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I opened my eyes and saw an endless sea of black. My first thought was that I had lost my sight, but I soon corrected myself and realized it was just dark outside and void of light where I was. I sat up where I was and peered into the night, trying to get a sense of where I was. Slowly, shapes began to form in front of my eyes. I had been lying on a couch made up of wood and stuffed, then fashioned with soft leather. There was a blanket draped over me, barely able to remove the chill my wet clothes had put on me. It was white wool and has a synthetic quality to it. The room had the same synthetic quality.
Dragging the blanket with me I stood up from the couch and began to wander about the room. There was a door to my left and a corridor on my right. Cold air seeped into the room from a small crack at the bottom of the door. I decided to take my chances with the dark hallway instead; at least it wasn’t cold there. Before I could venture into the hall, the door swung open. I turned toward the sound and felt cool air rush against my face. There in the doorway stood the silhouette of a man; he looked about six foot two and dominated the room with his presence. A small animal hung limply from a hook that was attached his belt. Beside it was a knife that’s blade was as long as my forearm that glistened in the moon’s light. A faint glimmer of moonlight revealed a menacing looking shotgun strapped to his back.
My eyes wouldn’t look away from him and my feet glued themselves to the ground. He took a few steps toward me.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” his voice was coarse from the cold air and I could detect a hint of an Irish burr. But there was a soothing honey-like quality to it that put me oddly at ease. My mouth opened and closed as I tried to think of something to say.
“Well? I asked you a question,” he stated as he neared me. I gave an inaudible squeak and dashed toward the dark hall. He took three long strides and grabbed my arm, spinning me around to face him. He opened his mouth-
“Lemme go lemme go!” I shrieked, “Please don’t kill me, please don’t. I still have so much to live for. Do you want my wallet? You can have it, but I don’t know where it is right now. If you let me go I could try and fi-“
At this point he slapped his free hand over my mouth, cutting off my frightened words.
“Could you shut up for one minute?” he growled.
The lights in the hall suddenly turned on and I could hear the shuffling of padded feet on the wood floor. A stout woman stepped into the hall wearing fuzzy pink slippers and a matching night gown. Her gray hair was piled on top of her head and shone silver in the hallway lights. She had deep brown eyes that sparkled with a youthful fervor, contrasting beautifully with the wrinkled and weathered lines on her face. Her mouth creased into a frown.
“What in God’s name is going on here?” her fists perched on her hips in annoyance and her eyes bore into the man holding me.
“Connor, let go of that poor girl. Can’t you see she’s frightened to death?”
The man, Connor, released me obediently. The old woman turned to me with a smile and tugged the blanket closer around me.
“There now, what’s your name child?”
“K-Karra,” I stammered, “Karra Idleson. Who are you? And where am I?”
“My name is Nora Lockhart, and this is my nephew Connor McKinley. He’s visiting from Ireland over the winter. Pardon his rudeness, but when I brought you in the cabin he was out hunting.”
“Wha-?” my thoughts were a jumbled mess, “Wait, the last thing I remember was hiking with my friends. The weather was…awful. And we got separated…. But I don’t really remember what happened.”
Nora shook her head in sympathy.
“You must have gotten caught in the blizzard. Awful luck that is. Are you still cold Karra? You’re shaking.”
“No, no I’m fine.”
But I wasn’t. Connor’s presence made me uneasy. He stood beside me not saying a word. Only watching, like a feral cat watches its prey. I inwardly shuddered.
Why did he have to watch me like that?
“Well,” Nora chirped, “since it is almost dawn I’ll go make some breakfast”
After breakfast Nora told me I should go wash up. She said she would wash and dry my clothes for me. When I stepped out of the shower there were a pair of loose sweat pants and a large shirt. Judging by the size I guessed they were Connor’s. I felt uneasy at the thought. I returned to the couch I had woken up on. My gaze turned to a window and as I watched the snow fall my thoughts drifter back to my family.
My mother had always warned that men were the worst kind of people. She said they didn’t know love from lust and they wouldn’t give a damn if our feelings were hurt or not.. I didn’t think that was true, my father had always been kind to me. But her words still rang in my head.
“Men will always take what they want from you Karra.” She would shriek, “Someday some man is going to come along and pick you up, and just when you think you’re in love with him, he’ll leave you because he got bored.”
I could hear her cry herself to sleep some nights. I never knew the reason until I was 12. My dad slowly stopped coming to visit me, next the phone calls stopped, and lastly the letters. It was then I realized that my dad never did care for me. He only put up with me for a time.
The front door swung open and snapped me out of my thoughts. Connor tromped inside and gave me a quick glance before going to the kitchen. How was I ever going to get back to my friends if the only person who could help me acted like I didn’t exist?
Once my clothes were dry and I was dressed I decided to step outside. The cold air whipped at my face, stinging my cheeks until they were numb. I stuffed my gloved hands inside my jacket pockets and walked farther into the snow. The crisp snow crunched under my boots with every step I took. Near the edge of the wood I found a spot of untouched snow. I flopped down on my back and moved my arms and legs up and down. I sat up and jumped away from my spot. An angel was lying on the found where I had been. My lips curved into a small grin. I hadn’t made snow angels in years. I felt like a kid again. Joy leaped inside of me as I pranced around the cabin. As I rounded the cabin I saw Connor emerge from the woods. I tried to skid to a stop but ended up slipping and falling flat on my but. Humiliated, I decided to stay where I was, I wouldn’t get up until he went inside.
A large hand appeared in front of my face, rough and marred due to manual labor. My eyes followed the hand up to the arm, the elbow, the shoulder and the face. I searched for any hint of mocking humor in Connor’s eyes but couldn’t find any. His face was set, stoic, as he waited for me to grasp his hand. Cautiously, I slid my hand into hint and let him pull me up.
“Be careful,” he warned, “its slick in some places.”
I nodded my head, too surprised to speak. His hand was still wrapped around mine, evoking two emotions to collide with one another. One I knew all too well, fear. I was unsettled by the fact that he helped me up and was now walking me inside, why wasn’t he laughing at me? I wanted to run but, there was another emotion starting to rise and overpower the fear. A sensation I felt I should remember. Compassion. He cared that I had fallen down. I grinned at the thought. When he saw my grin he smiled back at me.
“Come on,” he coaxed, “you don’t want to freeze out here in the cold.”
He tugged at my hand, pulling me along as we headed for the cabin.