Chapter Ten

Once Denise exited the motel, she saw the sun had finished painting the mountainside. The rays brushed everything, detailing the toothpick like trees with green fringes making a raised, shag carpet that lacked any view of the floor beneath. The gray granite caps held stubby bushes that asked for very little air to grow. Behind her, the town sat in a flat spot beneath another vertical land mass. The peak back-dropping the town held a stream of white and glassy runoff that cut down the mountain and sometimes, when the rocks jutted, the water jumped to the next step down.

Richard assisted in the deconstruction of her campsite. Based on his determination, she figured against trying to enforce her own ability to take care of herself and her things.

Continuing his interference, he tossed her pack into the back of his truck leaving her to climb up into his cab and welcomed the silence that finally came when they started down the road. She relaxed into the bench seat and lowered her guard, opening herself up to the scenery instead. Scattered clouds skittered shadows across the slopes as the winds remained high and brushed the shaded regions to new locations and into new forms. The edges of the shadow clouds were roughened by the tree tops, but never blurry, like the remnants of mist that bordered the clouds above. It proved hard for the obese shadows to take on images, but she did her best, seeking distraction from her driver.

She ceased in the same minute that she had started, however. She had let herself walk into a dance of history and had jerked herself back before the first chorus.

A rest area sign whipped by, and she glanced the number fifteen. She steered hard to get her thoughts to turn toward planning for her next stop, but the minute she succeeded in veering off her mental course, she noticed her driver was veering off his course as well.

He turned off onto a dirt road.

“Where are you taking me?”

“Don’t worry. You’re not in any hurry so we’ll take the scenic route.”

She acted out a shrug and an, “Okay,” while trying to stuff the nervous fluff that clogged her lungs, forcing a reaction in her heart rate. There was no danger, she assured herself, having nothing from which to really base that.

The forest engulfed the truck. The dirt road turned into a couple of ruts in the forest floor, and the bark around her grew dark, the needles held together like Velcro, a coarse fabric that held back daylight.

She looked to him, panic on the rise as he remained silent.

Involuntarily grasping the handle above her head when the truck dropped down into a dip, she held tighter as truck tires worked over a collection of miniature boulders. She shot the side mirror a glance from the corner of her eye. The light at the end of the tunnel, or merely the way that had allowed them entrance into this cave of foliage had closed. She lowered her gaze to the door handle without moving any other muscle. All she had to do was follow the road….

“Ah, here we are,” he declared.

She looked up then squinted under the flashes of sun reflected by the rushing water. To her right and left, she saw the forest stop and a brief strip of land existed before a short drop down to the rippling and splashing glass.

She climbed down from the cab, approached the coursing waters, somewhat mesmerized. The fluid’s clarity allowed her views of brown and grey rocks which the water had smoothed into rounds.

Metal scraping against metal, clinking together, she turned back to the noise, found Richard pulling fishing poles and a box from his bed, and she crinkled her brow in response.

“How else was I going to get you to spend a day fishing with me?”

“I would call this a kidnapping,” she replied.

“Alright. Report it to the next officer you see.” He grinned.

She glared as his confident reply required, however at the same time, her heart was having a hard time remaining landed.

“I didn’t give you details about what time I would drop you off at the rest area today.”

“How about right now?” she asked, unsure of any direction spending time with him might lead but very sure what being left at the next rest stop would mean. That was what she still wanted, wasn’t it?

“Come on. Aren’t you out for trying new things on this trip?”

She opened her mouth and raised a finger but returned to a quiet pose. She’d wanted to argue, but dang him for knowing. How could fishing in the middle of the mountains possibly bring her down to Reality?

            He might. And so would half the men at any rest area, she reminded herself, basing it on how many men looking like him there seemed to exist in the world these days.

Walking determinedly toward him, she watched as he set a hat on his head, lowering the brim over his eyes, and the shaded face strengthened her. She met his detail-free visage with her eyes and remained silent, felt a thrill in successfully making him squirm a bit.

She reached out and removed a pole from his hands. “Let’s get this over with.”

He smiled and escorted her to the water’s edge. “We’ll start on land for now,” he explained, “but the best catches are out there.” He nodded his head toward the middle of the stream. “’Cept it’s sort of frigid this time of year and I don’t have any extra waders.”

The instructions that ensued involved flowing movements of his rod, line, and steeled, warm arms softened by a thin layer of skin. He stood at her back and wrapped an arm around hers, maneuvering her hand, her arm, her body, into the proper motions. The flesh-to-flesh contact and rocking rhythm called up little whirls of connection and desire for more.

When she reached her breaking point, she pushed him off. “I got it.”

“Let’s see then.”

She glared at him and two tears streamed down her cheeks. They had left their unshed positions when she found herself in his arms. She turned her glare to the waters, rod, and reel as she clutched the fishing line in one hand and rocked her other back and forth swishing the line forward and back. Her actions felt disjointed. She kept her rocking going until her arms and body relaxed and then focused on a target above the water’s surface, released the line. The fly settled where it was directed. She smiled.

He gave her space, taking his rod, and starting the same process several feet down the bank. They had made an early enough start for her to feel the final fingers of the cool, morning air with his departure from her side.

The slick green mouth of a fish snapped at her fly. She gasped and the line started to pull out. She grabbed at the wheel, taking the knob and reeling back. The trout flipped its body up through the clear water and splashed back along its curved side. She pulled harder and that was when she felt the line loosen.

She let her rod droop when she spotted the naked fly.

“It’s okay,” he offered. “At least this way you won’t have to gut it.”

“What?” She whipped around to him.

He grinned. “Alright, I guess since this is your first time fly fishing, I suppose I’ll do the gutting.”

“I’m not watching,” she replied.

She looked down the shoreline and took his rod a dozen feet away from him, trying to forget the smile she had glanced on his face, had caused to lighten his deep, blue eyes that made her feel something akin to satisfaction.

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