Hello and welcome to the last September Tuesday Tales. Autumn has definitely arrived. Warm days give way to chilly nights complete with frost.I can’t complain. We had a magnificent summer this year. Lots of beautiful, sunny days, and I’ve already booked my camping spot for next summer.
Tuesday Tales, made possible by Jean Joachim and a group of extremely talented authors, challenges me and the others in the group to write a scene in a story based on a single word or image. Hello Again, has been created for that very purpose and, since I’m a pantser,rather than a plotter, it’s taken on a life of its own. What started as a contemporary romance is morphing into a paranormal/romance/suspense story.
Here’s this week’s offering.
Charley turned off the taps, having opted to take a shower rather than the bath her hostess had suggested. The old-fashioned claw footed tub was deep, and while she’d love to soak her aching body, she doubted she’d be able to leverage herself out of the tub once she was in it. Having a stranger, especially a male RCMP officer help her out of the tub—naked as a jaybird—wasn’t going to happen. She’d shampooed her short chestnut hair twice, mindful of the throbbing lump on the side of her head. The herbal-scented products made her feel fresh—fresh and about a hundred years old. The back of her hands stung and her leg ached, but she’d scrubbed herself with a facecloth and the lavender scented bar of soap, doing her best to get as much of the debris as possible out of her wounds. The leg was bleeding again, but it didn’t look as if there was anything stuck in it.
Drying herself with the towel her hostess had left on the stool for her, she avoided the bloody leg, pleased that the bleeding was down to a slow ooze. The stiff, snowy-white towel reminded her of her youth, when Nana had hung towels out to dry in the sunshine, and they’d had that same clean, fresh scent. Using the paper towels Mrs. Smoke had brought for the purpose, she dabbed at the deep gash in her leg, hoping it wouldn’t get infected. Finally, dry, she donned, the voluminous pink flannel nightgown the woman had given her and giggled softly. Beggars can’t be choosers.
Carefully, she brushed back her hair, wincing when the bristles rubbed against the sensitive spot. Grateful for the new toothbrush her hostess had provided along with a hairbrush, she cleaned her teeth, and then tidied the bathroom as best she could. Satisfied it was as good as she could get it, she opened the door and stared around the open-concept living room/kitchen, half of which appeared to be a stable.
“Feeling better?” Shirley asked.
“Yes, thank you. Do you always keep your animals in the house?” she blurted out, trying to ignore the various aromas competing for supremacy.
“Getting a might strong isn’t it? As soon as the sergeant gets the fence up, Elsie, Flower, and Chuck will go back outside, and I’ll get this all cleaned up. I needed to bring them inside to keep them safe from the twisters.”
“Don’t you have a barn?” Charley asked, wondering if she sounded as dim-witted as she felt.
“Did; don’t anymore. The boys will build me a new one as soon as they can, but the cattle will be fine for a few days in the pen. The sergeant will build a lean to for them. Now, come and sit down so I can look at the leg. City girl, eh? Well, the smell of a little cow manure won’t hurt you.”
Charley felt her cheeks heat. The last thing she’d wanted to do was insult her hostess. Moving as quickly as her leg allowed, she hobbled to the table and sat as ordered.
Shirley reached for her hands, examined Charley’s scraped knuckles, and nodded. “I’ll put some salve on them after you eat. They’ll be fine. Now, let me see your leg.”
Charley lifted the nightgown to expose the back of her left calf. With a surprisingly soft touch, Shirley examined the gash.
“You did a good job of cleaning it out, but it’s definitely going to need stitches,” she said, and Charley swallowed awkwardly. She wasn’t very brave when it came to needles and such, and the idea of having her leg sewn up like a tear in a pair of pants nauseated her.
“Maybe you could just bandage it for now,” she offered, “and we could get it stitched later.
Shirley chuckled. “A might squeamish are you? Not to worry. I’ll wait until after you’ve eaten. I’ll get you some stew.”
Grateful for the delay, Charley smiled, about to refuse the food, but her stomach let out a loud groan belying any excuse she’d been about to give. The aroma of fresh bread mixed with the less appetizing ones, and she realized how hungry she was.
Charley picked up the spoon and dipped it into the thick stew.
“This is delicious. Aren’t you having any?” she asked, hoping this wasn’t the only food her hostess had.
“I’ll eat with the sergeant when he’s done. The bread’s fresh from this morning, still warm since I kept it in the oven.” She set down a cup of herbal tea. “I want you to drink it all down and then I’ll help you back into bed. It’ll help with the headache.”
While Charley ate, Shirley bustle around the room, opening the shutters and windows, allowing the fresh air to ease the scent of the animals.
“Do you live here alone?” Charley asked.
“I have for the last five years. Before that my husband was with me.”
“How do you manage?”
“Emile, he’s my chief, sends boys out to do the heavy work, and every now and then the spirits send me those who’ve lost their way and need saving.”
“Spirits? As in ghosts?”
“People use different names for them. Some call them angels, but I guess they could be called ghosts. You have a strong spirit attached to you. He’s worried about you. He came to me to tell me you were in trouble, and we went to get you.”
Charley swallowed. She didn’t believe in ghosts or spirits, but the last thing she’d do was admit it to this woman. Now, angels were a different matter. Nana had believed in angels, and Charley couldn’t dispute the fact that someone had been watching over her this morning.
When she’d finished two slices of bread and her bowl of stew, Charley reached for the tea. It wasn’t orange pekoe or any of the other varieties she’s tasted, but it was good with a hint of peppermint and honey, and she finished it quickly.
“That was delicious, Mrs. Smoke, she said recalling the woman’s name. She yawned. “I guess I’m still not myself.”
“Nonsense, a body needs sleep to heal. Call me Shirley since we’ll be together for a few days. Here,” she handed Charley two analgesic tablets. “These will help with the pain.”
Charley lifted the glass of water to her mouth, swallowed the two tablets.
The sound of the door opening made her turn her head and her breath caught in her throat.
It can’t be.
The tall man standing in the doorway with close-cropped red hair and deep green eyes was a dead ringer for Mike. Was she hallucinating?
“Mrs. Winters,” he said stepping into the room. “Nice to see you awake.”
He even sounds like Mike.
The room began to spin, and she grasped the side of the table. “Maybe I’ll just lie down for a bit.”
“That’s a good idea,” Shirley said, but her voice sounded far away. “When you wake up, you’ll be right as rain.”
Charley stood, but before she could take a step, blackness overtook her.
“Damn,” Mike’s voice was the last thing she heard.
That’s it for this week. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales