Sara and The Wolf
Sara meets Dan while searching for a friend who disappeared from Seattle the year before. They develop a relationship and face a challenge.
There are 10 chapters. The whole thing is written and I'll keep posting it... I originally wrote this for my sister. She liked it but said it wasn't as good as the original. I agree, but it sure was fun to do.
5. Chapter 5
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Dan’s home was set back among the trees. The siding was brown with dark trim around the windows. A few worn steps led up to the screen door propped open in front of the closed front door. There was a girls bicycle leaning against the stair railing and the pots of flowers hanging from the eaves were a bright spot against the dark exterior. On either side of the front stairs were small statues of woodland creatures, raccoons, squirrels, and rabbits. The lifelike arrangement gave Sara the feeling she was being watched as she and Dan made their way up the walk and climbed the stairs to the front door.
Dan turned the knob and opened the door freeing a rush of warm air heavily scented with the smell of pot roast. Across a living room decorated in earth tones and with more of the small animal statues Sara could see through the doorway into the kitchen that there were at least two women busy at a table with their backs to the front door. There was a television on in the living room tuned to a news program and in the kitchen music was playing as the two women talked. No one seemed to have noticed the door opening.
Sara felt awkward about coming into someones home unannounced but in her present state she felt that meeting Dan’s family would lead to her making a terrible first impression. She let Dan lead her down a hallway on their left and into a bedroom at the end of the hall. The room was a clutter of typical male belongings, posters on the walls depicted cars, women, and a concert from a few years previous. Dan pulled out a chair from under a desk and Sara sank into it.
“I’m sorry about the mess. I’ll get your things from the truck, the bathroom is next door, you can take a shower while I set things up for you in here.”
“Dan, I don’t want to put you out of your room…” Sara began.
“No, we have a deal, besides, I’ll be fine on the couch for a few nights. When you’re well again we can renegotiate if you want to.” Dan was out the door before Sara could protest again and returned shortly with her bag and a bundle of clean towels.
Sara meekly took the towels and a change of clothes and went into the bathroom. She made sure the door was locked before getting into the shower. In contrast with Dan’s bedroom, everything was tidy and organized in the bathroom. The décor was very 80’s but it was clean and reminded Sara of how her grandmother’s home had looked, right down to the crocheted covers for the spare toilet paper rolls. Not wanting to use up all the hot water and feeling like she had run a marathon in a lead suit, Sara didn’t stay long in the shower. Just until she felt she had rinsed of every last hint of the sickness of the night before. The hot water felt good but Sara’s knees threatened to collapse at any moment and if she turned too quickly the world would spin and dip like a carnival ride.
Sara climbed out of the shower carefully knowing that if she slipped she would really lose any semblance of dignity she had remaining to her at this point. She sat carefully on the fuzzy toilet seat cover while she dried and dressed herself. After the warm water she felt chilled again and began to shiver slightly. She wrapped a towel around her wet hair to keep her head from getting any colder and with another towel around her shoulders she picked up her things and eased the door open quietly to slip back into Dan’s room.
The first thing she saw was the floor had been cleared of belongings. The bed linens had been changed and a fresh comforter put on top. The bookshelf, desk, and dresser had all been tidied and there was a small air freshener working its magic on the last vestiges of the lingering trace of gym shoe odor. Wondering why the room looked so much emptier it took Sara a moment to notice that most of the wall posters had been removed. Sara wasn’t sure what to make of that adjustment. She sank onto the bed tucking her feet up under herself and wrapping the fuzzy towel a bit more snugly around her shoulders. There was a little tray on the bedside table with a glass of water and a few crackers on a plate. Not willing to chance the crackers yet, Sara sipped carefully at the water for a few minutes testing her stomach.
From the other end of the house Sara could hear the sounds of a conversation. Dan’s voice and the voices of two women and one other man carried just enough for her to tell they were talking seriously about something but she couldn’t make out any words. The TV had been turned off and if the CD player was still on, the volume had been turned down. Trying not to eavesdrop on the conversation Sara leaned back against the headboard of the bed. She closed her eyes and settled back, letting the ends of the towel pillow her neck on the top of the board.
Sara’s had just begun to fall asleep sitting there when she felt someone watching her. She jerked awake just in time to see someone turn away from the partially open doorway and move back down the hall. She could tell it was a man, slightly larger than Dan and probably older. She hadn’t seen his face but knew he had been watching her for a few moments at least. Sudden awareness of her situation and how crazy it all was made Sara feel dizzy and a bit nauseous again. She took slow deep breaths to keep from being immediately sick. Pulling her knees up and putting her head on her arms Sara groaned softly to herself. This was just not turning out to be a good weekend. If she could just get feeling better she could put all the sickness and strangeness behind her and get back on the road to Seattle.
Sara felt tears prick the edges of her eyes and rubbed her face into her sleeve to wipe them away. She just felt wrung out.
“Hey,” Dan said softly from the doorway, “you doing ok?”
Sara wished everyone in this house would walk a bit louder and give her some warning. Rubbing her face with her arm again before looking up she replied, “Yes, thanks, I’m just really tired. I don’t want to put you out and I really don’t want to cause problems with your family. I really appreciate all this though.” Sara gestured at the room.
“Remember, it was my idea, my family doesn’t mind and it isn’t a problem.” Dan moved to the end of the bed and picking up an afghan folded there he wrapped it around Sara’s shoulders gently tugging away the damp towel. “Here, you’ll be warmer this way.” Then, taking a comb from the top of the dresser he gestured at Sara’s towel wrapped head. “May I?” he asked.
Sara pulled the afghan around herself and nodded then turned so her back was to Dan. She tipped her head so the towel came loose and then let Dan pull it off and toss it over the chair with the other one. It was strange to let him take care of her like this but she really didn’t want to sleep with wet hair again and this way she could keep from moving around and unsettling her stomach.
Dan combed and braided Sara’s hair. It felt wonderful and Sara was half asleep by the time he finished. Sara had almost completely stopped shivering and when Dan pulled the comforter up and she tipped onto the pillow she was quickly asleep.
When Sara woke up the room was lit only by the soft half light of either dusk or dawn. The clock said 5:45 am. Sara climbed out of the bed and stood keeping a hand on the chair as she tested her balance. Her body had that empty heavy wrung out feeling of the day after a bout of illness. She picked up her toiletry bag and tiptoed as quietly as she could to the bathroom trying not to disturb anyone. Sara splashed some water on her face and freshened up a bit. She brushed her teeth and combed out and rebraided her hair. She caught herself smiling in the mirror as she thought of the feeling of Dan combing out her hair.
When she had finished Sara quietly returned to the bedroom where she had spent the night. There was a fresh glass of water and a piece of toast on the nightstand. Whoever had been in the room was gone again and the house was still silent. Sara shut the door and opened her suitcase to find a change of clothes. She chose a long sleeve cotton t-shirt and a pair of loose drawstring pants. Sitting on the bed she tucked her feet up under her legs and glared at the waiting piece of toast, daring it to cause any more trouble with her stomach. She sipped at the water then took a few small bites of toast. After a few minutes and no reaction she finished the toast and dusted the crumbs off her fingers.
Reaching into her bag Sara pulled out a novel she had been planning on reading and tucked her feet up under herself to get comfortable. After only a few pages Sara realized she didn’t remember almost anything of what she had just read and she was feeling sleepy again. She pulled the blankets up over herself and left the book on the nightstand.
A knock on the bedroom door woke Sara from a sound sleep. She felt like it had only been minutes but by the clock it had been hours. It was a little after noon.
“Come in.” she called.
A girl opened the door just a few inches and peeked in. She looked about twelve or thirteen, she had long straight dark hair and large dark eyes. Sara smiled at her and she smiled back.
“Hi, I’m sorry to bother you. I’m Lisa, Dan’s sister, I brought some lunch for you.”
“Thank you Lisa, it’s nice to meet you.” Sara didn’t feel hungry but the toast had stayed down so it was probably a good idea to get some food into her system.
Lisa brought in a tray with a bowl of chicken noodle soup, a few crackers, a glass of apple juice, and a single daisy in a small vase. She sat it on the bed next to Sara and then sat in the chair next to the bed.
“Are you feeling better?” Lisa asked.
“Yes, thanks, I am.”
Sara sipped at the juice. It actually tasted really good and her stomach gave a little rumble.
“You should eat before it gets cold. I already ate so don’t worry about me. I won’t tell you what because my Dad always does that when I’m sick just to make me ‘get it all out’ and I hate it when he does that. I thought I’d keep you company. I think Mom would come in too but she didn’t want to bother you and she’s getting the food ready for this afternoon. Dan really likes you.” At this point Lisa paused and grinned at Sara. “He had to go pick up some people. As soon as he left Mom started making soup so I knew she was going to bring you lunch. She hasn’t even come to see what you look like but I know she’s curious.”
“What’s happening this afternoon?”
“It’s our turn to have everyone over for the game. Some of my Dad’s friends and some of Dan’s friends are coming. The game starts in a few hours but they’ll all sit in the yard and talk for a while first. If you want to stay in here with the door shut, no one will mind. So, Dan said you’re from California…?”
“Yes, I grew up near San Jose.”
Sara knew Lisa would do the majority of the talking if she redirected the conversation. She asked Lisa occasional questions about her family, friends, and school. Lisa was happy to talk about herself and Sara continued to eat slowly while she listened. She learned a bit about Dan’s family and that he worked for the park service. He was a few years older than she had guessed and had graduated from college by taking extension classes at night. Dan and his family were actually doing fine as far as finances went, Dan just gave the impression of being poor by driving his old truck and wearing cut offs but Lisa opened the closet door to show her neatly hung slacks and shirts that Lisa thought her brother ought to wear more often.
While listening to Lisa Sara remembered her own awkward teenage phase and how she had just needed the attention. Sara had often said things without thinking first, before, during, and since that time and the uncensored flow of information from Lisa was really kind of fun and refreshing. It had been a while since she had someone to just sit and talk with.
Sara finished her lunch and sat talking with Lisa; they heard Dan’s truck pull up outside and people talking in the yard and the front of the house. After a little while Lisa’s mother called to her from the kitchen and Lisa took the lunch tray and left the room, quietly closing the door. Sara got up and made the bed and straightened up the few things she had gotten out of her bag. She took her kit and went across the hall to the bathroom to freshen up. She felt awkward joining everyone and wasn’t sure that offering to help with the food or anything would be a good idea since she had been sick. She went back to the bedroom and left the door open a few inches. Trying to decide what to do next she walked around the room giving a closer inspection to the collection of assorted “guy stuff” and to the contents of the still open closet. It felt strange to look at Dan’s things, like she was spying on him.
She shut the closet door and picked her book up to try to start again from the beginning reading it. Snatches of conversation and laughter from the party kept distracting her and she caught herself biting her nails, a bad habit she had tried to quit entirely since she was a kid. She got out her laptop and her phone and checked both for messages. There weren’t any besides the ones from the day before from Dan, a simple “Hi Sara, this is Dan, call me back please.” He really had a nice voice. Sara listened to the message again just to hear it. She e-mailed her family accountant, well, technically her accountant now, to let him know about the hospital bill and to tell him she had found a “private care service” (it would be too hard to explain what had really happened and not like she owed him an explanation anyway). He must have been at his desk because a message came back almost immediately with an acknowledgement of her e-mail and some questions regarding her investments. He would be at his desk on a Sunday afternoon, all business and the personal warmth of an Alaskan salmon but he was good at what he did. He had worked for her father as long as she could remember and when the business passed to her she had left him to run things. She replied and then closed her computer.
Sara could hear the sounds of the TV broadcast of the game beginning and even though she had no idea who was playing she thought she might like to watch just so she would have something to talk to Dan and his friends about. She bit at her thumbnail and thought about walking down the hall to the family room. She couldn’t believe how nervous she was. She told herself she was being silly, she was a grown woman and she could at least stick her head in and say hello.
She heard someone come out of the bathroom just as she put her hand on the door to pull it open.