Yellowstone Redemption(7)By: Peggy L Henderson
That’s when she remembered something else her mother had taught her.
She scooped a cupful of the hot water, and added a few spoonfuls of sugar to it. The man’s body needed fuel, and sugar was the simplest, quickest form. She stirred the cup with a wooden spoon to dissolve the white granules, then headed back to her room. She eased the door open tentatively and peered in.
The man hadn’t moved. Was he dead? She held a hand above his nose. No, she could feel warm breath on her hand. She knelt beside her bed, and dipped the spoon in the sugar water. She pried his dry lips apart with the spoon, and let the liquid flow into his mouth. Most of it dribbled out the side. This wasn’t going to work.
Sarah contemplated what to do. Taking a deep breath, she sat on the edge of the bed and scooted as close to him as she dared. Then she lifted his head into her lap. He emitted a low moan. His head felt heavy on her thighs. Her pulse quickened. With a trembling hand, she spooned more water into his mouth. Most of it remained, but she didn’t notice him swallow. She rubbed his Adam’s apple. There! Success. She repeated her actions several times, until a good half of the cup was empty.
The man squirmed. His eyelids fluttered, and slowly he raised them. Sarah stared down into green eyes again. His mouth moved, but only incoherent sounds came from his throat. Sarah smiled in encouragement.
“Angel.” She barely heard the raspy word. She lifted his head off her lap and scooted away. His eyes looked dull and tired, and he obviously had a hard time keeping them open. She readjusted the covers around his neck, and left the room.
For the better part of the morning, she completed mundane chores around the cabin. She finished tanning the hide she’d been working on for several days. She needed a new pair of britches. For hours, she sat outside in the sun, rubbing sheep and elk brains into the hide to make it soft as silk and very pliable. Her Tukudeka aunt, Little Bird, had taught the skill to her. After letting it cure in the sun for a day, she would soak it in the river, and in a couple of days, she could begin sewing her new clothing. She had also planned to forage in the woods for some bitterroot and camas, but she wouldn’t leave the unconscious man alone.
Late in the afternoon, she ladled some soup that had been simmering all day into a bowl, and sat at the table to eat. Her thought went back to earlier in the day. Angel. Something had stirred in her, like having her heart tickled by a feather, when he’d said that. Had he meant her? He was probably hallucinating. She finished her simple meal and sat the bowl on the ground. Grizzly eagerly lapped up the leftovers. She patted him affectionately on the head, then returned to her room to check on the man.
She found him shivering under the covers. It was a good sign. His body was responding again, working to warm itself up. When a person suffered from exposure and didn’t shiver, it was always a bad sign.
He’d worked his arms loose of the covers, and Sarah was about to readjust them. A glimpse at his dirty shirt gave her another thought. Should she dare? Oh, this was ridiculous! This man needed care, and propriety be damned. She’d helped her mother plenty of times with injured men. She certainly had seen plenty of bare chests. She hastily went back to the main room and set more water over the fire to heat, and found some clean washrags. When she returned, his shivering had slowed. She carefully pulled the covers further down. How would she be able to remove his shirt? He was a big man, probably taller than her father.
She inhaled deeply and tucked his shirt up, rotating his heavy body from side to side to work it up his back. The sun had burned the skin on his back. She worked the shirt over his head. A thin silver chain hung around his neck, with a couple of rectangular pendants. She picked up the pendants. They were plain looking, nothing someone would wear as an adornment. Something that looked like a long row of numbers was etched into them. Carefully, she laid the pendants back on his chest.
Remembering her task, she finished removing his shirt, setting the now-cold water bags aside. His long muscular arms were solid and heavy as she worked them through the sleeves. She hurried to retrieve her hot water and rags, then began washing the man’s chest and arms. She tried not to stare, but he was beautiful to look at. His muscles were well defined, his shoulders wide. She was about to scrub harder at what she thought was stubborn dirt caked to his chest just above his heart, then realized it was a marking. She wiped at it, and the black image of a scorpion emerged.
Sarah stared anew. She’d seen tattoos before, but nothing that looked as real as this. The image was a perfect depiction of a scorpion, its pincers held wide open, and the tail curved over the body, ready to strike. Tentatively, she touched it with her hand. His skin still felt cool, but the man was definitely warming up.
The raspy voice sent her leaping off the edge of the bed, sloshing the water in her bowl over the floor.
“I . . . I didn’t realize you were awake,” she said awkwardly, averting her eyes. She heard the blankets scrape against each other and the mattress on her bed groan. She glanced up to see him push himself to a sitting position.