CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.
His solid legs extend both feet onto firm ground after nearly three hours on the vertical rock. The endorphin high is descending now. He soaks in its coasting stretch, his skin cooling just beneath the layer of moisture beads as they prepare for lift off. Hoisting the pack to his back, once as weightless as he was at 4000 feet, it assumes concrete mass and he leans to bear it, trudging, anticipating the moment when it will swing from his shoulders even as he just did from the side of the mountain. His tongue touches the salt crystals forming on his upper lip. Hunger rushes in.
Her seated form penetrates the haze ahead. He can just see the outline of her body, at about thirty feet. The small pit is glimmering under the pot, whose contents waft their aroma. Head bowed over the drawing that has taken shape on her lap over the past hour, she looks up, hearing his approach. Her heart quickens; she smiles slowly.
It wasn’t his custom. Wilderness, teeming with the unseen, waiting to be felt, its banquet for the senses unfolding as he tapped each resource, was his playground. He’d earned his place there, the only homo sapien for miles; they’d come to an understanding. Her image, so still, yet so incongruous. Was it the composition that jarred him, or something else?
She’d been determined. A finished drawing, perhaps a four hour, was the plan. Twenty five years fallow was long enough to nearly lose an identity. She’d been born to it, after all; what had been the problem? And, here was the perfect setting: neutral, God given territory. No critics, no commission deadlines, just the canvas and the Conte crayon, and the man.
The man. He didn’t know. She wouldn’t tell him. He’d climb his rock, and she’d mind camp. Easy enough to stew over a fire. She knew how to stew. She knew about fire. She’d been smoldering for years, months at least. The power was in her lap, the seat of foregone fertility, and the drawing was looking good.
He couldn’t quite name the emotion. Was it annoyance? Perhaps he was unnerved. A shift was now required of him, of his attention; he’d conquered the vertical plane with his fingertips, but could hardly advance toward the amorphous shape presented before him. Her gaze was soft, maddening.
Silently, she places the drawing on the soft earth, laying the crayon beside it. He takes the pot from the pit, and serves up two portions, and sits. They eat without tasting.
The mountain breeze moves in their direction, but stops short, wary and uncertain. A force between them finds form. It is resistance, the armored guard of all resolve. Natural, and unnatural. Presence, and absence.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 3/14/16 All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.