Chapter 18: Maddening & Manly
THE NEXT MORNING…
…is just the same as every other, except there’s the dooming reminder I’ll be leaving that bothers the hell out of me. I lay awake, snuggled so close to Wyatt that I don’t know how I ever functioned sleeping alone in a Queen sized bed, and squeeze him tight.
An invasive thought is amazed how he doesn’t feel any different even though he’s mine.
We went to sleep without supper, and with my ear pressed against his chest I can hear his stomach growling. But breakfast doesn’t really matter right now. All it means is he’ll be too busy making it to spend time with me.
It’s the last day.
I feel the tears stinging in my eyes as I uselessly try to convince myself that Wyatt’s right.
This is for the best. There’s no choice about it. I have to go back. I have to see my parents.
But in my mind they’re just blurry, unimportant figures and I don’t know what’s so great about going back to them other than just letting them know I’m alive. And Daxton? Just what the hell am I supposed to do about that? “Hey Mom, Dad… Dax is gone forever – probably dead – and I fell in love with a lumberjack I’ll likely never meet again. But nice to see you.”
Sensing how anxious I am, Wyatt is sickeningly sweet to me. Or, after fucking me raw three rounds in a row, he’s just considerably less of an asshole.
He pulls me in to a rough hug – pets through my hair – snuggles me... spoons me...
When he does these things I can barely remember what he was like when I first got here. I just know two facts; he didn’t like people, and he lived alone far too long for it to not have had some kind of psychological impact on him.
I’m not complaining… but I consider he’s clingier than me now.
I try to sit up and the pain deep in my ass shoots through my spine, making me bite back a scream. I’m sore, aching, worn-out and grumpy but Wyatt’s desperate caregiving makes my heart light and suddenly it’s hard to focus on the discomfort when he frantically rubs my back and apologizes.
“I’m sorry,” he says, planting bearded kiss after kiss along my shoulder and gluing himself to me. He has no idea how to make it better, and the fact that he did this makes him so guilty that it’s actually highly entertaining. “I’m sorry, Calix… I’m so sorry. I was trying to go easy on you but… I’m sorry.”
“It hurts,” I mutter, trying not to crack a smile. The pain in my ass isn’t funny, but Wyatt is. Watching his face fall so hard is really satisfying.
“Fuck – what can I do, eh? Tell me Calix.”
I know I can get away with murder... and stopping him from finishing the sled is a priority...
“Can you rub my back?” I ask softly, indicating a low spot on my spine. “Please – right here? It really hurts...”
“Sure,” he agrees immediately, reaching for it at once and helping to turn me on my stomach. Laying back down is nice and in fact, most – if not all – of the aching, shooting pains are gone just from levelling my body flat. Wyatt’s hard knuckles dig in and there’s a loud cracking noise that fills the cabin. But then holy crap – his fingers feel so nice; gentler than ever. Or have they always felt this way? I wince and relax as he massages another really tense knot. “How’s this?”
“Nice,” I say with a small stretch, relaxing my back and thinking I could really get used to this…“You always make me feel so good.”
Wyatt leans in to nibble my ears and his hands spread up my back, rolling and pulling at the muscle. “I could say the same about you, Calix. You’re amazing.”
“Mmm... rub my shoulders too...”
“Whatever you want, princess.”
“Yeah… don’t call me that.”
Despite the fact that this is supposedly the last day together out here, things continue in the routine like normal.
Get up. Piss. Drink water. Brush teeth. Inspect stitches.
And then Wyatt’s putting on his boots and jacket, whistling for Canuck.
“I’ll get breakfast and be right back, okay?” he says, grabbing his shotgun.
It never ends though. Whatever he kills out there he’s still going to bring it back, butcher it… cook it… and then just go to work on the sled. This horrible reminder sets off a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that has nothing to do with the fact a giant dick stabbed me there last night.
I pass the time drawing – filling up Wyatt’s notebook with rough pen sketches of all kinds of things that I can recall with perfect clarity; Wyatt’s hand flat against mine – Canuck’s fierce yellow eyes settled between a pinched, snarling nose… even the fucking pattern of this God-awful, moth-eaten, dusty as hell old blanket.
Then I switch things up.
I flip a page and set the ballpoint pen to the paper, trying to remember the exact shape of Dax’s face. He’s my brother… I grew up with him… and yet I’m having trouble putting his appearance together. There are bits and pieces that are right and it’s like attempting to complete a puzzle with the wrong pieces. His lips aren’t quite accurate, but the beauty mark is. Or… was it on the left side?
I don’t know what I feel at this realization I’ve lost my grip on the real world. How long has it even been out here? Four days? Five? I try to count them on my fingers but I can’t focus for even a second. My mind is flooded with thoughts I can’t control now that Wyatt’s gone.
I nearly died. It’s so weird to say, but… I should be dead right now. And Dax? He’s missing… more than likely dead himself and I don’t even care? I can’t even remember his face? Not to mention my leg is probably going to be fucked up forever…
My hearts starts squeezing in ways that hurt. It’s definitely not the good kind of hammering that happens around Wyatt. There are no butterflies in my stomach – just a deep, gnawing dread that has me shaking uncontrollably. My lungs fail – it’s hard to breathe – and suddenly the cabin is blurry as my head spins and I gasp for air.
It’s not going to be okay.
As soon as I leave this mountain… leave Wyatt… nothing will be okay ever again.
The tears sting my eyes as I struggle to inhale and exhale enough oxygen; as I fight to shove all these feelings back where they belong –buried under this recluse, mountain-life.
NOT QUITE NOON
Wyatt returns with a handful of dead birds. Canuck even has one hanging limp from his mouth.
I don’t know what kind of face I have on as he enters the cabin, but it startles him enough to drop all of our food at the front door and hurry over to me.
“Calix? Hey, what’s wrong?”
I feel my bottom lip quiver. I know I’m close to tears again but I really hate that. I hate not being able to control them. Somehow I manage to suck in a deep breath, bite my trembling lip, and shake my head. I pull him in by the neck for a tight hug so he can’t see the few tears that have escaped to roll down my cheeks.
“Just – missed you…”
Oh God did I ever. If this is what a few hours are like without him…
Wyatt hugs me for as long as I need and pushes Canuck away when the wolf tries to get in on it.
“You’re alright… I’m going to make breakfast and you’ll feel better. You just need some food.” He speaks in a low tone – warm and gentle – and even though he’s talking about something I could care less about, it effectively stops the way I’m vibrating.
The meal is actually really good.
I find I’m hungrier than I realized and actually, the feeling of a full stomach makes the squeezing, aching pains just below it bearable.
But my brain still isn’t working right.
It feels like everything is going so slow in the moment – and then as soon as it has passed, I realize that it actually happened sofast. There’s no way to check the time and confirm if it’s going crazy or just me; there’s no control over it at all.
Before I know it, we’re all done eating. Wyatt lifts up off the mattress and the impulse to grab him goes unnoticed because he’s just out of reach of my fingertips. I let my hand fall back in defeat knowing somewhere in the back of my mind that it’s for the best anyway.
AT SOME POINT
I become so fed up with lying down and keeping still that I lift out of bed and hobble my way out the door. With each step there’s a terrible throbbing pain right under my tailbone that races up my back to make me wince. By the time I make it outside, I begin to regret leaving the comfort of the bed.
Canuck barks at me as soon as I round the corner, and Wyatt lifts his head from where he’s sanding a nearly completed, wooden sled. It’s long, but thin, and small pieces of wood make up the entire frame. There’s even a backrest. Honestly, it’s pretty well done.
Damn his efficiency.
It took my Dad three years to fix the hole in the wall of Daxton’s room… yet here Wyatt is building things with his bare hands, out in the middle of nowhere, in two days, with barely any tools except a saw, a hammer, and a couple of rusted nails.
I do not look very pleased and I know it. I regard the sled as if somehow this is its entire fault.
I hate it.
Wyatt only laughs at my sour, disinterested look. “Calix, c’mon. Work with me here. You know this is all for the best right?”
“No,” I mutter stubbornly – but Wyatt’s amusement at my attitude doesn’t last very long.
“How’re you feeling?” he asks, switching the subject and bowing his head to continue working.
“How do you think?” I bite back. Okay… maybe I’m just a little bit grumpy…
“Then you shouldn’t be up,” Wyatt says easily. “Go back in and lay down. We’ll be leaving pretty soon.”
My face falls… my world spins… no amount of mental preparation will ease this shock. I absolutely do not want to leave… despite the stiffness in my leg; despite the foggy, forgettable situation with Dax…
“Did you hear me? Get inside.”
“Make me,” I challenge, although my voice doesn’t carry as strongly as I’d like it. I know without a doubt that setting Wyatt off isn’t really a good idea. But there’s an inexplicable need to get him to stop working, and start paying attention to me, no matter the cost. I’m no different than a toddler throwing a tantrum – unreasonable, over-sensitive…
Thankfully Wyatt’s not in any kind of explosively violent mood. He sets down his worn piece of sandpaper, claps his hands together to rid them of a bunch of sawdust, and then he straightens his back. He’s absurdly quiet as he walks over – blue eyes are piercing through mine and I’m trying to get a good read on them but… they’re unpredictably warm…
By the time he towers over me, those rough, dry hands slide along my cheeks and through my hair. Just his touch makes me want to break down and cry – give in to all this pain – but his kiss is perfectly timed to distract me. With his lips glued to mine, he crouches slightly, hooks an arm under my legs, and lifts me up in one swing.
I don’t even try to fight him. I melt into his arms and enjoy the relieving feeling of weightlessness. I barely return the kiss yet it’s somehow perfect. By the time he eases me onto the mattress, I feel a thousand times better.
That is, until he opens his big, stupid, mouth again.
“If you want to help, start packing all your crap.” Then he bends to the floor, picks up my backpack, and shoves it into my open lap.
DON’T EVEN KNOW WHEN
It feels like an absolute eternity passes as we prepare to leave this cabin, this fairy-tale life, behind us.
At one point I try counting seconds out loud to try and keep track of them; one to sixty and then back again. The minutes are tallied on my hand but it’s impossible to stay focused on it too long. Soon I’m counting with no recollection of where I actually left off.
Wyatt bustles around grabbing all kinds of supplies from around the place. He stocks up at his supply cabinet – packing the rest of his canned foods – and stuffs them in my backpack. Then he catches my interest by crouching low to the ground over the blood-stained floorboards in the middle of the cabin, attempting to pry one off.
“What’s under there?” I ask – because I’m way too fucking impatient to wait just a few seconds and find out.
“This?” Wyatt asks, ripping off the piece of wood with his bare hands. “This is where I keep the bodies of all my other victims – I mean meals – I mean…”
I know he’s joking because he can’t help grinning like an idiot at his own words but I’m not in the mood for it; my deadpan stare is enough that he chokes out a laugh.
“Get it? Because I’m a cannibal or whatever…”
“I get it.”
Well, at least he’s cute… at least he’s in a good mood… the effect of his happiness is contagious and I lean forward interestedly as he digs an arm through the hole in the floorboards and pulls out several wads of cash.
“Where’d you get that?” I ask at once as he stashes them in his own dufflebag. “You didn’t rob a bank or anything did you? Is this why you’ve been hiding out here?”
“So that’s what you think of me, eh?” Wyatt mutters, brandishing a stack of bills for effect. “This is my own money. I cleaned out my account years ago.”
I’m still incredibly disapproving. “What do you need it for?”
“Obviously it’s so that I can re-supply,” he says dismissively, already on his feet and shuffling around to grab more things – including the picture of his grandparents.
“I thought you weren’t leaving this mountain…”
“I thought you wanted me to keep you?”
“What does that have to do with it?” I ask, confused as hell. Wyatt doesn’t let me in on his plans until they’ve already been decided … though it’s true I’m in love with that reliable part of him too.
“Look – we need to get you to that tower… get you rescued for real – and the only thing you need to worry about is getting better. Leave the rest to me.”
“How are you going to get into town with Canuck? He’s a wolf,” I remind, watching Wyatt’s brows pull together with stress with each question.
“I have a truck,” he informs to my jaw-dropping surprise.
“You do? Where is it?”
“Fucking far, obviously,” he snaps. “How do you think I got up here in the first place? I parked it when I first got here and hiked the rest of the way.”
“Why can’t you just drive me to the nearest hospital and –”
“Calix,” Wyatt begins, taking on that familiar, lecturing tone. “You think you know what’s best, but you don’t. You gotta leave it to me, okay sweetheart?” So far, I’ve loved the pet name until this exact moment he uses it so patronizingly. If this is the way he treated his girls, no wonder they stayed fuck buddies and didn’t get any more serious than that. My absolutely scathing look prompts Wyatt to reconsider his approach. “The best way for this to happen is to have some space, don’t you think?”
“Space?” I repeat softly with a distant voice.
“Anyway, we don’t have time for this. Do you have everything ready?”
I want to ask more questions, but I’m afraid to. Deep down, I can’t shake the feeling that when given space, Wyatt will come to his senses and re-think this whole gay thing between us.
But I can’t say anything… so it’s with an incredibly heavy, painful heart that I finish packing and let Wyatt steer me outside to the sled.
A long piece of the same rope I used to play with Canuck sticks out the front of it and at the back he’s piled a bunch of supplies already. He sets his dufflebag at the front and takes my backpack in his hands, gesturing me to climb on.
I don’t want to. I freeze and look back at Wyatt pleadingly. “Wyatt – I—”
“Get in,” he warns, dead-set on his decision. I glance to Canuck who is circling Wyatt’s legs with his tongue hanging out – blissfully unaware of the torment I’m enduring.
“I don’t want to,” I mumble before I can stop myself. Then, because I’ve already said it, I lock eyes with him and allow the rest to pour out of me in a rush. “I don’t want this… Wyatt please! There has to be another –”
His eyes narrow and he cocks his head in the direction of the sled as he refers to it.
“Get in, or I’m putting you in.”
The tears start falling, but Wyatt’s not concerned as he drags me by a limp wrist and then presses into my shoulders and forces me to sit on the wooden slabs. He adjusts my sobbing body so that my back and neck rest on the supplies behind me, and my bad leg is raised onto his dufflebag at the front. Then he hands me my backpack and I press it into my stomach with a small hiccup.
Last but not least he hands me the crocheted blanket from the bed and tucks me in. As soon as he’s done he whistles for Canuck and grabs the rope.
I expected more of a ceremony; a last meal – a last shot of vodka - but I suppose that’s why Wyatt and I fucked like rabbits yesterday.
He’s already slinging his rifle across his back and giving the rope a few tugs to test the weight of this incredible burden. After what feels like only a few horrible seconds, he starts to pull for real and the sled gives to his strength and starts moving.
“Goodbye cabin,” I say wistfully, twisting my neck to watch as it steadily shrinks behind us. “Goodbye toilet trees...”
Wyatt makes a noise somewhere between a disbelieving scoff and a laugh. “You’re cute, Calix. Anyone ever tell you that?”
“Daxton,” I say, filling my mind with as many instances I can. “My mom - this girl in seventh grade-”
“Okay,” he snaps. “I get it.” There’s a pause as he pulls me over a bump. “This is going to suck.”
No. What’s going to suck is sitting here - ass torn in two - while my world falls apart.
It’s quite a helpless feeling knowing you can’t do anything. At least I get to watch Wyatt drag me along... one of my t-shirts is stretched beyond ruin as it hugs his chest – his arms – tightly, leaving nothing to the imagination.
God, he’s manly.
My head swims at the memory of him above me - in me - and warm, addicting tingles spark under my bellybutton. That’s right – I can’t ever forget this feeling. An incredible surge of happiness tries to convince me to stay positive; tells me it’s all going to work out in the end.
So I stay quiet as Wyatt heaves his entire life – everything that’s important to him – on a sled through a never-ending maze of trees. He doesn’t take a break until the sun sets.