Sarah sighed heavily and drew an X across the small box showing March 31st in her calendar. Twenty-four days since the plane crash. Twenty-four days of cold and bitter winds. Even with clean water and the fish caught in the lake, her appetite was lacking, and Chet's insistence that he had to return to the plane left her fearful and sleepless. Add erratic hormones, fear, dwindling supplies, and a woman searching for but failing to find hope, and you have an emotional catastrophe waiting to happen.
Recognizing the signs of a self-indulgent pity party, she closed the calendar. She said a prayer of thanksgiving for the miracle of survival and closed with her favorite chant. "Oh God, My God, thy Name is my healing." Trying to be grateful but anxious and scared, she did her best to meditate but couldn't find the peace she desired.
The sketchbook beside her caught her attention, and she gazed at the drawing she'd completed upon waking. The picture was of a hungry wolf pack. Angry, howling, salivating mouths dripping with the blood of their latest kill. Sarah shut the book and shivered. The nightmare had awakened her, and she'd drawn it, but now it was an hour till dawn, and Chet would rise soon. He slept peacefully a few feet away from her. Her dreams had been about him and his alarming plans. She cuddled in her sleeping bag and waited for him to awaken.
An hour later, he did.
Sarah pretended to be asleep as Chet rolled up his sleeping bag and moved about the cave getting things ready for his trip. Realizing she was being foolish, she greeted him. "Want breakfast?"
"Good morning Sarah, no. I'll wait for lunchtime," he said as he dressed for his trip. "Rescue will be any day now, you'll see," he said, doubling his socks and putting his boots on. "I just want to clear the snow off the main cabin so they can see the plane from the sky. Then I'll light a signal fire using the plane's tires. Black smoke is sure to get someone's attention. I'll use the metal and other debris to create an arrow to show them we're well and waiting. I promise the rescuers will be here before you even have time to miss me," he said without a break.
She watched him closely. Was he trying to convince her or himself?
Sarah tried to smile but was unsuccessful. "Just please, please be careful. I'm worried."
"I know, and I will. I promise. I have to do this. The weather is clearing, and they're looking for the plane. We've been socked in down here but heard them above us, so the top of the mountain must be clear. I have to go to make finding us an easier task." Chet assured her.
"I understand," Sarah said as she stood. "I just wish I were going with you." She wrapped her woolen scarf around his neck.
"Thanks." Chet buried his nose in it and breathed deeply. "It has your perfume on it. It'll be my inspiration," Chet said with a smile. "And I have a special surprise for you." He pulled a package from his pack. "I've been saving it for just this occasion." He handed a small parcel to her.
"Really," she said as she tore the brown paper bag wrapping. Inside was a dark chocolate Hershey bar. Sarah smiled in delight. "Chocolate! My word, how wonderful. Thank you," she said as she hugged him and kissed his cheek.
"I held it back just for that reaction," Chet said. His smile was just as bright as Sarah's. "Fish is getting monotonous, but this should add a bit of delight to your day."
"Oh, it will. Thank you. I'll save some for your return meal. We'll celebrate together."
Chet laughed. "Enjoy all of it. Besides, I'll have the rescuers with me. There won't be time for a meal. Enjoy it while you wait. Once off this blasted mountain, we'll celebrate with champagne and chocolate eclairs. How's that sound?"
"Wonderful," she said and hugged him again. Except she felt like crying instead of laughing. But for him, she held her tears in check. Despite all his assurances, she was beyond worried.
Unsure she was being ridiculous or an overly emotional pregnant lady, she kept her fear to herself. He'd heard the wolf's cry, just as she had, but since he had the shotgun, his mind was made up. Rescue depended on letting the rescuers know where they were, he said repeatedly, and she knew he was right. But fear is the thief of hope, and she had a bad case. Still, she shook it off. She didn't want him to leave with worry for her on his mind.
Chet grabbed his backpack and snowshoes. He surveyed the cavern. "I hate to take the tent," he said, hesitating as if rethinking his decision. The tent had been her private room. A space for her to be alone and feel safe.
"Don't. I'm fine in here without it. You'll need it more than I will. Did you take enough dried fish?" She asked, even though she'd packed it the night before.
Chet smiled. "I did. You just be careful outside, okay?"
Sarah nodded. "You too."
All words spoken. Chet turned to the cave entrance.
Sarah grabbed her crutch, which Chet had carved for her on their first night in the cave. She followed him to the mouth of the cavern and watched as he walked to the rope hanging from the rocks above. He hesitated, turned for one last look at the frozen waterfall, then he waved, and she returned the gesture. Chet deftly climbed the cliff to the path that led to the plane. In a flash, he was gone, and she was alone.
Shivering uncontrollably, she looked at the bar of dark chocolate in her hand and sobbed like a child.
Yolanda Renée © 2023
Tagline: Solace is found in the simplest gesture.
This is another excerpt from the 7th book of my Alaskan Series, Murder on Mount Fairweather, coming out December 2023.
I must credit the WEP prompts for inspiring my writing this year. I've failed most of my writing goals for 2023, but because of the WEP, I keep plugging away.
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