Today I Asked You to Listen with Your Heart
When Cloud Dancing returned from seeing Grace, he filled in the empty spot between Hank and Sully. The three men ate in silence. Hank tried not to be obvious when he would glance over his shoulder to Grace's shelter. If he had his way he'd be in there with her. Holding her tightly.
"You did good today, Hank," Sully said as he took a drink of water.
"I did what you would've done," he said smoothly.
"Maybe, but I didn't find her," Sully said making eye contact.
"We were all together when we found that shack."
"Yes; but you found the shack," Cloud Dancing said gently.
"You were in the front," Hank said turning to look at the man closest to him.
"Hank, you were the one that found Grace," Cloud Dancing said, his face covered in shadows caused by the fire. "You heard what Sully and I could not."
"I don't follow," Hank said, confusion etched on his face.
"When you closed your eyes and concentrated out there today, what did you hear?" Sully questioned.
"I told you," Hank said, shifting on the ground. "I thought it was Grace."
"It was Grace," Cloud Dancing said calmly.
"Why'd you come out here?" Sully asked.
"What? Grace was missing," Hank said.
"Yeah but why did you volunteer to join the search party?" Sully asked his eyes locked on him. Hank was silent. It wasn't a secret that he wasn't nice to people and that he didn't usually volunteer his services for anything; but this was different. This was about Grace.
"I had to," Hank muttered, his eyes low.
"Why?" Sully asked, his voice gentle. Hank glanced back toward Grace's shelter.
"I don't know," he grumbled, "I just had to."
"Was today the first time you'd heard Grace's voice like that?" Sully inquired. Hank looked him in the eyes. How he could have known that? He had heard that voice in the distance and he had wanted to believe it was Grace but that was crazy. He didn't speak; only shook his head no. Sully and Cloud Dancing gave him a wide smile.
"What?" he asked taken aback at the sudden cheer on the men's faces.
"May I explain to you what happened in the woods today?" Cloud Dancing asked.
Yeah," Hank said shifting again.
"It is said that when two people are connected they are able to always find each other," Cloud Dancing explained.
"So if one of them is in danger they will always be found," the Native man said.
"What?" Hank questioned.
"When I was missing and injured in the woods and Michaela and Daniel headed the search for me," Sully began, "she told me that she kept seeing flowers. Flowers that meant something to us but that no one else could see. She said that she heard my voice on the wind. It lead her to me."
"And you think..." Hank said with a laugh.
"Hank, today I asked you to listen with your heart," Cloud Dancing said. "That is how we found Grace." Hank was silent. He had no idea what to say. He wasn't in the habit of sharing his feelings; especially not with people he didn't really like. He lowered his eyes to the ground. "Grace is a beautiful woman. Any man would be lucky to have even an ounce of her love."
Hank said nothing. He stood up and took his normal position against a tree. He closed his eyes and his mind began to churn. He didn't believe in all that Injun mumbo jumbo; but he couldn't think of anything else that would explain what happened today. He had done exactly what they told him to do. Closed his eyes and concentrate. And the first thing he heard was her. Hank knew it was her. He had memorized every subtle nuance of her voice. He opened his eyes and looked at the blanket shelter. He loved her and he couldn't believe that it was Sully and Cloud Dancing that made him say it; even if it was only in his head. But they were wrong, and Hank knew it. He and Grace weren't connected. She hated him like the rest of the town. So, whatever happened today wasn't because of something mystical, it was just dumb luck. Which was all he ever had anyway. Hank muttered 'of course', before he closed his eyes again and went to sleep.
As daylight broke, Grace was waking up. She still felt tired and a little battered but she felt safe now. She exited her make shift dwelling to see Sully and Cloud Dancing asleep by the dying fire. The Crowfeld brothers asleep, strapped to the back of the two horses. It wasn't until she turned to begin taking the blankets down did she see him.
Hank was propped against a tree. His blonde locks hanging on his shoulders, his long lean legs stretched out in front of him, feet crossed at the ankles. His muscular arms folded across his solid chest. He looked beautiful. She forced herself to draw her gaze away from him and she began to dismantle the shelter he had made for her.
Hank woke up to melodic sound of Grace humming. It brought a smile to his face, which he quickly hide. He didn't feel like trying to lie his way out of that this early.
He stretched his arms above his head before rising from the ground. They made brief eye contact and shared a sweet smile before he turned and quickly walked toward the river that flowed near their camp.
Grace walked the other way. Her time with Olive Davis came in handy in the woods. She know which berries were juicy and delicious and which ones were juicy and poisonous. She walked around gathering some things and she hadn't realized that she had circumvented the campground until she heard the quiet rushing of the river. She walked to the edge and put her bare feet in the cool water. She sat on the bank and let the water rush between her toes. She signed with relief.
"Oh my goodness!" she shouted with a loud gasp, jumping up from her seated position. She hadn't noticed when she sat down that Hank was floating near by. Naked. She turned her back. "I'm so sorry, Hank," she said before she quickly ran back toward camp.
Hank undressed on the bank of the river. He hung his clothes on a limb and waded in. He floated on to his back and allowed the serene river water to flow over him.
Hank opened his eyes and noticed that he had floated a short distance away from where his clothes hung but not so far he had to get out of the water just yet. When he was about to close his eyes again he heard a loud gasp.
"Oh my goodness!" he heard Grace yell. Hank followed her voice and saw her standing on the bank staring at him, her eyes wide. He stood up in order to hide his business. She turned her back and said, "I'm so sorry, Hank." He was about to open his mouth to say something but before he could she was running away.