Continued from Chapter 10
In the early morning light, she wakes first. She turns and sees you still sleeping. Curling onto her side to face you, she lays there, with a small smile playing on her lips. She watches you sleeping. You soon stir. As you become aware of your surroundings, you turn your head and see her there, eyes open, watching you. "What are you looking at?" you say, in that lovely, gruff, early morning voice she's coming to know, and to love.
"Just you sleeping. It's nice to see all that worry gone from your face." She leans in for a quick kiss. "Let's eat, I'm hungry." Then, she jumps out of bed. You are surprised at her eagerness to get going. You lie there for a minute, evaluating what to do. Like most guys, you're experiencing a natural phenomenon that occurs during sleep. In some ways, you're thinking about dragging her back into bed. But breakfast does sound good too. So, you decide on the food, rather than the sex, this morning. She's already gone so you get up and get dressed.
Breakfast is a quick, short matter this morning. "I'd like to get my car today, if you don't mind and I need to get some laundry done, because I'm running out of clean clothes," she says, as you dry up the dishes after she's washed them. "Honestly, your ankle isn't really good enough to go walking to that cave and doing exploring, correct?" She stands with her hands on her hips, sure of herself. You smile at her and nod affirmatively. She smiles and sticks out her tongue at you and says, "Told you so." You snap the dish towel at her, for her sauciness. She dances away from the towel, laughing at you, for missing her. You give up the chase, and get back to work drying the few dishes.
"Hmm, if we're going to be in town, I should get a new cell phone battery actually," you say, with a thoughtful look on your face. She looks surprised.
"You have a cell phone out here?" Her eyes are wide in surprise.
"Yeah, works great up top, but the reception stinks down here in the cleft. It's a 12 volt charger that I use, plugged into a panel, that draws the power from my batteries." You wave your hand, indicating the row of deep cell 12 volt batteries in the far corner, behind the curtain. She nods, understanding that quite well.
"Just like a cigarette lighter in the car, obviously."
"Yup, but the battery is over a year old and doesn't hold a charge for more than a hour now. So, time for a new one for me. I'll have to drive to the phone shop which is about an half hour extra drive away. But not a big deal, since you can come back here, on your own, after you're done with your errands." You smile at her. She nods. "We should get some water too. With you here, we're using water at twice the rate of me alone". You indicate the large plastic jug that you use for drinking, cooking and washing up.
"I'll go collect my stuff. Can I collect your dirty clothes as well and wash them at the same time?"
"You have to ask me that?" you say, winking. "How about if I get down on bended knee and say would you please take my clothes and wash them for me? Would that work?" She giggles at your silly statement.
"Of course, you have to ask me nicely to do it, or you ain't getting a piece of me later, boy."
"Oooo, the girl plays rough, doesn't she?" You're both giggling like crazy now, at this silly banter between you. Without further ado, she goes and collects all the dirty clothes into a large garbage bag and her wallet and knapsack. She climbs the ladder with all the laundry as you watch her from above. You've got the large water jug, on the ground beside you. She's panting slightly, at the exertion. You take the clothes in the big bag from her, with a smile, and carry them to the truck for her.
As you start up the vehicle and begin the drive into town, she asks, "How do you support yourself? Where does the cash come from?"
"In the winter I'm a general handy man for people in this area, and I do detailed maps for customers. Different ones, some topographical, some contour. Depending on what they want. In the summer, I collect semi precious stones and rocks and sell them to a collector who drops by every couple of weeks." She nods at your reply, satisfied with the answer. You discuss rocks in more detail with her, describing what you look for when rock collecting. She says that she'd love to help you hunt out more rocks. She talks about field trips she did, while in university, where she was a rock hound, chipping away with her little hammer, and safety glasses on.
You soon reach the small town. Pulling over at the service station, you stop the truck. She leans over towards you and gives you a kiss goodbye. "See you in a couple of hours back at the Cleft," are her parting words. She gets out and waves as you drive off. She transfers the laundry into her car, and drives down the street to the laundromat. Since she's the only one there, she is able to use three machines at once. Giggling at your underwear included in the wash, she still gets to work and gets the machines loaded with change. Then, she grabs her novel, and sits down to read. "I'd love a coffee about now," she thinks. So, she heads down the street to the small cafe and goes in. She gets a nice takeout coffee with her double cream and sugar that she loves. Settling back down in the seat in the laundromat, she reads her novel under the bright lights. It's warm and comfortable, not hot. "Rather boring," she thinks, but necessary, too. When the washers are done, she loads the dryers quickly.
In short order, she's walking out of the laundromat, with her garbage bag, full of clean clothes. She stops at the grocery store to get a few things that she'd love. Then she's on her way back to the Cleft in her car. "I wonder how long Gareth will be?" crosses her mind. "He's an interesting person," also crosses her mind.
As she approaches the barbed wire and the gate where she has to turn in, she sees another car parked inside the fence. Not recognizing it, she wonders who it could be. "Maybe, the rock collector has come to pay Gareth a visit, perhaps?" crosses her mind. She parks her car beside the other. She glances in the windows and sees nothing amiss. She decides to leave the clothes for a later trip, and just takes her backpack, and her bag of groceries with her, on the first trip. She walks towards the Cleft. Hearing voices, as she stands at the top of the ladder, she's wondering who is there. "Hello? Who's there please?" she states, in a firm voice. She doesn't hear a reply, and thinks, "Hmm, that's a little weird, maybe they didn't hear me." She climbs down the ladder and goes to turn around. Suddenly, from behind her, a hand is firmly clamped across her mouth and a male voice is hissing in her ear. She can feel something sharp in her ribs, poking her.
"You make a move lady, and I'll stick this knife right though you!" says the voice, in her ear. It's a cold, dreadful, shocking feeling to suddenly feel this dread, coldness in herself upon feeling this hand on her. Hearing the voice sends surging adrenaline through her body. It kicks in almost instantly, and she drops her grocery bag, stomps down hard, aiming for his shin. As he lets go of her, in pain, she tries to connect her elbow with his nose, knowing from her self-defense training that is wise. She does and she gets away and turns towards him. She's got her keys in hand and quickly laces them through her fingers, like talons, ready to strike out at him. He does lunge at her with the knife. She aims for his eyes and connects quite well. He screams in agony and clutches his bleeding face. Her adrenaline is running very high at this point. She turns to climb out of the Cleft but he comes after her. He hauls on her boots and she tries to kick him away. But she can't. He's stronger and pulls her down.
Once he has her down, he throws her to the ground hard and says, "I'm going to hurt you, you bitch. You fucking little bitch, you've hurt me so I'm going to hurt you." While he's talking, he's whacking her hard around the head and shoulders. Just striking out with blows. She covers her head as best as she can to protect herself from the blows but he's too strong for her. She rolls herself into a ball, trying to ward off the blows.
Your voice booms out. "What are you doing? Get away from her, now!" It's your voice and you're standing up top, holding a shotgun, at the top of the ladder. The guy attacking Lesley steps away and holds up his hands. Lesley isn't sure if she's dreaming or if your voice is really there.
"Gareth, there is another guy down here. There are two of them," Lesley yells. Her tormentor gives her a good boot in the head to shut her up. But you've been warned already. So, you know not to climb down. "You, the big idiot, you climb up and carry her up, with you, or I start shooting at your knees." He doesn't move, indecisive. But you put the gun to your eye and take aim and say "Move, now, or I start playing games with you." So, he does move and picks her up like a sack of potatoes and drapes her over his shoulder. He climbs up out of the Cleft, carrying Lesley. You back up, giving lots of room between you and this idiot. "Lay her down there." You indicate the ground in front of you. You are shocked to see her face, all bloodied, and that she appears to be out cold, from the kick to her head. But, the cold steel of your anger at this animal in front of you, doesn't allow your gentle nature to shine, at the moment. "You call your friend up, or I'll shoot your kneecaps." He hesitates and again you put the gun to your eye and cock the trigger. He doesn't do anything. So you fire off a shot, hitting the dust in front of him. "Want me to aim a bit higher, next time?" you ask,dryly. He calls out to his partner, giving up the pretence of trying to be a man in front of you. "Why are you here?"
"We just want the Dunny linking book, is all," he states, in his flat voice. It's a weasel sounding voice, suitable for this low-life.
"Well, pond scum, you're not getting it. If you want one, you'll have to write one yourself, or tell whoever sent you to write one themselves." At that insult, his hands clench. His henchman, or partners head emerges from the Cleft. at the top of the ladder, at this point. He's not got anything in his hands. Their trip has been unsuccessful, obviously.
"Your books are safe, for now," says the second guy. "But we'll be back." They slink away, trying to avoid looking at you. They break into a run and head for their car. You are glad to see them turning tail and running away. Watching them carefully until they are gone, in a plume of dust. Wheels spinning as they want to be away from you and your gun.
When they're gone you turn your attention to Lesley. She's still out cold. You had a bad feeling when you pulled in and saw a second vehicle parked there. You didn't recognize it so your defences kicked in and that's why you reached behind the seat for your shotgun. Threading the shells into it, you had hoped not to have to use it, but, sadly, such was not the case. You have a matter of fact attitude towards it. Useful for self defence, when necessary, but you'd prefer not to have it at all. You're kneeling down now, looking over Lesley. She blinks and coughs. It's very painful for her and she grimaces at the light hitting her eyes. "Ouch, ouch, ouch, that hurts," she says, as she rolls herself into a ball and clutches her sides. You are powerless to help and feel a sense of frustration, anger and worry at seeing her moaning in pain on the ground.
"I'm sorry that had to happen to you," you blurt out. "Why did they have to come here? Why did they have to attack you? Why do people have to try and get what isn't theirs, in an underhanded way!" As you talk, your anger is growing, in leaps and bounds. But, the sound of Lesley's groaning stops that anger from exploding. You reach out to her and smooth the hair away from her face. Then you try to help her up. She can barely sit up, at first. The blood is drained from her face. But soon, her blood pressure returns to normal. Then she's able to stand on her feet with you as a support. She sways, dizzy, for the first minute. "How are we going to get you down the ladder?" you think out loud. She speaks, then, in a weak voice.
"Don't worry, I'll climb down after you go down. Just watch out for me, that I don't fall off the ladder." She gives a weak laugh as the silliness of that statement filters through her brain. "I'm hurting but I'll live, I think." You nod, but you're worried about her, still. But, you trust her judgment. Slowly, you climb down, looking up at her. She manages it fine. You take her by the hand, idly noticing the scattered groceries, on the floor of the Cleft. Heading into the kitchen, you sit her in the chair, and you get a clean cloth. After wetting it, with some water, you clean off the dried up blood on her face. Although a lot of it is still fresh. She's wincing in pain as you do it as gently as you can.
"I'm sorry if it hurts but I should try and get you cleaned up." You are worried, in the meantime, knowing that you've not seen the last of these idiots who did this to Lesley. That thought is on her mind as well.
"What did they want?" is her question after a quiet bit, where you keep trying to dab off the blood gently. It doesn't come off easily. You set down the cloth and stand there, jawing clenching, in anger, at what they've done to Lesley.
"They wanted the D'ni linking book to the city," you say, in a tight voice. "I'm going to have to take the linking books and store them elsewhere. This just is not safe enough anymore," you state firmly. She nods, agreeing with you completely. That's a sad fact that has just been made very obvious by this brazen outcome of this day's events.
You head to your room, expecting to see a mess. It's not far off from looking as though a tornado has ripped though it. "Oh my," says Lesley, as she is behind you. The trunk is a lot more worse for the wear, having had a axe chopping away at it. But the lock has held and your books are safe.
"At least the trunk withheld their attack," you say, feeling an immense sense of anger at the destruction wrought on the lovely old trunk. Chips of woods have splintered off it, as they chopped away at the lock, and around it. The top of the trunk is all mangled, chopped wood now. You stand, hands clenching, furious, wanting to strangle someone, or something, who would wrought this destruction. An overwhelming anger surges through you, as though it's being poured into your veins through an intravenous connection. "Damn them!" you spit out, the words slicing through the air. Mutely, Lesley turns. She gets a broom and dustpan from the kitchen and returns. As you see her begin to pick up the rug to take it and shake it outside, you shake yourself out of your anger. Retrieving the blanket from the floor where it had been heaped, you help to clean up. It's a quiet few minutes of work between the two of you. Then you retrieve your keys and kneel in front of the trunk. You fit the key into the lock. The lock is rough with the axe chops on it. It springs open and you open the trunk. Retrieving your Relto book, you stand up. "I'll take the books to my Relto, and store them there, then I'll find a hiding spot for my Relto book here in the Cleft," you say to Lesley. "Would you like to come with me and bring an armful of books? That way, it'll take less time for us to do it, and the sooner we do it, the safer we will be." She nods in agreement.
"Yes, I do think that very wise. Let's get that done as soon as possible." She steps towards you, laying the broom aside. You retrieve a few books and hand them to her and then offer your Relto book to her. She's gone in an instant. You retrieve a few book yourself. Then, carefully locking the trunk, you link to Relto as well, gone in a flash. You materialize there, standing on the cliff. She is there, as well, standing in awe at the view. It is an amazing sight for her, this Relto island in the clouds. A small island, with a hut and a waterfall. It is alone among the clouds with smaller islands surrounding it. There are trees growing, and birds chirping. A lovely, little tranquil spot of refuge amongst the clouds. You lead the way to the door and open it. The dust inside is stirred up, with your movements as you walk in. It's been a long time since you came here. You wrote this age, when you were very young. Your father thought you silly for writing such a simple, silly age. But you enjoyed linking here and having fun, pretending. It was your little fun age, to do with, what you wanted. You indicate an old bookcase, mutely, with your hand, as the point of your interest.
"There, that's where we'll put these. They can sit there. I hope they'll be safe." You place your armful of book onto the shelves. Lesley does the same.
"What is this place? How does it exist?" she asks, after you've turned away from the bookcase and are standing there, in the hut, dust motes dancing in the air between you, in the simple stream of light coming in the door.
"I wrote this age when I was young. It was the first one I wrote. I had fun here when I was little and learned about creating things for pleasure." You shrug your shoulders, not sure that she'll completely understand you or your motivations. She nods, accepting this explanation.
"Well, we better get the rest of the book, hadn't we?" she states, getting back to the real topic of why you are here.
"Yes, let's go!" you state, holding out your Cleft book for her, to link with. She's gone in a flash. You link behind her.
As you materialize, again, in the Cleft, in your room, you see her standing there, waiting for you. She's still so beautiful for you to look at. Her clothes are dirty and dusty. Her face is red and sore looking. Her hair is messy looking and she looks like she's been through a dust storm. But to you, a warm, beautiful woman, whom you know, loves you. You step towards her, and open your arms. The two of you kiss, and you whisper "I hope you're okay. I'm sorry you got so hurt by all this." She hugs you tightly.
"Yes, it was a terrible shock, wasn't it?" she says, muffled, with her head turned to the side. The rough material of your shirt is hard on her tender, scraped skin, and you realize this when she flinches away. "But, I'm here for the long haul with you, you know," she states, her voice louder and more sure sounding. You smile at her, and gently trail your thumb across her cheek. Your admiration for this woman just grew again. It's a warm, swelling of emotion you feel.
"Let's get the rest of the books taken on this trip, okay?" you say. You both smile at each other, glad that you took a brief minute to get close again. The day's events just threw the nice part of it away. You unlock the chest again, and retrieve another armful of books for her. Then you hold open your Relto book and she's gone, just like that. You get the last of the books. Included in this bunch are your fathers papers in the old, leather bag that you retrieved from the cave. This time, you leave the chest open, empty now, of the precious linking books, that someone would steal from you, if they could. You link out, feeling a sense of satisfaction that you've outwitted them.
You materialize again, in Relto, and again, you both enter the hut, and place the books on the shelf. "There, that's the sum of them," you say, with some pride, in your voice. "They'll be safe, we hope, here, and now I'll have to hide this precious book, in the Cleft, to protect this place." You indicate the Relto with your hands. She nods her head, understanding your motivations. You hold the linking book, for the Cleft, open for her. Then you follow.
After returning to the Cleft, you walk out of the bedroom. You have a good idea of where to store this precious Relto book you are holding. Lesley follows you, her words fading out as you walk away. "Where will you hide it?" is what she is asking. You don't speak, continuing to walk. At the very far end of the Cleft there is a small tree growing. You kneel and you unstack some stones, built up in a small cairn. What you uncover is a small, little hole under the base of the tree. The roots have filled in a bit of the hole but there is still, essentially, a gap for a body to fit in.
"This is where I'll hide the Relto book," you state, definitively, continuing to unstack the stones, working quickly, your motions a blur. She kneels and helps you. Then you fit yourself into the hole and you disappear from view. She doesn't follow you because it's too small, too tight a space. Then you reappear, dirt on your clothes. "I found this while playing as a child. I haven't been in here in a long while. You can't tell this from the outside, but in there," you indicate with your hand, "is a small, natural cavern in the rock. Likely created by water, over the years." She nods, understanding what you meant.
"That's very cool!" She helps you start replacing rocks again, to block up the opening from view. "But, if we want this to be easily accessible, we'll have to put something different in front of this opening, won't we?" she states, with a worried look on her face.
"Hmm, yes, that would be wise. I'll have to think of something, maybe a large rock to make it easy to move." You both continue stacking stones to make it look like a natural, small cairn of stones. Once finished, you both head to the kitchen to wash your hands. Then you make some lunch, finally, both suddenly realizing you're very hungry and need food. "Well, with that nasty piece of business out of the way, we'll have to get you a Relto book too, won't we?" You smile in her direction. You retrieve your blank paper and your pens and ink from the desk in your study. Sitting at the kitchen table, working quickly, you write Lesley her own Relto book, for linking to your Relto age. As you finish it, she stands, marvelled at your skill.
"That is amazing, Gareth, at how you do that!" Her face is a mixture of awe, admiration, and fear, somehow, at your obvious skill.
"Let's try it and take a blanket and have some fun, okay?" you say, to her, gently, wanting to have some quiet time now, with this lovely lady. She nods and scared of this new adventure, still reaches out her hands and links. You follow her. Safely on Relto, you smile at her. "I did it! Woot! The skill is like riding a bicycle. Once taught, never forgotten." She smiles back at you.
You walk to the far end of Relto and spread the blanket. She follows behind you. You both sit on the blanket and then take a minute to enjoy the tranquility of the scene. A very peaceful, quiet time for both of you. A time of reflection, finally. "Well, we've found to our dismay that someone is going to use unscrupulous methods to get the D'ni linking book, aren't they?" you say, with a downcast face.
"Yes, it would appear that way. Any idea who this could be? Directing this at you?"
"I have no idea, at all, sadly. But, obviously, they aren't going to give up, I'd say. I think we should be ready for a visit any time, day or night, from those yobbos," you state, with an angry, tense sound to your voice. Lesley picks up on this tenseness in your voice and she leans towards you, reaching out. Her touch is a pleasant one, linking you again, together, through touch. A warm feeling spreads its way through your body at this simple touch of hers. A feeling of calm, and caring. It's a nice feeling. You reach out your hand and cover hers, with yours, and hold it. Then you turn towards each other and kiss. A mere touch of the lips to each others, but a warm, lovely feeling all the same.
She mutters, "I'm so angry at your books being threatened like that, but right now, I've just got you on my mind." She reaches out, with both her hands, and grasps your face in her hands. Kissing you hard on the lips, you get the sense that she's got something on her mind, a wee bit.
"How are you feeling?" you ask her. The concern in your voice is evident to her. You know, by her body movements that she wants you, but you don't feel that way towards her. It's more a concerned feeling you have now, seeing her bloodied and bruised.
"I'm okay but a bit sore." She smiles tentatively at you, seeing you're not responding to her advances.
"That's good to hear. Let's rest a bit here and then we'll think of a plan to keep us safe in the Cleft, okay?" You lie down on the blanket, patting it beside you, indicating mutely, that you want her to lie down, as well. You both lie down, looking up, hands clasped together, between you. A tranquil time of peace, for both of you.
Continued in Chapter 12