up after himself to leave no trace that he had been there. This was a sacred place to him. A shrine. He would not defile it with his difficult, typically male thoughts and feelings.
However, at this moment, in this storm, he would never be able to relax until he knew that she was safe and that her father was also safe, so he’d had to do something rather than to just sit and wait.
He paused in his walk around the house, and looked around. There was nothing to see but snow, and the few lights of the house. He listened… nothing to hear either, except for the rustling of falling snow on his coat.
The snow deadened everything.
The large disc-shaped thermometers around the outside of the house said it was getting cold. Ten degrees of frost so far, though it was usually about that temperature, when it snowed. It had been close to freezing when he’d driven up. At least his car was an all-wheel drive, and it was now under cover and out of this.
He checked the generators for fuel and oil. All Full. He’d filled them over a week ago.
When he got back in, he saw that there had been no call from Mr. Moranis just yet. But he would have made only slow progress getting up there, so he shouldn’t be so concerned for him. It was Babs that worried him.
Gallaghers had refurbished that distant cabin too, getting everything in by helicopter; two lifts in one day, rather than struggling for a week up a poor road. It had been cheaper with the helicopter.
Steve made up the fire, and wandered around the house, inside this time, checking again that all windows were fully closed and that everything was secure: no snow blowing in anywhere.
He checked in her bedroom again. He’d always been drawn there whenever he’d been doing work at that end of the house.
This time her room was different. She, the woman he loved, had been here since he’d last been in the house a few days earlier.
There were clothes lying on her bed; clothes she’d worn earlier that day. She’d slept here for the first fifteen years of her life, and even for the last few nights, from what her father had said about her recently coming back home.
Had she thought about him, any of those last few nights she’d put her head down on this pillow. He wished he’d known. Why hadn’t she contacted him? If she had, he’d have come up here lickety-split that same day she’d arrived. There was always work to do somewhere up here, but he would have been too damned obvious, wanting to see her, and only her. He’d always been too obvious in his feelings for her, and that was what had come close to spelling his undoing with her.
Her being home now, for the first time in such a long time, was a haunting thought. He couldn’t help himself, but picked her clothes up from where she’d tossed them, as she’d changed to leave the house...angry at her father... and buried his face in them, needing to smell her, and to sense her again. However, as exciting as that was, it still wasn’t her. He wanted the real woman who’d been wearing these with him now, not just a memory of her.
There were so many memories floating around in here for him, as well as for her, concerning those too few days they’d been together, learning everything there was to learn about each other, and experiencing that one amazing night at the lake together, before everything had come to a crashing end for them both.