Running out of time.
She woke up to find that Steve had left her. It was early, but it was also daylight.
She hadn’t noticed him leaving her, but he’d done that several times through the night as he’d made up the fire before coming back to her, and always in a memorable way for them both as he’d been welcomed back.
She saw that he’d made up the fire again, leaving her to catch up on sleep after a busy night, but now he was cooking breakfast, and the washer and dryer were both running in the background.
She smiled. They would need something dry and clean to wear for when her father got back, or for when anyone else made it out from town.
The power had come back on too.
Good, that meant that they would be sleeping up in her room tonight. They would sit in her bed together and she would read his letters that he’d stashed in a drawer, while he could read her journal. They could even go over those photographs together, and fill in more of the blanks.
In another few months, when the weather got comfortably warm again, they could take many more photographs at the lake again.
Before Steve had left her, she remembered feeling him push some wadded-up tissues between her legs. She’d vaguely remembered him doing that, and him explaining why he did so, kissing her on her breasts. She’d turned, to encourage him to join her again to continue once more, but he hadn’t stayed. She repositioned the tissues to where they would do the most good, before she threw them into the fire, and went after others.
That might have been what woke her up, absence of his needed presence when she’d been expecting to feel him moving closer to her... with obvious intent.
She sat up with her hands behind her head, her breasts standing out as she did that, feeling the warmth of the fire on them. The bed was damp, in many places. They’d been busy.
She should call her mother and her father when it was convenient, and tell them what she could, about this new development in their daughter’s life, and get the balls rolling, as they should have rolled years earlier than this... but better late, than never.
Her mother already knew about her new job at the hospital, and had told her that she would soon be home to help her land on her feet and settle back in. Her mother might even come back home to live, despite her discomfort with the winter weather. She could get some more sheep, or llamas, and pick up with her social life in town, playing bridge with her friends, and even volunteering at the hospital. At least that Waterston woman wouldn’t be around to put the kibosh on everything pleasant in their community, as she’d tended to do. The house wouldn’t be so very empty any more with Barbara back in it.
This was the second time that luck had favored Babs. Meeting Steve as she had, ten years earlier had been the first time; then meeting him again, a few hours earlier, just when she had been most in need of him, was the second .
She had a lot to think about. Her life was coming back into order, where she could see where it was going, and with more certainty than she had been able to see, ever before.
It was only early November. Barb would suggest that they should have a wedding, either at the end of November or early in December, in front of the whole family and in this house. Her brothers would be invited, of course, and might be persuaded to stay for Christmas as their stepmother, would also be there. She’d always been more like a proper mother to them than their own mothers.
After each of his first wives had absented themselves to head back to the social life of the city, Emily, sister to her father had been persuaded to live at the house again to look after one boy, and then the other, as their mothers had departed for greener pastures.
He’d never turned his back on his sons, or on his first wives, but it had seemed to count for very little with any of them.
He’d divorced each of them, at their request, and then had met the woman who became his third wife. Bab’s mother. His life had changed at that point, but the winters had always been difficult for her. When their daughter had been taken away to school, she’d had to go with her to be somewhere close and it had become understood that she’d be away for most of those winter months too. By then the boys had been twenty-two and twenty-five, respectively, so hadn’t needed her around so much. They’d gone themselves by then anyway.
The sons had not treated their father very well, but nor had Barbara, after she’d got this thing into her head about why she was really being sent away. It hadn’t clicked with her that it had been the school board, under Waterston pressure, that had done that. She’d thought it had more to do with her father finding out about what she’d been doing with Steve up at the lake.
She’d been wrong, now that she was thinking more clearly and understood more.
It hadn’t been her father interfering in any way with her letters either, as she’d just learned. She’d blamed him for too much, and he’d deserved none of it.
She felt more of Steve, running out of her down there. It brought her quickly back to ground, as she repositioned those tissues again.
She might already be pregnant (that thought again. She was at that most vulnerable time of her cycle), but she wasn’t going to wait to find out, nor would she take any precautions. She hoped she was pregnant. If not now, then soon. They’d already lost too much time.
Her job allowed for such eventualities. Some of the nurses had growing families, and they’d set up a small day care facility in the hospital. It was the only way they could attract and hold staff in their small hospital.
Steve could let his own folks know.
It was fortunate that nothing they’d done, had taken root ten years earlier, as careless as they’d been so many times during those few weeks once they’d got down to the intense part of their relationship.
If she’d been pregnant ten years ago none of this would have happened, but she wouldn’t be where she was now, either.
Her father beat her to the punch. She had to go searching in the bedding for the phone.
He was relieved to hear her answer, and to be able to speak with her. She was no longer feeling so argumentative with him, nor so ready to snap his head off.
He would be setting out in a few minutes and would soon be home…maybe a couple of hours… depending.
“Take care, dad. Thanks for going out looking for me. I didn’t deserve it.” She hadn’t deserved him risking his life for her like that.
She’d save the rest of what she had to say to him when he got home.
She’d been frustrated with him when she’d stormed out, and it had reflected poorly on her. He’d been looking out for her as best he could, and he had been constrained by the few options left to him.
Steve walked back in with their breakfasts on a large tray.
He was naked, just as he’d been for all of the night with her. She smiled to see him like that.
He put the tray down on a tray support at the foot of the bed, and lifted everything to sit over her legs as he leaned in to kiss her, and then to kiss each of her breasts, setting her squirming again and chuckling. Everything seemed to be very sensitive to his touch.
He’d heard enough of that conversation with her father, so they had no need to rush anything.
They would sit up in bed and eat in style, and then after that they could make love again, before they would need to clear everything up, dress, and see to the animals.
She explained the call.
“That was Dad. It’s thawing fast, so he said he’ll be setting out soon.”
The water was already running off the house roof in torrents. She could see it and hear it.
“I made enough breakfast for your father too, so if he set out before eating this morning, he can at least eat, as he gets warm again. I doubt the road into town will be cleared anytime soon, but I don’t have to go anywhere… do you?”
She shook her head as he slid in beside her, positioning his legs with hers to be within the legs of the tray holder. Their bodies touched almost everywhere. He put his arm around her and pulled her closer as she poured them coffee.
Steve would be staying anyway, living up here even, once she’d got through to telling her father what she needed him to know, and letting him know what she really wanted from life and why she’d come home at last, while champing at the bit over all of the last ten years of mind-numbing frustration.
It would be obvious to him when he saw them together, that Steve had been that one missing part of her life since she’d gone away.
“When we’ve eaten, and after… you know...” she blushed up at him suggestively, “we’ll have to tidy this incriminating bedding up into the wash and get it started.” There would be a few errant tissues to toss into the fire too. “After that I’ll get those bandages off your hands and we’ll bathe.”
They would bathe together, of course, and then they would slowly dress each other as they’d so enjoyed doing at the lake, relearning all of those little things, and the not so little things about each other again, that they needed to learn.
If anyone came before they finished, they would grab their clothes and disappear upstairs to finish.
“We’ll do the barn work, if you want to help. I’ll introduce you properly to Spiro and Juanita, and then we can try to look innocent when Dad gets back.”
She knew that would be an impossible thing to hope for. They’d never manage to look innocent. It was way too late already, but neither of them cared about that.