This is the shortest part so far, but, as I wrote it, I liked where it was going and I liked it ending where it did. I think Carolyn will still surprise and shock you. The hardest part? I don’t know the end. Carolyn hasn’t told me yet. I finally understand, JMMcDowell.
Carolyn’s initial discovery of the boy’s presence slowly registered and she took in his appearance. He was young, probably eight to ten, average height and weight, blonde with just a touch of curl in his longish hair. His clothes and face were both dirty, showed some signs of age and wear. His voice was the usual small-child high with just a hint of the local accent.
“Ma’am, are you alright?” He quietly took a step backward, evidently thinking about a possible need to flee.
Carolyn shot her arm out, nearly scaring the child into the act she was trying to stop.
“No, I mean, yes, I’m okay. I was just really surprised. You’re the first person I’ve seen in weeks.”
“My Dad will be here in a minute or so. W…we haven’t seen anyone either.”
With that statement, a snapping sound issued and from the woods walked, in Carolyn’s eyes, one very good-looking man. He had not been running to his boy’s aide; he had not been ready to see anyone; however, he was not as surprised as she thought he should have been. He merely dropped the woods and made an almost invisible motion with his fingers. The boy was instantly, without hesitation, running to his side. He did not even cross in front of the man; he kept himself out of the way in case of trouble. Obviously, he had been cautioned, trained.
With that thought, Carolyn’s gaze went to the hunting knife in her hand. Slowly, she retracted it with her arm and replaced it in the holster. Then, as an afterthought, she realized that just because she did not mean them any harm, it did not necessarily go both ways. They were out here alone, after all.
Both adults stood assessing each other for about fifteen seconds. The time ticked out in blood noise in Carolyn’s head. She finally decided to end the stalemate.
“Either we figure out how to trust each other here, or I need to leave now.”
The man who had stepped from those trees was gorgeous (in Carolyn’s eyes) with dark wavy hair, in his mid- thirties, muscular, fit, and eyes that could just knock the socks off even a seasoned model. He was gorgeous enough that she could not have taken her eyes off of him had she needed to. He knew it, too. He gave just the hint of a smile. The axe he carried over his shoulder was not lost on Carolyn. He saw that, too, and lay it on the ground. Straightened up now, he grew to about six five. The features were kind and the boy looked healthy and well-raised. Carolyn continued in a very polite and, almost, level tone.
“Sir, my name is Carolyn and I am passing through the area looking for someplace safer than the city I just left.”
“Jordan, ma’am and this here is Billy, my boy and only family since …”
“I believe I understand…” She let the sentence trail off as both of them somehow knew it was alright.
In the hours before dark, the trio talked and chatted and laughed. Chores were done, supper made and eaten, and everything was as it should be, would be if the most dangerous problem man had ever faced had not been less than five miles away. Still, Carolyn was not in a diner keeping one eye opened; she was not stealing from a medical center and having to kill the staff to stay alive; and, she was not beating a nurse to death with a book in her own home. It was far from perfect, yet there it was.
Now as night gathered, Carolyn was sitting outside the cabin, the young boy asleep inside, a fire crackling outside, and the hunk she now knew as Jordan, Billy’s father, sitting next to her under the bright full moon.
She finally had the good feeling down inside her that spoke of a start of a future, a spark of hope, the almost-promise of not having to live alone and in fear for the rest of her life, and she loved that feeling and wanted it to stay around and take up residence in her soul.
Jordan cleared his throat and continued, “Well, Carolyn, we have been lucky that those things, you call them night crawlers, are pretty sparse out here, so we can still have a fire and I can leave Billy alone for a few minutes while I chop wood, but we have tried hard not to get too friendly with people and kept to ourselves until now.”
Carolyn moved to quickly cover the couple of feet between them and kissed Jordan with an abandoned fierceness, unusual for her even under the best of circumstances, not speaking until the lips separated and she spoke softly, “Please don’t keep too much to yourselves.”
She waited for the night crawlers to rush out of the bushes as they always did when she took a moment, but the woods kept mostly silent as Jordan pulled her toward him and into an oblivion that nearly made this madness worth it.