An unexpected encounter.
This is an exceptionally 'warm' story, so be warned.
James was ready to head back to the Inn when the weather changed again. The heavens opened. He’d had some warning, seeing the wind pick up and the clouds moving in fast, along with thunder. He was on an exposed fell and standing on a ‘basic’ rock; a gabbro, a magnet for lightning. He’d better get lower, to avoid being struck by it.
He could see the rain front coming at him, but with too little warning, so had quickly unpacked his yellow slicker, a poncho style of covering designed for cyclists and horse riders, with loops inside to attach it to his belt, and with others for his thumbs to hold it down on him, and to stop the wind taking it off him like a parachute. He concentrated on getting off the fell by the shortest route as he lightning flashed around him.
He counted; one... two... Boom! It was too close. He picked up the pace.
But he wasn’t alone.
Another one, not as well outfitted as he was, was sheltering in the lee of a large set of boulders at the edge of an outcrop. A young woman. What the hell was she doing out on these fells, alone? She might get injured and then where would she be?
Who was he, to criticize? He, was alone.
She was as shocked to see him as he was to see her. Maybe she was concerned about her safety with her being alone out here. However, he couldn’t ignore her; not in this storm. She needed his help whether she wanted it or not.
She was miserable, drenched, with water running off her face. She was well enough dressed for cold weather, but not for this downpour.
Her heavy sweater had protected her for a while, but it was as sodden as it could be, along with her shorts and her legs below them. She was sitting with her legs pulled up to her buttocks, and she was shivering, covered partially with a denim jacket as she hunkered down away from the worst of it.
If she didn’t get off the fell soon, her circumstance could rapidly become more dire, especially if it turned to snow. He’d have to help her with that.
He couldn’t ignore her, and she was too damned wet for her own good, but how was he to help her without scaring the wits out of her and her rebelling? He was damp himself in just the short time he’d struggled with things when the downpour had begun, but at least he could help her to survive this… if she would let him help her.
He’d need to be very careful. Whatever he suggested would be awkward, but he couldn’t leave her like this, and wouldn’t, unless she totally rebelled against him. It would be a tricky situation, and it would need some delicacy on his part.
She might just tell him to ‘get lost’. Some women were like that.
He knelt in front of her, blocking some of the wind and driving rain, and smiled, looking down at her, hoping he wouldn’t scare her.
She looked up at him as she blew water off the end of her nose. He hadn’t needed to be so concerned about his reception. She didn’t seem too shy or too miserable, or even scared by him coming so close, but another ten minutes in this rain and the misery would get worse, fast.
She was a good two hours away from getting down to where there was life of any kind that could help her. People had died of exposure for less than this, but he’d keep that thought to himself.
“I guess we both got caught by this.”
She nodded, sending a cascade of water off her hair. She looked unhappy, but she was able to respond.
“I didn’t expect this. The forecast was wrong. Again. It had this rain for yesterday, and it didn’t come.”
He commiserated. “The weather can’t always be predicted up here.”
This hadn’t, that was sure. It had come down so hard that visibility had been down to a few yards and he’d got very damp himself in just the minute it had taken him to get out of his backpack, unroll his slicker and get it on over everything, fighting with it to stop it being ripped out of his hands but the wind.
“I’m sorry for approaching you like this… out of the blue. If you will let me, I can help you.”
Why was he apologizing for wanting to help her? She needed help, and she had been relieved to see him.
She looked at him more closely.
“How will you help me?” She looked up at him as he tried to explain.
She reminded him of his younger sister, but she wasn’t his sister and he couldn’t just barge in… guns blazing.
How much he could help, depended very much on her and how far she would let him go to get her warm, if not entirely dry. He didn’t want to seem any more threatening to her than he already was.
“I’m dry and well enough protected under this. There is room for two to rest under here and get dry, with a few adjustments, for as long as it takes to get you warm, if that wouldn’t scare you.”
‘With a few adjustments. Scare her?’
She didn’t look scared.
He tried to explain. “It will be close-quarters for a while. You need to get warmer than you are, and drier too.” That much was obvious to anyone.
She almost didn’t care what he did if it would protect her from getting any more wet, and cold.
He waited for her to agree. It was the rest of it that would concern her; the part he wasn’t telling her, but they’d have to negotiate that. She wasn’t objecting. Not yet.
He took her silence as acquiescence.
There was no point in waiting for her to say anything. She wouldn’t object so much now.
He shrugged out of his backpack, laid it beside her on the wet ground and sat on it, after taking a pack out of the top of it.He unsnapped a few things, and then lifted his poncho over her to include her under it as far as possible, pulling her closer into him as he unsnapped other things to open it up even more. They were both under it now.
He turned to her, placing one bent leg behind her, then—his heart beating, and ready to apologize—he lifted her easily; his hand under her bare legs, the other around her, and pulled her to sit high on his legs and to lean into him as he straightened them out to extend beyond the cover of the poncho, pulling it down around them.
He wasn’t going to ask her permission for everything. That would have been stupid, and a waste of time.
He sensed that she was looking up at him, seeing his hesitation and shyness in dealing with her.
He was strong, to have picked her up as easily as that. At least she was now out of the rain. She’d never seen this kind of protection against the weather before, but she’d heard of it.
He pulled the hood to cover the hole where his head had been, and rearranged the cover around them both, unfastening a few more snaps to make it larger, almost doubling its size as he pulled it down around them, and longer. He continued, adjusting everything so that it wouldn’t blow away, and holding it down with some loose rocks from where they were sitting, and even using his feet, as well as against the rock behind them. It was a coat that turned into a tent. She almost laughed at that thought, except she was too miserable.
It was long enough and capacious enough to cover them both now, with not much room to spare. It would protect them from the rain for long enough, and the wind. They’d have to get down to the road before dark, but that was a good five hours away.
She had her eyes closed now, leaning against him, waiting to see how he would help her, and able to guess some of it. If she needed to object, she would.
She didn’t say anything, but she did know something about him. She’d seen him on the fell before, at a distance. He was staying at the local Inn.
He hesitated for a while, then pulled her closer to him.She didn’t resist. He tried to explain, shyly, not sure how to persuade her of what he would need to do.
“I’m sorry about this, but we don’t have much choice and little enough time.”
What was he apologizing for? He should just get on with it.
“I’ll do my best to get you off this fell, before dark, but I can’t carry you, so we’ll have to get you warmer and drier.We do have time for that. I’ll help you as much as I can.”
She was listening.
“First, we have to get you out of some of these wet clothes and get you warm. If you won’t object too much.”
Of course she would object, but he'd still have to do it.
He sounded cautious, and shy, not sure how she would respond.
She nodded, not objecting; seeming to give permission and to agree… to ‘some’ of it. At least she didn’t argue or physically resist what he was suggesting.
She was too cold for that.
It was tight quarters where they were, and would get personal, but she’d survive. He would apologize where he needed to as he explained what he needed to do, and why. As embarrassing as it might be, it beat getting any wetter, except she was now getting him wet where she leaned against him.
She could feel his warmth.
As she got a little warmer, he thought about what he needed to do, and how he would have to explain it to her.
One step at a time, boy. Until she objected and stopped him.
Step one. He sighed.
“Your denim jacket and sweater are totally wet and are robbing your body of warmth. If you will let me…” He was asking, before he did anything, waiting for her approval.
He went up a few more notches in her estimation of him as she looked at him. He had a concerned expression for her in his eyes and he was painfully shy… worried about how she would respond.
She had never seen him this close. Her first impression of him at a distance, had been wrong. She relaxed more, into him. Whatever he needed to do to help her, she would not object to.
She nodded in response to his request. He was making sense, so far.
He was relieved to see that.