Good morning and welcome back to Tuesday Tales. Last week, my post was from my sci-fi series, but today, I’m back to Hello Again. As you may recall, my heroine, Charley, was caught out in the open by a series of tornadoes, and rescued by an RCMP officer, Bill, and a feisty old Nakota woman, Shirley, who communes with the spirits.
This week, the word prompt is steel.
Charley groaned as her body violently protested whatever she’d done to it. There wasn’t an inch of her that didn’t feel bruised and battered. The throbbing in her leg intensified, matching the pounding in her head. She was stuck to whatever she was lying on, but felt cold and clammy.
What the hell happened to me?
She forced her mind back, trying to remember where she was. She’d left the bed and breakfast …. The storm! She’d gotten out of Matilda because of the storm.
“I see you’re coming around. That’s good.”
Slowly opening her eyes in the dimly lit room, Charley stared up into familiar, caring brown eyes. Nana McKinley? But that wasn’t possible. Nana was dead. She’d died the year before Mike. Charley closed her eyes again, trying to make sense of the world around her. Was she dead? Had she made a mistake leaving Matilda and been killed in the storm? She’d seen Mike earlier, she was sure of it. His Irish green eyes had bored into hers, the scowl on his face as familiar as ever when she’d done something to worry him.
“Am I dead?” she asked feeling foolish the minute the words were out of her mouth. If she were dead, she wouldn’t be in pain like this. “Who are you? Where am I?” Her voice was a mere croak, her throat dry as dust.
“Not dead,” the woman answered and chuckled. “I’m Shirley Smoke. You’re in my bed on my farm on the Carry the Kettle Reservation, about ten miles from where you were when the tornadoes struck.”
Not Nana. Disappointment flooded her. As Charley blinked to focus, she saw the differences. Unlike her slender, white-complexioned, Irish grandmother, this was a Native woman, her skin the color of polished leather. Her long, snow-white hair was tied back, probably in a braid, and the cotton dress she wore covered a stout body. She was old, possibly even older than Nana, but her face was friendly and strangely comforting, and her eyes were the same shape and color as her grandmother’s.
“Sergeant Murdock and I rescued you.”
“Rescued me from what?”
“From the third tornado and the ditch where you avoided the first two twisters. You’d have been killed if you’d stayed in your vehicle, but we had to get you out of that gully before it flooded. There isn’t much left of your car, but the sergeant is getting whatever he can for you.”
Closing her eyes against the pounding headache, Charley let memories of the storm clouds and her decision to get out of the car fill her, along with regret. If Shirley was correct and Matilda was beyond repair, then Charley was in a lot more trouble than she could afford. Buying a new vehicle, even an old used one, was out of the question. The charge for the reconditioned rad would be on her credit card for who knew how long before she got it paid, and she had nothing to show for it now. Would she even be able to salvage parts from the old girl? And as for insurance … wasn’t a tornado considered an act of God?
Tears filled her eyes. There was no way she’d get to Saskatoon today, which meant she’d have another hotel charge added to her bill unless she could call and cancel. She was a good fifty miles from Regina as it was. Frowning, she opened her eyes and turned back to the woman. There hadn’t been any houses along the road she’s traveled.
“How did you find me?”
“You have powerful spirits surrounding you. They spoke to me during the storm and told me where you were. We need to get you out of these wet clothes, so I can look you over and tend to your leg. The bleeding has stopped, but it may need stitching. How do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been run over by a truck. My whole body aches, but my calf seems to be the worse. It burns like the dickens, and I’ve got a headache.” She tried to smile, but the effort cost more than she could afford, and tears slipped out of her eyes and down her cheeks instead. She reached up and touched the huge lump on the right side of her head a few inches from the temple.
“It’s alright, little one. You’ve probably got a concussion. It was lucky you had the pillow over your head to cushion some of the blow from that branch. A few inches the other way, and you might’ve been killed, but the spirit protected you.” Shirley put her hand on her hip. “I think you need a bath to clean everything. I’ll tend to the leg after. It may bleed a little more, but no doubt the burning is from the debris in it. I’ll get the first aid kit, and get things ready.”
“You’re going to sew up my leg here?” Charley said, unable to keep the fear out of her voice.
“Don’t worry, wi’cin, I’ve done this many times before. Now, if you can stand, I’ll help you into the bathroom. If you can’t, we’ll have to wait for the sergeant to get back. The last twister didn’t do much damage here, and he should be able to get the generator working soon, but there’s enough hot water for you to bathe, and I’ll heat more on the stove. I’ve got a pot of soup on, too.”
“Maybe the sergeant should just drive me to the hospital,” Charley said. “I don’t want to be a bother.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” Shirley said. “It’ll be a few days before he can get back to Regina. The last twister took out two bridges and tore up the highway. We’ll be here for a couple of days. Don’t worry. We have lots of food and water, and I’ll take care of you. Now, can you walk or do I get the sergeant?”
The steel in the woman’s voice and her no-nonsense attitude were strangely comforting, and while her talk of spirits was disconcerting, Charley felt at peace. There was nothing she could do to change her circumstances. Miri had been right. She should’ve stayed in Ontario.
“I can walk,” she said, sniffling and swiping at her eyes. She sat up on the side of the bed and wincing at the pain in her head. Boy, when I make a bad decision, I make a doozy. What the hell am I going to do now?
That’s it for this week. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales