He was awakened by movement and lay silently in bed trying listen. The room was pitch black. He realized it was the slight sway of the bed that had awakened him. She was getting in beside him. He cleared his throat, and said softly, “Hello?” She slipped under the covers and laid down next to him, her hip and legs touching his.
“It’s okay,” she said, gently patting his arm. “It will be good now.”
She adjusted herself, then didn’t move. He lay quietly, feeling her body heat and listening to her gentle breathing. After a minute, he started to get up, but she held onto his arm and he lay back.
“Don’t,” she whispered.
“But, I –”
“Shhhh,” she said. “I’m almost asleep.”
The gentle patter of falling rain was the only sound now. Occasionally, a drop tapped against the window, like a finger flexing against the glass. Her breathing was deep and regular. He closed his eyes, feeling his body melt into hers. She was small next to him, frail almost, and very hot. He was tempted to slide closer for the heat, but didn’t move. It had been a while since he’d been sober and in bed with a woman. He thought how he may get excited in spite of himself and would want to do something with her. Moving closer would feel like heaven. Then he thought of his wife and how her body felt next to his. This girl’s body was different, smaller. Maybe she was warmer than his wife. He thought about the many times his wife would climb on top of him, in the morning just after waking up, and he would melt into her. She would ride him and always climaxed very easily, she would be right there with him. She had learned how to do that for herself, she had told him, and he was happy for that.
The girl moved, and the bed swayed a bit. He lay still, not wanting to encourage contact while he was thinking of his wife. Cheating was something he’d never done, and now he felt like a cheater, because he wanted the girl. Her warmth next to him lit a fire he thought was dead. Desire is something for lovers, not drunken fools. The whiskey came into his thoughts and he saw himself taking a huge swallow of the cold sting, savoring it as it burned his throat and warmed his stomach. A wave of unsteadiness washed over him, as if he had actually taken that drink. Then he realized avoiding bad feelings was what brought the thoughts of drinking. Taking a deep breath, he tried to relax, and push the taste of whiskey from his mind.
Her smell came to him, and he could discern the salty sweetness of her skin. He moved further away from her, and thought he might finally drift off, when she came closer and cuddled up to his backside. His eyes popped open and his heart raced, but he didn’t move. She melted into his back and he could feel her soft breath against his neck. He thought about how it would be if she reached for him. He could feel himself growing, and wanted her to take hold while he thought about her scent, and the softness of her body. After a few minutes of being still, his thoughts shifted to his life and his family, then about his drinking and his writing. He wanted to start a new novel, now that the drinking was at bay. Perhaps the girl would inspire some ideas. Perhaps she was the beginning of a new story. Soon, he felt the weight of his fatigued body, and let his muscles relax. He stopped thinking about writing and the girl and listened to the steady drop of rain outside his window, and soon drifted off into a deep sleep.
In the morning he was alone in the bed. Light streamed in through the windows, which he never bother to curtain. He could hear the gentle splashing of water coming from the kitchen. He slid into his mocks and T-shirt and walked to the door and peered into the kitchen. She stood at the sink, bare chested, dabbing herself with a wet towel. She wore her jeans, and nothing else. Her back was well contoured and muscled, her youthful skin slightly tanned. She turned and saw him looking at her, but didn’t stop washing.
“I have a shower. The rain barrel should be full after yesterday,” he said.
“You have a rain barrel?”
“Yes, it’s mounted on the roof. It feeds down into the shower.”
“I didn’t notice,” she said, and turned to him, exposing herself. Her breasts were firm, small and white. Tan lines marked her bathing top. Water glistened off her upper neck and ran down onto her waist. He smiled and turned to go back into the bedroom.
He sat on the bed while he dressed, slipped on his mocs and walked to the door. She was already standing there waiting for him.
“I wouldn’t mind a shower, actually,” she said.
“In there,” he said, pointing to the bathroom adjacent to his bedroom. “It’s small and the water kind of trickles out, but it works. You’re welcome to it.” She walked in past him, her eye on the bathroom door.
“Keep in mind, it may be cold, though. No water heater.”
She turned to him. “Why don’t you have a water heater? You have gas, don’t you?”
“I don’t know. Didn’t want to lug it all the way from the mainland, I guess.”
She said, “Cold showers come in handy, here on the island?”
He smiled. She turned and walked into the bathroom.
In the kitchen, he made pancakes from flour, eggs, milk, salt and baking powder. He added some vanilla and a touch of cinnamon. He fried bacon and eggs-over-easy in the big skillet. When he was done cooking, he stacked the pancakes on a large platter and placed it on the kitchen table. He didn’t have any maple syrup, so he put honey and powdered sugar on the table. When the eggs and bacon were cooked, he placed them on a separate plate, and put that down on the table. The coffee percolated and was strong, the way he liked it.
When he finally sat down at the table, she appeared in the doorway of his bedroom. She was fully dressed in her own clothes and held a towel to dry her hair. “Wow,” she said, looking at the food. She sat at the table, the towel wrapped around her neck, and reached for the pancakes. “I can’t believe you made these,” she said. “Do you have any strawberries?” He saw a youthfulness in her manner that he hadn’t seen before. She was from a different generation. She probably saw him as an old man. And he thought he was too old for her, maybe. But why would he think such things now?
“No strawberries. But if you want, blackberries grow on the island. Up on the ridge, just over there.” He pointed to the door. “We can hunt for some later.”
“You’re a forager, huh?”
She slapped a few pancakes onto her plate and added powdered sugar, then poured herself a cup of the steaming coffee. He was pleased she ate so well and liked his coffee. He took a few pancakes and ate them with bacon and the eggs, runny on his plate.
When they were done eating, they sat quietly for a few moments. Birds chirped in the front yard. He got up and opened the door. After listening to the birds and the gentle calling of gulls at the shore, he said, “So, these people coming to get you, you think they’ll be here soon?”
“No,” she said, and got up to look out the front door. “I don’t think anyone is coming.”
“Oh? That’s not what you said last night.”
“I feel a lot better today.”
“That’s good, but how does that change anything?”
She looked away. “You’re a good cook.”
“Sometimes, when I try.”
“I can see that. I try and things suck. They never pan out.” She leaned on the doorframe, still listening to the birds. “Do you think that’s where the expression pan-out comes from? From cooking?”
“I don’t know.”
“Or gold diggers?” she laughed.
“From prospectors, maybe.”
She turned to him and smiled. “That’s what I meant. Or the movies. Don’t movie cameras pan out?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I want to know what we’re going to do with you. See how that pans out.”
She held onto the door frame and swung back and forth, like a child. “Oh, clever. How many ways can we use that expression? How about if I pan over here and go out the door?”
She walked outside. He followed her onto the porch. She stared at the trail leading to the center of the island. “That’s the way, right? Up that hill?” She pointed.
“Let’s get some.”
“Blackberries. Show me where they are.”
“They’re all over. You just go out and find them.”
“What if I pick something poisonous and eat it? What then?”
“Then…I don’t know. You get sick and die, I guess.”
“Great! Remind me not to eat poison with you around. Show me where they are.”
She walked toward to trail, then stopped and looked at him. “Come on. You have to stop me from eating poison berries.” She put her hands to her throat and made a gagging sound.
“Wait,” he said, and went back into the cottage. He returned carrying a small bucket.
“Oh, we’re gonna get a lot them,” she said.
“They’re easy to catch.”
The sun peeked out from clouds, illuminating the bay in bright slips of silver and blue. The wind gusted sharply and cut through the trees clinging to scourged shoreline. Cool air rippled across the bay. The few remaining storm-clouds moved quickly across the sky, as if they in a hurry to get somewhere.
The interior of the island held onto coalescing moisture and heated by the sun. Foliage surrounding the trail released warm vapor into the air. They walked further away from the shore, and the air was still and dense, with fragrances from the plant life. Northern Bayberry bushes gave off a surprisingly strong scent. She broke a small sprig if it off in her hand and smelled her fingers. The sounds of the bay were muffled. The dirt trail that was well worn near the house, quickly diminished as they walked farther into the field. Soon, tall grass and bushes caressed their legs as they walked.
The island was only a mile long and about a half mile wide. The center held tall pine trees that through many seasons, produced thick needle beds and was well shaded by the tall trees. On the outskirts of the woods, partially hidden in the tall grass, they found blackberry bushes.
“So many!” The girl said, with delight, and started to eat the berries.
“Wait. We should wash them first,” he said.
She popped another one into her mouth and laughed. “They’re ripe and delicious.”
They quickly filled the small bucket to half way. “That’s enough” he said. “We can make blackberry pancakes.”
“Or something else,” she said, smiling.
“You don’t like my pancakes?”
“Is that all you make?”
“Of course not,” he said, feigning annoyance. “You saw me eat lobster and corn.”
“Oh, yeah.” She tilted her head and looked at him. “I forgot. When was that?”
He frowned. “You don’t remember?”
“I’m not sure.” She placed a few berries in the bucket and suddenly looked lost, like she was remembering or daydreaming. He saw this and made light of the situation.
“I bet I can beat you back to the cottage,” he said, and started walking quickly back down the path.
“Hey,” she yelled, and laughed and ran after him.
He had seen the small boat approaching the dock as they rounded the corner, closer to the cottage. A ten or twelve-foot whaler outboard. Two men in the craft. The girl didn’t see the boat, and he decided not to say anything. They entered the cottage and he placed the bucket in the sink.
“Why don’t you wash those and I’ll be right back,” he said.
“Where are you going?”
“Down to the dock. I need to check a crab trap. Maybe we can make crab cakes.”
“Blackberry crab cakes,” she said smiling, then frowned. “Sounds awful.”
He was halfway to the dock when he turned and saw her behind him, standing at the trail-head. When the two men climbed out of the boat, she ran back to the cottage.