My hair was plastered on my face as raindrops showered me with its huge droplets. I moved through the trees with increasing speed, it didn’t matter that I could barely see where I was going because of the darkness that surrounded me. It was nighttime and being in the midst of a forest made it seem even darker.
Every now and then lightning would flash a bright, white light which penetrated the dense branches of the trees around me, allowing me a glimpse of my surroundings. I could feel my heart beating fast in my chest as I continued running.
“Orein! Where are you?”
Suddenly, I saw the flash of lightning right before I heard the loud cracking sound above my head. Before I knew what was happening, the swishing sound of falling branches as they hit the other trees reached me.
I could hear my mind screaming at me to run for cover, yet my body was frozen in place as I watched the dark shadow of the tree slowly falling towards me. Images of my mom and dad flashed before my eyes, followed by images of my brother. They were all grinning at me, and I could see the love they had for me in their eyes as they gazed upon me.
“This is it. I’m going to die here in this forest and I’m never going to see them again.”
The dark shadow loomed over me and I waited for its heavy weight to crash down on me. I was sure it was going to hurt, but my body seemed to be rooted in place and all I could do is watch and wait for death to come take me. I closed my eyes tightly and hunched my shoulders in expectation, oblivious of the rain pelting my whole body, drenching me. I knew the fallen tree reached me the moment I felt the heavy weight on me as I fell to the ground.
Was that it? Was I dead?
I couldn’t be, because I still felt every stone and twig on the ground that bit at my back as I lay there. I tried to move, but the weight on me was too much. I wiggled my fingers to check whether I was still alive, but I couldn’t feel them either. I couldn’t move any part of my body! I felt trapped! A horrible thought ran through my mind.
“Oh, my God! I must be paralyzed! I must have broken my back when I hit the ground.”
I tried to scream, but no sound came out. Panic rose in my chest as I frantically tried to move. My breaths started to become short gasps as I desperately clamoured for air.
That baritone voice was so familiar, but it sounded so far away…
“Wake up, my beauty!”
It was the light tapping on my cheek that caught my attention.
“Open your eyes, love.”
My eyes fluttered open and I found myself gazing into the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen. I could easily drown in them if I wasn’t careful. I felt his finger move the hair away from my face as he gazed at me. I furrowed my brows at the worry I saw in his eyes. The memory of the tree crashing on me came back and I looked around with a start. I was in my bedchamber, laying in Orein’s arms as he sat on the side of my bed. I looked back at him and realized that his face was close to mine.
“What happened?” I whispered. I felt his arms move tighter around me as he began to speak.
“You were having a nightmare and I heard you from my room. When I got here, you were moaning. I realized you were dreaming and I tried to call your name to wake you up. Then you started to thrash your head and started crying. I panicked and took you in my arms, hoping I could somehow wake you, but you started gasping for air and I didn’t know what to do. I tapped your cheek and that was when your eyelids fluttered before you woke up.”
“Oh! It felt so real.”
I shivered at the memory. I didn’t know what else to say.
“What was your dream?”
I inhaled deeply, slowly gathering my thoughts before I started to tell him all about my nightmare. It was a relief to realize that it was not real as I relived the events. Once I was done, I noticed that there was uncertainty in his eyes before he looked away.
He let out his breath slowly before he looked back at me.
“I am not sure how to tell you this, my beauty.”
My heart started to beat a little faster.
“What is it?”
His arms gathered me closer before relaxing his hold.
“It wasn’t just a dream, love. That was what happened when I rescued you in the forest.”
Memories of that day started trickling back. I remember looking up into the sky as I stepped out of the cabin. There were dark clouds in the distance, but I convinced myself that I would be back from my walk before the storm hit. It slowly dawned on me that it must have caught up with me as I got lost in my thoughts during my walk. And I finally realized the enormity of it all. If he didn’t take me with him, I would have died in a horrific way. I looked down at the hands on my lap as I twisted them together.
“Thank you, for saving me again from that tree.”
Orein gave me a confused look. Beneath my lashes, I peeked at his face.
“I thought for sure I was going to die under that tree tonight. But, here you are again, saving me from being squashed by its giant limbs. So, thank you. I am just realizing now how you have saved my life by taking me back to your world.” I sighed.
“I’m sorry for being difficult when I first wake up here, Orein. I promise, I will try harder to adapt to your life here.”
Orein wrapped his arms around me tighter and kissed the top of my head.
“There is nothing to be sorry about, my beauty. I completely understand your actions. I’m sure it isn’t easy to be snatched away from the life you’ve always known and dumped in another world that is full of strangers. But it brings me joy to hear you say that you are willing to try to like living here.”
We stayed like that for I’m not sure how long. He started to move to get up from the bed. I laid my hand on his chest to stop him. I could feel his heartbeat beneath the hard muscles hidden under the cotton material of his top. I caught his gaze as he looked at me.
“Please don’t go yet. It’s nice and comforting to have you here after such a horrible nightmare.”
A small smile started to form on his lips. He kissed me on my forehead before sitting back on the bed. This time, his back was on the headboard as he pulled one of his legs up and under me.
“Okay, I’ll hold you until you fall back to sleep before I leave.”
I sighed and laid my head on his chest. The sound of his heartbeat comforting me. My eyes were already half closed when a thought struck me and I lifted my head so I could see his face.
“Wait. Where have you been? I haven’t seen you around for awhile. You didn’t come home for more than a week.”
He gave me an enigmatic smile.
“I’ve always come home, love. I checked in on you every night before I went to bed.”
“But I didn’t see you,” I muttered petulantly as laid my head back on his chest. He held my head close to him, his thumb moving slowly up and down my cheek as he spoke.
“My duties required me to leave early, but I was always back late a night. I could have stayed away, but I found myself eager to see you even for just a moment before I went to sleep. Your presence soothes my soul, Anya, in ways even I don’t understand.”
I tried to lift my head up, but he held it gently but firmly close to him.
“Ssshhhh….it’s late, love. Go to sleep. We can talk some more in the daylight.”
The movement of his thumb against my cheek and the rhythmic sound of the beating of his heart lulled me to sleep. Being in his arms, feeling safe and secure brought a smile to my lips as I got lost in oblivion.
(photo courtesy of US Forest service)