“Thir … thirs … thirst …”
I almost thought I was imagining it at first, but when I lifted my head Gid’s eyes were beseeching me. I could die of shame. Just die of it. I knew he was parched from sweating out the poison. I knew how urgent it was that I follow my hope with the action of keeping him watered. But despite all that I fell asleep. Did he not need me I think I could find a hole and crawl in and just wait for the angels to carry me off rather than bear it.
Even now when I’ve confessed to Gid and he threaten to tie me to him if I ever say such a thing again I can’t let go the idea that I’ve let him down. But never again. Never. God has been merciful and I’ll not take it for granted.
“Yulee, ease up. I’m a grown man, not a sprat that needs all my parts to be washed like I don’t know how to. Just scrub my back. I don’t seem to have the stretch in my arm like I should.”
I stopped and tried not to fuss so much. I know he doesn’t like it but I can’t seem to stop myself. “It’s the new skin over the worst of the knife wounds. It is still pink and tender and tight the way such things are. Just let me do the doing for a while yet and you’ll be well and able to stretch to your heart’s content. I’ll see to it if it is the last thing I do.”
“And there you go again woman. How many times do I have to tell you not to be so hard on yourself? If anyone needs a flogging it is me. I vowed to protect you and you wound up having to do the deed for both of us … against corrupted raiders no less.”
“You’ve lost your memory. Have you forgotten you took out two raiders so fast I never even heard it happen and wounded a third? All I did was pop out of a mouse hole and finish what little bit you left me to do, and I couldn’t even do that right. I forgot Papa taught me to always make sure the demons have drug off the enemy, so what did you have to do? You had to go and save me again and crack your head on top of all the other injuries you’d already suffered. I swear Gid I could just …”
“Say it and I’ll pop you on your seat even if it means breaking a promise to never raise a hand to youlost your memory still a bit t amongst each other even more than they work to keep the siege going. or there would be serio,” he said menacingly. “I mean it Yulee, I’ll not stand for it. Now let it go and let it be that we saved each other. There’s no need for you to be so hard on yourself. I didn’t die. Neither did you. There’s a mess but we’re facing it together.”
I shut my mouth as I knew the arguing wore on him almost as bad as his injuries still did. But that doesn’t mean I can just get rid of the feelings. I nearly lost him. The most precious thing that God has sent me besides Himself. I feel so undeserving. I am undeserving. But I must work at it, let him and Him know how I appreciate it.
“You gonna worry at it forever and again or you going to help me finish this bath before I turn into a raisin?”
“Oh … oh I’m sorry I …”
He sighed and said, “Yulee?”
“When I get my strength back and enough patience not to rush it … I’ll chase you around the cabin so much you’ll never have to wonder if I’m still interested.”
“I saw your face,” he said morosely. I didn’t know what he was talking about and I was going to check his forehead for a fever when he said, “When I didn’t come down after you … that day the raiders got in. I saw your face and … and I don’t ever want to disappoint you again.”
It took me a moment to even remember and when I did I was almost angry. “Gid! You never disappoint me! Never … never ever. I just thought … well … it isn’t worth repeating. Now let me put some lotion on that spot that keeps trying to dry out and crack and cause you to …”
He reached over and grabbed my arm. “I mean it Yulee. It’s not that I didn’t want to play and pay some attention to you … I was just … worried. You got so … so frail. You looked almost like you did when you came out of the cage … all sharp angles and a face set so that the rest of the world couldn’t know what was going on inside you. I didn’t know what was going on inside you and that worried me most. I didn’t know if you were keeping something from me. Every time I tried to ask Lurna all I got was woman speak and I didn’t understand any of it.”
Rinsing the soap from his back and starting on his hair I told him, “It indeed was all just woman speak Gid. Some of it was … was my womanlies … stuff the old time doctors called hormones … going back to where they belonged. Some of it was … I was just grieving. And scared that you’d be disappointed. It got better. It … it is better.”
“That voice you’re using don’t sound like it’s better.”
I sighed. “It is better. Truly Gid. It … it is something that has marked my heart but … but it is better. There is nothing I can do to change what happened so I have to accept it. I just was trying to … to get over it, not make it worse for either one of us. I know you hurt as well. I just wanted to find some way to bridge it so that we could be more comfortable, like we were.”
We were both quiet a moment with the only noise the sound the suds made as I scrub them into his scalp. Then he said, “Try and look at what is happening with the raiders the same way. Can’t change what has happened … the bad or the good of it. We accept it. Learn from it. Then move forward. Live better for it even if it was from grief. If we constantly look back and blame ourselves that isn’t living, much less living better. Or aren’t you the one that used to forever talk about God sending lessons your way and not always liking the form they took?”
I finished helping Gid then helped him out of the bath. He no longer needs my help dressing. He has healed up a lot faster than any of us expected. Tad’s uncle said that Gid has an iron constitution and that since none of the knife wounds were as deep as they could have been that it must have been the drug that affected him so strongly. As soon as that passed through his body his recovery was lightning fast. Only the few punctures near his shoulders from the initial fight still give him trouble. It hasn’t even been half a moon’s cycle and he’s nearly back to full strength and God be praised he is of sound mind rather than a lack wit because of the drug and torture.
His words have given me a lot to think about. I still feel so guilty yet perhaps he is right. Maybe it is trusting God once again to bring us what we need that I need to do more of. I’d come to depend only on Gid. It’s not that I didn’t still do my daily speaking with God but I almost put Gid ahead of Him … that it was Gid that provided what I needed rather than God providing what both Gid and I need. If that was the lesson I was to learn it has been a harsh and terrifying one. I don’t want to think of life without Gid and maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe it is that I need to trust God will take care of Gid as much as Gid takes care of me. I don’t know. This is something the Brothers and Sisters would have been so much better at contemplating. It makes my stomach turn inside out.
Certainly it only adds to the other troubles we have still to face. There are groups of raiders tromping the forest; not too thick now that the main force has been taken out but still enough to cause trouble. From those that Gerry and his men have caught and questioned before sending them off with the demons sacking Riverside only got enough to last them through the cold months. For some reason – most likely the drought – a lot of bad men have been congregating in the valley looking for food and such since it is so scarce other places. The mining and lumber outposts have not been cracked yet which is a blessing and put Lurna’s heart at ease as she has been worried about all of the older, married girls in the family. But Shale and Yellow Rock have been breached twice; however both attacks were quickly repelled and the towns are now under siege. As a result the raiders are laying waste to the countryside trying to wait them out. It is why they were putting spies in the trading caravans, looking for a way to get in or a new place to work their mischief.
For some unknown reason the raiders think Shale and Yellow Rock is full to the top of gold and other treasures. Makes no sense. The mines in the area are for coal, stones, and minerals; not for spending metals like gold or silver. There’s a small marble quarry and another for limestone. Tad said that aside from the coal mines the most profitable one is owned by a family that keeps to themselves most of the time and they mine sodium bicarbonate. This finally explained the mystery of how Gid had such a supply of the rarity here at be cabin. It has meant I didn’t have to skimp on the things that need baking soda like the rising bread or the toothpowder.
Blessed are we that the leaders of the various raider groups are too full of themselves to pull together or there would be more serious problems. They feud and fight amongst each other even more than they work to keep the siege going. But if this continues we will truly be hurting. Gid already balks at the time lost to get crops in the fields. I’ve started seedlings for a kitchen garden but I don’t wish to build a temptation to call the raiders to fight us more directly. Gid and the other men hate to see any of us women beyond the cabin’s yard but there is no help for it if we expect our supplies to outlast the raiders’ attention span. As it is Gerry has lost a great deal in silverweight as he cannot charge us for what we use from his supplies as we are providing a place for he and his men to hole up.
We are all courting disaster and something must break soon.