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.
6. Chapter 6
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Sara pulled the door open and saw Lisa in the doorway of the bathroom checking her reflection in the mirror. She felt a little rush of relief and smiled to see the self-involvement of a teenager in action. Lisa spotted her in the mirror and turned.
“Hey, if you want to come watch the game I think there’s room.” She winked as she said it.
Not sure about the meaning of the wink, Sara hesitated a moment but then decided there really wasn’t a good reason to sit in Dan’s room now that she had actually been invited to join the rest of them. “Sure, thanks.” She said.
Sara followed Lisa down the hall and stopped behind her just before the doorway to the family room. She took a deep breath, bit her lip and moved into the doorway. Dan’s eyes found hers immediately. He didn’t seem to have been all that interested in the game. His face lit up with a smile and Sara heard Lisa laughing quietly as she ducked past her into the kitchen. There was no turning back. The room was completely full of men and boys glued to the television set. A few glanced her way but returned to watching the game. Only Dan’s gaze never left her. Sara picked her way across the body strewn floor and past folding chairs and an ottoman. The only available seat in the room was at the end of the couch next to Dan. The meaning of Lisa’s wink suddenly became clear and Sara smiled a bit shyly at Dan.
Sara sat down next to Dan and tried to get comfortable. She felt like a kid on a date at a movie theater, just waiting for the boy to stretch and yawn and put his arm around her. From what Lisa had said, she knew Dan wanted to and she realized she wasn’t against the idea at all herself. She realized she was making herself tense by worrying about it and with a mental exhortation that life is too short she reached over and took Dan’s hand. She hadn’t realized he was sitting as tensely as she was until his fingers returned the gentle pressure of her own and he relaxed into the couch next to her. She relaxed as well and leaned against his shoulder. She liked how it felt to be next to him. She hadn’t held hands with a guy in a long time and had forgotten how good it felt. They sat that way for a while and feeling warm and comfortable made Sara sleepy again.
Sara woke briefly as half-time was announced and people moved around getting food and resettling themselves. With a contented feeling Sara realized she felt safer sitting next to Dan in this room full of strangers than she had in a long time. It felt so good, she felt her eyes tear up a little and she turned her face into Dan’s sleeve to keep from being seen crying. Dan leaned his head down to rest on top of her own.
“Are you ok?” he whispered.
She nodded mutely in response. It felt so good to just be there. A tingle ran down her spine and she let herself relax into the feeling of peace that came over her. Something inside her was letting loose and she knew she would start really crying if she didn’t get ahold of herself. She chose to escape her emotions by returning to the quiet comfort of sleep.
Dan’s finger gently stroking her cheek brought her awake as the game was ending. She yawned and sat up.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to just fall asleep on you like that, I hope I didn’t drool on you or anything.” Sara’s attempt at humor was met by a grin from Dan.
“No, you weren’t drooling; you’re quite the talker though.”
“What?” Sara was suddenly anxious, what had she said?
Seeing her expression Dan relented and laughingly said “Kidding! Only kidding.” He stood up and offered her his hand to help her up. “You slept like an angel.”
He ducked his head and Sara realized the last bit had slipped out unguarded. She shook her head in bemusement and accepted his hand up out of the couch. When she tried to stand she found her foot had gone to sleep. She ended up leaning all her weight into Dan’s arm to leverage herself off the couch but it didn’t pull him down. He really was strong. She felt her face getting a bit red as she leaned into him for balance and said a soft sincere “thank you.”
Leaving her hand in his, the two of them moved together through the crowd. Dan introduced her to his friends and family. Everyone was polite and friendly. A few of the guys teased her about being such a football fan. She laughed at the well deserved ribbing. She wasn’t even sure who had won the game. She met Dan’s parents, both were wonderful about reassuring her that she was welcome to stay with them. Dan’s mom was carrying bowls of food to the picnic tables in the backyard or she would have given her a hug. The only person who didn’t seem to be happy to meet Sara was a big man with a brooding expression. He wasn’t rude exactly but he wasn’t at all friendly. Dan introduced Sara to the man’s wife as well, she was polite but seemed shy, Sara thought it could have something to do with the scars on her face. Sara made it a point to ignore them and try to be friendly.
The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent just enjoying the party. By the end of the evening Sara felt at home with almost everyone. The guy who had been giving Dan the dark looks had been pretty quiet most of the evening. For as unfriendly as he was, most of Dan’s friends seemed to think a lot of him and Dan acted like his opinion really mattered. Sara didn’t get it, she figured he was Dan’s boss or something.
By the end of the evening Sara had gotten a much better impression of Dan. He was thoughtful and intelligent. His sense of humor was straightforward and he had a nice laugh. He was smart, and putting himself through night classes while working full-time to finish his degree in business really made Sara respect his work ethic. She was surprised he didn’t have big plans to start up a company or get into a career in corporate America but being vague about future plans wasn’t something she could fault anyone else for, hers were nonexistent. He was very attentive and Sara felt a little guilty about monopolizing his time all evening but being with him just felt good.
It was dark by the time the party really started to wind down. Sara was feeling tired. Even though she had been asleep the better part of the day; she started to yawn and couldn’t hide her weariness. She offered to help with the clean up but Dan’s mom told her not to worry about it. Dan took her back to his room and she sank gratefully onto the bed. Dan leaned against the doorframe.
“Sara, I really… I really enjoyed this evening. If you are feeling up to it I’d like to spend tomorrow with you. We could go some of the places I was going to take you yesterday.”
Sara looked down at her hands for a minute before she replied, “I’d like that Dan. I had a good time today too. Your friends were great, I really felt welcome. Thank you.”
Dan stood in the doorway for another moment, a half-smile on his face.
“Look, ummm, I have to go take a few of the guys home and then I’ve got to run an errand afterwards so I’ll be back kind of late. So, I guess… goodnight.”
“Goodnight Dan. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Sara tried to cover up another jaw cracking yawn but failed. Dan grinned and pulled the door shut behind him. Sara listened for his footsteps to fade down the hall but didn’t hear a thing. After a minute her curiosity got the better of her and she opened to door and peeked out into an empty hallway. For a guy that size he moved around so quietly it was amazing. She tried to walk that quietly back to the bed and had to laugh at her own antics. It must be an acquired skill.
Sara changed into her pajama pants and t-shirt and took her kit to the bathroom to get ready for bed. She finished quickly and went back into Dan’s room. She turned off the lights and stretched out on her back letting her entire body relax. As she lay there the emotions that had threatened earlier suddenly crashed over her in a wave and she had to flip quickly onto her stomach and bury her face in the pillow to keep from sobbing loudly. She wasn't really sad, it was more like she was relieved. Something she had been holding onto too tightly for too long was letting her relax her deathgrip. Her whole body felt the reaction. She cried for what felt like hours. After a while she got up and snuck into the bathroom to get one of the spare rolls of toilet paper with the crocheted covers. It figures a man wouldn’t have a box of Kleenex in his room.
It was pretty late when she heard the first dog howling somewhere outside. It sounded loud so it couldn’t have been very far away. Sara was really nervous around dogs. As far back as she could remember they had scared her. A second howl a few moments later made Sara jump. She started to laugh at herself and got herself crying again. She was getting a headache from crying for so long. She was really tired as well. She sat up against the headboard of the bed and took a few deep breaths to get herself centered again. It felt good to have let some of that go. Like a burden had been lifted of her chest. Between the physical and emotional purging lately she was feeling light as a feather. She flipped over the tear damp pillow, crawled under the blankets and was asleep in moments.
Some time in the night she dreamed that Dan was in the room, sitting on the floor next to the bed. She smiled at him and heard him whisper, “Don’t cry Sara, I promise to do whatever it takes for you to be happy.” Then Dan was her Dad, then her Dad was her 5th grade science teacher and he wasn’t interested in her happiness, just the homework she hadn’t turned in. Sara looked everywhere for the paper she knew she had because she always did her homework but she couldn’t find it. Then she was running across the school campus trying to get to her next class, knowing she didn’t have the homework done for that class either. She was always so responsible, how could she have forgotten what she was supposed to do? Why couldn’t she find the room she was looking for, she was going to be too late… Her Dad had distracted her, or maybe it had been Dan… either way, she was lost and the campus didn’t look at all familiar anymore.
When she woke up she was completely disoriented. It took her a minute to remember where she was. Her face felt puffy from crying the night before and the blankets were all twisted up around her from rolling around in her sleep. She unwound herself and sat on the edge of the bed with her head in her hands for a few minutes. She let herself feel the sadness for a slow count of 100 and then she shook herself out of the sadness that always followed dreams of her family. She pulled out fresh clothes and her kit and went into the bathroom to shower.
Sara wasn’t sure how many people would be wanting hot water so she didn’t linger in the shower. She got herself together and applied a little make-up to try and cover up the effects of the night before. She had chosen a long sleeved blouse that looked good on her and some slacks that ended up feeling a bit loose after the last few days of barely eating. Her stomach started to growl loudly as she considered finding a belt that was somewhere in her bag.
She collected her things and dumped them on top of her suitcase in Dan’s room. She caught herself trying Dan’s silent walking trick again as she made her way to the kitchen to see if she could find some cold cereal or something. It was too early for the rest of Dan’s family to be up and she could save them the trouble of waiting on her.
After only a few cupboard doors Sara had come up with cereal, the spoons were easy, first drawer she tried, milk was in the fridge, but the bowls were eluding her. She was beginning to contemplate cereal in a mug when the back door opened and Dan walked in. He was still in his clothes from the night before.
“Are you just getting in?” Sara asked incredulously and then stopped herself, “That was rude, sorry, it’s none of my business. Good morning.”
“Don’t worry about it, I left to go running. You look really nice. Can I help you find anything?”
“Thanks. A bowl,” Sara waved the box of cereal she was holding in the general direction of the cabinets. “I looked but I didn’t see them.”
“Most of them are probably in Lisa’s room, she likes to take ice cream and cereal down there. Mom probably hasn’t raided her room for dishes lately; it will be a science experiment and a half by now.” He went into the pantry and returned with a pair of plastic bowls from the party supplies of the night before. “Here you are; fine china.”
They sat at the table in companionable silence as they ate. Sara had a bowl of cereal and Dan polished off most of a full box. They put everything away together and Dan went to take his turn in the shower. Dan’s mom came in to the kitchen and she and Sara chatted for a few minutes while she cooked some eggs and toast and bacon. Dan’s father came in and ate quickly, said goodbye, kissed his wife, and left for work.
Dan came back into the kitchen looking a bit damp but otherwise very nice. She recognized a pair of the slacks and a shirt from the closet. He kissed his mom on the cheek and sat down to a second breakfast. Sara shook her head at him and he grinned back at her and shrugged.
Dan’s mom said “boys will be boys.”
After breakfast was finished and they had helped clean up the kitchen, Dan and Sara got their things together and went out to his truck. They drove around for a while, Dan pointing out places of interest and Sara enjoying the beautiful green of the trees and the blue and white of the ocean and sky. They took a short walk on a nature trail and stopped at a small historical museum. They toured the visitors center and looked out at the island that held the burial sites of great chiefs of the area. The Quillutes had a lot of history and culture. They had been around for a few hundred years in the area and had kept from being completely cheated by the US government. There were stories about shape changers and animal people that Sara remembered her grandmother telling her when she was small. Sara told Dan what she knew about her great-grandmother and they looked for the family in some of the old pictures and documents. The morning went by in a blur and before she knew it, it was time for lunch. They stopped at a sandwich place and picked up some food to take with them to the beach.
Even with the clouds the sunlight reflected off the water made it warm enough on the sand and rocks to sit comfortably and eat. Even the indirect sunlight was strong enough to threaten a burn. Sara grabbed a light jacket and some sun block from the truck. They sat and talked for a while until they had both finished eating then they walked along the beach together. This time Sara didn't have to initiate the hand holding, Dan kept her hand in his from the time he helped her to her feet until they returned to his truck. The sun was just setting and the temperature was beginning to drop. Dan had a couple of old couch cushions in the back of his truck and they climbed in and sat on them to watch the sunset. Sara leaned into Dan's shoulder and he put his arm around her.
"I like to hold you," he said quietly, his mouth pressed against the top of her head.
Sara pressed her cheek against his shoulder in acknowledgement. They sat that way talking quietly until it was almost completely dark. Then they got into the truck and drove a ways down the coast to a nice restaurant where they got a table. There was a small dance floor in the restaurant and Dan noticed Sara's interest whenever any couples made their way there.
"Do you want to dance?" he asked her. They had talked about how much she had enjoyed being in dance troupes while she was growing up. It had been on the list of hobbies and skills they had exchanged during the day while they got to know each other.
"Not tonight, I'm not dressed for it." She had worn comfortable walking shoes for their day together and there was sand in the cuffs of her slacks. She realized she did want to be up there dancing, she hadn’t been interested in something like that for a long time. Maybe she should take him up on the offer.
"Were you serious?" she asked him with a nod towards the dance floor.
"I don't know, I never tried. If you wanted to teach me I'd like to learn."
Just from his response she knew he didn't have a clue what he would be getting into. "Sure, I'll have you doing a mean Polka in no time." she said laughing. Her gaze kept drifting back to the dancers though. "Look, the older couple there, the woman in the green dress, watch them, they look great together." The couple was waltzing smoothly around the floor, nothing fancy, just the fluid grace of two people who had danced that way for years and moved together easily. The woman's smile and the man's care in leading her was so sweet Sara had to turn away. She really missed that part of her past.
"Sara, I've got to work tomorrow and Wednesday but how about Thursday night? I'll take you dancing?" his voice didn't have its usual confidence.
"Okay, sure Dan." Sara said it to make him feel better, she was pretty sure he would give up on the idea after a bit, most guys were either dancers or they weren't. She changed the subject and turned a little in her chair so she could avoid looking towards the dancers. They both finished their meals and Dan got the check. They walked to the truck hand in hand and Dan opened the door for her to climb in. When she was settled in Dan started to close the door and then stopped, leaning against the side of the truck he looked up at the sky and said softly "I was serious when I said I'd like you to teach me to dance. I could tell you wanted to be up there and if you enjoy it then I would too."
"Don't make promises you can't keep." Sara said it jokingly but the intense look Dan gave her made her change her tone, "Dan, I appreciate the offer but if you try it and it's not your thing then don't worry about it."
"Ok, whatever you say." He looked up at the sky again and was silent for a long moment. "There's one other thing, I've got a rule about not kissing on a first date. It's something my Dad made me promise him as a kid, and I'm not going back on it. I just wanted to let you know that I really want to kiss you though."
Sara felt herself blush like a schoolgirl and wished she could see Dan's face because she was almost positive he would be a bit red as well. At least he shut the truck door at that point so the dome light went out leaving her scarlet cheeks in the dark. Sara chided herself for her reaction. Here she was blushing and tingly all over and having silly thoughts about making out with Dan, it was almost as bad as the crush she had in high school on the captain of the tennis team. She had never done a thing about her crush, she had been too nervous to even talk to the guy. Fear had left her in the same place she had started but taking a chance and failing would have done exactly the same thing without all the self accusation.
The drive home was a quiet one. Sara kept to her thoughts and Dan kept his eyes on the road. When they arrived at Dan’s house, Dan opened the truck door for her and helped her down. They held hands up to the front door where they had to let go for Dan to get his key. When he opened the door for her Sara went past him quickly. She turned and forcing a calm she didn’t feel whispered, “ Goodnight Dan, I’ll see you in the morning.” Then without waiting for a response, dashed down the hall to his room and pushed the door shut. She tossed her clothes into a pile, slipped into her pajamas and got into bed. She was asleep in minutes and her rest wasn’t disturbed by dreams.