Re-acquaintance. Like old times?
When he got back downstairs, he noticed that the outside barn light was on.
His heart almost stopped. She was back? That must have happened in the last fifteen or twenty minutes while he'd been daydreaming. One of the three clustered lights pointed directly at the house, so was visible, like a lighthouse beacon through the falling snow.
Someone was back, but he didn’t see the four-wheeler parked where it usually was, so Mr. Moranis was still out there.
It had to be Babs!
He felt a sudden, breathless, nervousness; his heart beating like a drum. They would meet again, and very soon, after ten years apart. His legs were weak, and his mind was reeling.
What could he say? How would he greet her? What would she say?
The thought still excited him. They’d parted too soon and in the wrong way, but that had been out of their control. Her father had decided to move her out sooner, for whatever reason.
Steve hadn’t known why that had been. He’d never spoken to anyone; told anyone about those intimate weeks, and how it had so changed his life in every way, but it had shaped him.
Steve quickly made up the fire again, waiting to see if she’d soon come over, and walk into the house. She would be surprised to see him.
He looked out of the window again; nervous, on tenterhooks.
It was surely taking her too long. He had a bad feeling about this, so he got himself dressed to go outside again, and to see if she needed help. He had to do something, just as her father had had to go looking for her.
There was two feet of light snow now, but it was easy to push through. The tractor in that same lean-too would soon make short work of it. It was also early enough in the season that most of it would melt before winter really hit them hard.
He stumbled over her about a hundred feet from the house, about half-way between the house and the barn. She’d collapsed into the snow. Her tracks from the barn were already covered.
He swore at himself for his inattention, and for holding back, pre-occupied in her room. She’d tried to get back to the house but had been too exhausted after looking after things in the barn. She was already being covered with snow.
He dropped to his knees, pulling her to him, lifting her into his arms, and moved over to the house. Her Stetson must still be somewhere in the snow.
She was not responding, and her face was pale, but she was still breathing. He pulled her closer, shocked beyond what words could express.
She was so small and light, relative to what he’d remembered, but he’d been the one to have changed, not her.
He’d grown again like a weed in the few months after she’d gone. He’d been in the middle of that growth spurt when they’d met, while she’d already got over that puberty, growth, thing, mostly. He’d still had a long way to go.
She was just as he remembered her from those few weeks of summer they’d spent together, but she was pale and miserably wet. She was beginning to close-down, having gone beyond even the shivering state.
Her horse had got her home, and she’d put her away, somehow, and shut the barn door.
He’d have to check it, later, but he needed to get her settled and comfortable first, and to the point where he could leave her, to check on everything else.
There was no possibility of calling in a medic at this time of night, or in this weather up here, but he knew how to deal with cold weather situations, having lived in this climate nearly all of his life.