I yawn and stretch my legs under the soft flannel sheets. Leo wakes at the movement and smiles when he sees me. He told me everything last night between the touches we shared. He pulls me to him and presses a kiss to my temple.
“Best sleep I’ve had in a while.” He murmurs to me.
I hum in response and press a small kiss on his jaw.
“I would’ve stayed in the jeep if you hadn’t come out to bring me back in.” I say somberly, my eyes searching his.
They shine with regret and sadness.
He swallows thickly and with a hoarse voice rasps, “I know.”
I mumble something about a shower and leave Leo in bed. In the shower, I recount the night before. It was instantaneous, lust filled, and heart felt afterwards.
As the shampoo trails down my back as I rinse my hair, I think of a list of things I have to accomplish today. Double check the inventory list I made in June, four months ago; make a list for the trip to town that I go on today; and other daily chores around the cabin.
I am greeted by Mia and Max when I walk into the kitchen after my shower. My hair is damp as I turn the knob of the electric kettle.
“How are you feeling?” Mia asks, her eyes flickering down to my ankle.
“Feels better, kind of.” I tell her.
Leo was careful not to accidentally put any pressure on it last night as he kissed and dragged his lips up my thigh. I bite my lip at the sudden memories.
Mia smiles at me and I watch Max go out to the coop. I tense when I hear an unexpected knock on the front door. I grab the handgun and peek outside. A blonde haired woman stands with her arms hanging by her sides, but has her hands curled into fists. I crack open the door and tighten the grip on my handgun.
“What do you want?” I ask coldly despite my racing heartbeat.
“Are you Elsie Millican?” She demands.
I cock the gun and open my mouth to respond when I see Max standing like a deer caught in headlights. He suddenly snaps out of it and bounds over to us in the thin layer of snow and hugs the stranger. I watch her tense posture melt as she wraps her arms around him.
I sigh and open the door. I discreetly put the safety back on and return the gun to its place. The woman stumbles in and mutters about her battery being low. Max helps her to the nearest charger. I hear Mia gasp behind me and rush to the woman.
“This is Niska.” Max introduces her to me with pride evident in his voice.
“You have his eyes.” She states.
“You met him?” I forget my guard.
She nods, “I was with him in those last moments of his life.”
My throat tightens at the mention of my late father. I turn away from the three and busy myself with pouring the hot water for the tea. My hand shakes as I do. I feel a hand on my arm and turn to press my head against Leo’s chest.
I feel his hand stroke my hair in a slow manner as I wrap my arms around his waist. I haven’t had time to properly mourn him, and I still don’t. I breath in deeply before tilting my head up and smiling an ‘I’m okay for now.’ smile at Leo.
He briefly squeezes my shoulders and we break away. I’m aware of all three conscious synths staring at us. I ignore it and drink my tea.
I cross off everything on the mental list I made in the shower. By that time, it is 11:30 and my bag sits by the door.
“I will be back late tonight or early tomorrow morning if the weather is bad.” I tell them.
The snow is still on the roads, luckily the tires I have are holding up with the snow.
“Stay safe.” Mia says as she pulls me in for a brief hug.
Max also gives me a hug and Niska is sizing me up from her place in the chair. I know they can keep the cabin running. I pick up my bag and head out to the jeep. Leo follows me out. I start the jeep and crank the heat. While it heats, I throw my duffle in the back seat. The door shutting is all that is heard beside the steady rumble of the engine. I can hear Strong Current faintly.
Leo pushes me up against the side of the jeep and presses his lips hard against mine. I respond eagerly, my gloved hands bunching up the front of his jacket and pulling him closer. His forehead is against mine and we are both panting slightly.
“I wish you didn’t have to leave.” He admits to me, his voice suddenly husky.
I shiver, but not from the cold, and nod my head slightly, agreeing whole heartedly with him. I press a kiss to the corner of his mouth and he takes a step back as I slide into the driver’s seat.
“Come back as soon as possible.” Leo says.
I nod and put the jeep into drive, leaving the cabin nestled in the snow.
Town is how it has always been this time of year; barren. Most of the citizens of the town are older and have vacation homes in warmer climates, so most of the cars I usually see are not there and businesses are closed.
No mail for me at the post office, which is no surprise. I drive over to the grocery store and get some more cereal that Leo likes among other items. The clock that is over the door of the grocery store reads 5:15. I smile at myself as I cross the parking lot; Perfect, I can grab a bite to eat at the diner before I leave.
The bell chimes and I hear a series of warm greetings directed my way. I smile and wave back at them as I find a seat. Lily comes over with a spring in her step.
“What will it be tonight, Honey?” She asks me.
I fake ponder over the menu and mimic stroking a long beard. We both laugh.
I calm down and respond, “A chicken sandwich with fries and a to go coffee with the check.”
She winks at me and puts my order in. The same soft jazz floats through the diner as I take in the other customers. Two other regulars who nod in response as my gaze travels to them and a lone trucker hunched over his coffee.
I receive my food and wolf it down, stopping mid bite to wave down the check.
As Lily walks away, ice seeps in my veins.
Written at the bottom of the check is a warning. ‘Trucker at your three o’clock, gun, will distract him while you go. Be safe, Elsie’
I grab the steaming styrofoam cup and sit on the edge, ready to take flight. Lily carries the tub of used dishes and purposefully dumps them on Trucker. I dart out of the booth and out to the jeep. I hear shouts of anger and stomping on the pavement. I feel a strong grip on my upper arm tug me backwards. I turn around and splash the hot coffee in his face. He screams and I jump in the jeep as the coffee spreads like oil in the night on the muddy snow.
I curse wildly as I start the engine, my eyes on the man standing several yards in front of the jeep. His arm is reaching for the hand gun strapped to his side and brings it out. I peel out as fast as possible and speed down the empty street. I hear a high pitched whistle and glance in the rearview mirror. No car thankfully, but a bullet hole in the now cracked back window.
My heart is stuttering all the way home. It’s ten when I reach the house. I fling open the door of the jeep, forgetting about the groceries and running into the cabin. I savor the picture before me; Leo, Mia, Max, and Niska sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me.
“What’s wrong?” Max asks so innocently.
I take a deep breath in and tamp down my raging emotions. Goodbye happiness and the feeling of safety and comfort, it was nice knowing you.
“Someone shot at me earlier tonight. We have to leave.”
Don’t you just hate cliffhangers? Yeah, me too. Again, sorry for the late update, been busy with school.