Forging Forever

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Chapter 16

Cameron’s brooding was interrupted by a soft knock on his door. He considered telling the person to go away but decided against it. He made his way over to the door and opened it just in time for Annie to fall into his arms. Cameron pulled her inside and closed the door, bolting it behind him. “What the hell happened Annie?!” Just as he asked the question, Cameron felt the sticky, warm liquid seeping from Annie’s arm: blood. He picked her up and placed her on his bed.

“In my bag,” Annie whispered weakly.

Cameron nodded then emptied the contents of her bag onto the floor. He dug through the pile until he found the first aid kit. Returning to Annie’s side, he ripped the sleeve of her shirt and inspected the wound. It was not fatal, but it had done a lot of damage. He would have to examine the wound thoroughly to make sure no scrap of fabric or any other foreign material was trapped inside the wound. “I’m sorry Annie, but this is going to hurt. I have to examine the wound. I need to you to keep quiet.”

Annie nodded weakly. “My pocket...the flashlight.”

Her words were becoming disjointed and harder and harder to hear. Cameron nodded to her then dug through her pockets until he felt a large, flat, rectangular object. He pulled it out, recognizing it as Annie’s phone. Once he had it, he turned it on and turned on the flashlight, holding it close to Annie’s wound. He opened the first aid kit and found a pair of tweezers. “Annie, remember to be quiet love. I’m so sorry,” he apologized then stuck the tweezers into the wound. He expected a sharp intake of breath, a wince, a faint cry, basically any sound indicating her discomfort. Instead he received silence. He looked at Annie’s pale face, her eyes were closed. Cameron placed his face close to her mouth. Her breaths were shallow and slow. But she was still breathing. Comforted that she was alive, he resumed his task, pulling a large piece of fabric and a small bullet from the wound. Next he poured some brandy to disinfect the wound. Finally, he pulled a needle and thread from his nightstand drawer and stitched the wound together then wrapped her arm in gauze, securing it with tape, just as he had done to her hand a month ago. The whole process took a little over an hour. Once he was finished he placed Annie’s things back in her bag, pulled up a chair, then began his silent vigil.

A steady rain was falling when Annie’s eyes began to flutter around five in the morning. Cameron placed his hand on her head, frowning at the slight fever present. He walked over to the basin and soaked a cloth with water, then rang it out, came back to the bed, and placed it on Annie’s head.

“What time is it?” Her voice was groggy.

“Just after six in the morning. How are you feeling?”

“Tired, otherwise I’m okay.” It was a lie, she felt like crap. Her arm was throbbing, she was cold, and the room was spinning around her. Truthfully, all she wanted to do was lay in bed all day and sleep. Unfortunately, reality would not allow her partake in a day of doing absolutely nothing. She had promised to meet John this morning at the coffee house. On any other day she would have sent a note, claiming to be under the weather, but after the events of last night her absence could lead to suspicion, and that was something that she just could not allow. Besides, if she could just keep it together for an hour then she could come home and sleep. Maybe she would watch a movie on her tablet later when she was alone. Determined to start her day, Annie pushed herself into a sitting position, immediately regretting the decision. The room spun around her, causing a wave of nausea to sweep through her.

“You’re a horrible liar.” Cameron retorted while he steadied Annie on the bed.

“That’s not true. If I were a horrible liar our plan would have been discovered by now.”

“True. Well, you’re a horrible liar when you’re ill then,” Cameron amended.

Annie nodded. “I need to get up. I have to meet John at the coffee house in a few hours. As it is it is going to take me all that time to get ready.” Annie slowly turned on the bed and placed her feet on the ground.

Cameron stared at her. John she had said. So they were on a first name basis now. Irrational jealousy roared within him. He tampered it down immediately. This was her job. He had to let her do it. “Annie, you’re in no condition to go anywhere today. Look at you. You can barely sit. I shudder to think what will happen if you try to stand up. Please, just rest today. You can send a note to Major Andre telling him you are ill, which is not a lie. Besides, you will never be able to glean any information from him today. All of your concentration will be focused on staying awake.”

His argument did make sense to Annie. She hadn’t seen herself in a mirror yet, but she had no doubt she looked as bad as she felt; that would undoubtedly lead to questions. Still, she had to try. “Cameron, I appreciate your concern, but I must go. By now he no doubt knows that a possible spy has been injured. If I fail to show, he may suspect me.”

“Annie, if he sees you in this condition he will suspect something. Please, just stay in today. Get some rest. Let me make sure that wound is not infected.”

Annie considered giving one last argument, then decided against it. “Very well. I’ll send a note to him. Do you have a quill and paper?”

Relief swept through Cameron. “Yes.” He walked over to his desk and brought back the items she requested. He pulled the nightstand next to her so that she could write her note on a solid surface. Her hand was unsteady, but the words were still legible. The note read:

My dearest John,

I must begin this note by telling you what a wonderful time I had last night. Those private moments I spent with you in the garden did much to ease the despair I feel in my heart. I had so looked forward to seeing you this morning. Unfortunately, I am not feeling myself today. I am hoping that my illness is just a passing one and not contagious. But just in case it is, I think it is wisest for me to cancel our meeting at the coffee shop this morning. I could not bear it if you were to become ill. Your work is far too important for you to feel as miserably as I do. I will send word to you as soon as I am feeling like myself again. Thank you for understanding. Until our next meeting, stay safe and know that I am thinking of you.

With all my affections,

Annie

Annie handed the note to Cameron who folded it up. “Do you think it’ll do,” Annie asked.

“I think it will do just fine,” he replied tersely.

Annie placed her hand on his arm. “Cameron, they’re just words.”

“I know. I’m sure he will think you sincere.” He placed one of his hands on top of hers. “Now stay here. I’m just going to give this to Mary so she can have a messenger deliver it to the Major. I will return shortly.”

“Cameron, I should really go back down to my room before everyone wakes up. Plus, your sheets are soaked in blood. They need to be washed. You can’t very well do that while I’m lying in your bed. And I really would like to change into some clean clothes. Would you please escort me down?”

“Annie, you shouldn’t be alone today.”

“I know. You can stay with me. Please, let me get cleaned up.”

Her statement did make sense. It would be bad enough if she were discovered in his room. Her strange attire and bandaged arm would cause even more suspicion. “Very well,” Cameron relented. “Let me get your things together and make sure the hall is clear, then I will take you down.”

“Thank you Cameron,” she whispered.

Cameron gathered up her bag and checked the hallway. It was still early and most of the boarders were asleep. Satisfied that they would remain undiscovered, Cameron went back up into the room. “Can you walk?”

“I think so.”

Cameron nodded and pulled Annie off the bed, placing her good arm around his neck. “If it becomes too difficult for you, let me know immediately.”

They walked slowly towards the door, well, Cameron walked, basically dragging Annie alongside him. When they reached the hallway, Cameron softly closed his door and locked it. He had no desire for a curious boarder to discover the state of his room. They walked down the hallway to the stairs. Annie looked down the stairway with horror. Cameron understood her fear. Smoothly, he picked her up and carried her down and to her door, where he placed her back on her feet. “Is your room locked,” he whispered.

“Yes. The key is in my left pocket.”

Cameron nodded, reached into her pocket, grabbed the key then unlocked the door. Her room was neat, nothing was amiss except for the strange black item laying in the middle of the floor. He carried Annie over to her bed and placed her down, then went back to inspect the strange item.

“It’s a gun,” Annie croaked.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” He cautiously picked it up, examining it in his large hands.

“I know. This particular model of weapon is not going to be developed for over two-hundred years. I brought it from home. When I feel better I’ll show you how to use it.”

“That would be wonderful.” His eyes were filled with wonder. “Where would you like me to put it?”

“Just put it in my bag for now.”

Cameron slid the smooth black weapon into her bag. “Do not move until I get back,” he ordered then walked out the door leaving Annie to her thoughts.

Annie ignored the order. She would at least attempt to change her clothes. She was not ready for Cameron to see her completely naked. The day they had met was one thing. She had been wearing a takini when they first met. It had covered her most intimate parts. Now she would be completely bare. Resolved in her task, she pushed herself up from the bed, grabbing onto the foot board for support. She took a few tentative steps to the wardrobe then pulled the door open and found a clean nightgown. Now for the hard part. She slowly pulled off her shirt and bra then shuffled over to the wash basin. She picked up a cloth and began cleaning off the dried blood from her body. She was halfway done when her knees gave out and she fell down to the floor. Fortunately, the wash basin did not fall with her. She attempted to push herself up from the floor, but the action immediately caused her arm to throb more intensely. She held back her cry of pain, but she could not hold back the tears in her eyes. Quietly she sobbed on the floor. Her body ached, her exhausted mind trying to process all the things she was feeling. Everything was just too much. She did not hear Cameron come in or his muffled curse when he found her on the floor. She barely registered the warm cloth he touched against her skin, cleaning all the places she hadn’t then dabbing her face. She vaguely remembered him pulling her from the ground, removing the rest of her clothes, then replacing them with the soft nightgown before he put her into her bed where she fell asleep immediately.

Annie slept soundly for two hours. Her tear stained face was peaceful in slumber. From time to time the calm, innocent facade would be interrupted by a twinge of her lips or a slight grimace. Gradually her body temperature fell until the fever was all but gone. While she slept he checked the wound, which now, in the light of day, appeared less severe than the night before. There was no puckering around the wound, a good sign. At least there was no infection.

While he was downstairs he had spoken to Mary, telling her what had happened. After assuring her that she was all right, just weak and in need of rest, he gave Mary the note and asked that she wash his bed sheets. Mary offered to sit with Annie, but Cameron declined the idea. It would raise suspicion among the other boarders if she were absent all day. At least that’s what he told her. He did not want to admit that he felt like he was the only one who could take care of her. After sending the note off, Mary had gone up to his room to begin cleaning it and Cameron went back to Annie’s room, a basin and clean cloths in his hand.

Cameron had been livid when he saw Annie sitting on the floor, her ruined shirt discarded. He had fully intended to walk over there and give her a good talking to when he saw her strong shoulders shudder and heave. He hadn’t thought to ask her exactly what happened before she stumbled up to his room in the wee hours of the morning. He had been worried when she came in. She had been so pale, so weak. Tending to her physical wounds gave him no time to consider the mental stress that no doubt accommodated them. In that moment, seeing her cry on the floor, he felt his heart drop. All thoughts of reproaching her left his mind.

At about nine in the morning a soft knock sounded on the door. Cameron carefully made his way across the room and to the door. “Who is it,” he whispered. He did not want to wake Annie.

“Mary,” was the muffled reply.

Cameron opened the door and allowed Mary to enter. She was carrying a tray with coffee, some biscuits, eggs, bacon, and broth on it. “I thought you might want something to eat.”

“Thank you. Food would be heavenly right now.” Cameron took the tray and set it down on the desk.

“How is she doing?”

“Better. Her fever is gone. I checked the wound and there was no sign of infection. I’ll stay with her for the rest of the day to make sure, but I believe she is out of the woods. She just needs rest now.”

“Good. What happened?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to ask her yet. As soon as I’m able to I will. I’ll let you know everything that I discover.”

“Thank you Cameron. If you need anything just let me know.” Mary turned to leave then stopped. “I almost forgot, this came for Annie a few minutes ago.” Mary pulled a folded note from her apron pocket and handed it to Cameron. “I imagine it is a reply to the note she sent earlier.”

“Thank you,” he said while he took the letter from her. “I’ll give it to her the moment she wakes up.”

“You are welcome.” Once again Mary turned to leave. Just before she opened the door she turned to face Cameron. “Make sure you get some rest as well.”

Cameron nodded then watched Mary leave the room. He looked down at the letter, tempted to open it then decided against it. He had no desire to breach her trust and he also had no desire to read the words scrawled on the page. If it was from Major Andre, they were no doubt flowery expressions of his admiration for her along with wishes for a quick recovery. That was something he did not need to see. Setting the letter aside, Cameron pulled the tray to his lap and began eating his breakfast. He was on his second biscuit when Annie opened her eyes.

“Please tell me that’s bacon I’m smelling.”

“It is.

“I hope for your sake you saved me some.” She gave a wry smile with her statement. “If not I’m afraid I’ll have to end my association with you.”

“I have a couple of pieces left. I’m assuming you would like them.” Cameron smiled then placed the remaining two pieces on a napkin and handed them to Annie.

“You assume correctly,” she replied, greedily taking the napkin from him. She took a bite and rolled her eyes in ecstasy. It did not take her long to finish the rest. Once she was done she wiped her hands off then handed the napkin back to Cameron. “That was Heaven.”

Cameron chuckled. He was happy to see her acting like her normal self again. “I am glad you enjoyed it. Hopefully it will stay down in your stomach.”

“Oh it will,” she assured him.

“Are you still hungry? I have some biscuits and broth here. I also have coffee if you are thirsty.”

“I’ll take some coffee and a biscuit.”

Cameron handed her the requested items. Twenty-minutes later she had drank two cups of coffee and eaten just as many biscuits. “Feel better?”

“Much.”

“Good. Now, would you mind telling me what happened last night?”

“Of course not,” she replied and immediately began telling him about the drop, the man in the woods, the shot. “I shot two rounds back at him. I have no idea if they hit. I wasn’t going to stay around to find out. After that I weaved in and out of alleyways until I got here. I came into my room, looked at my wound and knew that I would need help. That’s when I came to you.”

Cameron considered all that she had said. A mixture of pride and fear rose within him. He was proud of her quick thinking and her ability to stay calm during a crisis. At the same time he was afraid of what could happen to her. Frankly, she was lucky to be alive. He resolved that the next time she went he would be with her.

“By the way,” Annie spoke, interrupting his thoughts, “I never did get to thank you for your help. I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here.”

“I’ll always be around Annie. Anything you need, I’ll be here.” His voice was soft, his blue eyes filled with tenderness. He stood up from his chair, taking the tray with him.

“Are you leaving?” Annie’s voice was filled with sorrow.

“I’m just going to deliver this to Mary. I promise that I will be right back.” He smiled at her, enjoying the fact that she wanted him around. “Oh, while I’m gone, this note came for you.” He retrieved the note and handed it to Annie. “I will be right back,” he said, then turned and left the room.

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