"I love thunderstorms like these."
The bright burst of light pierced the pre-morning darkness.
"one Mississippi, two Mississippi, thr-" her counting was interrupted by the sharp crack and glorious rumble of the sobbing skies.
Kalen smiled sweetly. There was absolutely no other place she wanted to be. Curled into the warm, possessive embrace of her boy, she snuggled back against him. His heartbeat hadn't spiked, and his breathing was steady, but she knew he wasn't sleeping. Whenever she woke, she would find that he had been awake first, simply breathing her in silently.
"I know you're awake."
"I know you know."
Her smile deepened as she pressed her softness against the chiseled angles of his hold. These were her favorite moments of the day. As soon as the sun would break through the trees, he would silently get up from the bed, dress and head out to the mine- seven days a week, three weeks a month. After the fourth week, he would get a three day weekend to recharge. She met him on one of those weekends, two years prior.
Wandering through the streets, and through life, she had trudged out into the pouring rain. Everyone else had sought shelter but she had always marched to the beat of a different drum. Maybe the answers to her questions would be found where safety wasn't promised.
Her life had been so predictable, sterile, and guaranteed. Most would enjoy the frivolous life her family's wealth had provided, but she needed more. She craved purity.
Surrounded by the elite, Kalen regarded her life as a vast desert, burned and dry. The logical answer was water, so when it began to rain on that fateful day, she followed the storm into the lush, green forest.
It took less than an hour for her to realize that safety was a luxury that only a spoiled little rich girl would toss away foolishly. In the forest, the storm made everything have an eerie quality. The darkness had weight and cloaked everything in a sinister shroud.
Roots clawed against her pants, branches grabbed at her limbs. Wisdom roared at her to escape, but confusion had spun her mental compass. She was lost, and she was scared, but she was also enlightened.
Purity was true and raw, but it was most definitely impartial. Nature did not see her plight as something to be regarded as significant. Rather, the laws of nature were simply: survive. Eat or be eaten.
Ironically, at the moment of her enlightenment, two things happened.
First, a ray of light shone through the trees, filtering through the rain, creating the most unbelievable prism of colors that landed squarely on a cabin across the creek. She rubbed fiercely at her eyes. Surely this was the proverbial mirage of her lifelong desert? No, it was there. The cabin blended so seamlessly into the woodscape, that it would have seemed invisible without the rainbow pointing it out.
Second, a growl- from a distance, from behind, and from a hungry predator. She didn't dare to hesitate. She bolted forward towards the rushing creek and knew instinctively that the animal followed and was gaining on her.
Crashing into the small river, she desperately thrashed her way against the force of the water. If it had been higher, she would have easily been swept away. Thankfully, her impartial nature seemed to tug the scales in her favor as the water was clearly too high for her adversary. Halfway through, she chanced a glance back. The wolf, undeterred, was now looking for an alternate route to cross the creek and meet her on the other side.
Kalen doubled her efforts in a panic, knowing that a fallen tree or a cluster of rocks would surely be nearby and offer a sufficient bridge for the wolf. Harried thoughts of being his tasty meal tripled her efforts as she reached the bank, scrambling her way to the top.
"Help! Help, please! Help me!!!" Surely that rainbow wouldn't have come at the exact time she needed it only to lead her to a locked, abandoned cabin?
As she ran towards the shelter, the door opened violently, stopping in her tracks inches from the entrance. She suddenly considered perhaps testing her luck surviving the wolf. A man, young and wild-eyed, stood with a shotgun braced against his shoulder. Clearly her screams had alerted and roused him in a frightening flash. Without hesitation, he grabbed a handful of her clothes and yanked her in. The boom of the shotgun resounded in her ears. Her scream caught in her throat as her mind raced through the last few minutes of her life, which could easily have been the last few minutes of her life.
"Is it dead?"
He shut the door more gently than it had been opened. "No," he spoke softly. It was not the velvety voice she would have expected. She felt her shoulders drop slightly as she listened to him continue. "Just a warning shot. No need to kill him. Not his fault that he thought you invited him to dinner." He smiled.
She laughed. She didn't think it was that funny, but her emotions were frazzled and laughter spilled out.
His smile deepened, reaching his eyes. "I'm Cole. I'll invite you to dinner, but don't worry. You're not the main course."
She laughed again. So, she had to admit - he was funny.
His finger brushed against her neck. "Your pulse is faster. What's on your mind?"
She sniffed out an amused sigh. He was always so observant, always watching. "I was just thinking of how we met."
Turning against him, she giggled against his chest. "What makes you think I was bait for the wolf? Could have been bait for something much more dangerous."
"Hm," he snorted in mock derision. "As if anything could fall for a trap that obvious."
They lay in bed, tangled in each other's limbs. The birds began their morning symphony, alerting the woods to the oncoming dawn. Next week was his break weekend, but today he would rise with the light and head to the mine again. She tightened her grip and wished that she could hold him against his will.
"I could help, you know."
Breathing deeply, he inhaled her scent. She smelled like firewood, and rosemary, and lemon, and sorrel. Firewood from how she tended their home and kept it warm. Rosemary from last night's dinner. Lemon from how she bleached their sheets and hung them in the sunshine. Sorrel from foraging for leaves to steep his favorite tea. He had been content before his wolfbait had scrambled into his life, but now he was happy.
"You do help."
"But I could make it so that you didn't have to work so hard."
Running his rough hands across her soft skin, he quietly reminisced. She was drenched and filthy the day she screamed for help, but the quality of her clothes was not lost on him. Nor was the necklace she wore. Life had afforded her lots of opportunity, that was apparent. But the life she truly sought hadn't been found through her bank account. She was finding what mattered here with him, in this lifestyle. Unlike the other miners, he enjoyed the hard work. Unlike the other miners, he didn't drink his earnings away. He saved and planned. Maybe someday, they would start over somewhere new. Maybe then he would let her reveal the secret he already assumed. Until then, they were becoming what they needed to be through gentle struggles.
"I like working hard."
Surrendering, she enjoyed the last bits of the songbird symphony mixed with the hushed sounds of the receding rain. The daybreak arrived with sunlight filtering through the trees, and winking at them through the bedroom window. She wondered if a rainbow was forming and shining down on their perfect little cabin- just like the day they had met.
It was always assumed that the rainbow led travelers to the pot of gold. But one day, maybe he would let her reveal that in their story, their special rainbow led the pot of gold to him. Until then, they would live simply, build slowly, and love deeply.
This was my second entry for @theinkwell community's March Contest. If you would like to read my first, please wander here to read Holding Out for Luck. If you are fond of writing contests, you can join the rest of the community by entering with us. Good luck to you all!