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.
9. Chapter 9
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The next day dawned bright and clear, the first day in over a week that Sara had been able to see the entire sweep of the sky. Sara dressed in shorts and light shirt for the forecasted unseasonably warm weather. She was glad she had gotten an early start when Dan knocked at her door unexpectedly. Dan and Sara drove to his house for breakfast with his family. Neither of them mentioned their conversation of the night before but Sara felt just as welcome as if she was already part of the family. After breakfast they went out in the yard and sat at the picnic table lounging in the sun. Sara noticed that Dan seemed a bit distracted so she went inside on the pretext of getting a drink but really to let him have the space he seemed to need for a while. She and Lisa were sitting on the floor in the living room going through magazines when Dan suddenly appeared in the doorway.
“Sorry Lisa, I’ve got to steal Sara from you for a while.”
“That’s okay Dan, I’ve got to get ready to go with some friends to a movie anyway.” She smiled up at her brother and then turned to Sara, “I’ll see you later, let me know if he starts picking on you, I’ll help you beat him up.”
Sara grinned and looked to Dan for a reply to the teasing, he didn’t seem to have even heard his sister, he was staring intently into the trees at the edge of the yard while he held the door open.
“Thanks, I’ll take you up on that.” Dan was still distracted so Sara grabbed her sweater and her purse and called “We’ll be back later, thanks!” to his family as she hurried to follow Dan out the door and down the walk to his truck. Dan gave her a swift kiss before handing her up into the truck and climbing in himself. As he sped out of the driveway and down the road he said, “Now is a good time to show you what I didn’t get a chance to yesterday.”
Sara was surprised to see that Dan had a white knuckled grip on the steering wheel. She wasn’t sure what had upset him and so she sat and bit her nails and refrained from saying anything about how fast they were going up the coastal road. She wanted to get this over with, whatever was bothering Dan, he would let her know and they could get back to the way things were supposed to be.
Dan pulled off the road at the base of a steep slope up to what promised to be a scenic point. Sara felt a shiver of anticipation as she thought back to the conversation of the night before. She didn’t see how he could have gotten a ring between 11pm on a Friday and 6 am on a Saturday morning but maybe it was something he had been saving. He was acting like a man with a bad case of nerves; maybe he really was going to propose to her here, it was a beautiful spot with an incredible view.
It was all Sara could do to match Dan’s pace as he hiked up a path to the top of the ridge. She was a little out of breath but the view was well worth it. After all the rush Dan was suddenly taking his time. He held her to him, her back against his chest and their arms entwined across her torso as they gazed together out across the ocean. Sara realized she wanted this more than anything she had ever wanted before and hoped she didn’t cry or laugh or say something stupid and ruin the moment for both of them. She figured Dan was probably thinking along the same lines and stayed quiet to let him take the lead.
Sara watched the gulls wheeling in the sky and felt so completely free. She knew with certainty that all the time she had spent running after the hope of finding Anna she was really running from all her fear and loss. Somehow Dan had caught her and helped her bear up when the whole mess of it found her standing still all at the same moment. He was giving her a safe place to stand while all the waves broke around her battering at her like the waves on the rocks below.
She shut her eyes and wished for the moment to never end. Barely whispering she mouthed the words, “I love you madly.”
She heard Dan sigh and he held her to him just a bit more tightly. He leaned his head down to her ear and whispered, “Wait here, trust me.”
Sara nodded, she had to restrain herself from bouncing up and down and yelling “Yes, Dan, yes! I’ll marry you!” She reminded herself he had probably planned this whole thing out and being dizzy with anticipation was only going to make it a lot harder to pay attention. Sara waited for Dan to say something and then had the thought that he was probably right there behind her, kneeling on the ground waiting for her to turn around and be surprised. She forced herself to relax and turn slowly.
Her blood suddenly turned to ice in her veins and she gasped and stiffened. Not more than twenty yards away stood a massive animal. It looked like a huge dog or a small bear, dark fur, dark eyes. She was terrified of dogs and her fear took hold. Sara’s thoughts whirled in panic, her feet moved without her conscious thought and she began to back away. Something broke through to her panicked brain and she reached for her purse and the canister of pepper spray, her purse wasn’t there, she had left it in the truck. The truck! Her mind seized on the idea and she lurched sideways towards where it was parked. The movement unbalanced her and she tripped falling backwards. She cried out as she fell, her arms went out instinctively to break her fall and she heard a loud cracking noise from behind her as she hit the ground. She had knocked the wind out of herself and saw pinpricks of light dance around the edge of her vision but her gaze was still locked on the huge animal that had begun to advance quickly towards her, she wasn’t sure if it was her vision or the animal itself that seemed to waver because just as she scrambled up and regained her footing she felt the ground give way under her feet. She had found the edge of the cliff. She didn’t have the breath to scream and could only throw her weight forward as she felt her legs go out from under her catching on sharp rocks and brambles in a swift slide. She threw her arms forward to catch herself somehow but her right arm seemed slow to respond and the right side of her head struck something with a very hard edge, her ribs caught on something solid, sharp, and slender, protruding from the ground. She felt agony as it slid in between her ribs, forced there by her own weight and inability to control her fall. It was too late anyway, the great shaggy beast had lunged for her, catching her left arm in its jaws. She heard the skin on her arm pop like bubble wrap as the teeth broke through and clamped down on her arm like a vice. She caught a glimpse of her right arm, her wrist at a strange angle. She felt a warm trickle of blood dripping down the side of her face and another warm rivulet running from her left forearm to her shoulder and into the collar of her shirt. She thought over the roaring of her ears that she heard a terrible high pitched noise coming from the animal just before the world rolled up like a broken movie reel and everything went light.
Sara found herself someplace completely peaceful, it was full of light and warmth. She could see her family standing together and Anna a little way off from them. She felt their peace. It was so strong that it filled her up and even as she was called away from them she took it with her.
Sara woke up in a hospital room. She remembered bits and snatches of having been awake briefly and of people moving about and talking to her but she couldn’t line it all up in her mind. She remembered the light place and held on tightly to the feeling of peace as she recalled the terrifying incident that seemed only moments and then again possibly days past. She felt sort of numb all over and considered trying to just go back to sleep when it came to her that she had never seen Dan in any of her blurred memories of the hospital and couldn’t remember seeing him up on the cliff.
Fear tightened her chest as the image of the huge animal with its jaws clamped on her arm flashed across her thoughts.
A chime began to sound at Sara’s bedside. A nurse came into the room and pulled back the privacy curtain. “Hi, I’m glad to see you’re awake.”
The nurse gave Sara the you’re-in-the-hospital speech, to Sara it sounded like a scene from a television show, the kind where the person wakes up after being in some kind of horrible accident and they have to be told they’ll never walk again. At least she didn’t get that verdict. She had a badly lacerated left arm, a broken right wrist, a mild concussion and a cut above her temple, and a puncture wound in her right side that had caused a collapse of one of her lungs. She had cuts and bruises pretty much from her chin to her ankles. She had lost a lot of blood and had to be resuscitated when her heart stopped from the shock and the injuries.
Sara tried to say something but her throat was so scratchy all she got out was a croak.
“Don’t try and talk, they had to put a tube down your throat and it’s probably going to be a bit sore for a while.” The nurse brought her a hospital mug filled with water and held it so Sara could take a few sips.
It was hard to drink lying down on her back and some of the water dribbled down Sara’s cheek. She moved to raise her arm to wipe the moisture away and found it heavy with bandages, both her arms were bound up from her knuckles to her elbows. The water had helped her throat and Sara croaked out a heartfelt “Oh bother!” as she let both arms fall back to rest on the pillows at her sides.
The nurse smiled at her. “Yeah, it’s not great but there is a bright side, Dr. Cullen is an incredible surgeon and you’ll be back to almost as good as new in no time. Until then, I’m Jen,” she wrote her name on the small whiteboard hanging on the wall under the clock, “and I, or one of the other nurses will be at your beck and call. Don’t hesitate to let us know if you need anything or if you are uncomfortable. You’re on a pretty high dose of pain killers right now. If you had to rate your pain from a 1 to a 10 what would it be?”
Sara thought for a moment and responded, “Maybe a two, I don’t feel much of anything.”
“Good, that’s how you’re supposed to feel, let us know when it starts to wear off. You’ll heal faster if your body doesn’t have to fight the pain. I’ve got a call button for you here.” Jen draped the cord of the white box with it’s orange button stenciled with a picture of a nurses cap over the rail of the bed and arranged it just beyond Sara’s fingertips. “Do you need anything else?”
Sara shook her head and Jen was half way out the door when she remembered what she needed to ask, “Wait, Jen,” she cleared her throat, “do you know where Dan is, is he okay?”
With a bland expression Jen responded, “You know, I don’t... I’ll be sure and ask around for you though dear. The doctor will be in to see you in a little bit.” She was out the door and gone before Sara could say anything more.
Sara took a sudden dislike to this woman and her false cheerfulness. She knew she had just been lied to and that she couldn’t do a thing about it. She lay back against her pillow and seethed in frustration. She was still angry and upset when a uniformed police officer with his hat tucked under his arm came into the room a few minutes later.
“I need to ask you a few questions about what happened to you.” He had out a notebook and pen and was already making notes.
“Okay, but please, first I need you to tell me where Dan Carden is.” Sara let some of her anger and frustration show in her voice.
The police officer mistook her tone and replied in his businesslike voice, “We’ve got men out looking for him now. As soon as they find him we’ll be bringing him in.”
Looking for him.
He was lost.
She had lost him.
That was all she heard above the sound of the monitors in her room going off and nurses running in sending the officer out and putting something into the IV. She had lost Dan too… and then the world twisted on its side and went dark.
When Sara woke again she could see by the clock on the wall that hours had passed and it was close to 4am. The room was dimly lit by recessed lights beyond the privacy curtain and a bit of light coming in from the hall. She could see Dr. Cullen and a younger man in the corner near the window and the unfriendly man from the football party in the opposite corner standing near the doorway.
The young man said quietly, “She’s awake.”
“Sara, can you hear me?” Dr. Cullen asked.
Sara blinked, she felt heavy and slow like she was swimming through thick syrup. She nodded. She just wanted to see Dan, to know if they found him, she couldn’t get her thoughts to clear but that much she remembered.
No one said anything out loud that Sara could hear, but the younger man moved slightly and both the others nodded.
“Sara, I need you to listen to me.” Dr. Cullen was speaking slowly and clearly in a quiet voice. Sara turned and did her best to focus on him. “Dan isn’t hurt, we know where he is but he’s not himself and he can’t come here right now. There are a lot of people looking out for him, trying to help him. We need your help to do that. Sara, someone was here before to ask you about what happened, you became very upset and we had to use a sedative to help you calm down. Unfortunately you had a reaction to the sedative and your heart stopped, we were able to start it again but we can’t risk a repeat of that so we need you to stay calm.”
Sara’s mind drifted around that thought, remembering the officer telling her Dan was lost. Then the doctor telling her he wasn’t but that he wasn’t here. She tried to ask him if he was telling the truth and she realized she couldn’t talk and that she really didn’t want to. She didn’t know if she wanted the answer. Something was wrong with Dan and she was stuck here and couldn’t help him when he needed her.
“Sara, Sara, stay with me Sara.”
She focused on Dr. Cullen again.
“I want to ask you about what happened and I just want you to think about your answers, you can tell them to me later. Here’s what we know, an ambulance was called yesterday morning to assist someone injured from a fall. When the ambulance arrived you were in very serious condition and Dan was with you. He was covered in your blood and acting incoherently, repeating over and over that he had done this to you and that it was his fault. The ambulance driver radioed for police assistance but Dan took off before they arrived. The police found his truck at the scene and are looking for him. Sara, it would help us to know what happened to you.”
As she turned her thoughts to it the whole thing played out in Sara’s mind like a movie in slow motion replay. Her happiness and anticipation, the shock and terror, falling and the pain. The room was silent, the young man had turned away from her, facing the window. After a minute the man in the doorway said in a quiet angry voice, “I warned him something like this could happen.” Dr. Cullen gave him a stern look and the man left silently, a memory of him leaving the doorway of Dan’s bedroom in just the same manner slipped across Sara’s thoughts. She was glad he was gone, he always seemed angry at her for some reason.
Dr. Cullen sighed, “He’s not angry at you Sara, he’s just very concerned, for you and Dan both. You have to focus on getting better so that it won’t endanger your health any further to let you help search for Dan. We’ll let you get back to sleep now, I’ll visit you again in a few hours.”
After the two men left the room Sara tried to focus her thoughts, to make a plan, she dreaded the idea of another search for a missing person but she would never be able to let it go either. Her mind was just too muddled and she had to close her eyes and go back to sleep.
When she woke up again the room was light and she ached all over. A nurse checking Sara’s temperature and blood pressure had brought her awake. A few minutes later Dr. Cullen entered the room. He checked carefully under her bandages and then used a small stylus to poke each of her fingers asking if she could feel the sensation. He seemed very satisfied with his findings and had his nurse assist him to remove the bound splint and put a more permanent cast on Sara’s right wrist.
During the exam Sara had been able to get a look at just how scratched up she was. Other than some bruises and scrapes, her legs were functional. She was even allowed to stand for a few minutes while the linens were changed on her bed. She was a bit shocked to catch a glimpse of the spots of dried blood all over the bedding before she was quickly escorted into the bathroom by a nurse. What Sara saw in the mirror over the sink was completely unrecognizable as her own face and for a startled moment she thought someone else was in the room. She looked like someone who had been beaten, badly. She had the brief thought that the police wanting to arrest whoever did this made sense. Too bad it was partially self-inflicted. The entire right side of her face was mottled shades of purple and red topped off just above her temple by a swollen lump with a small gash held together with tiny stitches. Her chin and and cheek on the left side were red and puffy and raw where something rough had chafed across them. Her hair was a mess, tangled and matted. The nurse helped her to get cleaned up and back into the bed. Sara took the help with simple tasks, and even with eating, gratefully. She wouldn’t let herself get frustrated, Dr. Cullen had said she could leave the next afternoon if all went well until then. Sara would do whatever it took to make it go well.
A police officer returned to take her statement. Sara explained what had happened as well as she could remember. She told the officer that she was sure Dan had been there but that when he had seen the animal he had reacted better than she did and not attracted its attention. She thought that somehow he had driven the animal off and called for help. It made sense that because he was the one who had taken her there he felt responsible for her injuries. She wasn’t sure why he hadn’t stayed but thought it was possible he had gone after the animal to make sure it didn’t harm anyone else. The officer agreed at the possibility. He told Sara there had been sightings of wolves in the area before and they were suspected to have attacked people although this was something the animals weren’t usually known for. He left to make a report and update the searchers to the danger of a wolf sighting.
Sara felt relieved at having been able to clear Dan’s name. Now she hoped to be able to clear his conscience.
For the rest of her stay. Sara was a model patient. She did what she was told, took what they gave her, rested, ate, and tried to be outwardly calm. It was one of the hardest things she had ever done.