And really get turned about.
She felt much better now after eating and resting, knowing that she was safe, and that all of her questions would soon be answered, though many of them already had been answered by the way he’d tended to her needs and had been looking at her.
There’d been no gold ring on his finger, but she would have heard if he’d married. Her mother still kept in touch with friends in Cardon, and with her father.
Her mother had known something about her and Steve too, having asked a few, seemingly innocent questions, but not everything, and none of the delicate, or very personal bits. At least her mother had never said anything in any detail.
Steve came back after another thirty minutes.
She took one look at him and launched herself from her bed in front of the fire, concerned for him.
“What happened to you?”
He presented quite a sight. He was wet, and dirty. His hair was messed up, covered in horsehair, hay, and other unmentionables, as though he’d been rolling around in the barn.
He was shivering too. At least he’d left his boots and outer coverings at the door.
He was favoring both arms and one hand was bleeding.
“I was attacked in the barn by a donkey, no less.”
“Spiro? I thought you knew about Spiro. You said you work around here.”
“I know about him now. But, no. I didn’t... before. And he didn’t know about me either. I don’t work at the barn. Why did he attack me like a dog?”
She explained. “Because that’s what he does. He’s a guard donkey. We still have a few of mom’s sheep, and he protects them from coyotes and wolves. You didn’t warn him you were coming in by speaking to him. He’s a donkey of very little brain but with a tremendous sense of being a guard animal.
“Like I said, he’s used to keeping coyotes and wolves away from the sheep. There’s a llama somewhere in there too… Juanita. She does the same thing. She would spit on you, and kick. It’s off-putting to a stranger, or an intruder. Those two don’t get on well together.”
Spiro wanted to hump everything on four legs, and constantly tried, but Juanita wanted none of him.
Babs looked at his hand, seeming to know what she was doing.
“It needs to be cleaned off.” Spiro had broken the skin in a few places.
“When was your last tetanus shot?”
“Two months ago. I work a lot outside, in summer”.
“Okay, then I won’t give you another one.”
“You know about all of this?”
“I should. I came back to work in the local hospital.” (As well as to to find him).
“It looks like I can return the favor for your helping me earlier.”
She took him by the arm. She was in charge now.
“Come with me. At least I’ve now regained most of the use of my hands and arms, where you have lost that use for a while.”
She led him into the bathroom, beginning the water and letting it fill the bath.
“Now it’s your turn to strip off.” She would enjoy this.
She undid his belt and the buttons on his shirt to get him started. He slowly got rid of almost everything as she helped him here and there, especially helping him with his socks, as he sat on the toilet lid.
He left his underwear on.
She smiled, seeing that. He was as shy as he’d been as a boy, and yet he was no longer a boy, but a grown man and one who seemed to thrive on hard work. That was the story his breathtaking body told her, with not an ounce of fat anywhere on him.
He’d not been anything like this when she’d first known him.
He had bruises developing on his arms and his chest.There was other bruising from obvious teeth marks, but no breaks. Those had happened through his thicker clothing.
Spiro had done quite a job on him.
She said nothing, helping him into the bath to sit down, as she directed the water up to the shower head for him, and did for him, what he’d done for her to get her warmed up, but using a more exploratory touch over his obvious bruises and contusions.
“I’ll see to your hand properly, later. What else do I need to know? Did he kick you?” It looked like it.
“Kick me? And how! I was lucky to get out of there alive. He bit me, kicked me, barged into me, until I pushed him off me and then I put him onto the ground like a steer and sat on him before he killed me.
“I’d grabbed what I thought was a halter off the wall, except it wasn’t a halter, but it was almost as good, maybe better. It was a hobble for the lead ram, (to stop it jumping fences or clambering over walls and leading the other sheep out of wherever they were). I did a short diagonal hobble on him, front right leg, to back left one. He couldn’t kick after that and couldn’t extend himself to run at me. He’d also lost the urge to bite.
“He’s staggering around now in the barn aisle, frustrated with me, and harboring a life-long grudge, now that he can’t kick.”
She listened to his tale of woe.
“Apart from that, the two horses over there are comfortable, and have food and water, as well as blankets.”
“Thank you for doing what you could. And I’m sorry about this.” She genuinely felt sorry for him.
She washed over him, as he’d done for her, and even washed his hair too as he sat there, letting her. There was still plenty of hot water. His hair was short, so everything would wash out of it easily enough.
He was achingly conscious of her breasts, swinging tormentingly, speaking to him from inside her pajama jacket as she leaned over him.
He wanted to find out more, but he knew that he shouldn’t.
She paused, looking at him closely, deciding to take the bull by the horns, knowing what she was seeing.
“You don’t need to be shy, Steve. Not anymore, surely. We were never shy with each other for those last few days.”
She’d used his name at last. She knew who he was.
Of course she knew who he was.
“Not after our history and the way we were with each other that last night we had together. I wanted another day or two at least with you for a repeat of all of that, and every holiday after that too, but instead I got exiled for ten years, not knowing why. It was all, totally out of my control.”
He wanted to hear about that.
He couldn’t meet her eyes. He still had soap on his forehead, and it would get into his eyes if he looked up to see what he could see in her expression.
He’d seen some of it when he’d got her dried and dressed, and had brought her food. It had set his hormones churning again and let him feel optimistic.
It didn’t seem to match what he’d begun to believe in those intervening years about why he hadn’t heard anything. He’d been depressed, helpless to change anything. The worst part had been knowing nothing.
It would all come out, soon enough.
He asked her a simple question. The serious ones would come, later.
“When did you know who I was, Babs?”
…as if his own too obvious body, and his excitement for her hadn’t given him away.
She paused in what she was doing.
“You’d changed, Steve, but so had I. It took me about two minutes to know who you were, and then I saw you blushing and noticed just how intent you were on my breasts, as I remembered someone else doing… they always did fascinate you… and about the rest of my body, among other things.
Dead give-away. But she’d been just as interested about him back then, and she was even more interested now.
“It was your eyes… mostly. But the clincher was when you paused on my hand, and saw that I still had that twine ring on my finger after we’d got married, the way we did. I regarded it as our marriage, but then I was a girl, and girls are that way… romantic dreamers.”
He’d been the same way.
“It never left my hand, but I saw that yours has gone.”
He’d given up on her?
“It’s in my wallet out there. I put it on each night when I retire. I only dare to put it back on when I don’t run the risk of losing a finger when it catches on something I’m working with. No one wears rings or other things on their fingers when they are doing manual work, lifting awkward things like logs, or concrete blocks, or is working around machinery, and much of what I do in summer is that way.”
“I noticed. You have strong hands with no shortage of callouses.” She’d felt them going over her body, slowly rediscovering what had once been so familiar to him.
He felt brave. “I still have another ring however.” She wanted, especially, to see that one again. He held his hand up, showing a longer piece of twine around his wrist.
That, wasn’t where she’d left it.