The woods/from brook to where/the top of the hill looks/over the fog, send up/not one bird./So absolute, it is/no other than/happiness itself, a breathing/too quiet to hear. ~ "Breathing" by Denise Levertov
When Trista woke up, Gaelin was already gone. The sun was only just rising and she shivered in the cold as she slipped from the bed. The bed had been warm with the little boy cuddled against her shoulder, too warm actually. Her clothing felt damp and grubby and she could smell herself. She wanted to wash herself, right then. A quick dip in the stream is all I need right now. Actually, it’s probably all I can handle this morning. She hurried out into the misty morning.
The world was different in the white fog, smaller and quieter. The dew soaked her shoes as she walked across the clearing and down into the forest toward the stream. Finding it, she wound her way along the bank, heading downstream. She hoped to find a spot where the water was more than a foot deep. Her feet made almost no noise in the damp leaves that were strewn along the slate, grey rock with lined the stream. In the stillness of the morning, she felt much freer and happier, nearly forgetting about her troubles of the past two days.
She was brought back to the present with a start when she came around a large tree and found a place where the water was indeed more than a foot deep. Judging from how much of Gaelin was below the surface of the water, she guessed it was about four feet deep. Caught by surprise, her foot caught on a root and she stumbled headlong and fell in a sprawl on the stream bank. Gaelin whipped around at the sound of her gasp and immediately lowered himself a little lower in the water, up to his bare chest. They stared at each other for a second, before Trista came to herself.
“Sorry.” She muttered. She could hardly speak, and she was hot with embarrassment. She scrambled to her feet and ran back up the stream until the fog and trees hid him and the pool. It didn’t stop his voice though, and she heard him laughing. She listened, too tongue-tied to make a sound herself. She heard him splash to the edge of the stream until it stopped, as he climbed out. After a while, he reappeared in his clothes. His red-blond hair looked redder, plastered with water to his forehead and he eyes danced.
“Did you come to take a bath too?” He didn’t wait for an answer, but continued to mock her. “Why didn’t you join me, pretty lady? Aren’t husbands and wives supposed to bathe together?”
She stepped back hastily when he came almost close enough for his hair to drip on her. He really wasn’t helping, and he knew it. Was he trying to make her more embarrassed?
“Just forget it, ok? And don’t you dare follow me. Get out of here” She heard her own voice get higher and higher in her anger and stress.
Gaelin’s leprechaun eyes winked, and his smile looked twisted and wolfish to her. What is he thinking? Would he watch me? She edged past him toward the pool and ran back into the fog, then stopped and listened, feeling like a hunted animal. She heard him moving off, back toward that cabin. It wasn’t reassuring. She was afraid to take off her clothes now; he might just backtrack and circle around. He had seemed so nice before, and now she couldn’t trust him. Sitting down on the bank, she curled in a ball and cried.