An unexpected encounter.
This is an exceptionally ‘warm’ story that soon gets out of hand, 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 was standing on a ‘basic’ rock; a gabbro, a magnet for lightning. He’d better get to a lower elevation to avoid being struck by it.
He could see the rain-front coming at him, with the rain, driving horizontally, 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, with other loops for his thumbs to hold it down on him, and to stop the strong wind taking it off him like a parachute. He concentrated on getting off the fell by the shortest route, as the lightning flashed around him.
He counted; one... two... ‘Boom’!
It was too close. He picked up his pace.
But he wasn’t alone.
Another one, not as well outfitted as he was, was sheltering... huddled... in the lee of a large set of boulders at the edge of an outcrop. She was a young woman, not dressed for this weather, and she was looking distinctly uncomfortable and wet.
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 her? 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 (an unwritten humanitarian law), and he was obliged to give it, or at least, try, until she told him to 'get lost'.
She was miserable, drenched; with water running off her face. She was well enough dressed for cold weather--apart from the shorts--but not for this unexpected downpour which had taken 'her', as much by surprise, as 'him'.
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 were wet below them. She was sitting with her feet pulled up to her buttocks, arms wrapped around her knees, and she was shivering, covered partially by 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, as it threatened to do with the plummeting temperature. 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 resisted him, and maybe not even then. It would be a tricky situation, and it would need some delicacy on his part.
She might just tell him to ‘get lost’. Some young women were like that, on principle.
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. Misery liked company. 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 much 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 from less than this, but he’d keep that thought to himself. She was lucky he’d seen her.
“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.” She was wary of him, saying nothing at first, but she was not scared.
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 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 by the wind. There was room under it for his backpack too, so that was a good thing about it.
“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, looking 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 must seem. One step at a time.
“I’m dry and well enough protected under this. There is room for two to rest under here and to 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.’
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, especially, and even, to her. He was offering to share his warmth with her. That suggestion seemed much better, than the way it was for her at this particular moment.
She almost didn’t care what he did, if it would protect her from getting any more wet, and cold, and especially if it would get her warm.
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, once he’d got the ball rolling. 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 before it also got wet, 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 (cautiously) as he unsnapped other things to open it up even more. They were both, mostly 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 his legs out to extend beyond the cover of the poncho, pulling it down around them.
He wasn’t going to ask her permission for everything, or to apologize for even a low level of familiarity as he'd lifted her. That would have been stupid and unnecessary, as well as a waste of time. Some things, you just 'had', to 'do'.
He sensed that she was looking up at him from just a few inches away, 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. He continued adjusting everything so that it wouldn’t blow away; holding it down with some loose rocks from where they were sitting, and even using his feet, as well as trapping it against the rock behind them with his body.
It was a coat that turned into a tent!
She almost laughed at that thought, except she was too miserable to laugh.
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 and wind for long enough. It might just save her life. They’d have to get down to the road before dark, but that was a good few hours away.
She had her eyes closed now, leaning against him, shivering, miserable, as cold fingers of water trickled down her neck and under her clothing, 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 to gain from his warmth and relative dryness.
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 there is little enough time before I’ll need to get you down from here.”
What was he apologizing for? She was cold and wet. He should just get on with it.
What a hell of a way to meet someone!
“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 first. We do have time for that. I’ll help you as much as I can.”
She was listening to what he said; also aware of the thousand things he did not say, and the many questions that would need to be asked.
“First, we have to get you out of some of these wet clothes and get you warm. If you won’t object too much.”
Object? Of course she would object, but he’d still have to do it.
He sounded cautious, and shy, not sure how she would respond to that utterly impossible suggestion.
However, she knew she had no choice, so she nodded, not objecting; seeming to give permission and to agree… to ‘some’ of it. At least she didn’t argue, or physically resist the unthinkable things that he was suggesting. She was too wet and cold for that, and she desperately needed to get warm.
It was tight quarters where they were, and everything would soon get more 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 would beat getting any wetter, except she was now getting 'him' wet, where she leaned against him.
Despite that, she could feel his warmth. It helped her make up her mind.
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 seemed painfully shy… worried about how she would respond.
Shy, was good. It boded well for her.
She had never seen him this close. Her first impression of him at a distance had been wrong. She relaxed more, into him... giving permission. Whatever he needed to do to help her—within reason—she would not object to.
She nodded in response to his request. He was making sense, so far, and she did need his help and his warmth.
He was relieved to see that.