Completed a style edit, and now working on a grammar edit. Progress is slow, and I’m blaming the pandemic for new distractions. However, making progress. I haven’t done the grammar edit on this chapter yet, but sharing it anyway. This is first part of chapter 12, and takes place the morning after the road to the campground, and Darwin’s tent, were washed away. Comments appreciated.
Darwin woke with the sun warming his face. He opened his eyes, registered that he was in Marianna’s spare bedroom and the sun was shining, and closed his eyes again. This was much more comfortable than the previous night in the truck, and the night before in the tent. The cotton flannel sheets were soft and smelled of salt. The house was quiet, and he could hear the waves through the open window. It was the same sound he had fallen asleep to last night.
Last night he’d kissed Marianna. He still was not sure why. No, he knew why – he was attracted to her. She was smart, hardworking, tough, and beautiful. But she lived 1400 km from Toronto, in the middle of nowhere, and now was not a good time to start a relationship. Especially with someone he planned to steal land from. No, it wasn’t stealing, he reminded himself. It was business. She knew the terms, she’d signed the document. And this was the deal that would secure his future.
He’d grown up in a house where the mice and rats scampered through gaps in the stone basement walls. His sister probably still lived in a house like that. His first apartment in Toronto had mice running from one radiator to the next. It wasn’t the specks of mouse shit on the counters, annoying as it was, or the need to keep all food in rodent-proof containers, that made mice annoying. It was what the poverty they reminded you of. Being too poor to fix your house, or being too tired from working long hours to fix your house, or not owning the property to fix, and knowing that you might spend money on it and be moving out a month later. Money was security.
He thought of his condo, peaceful and rodent free. He could leave a chocolate bar on the counter, half-eaten, and it would be untouched the next day. This was the happiness money bought. Carla had liked the condo, and loved the view of Lake Ontario, visible in a gap between the waterfront towers. He wondered what Marianna would think of that view, compared to her property. He imagined showing his place to her. Would she appreciate the double size shower and the soaker tub? He closed his eyes and imagined her there. Relaxing in a bubble bath. He’d come in, and she’d put down her book. He’d offer to wash her back. She’d sit up, her breasts emerging from the bubbles, and as he stroked her back with the cloth he’d lean down and kiss the top of her breasts…. Damn morning wood, he thought, and threw off the covers. His attempt to cool his feelings with chilly air failed in the warmth of the room. Why was his first kiss with Marianna – his only kiss, not his first – more comfortable and yet more exciting than kissing Carla, even after all their time together? That thought was enough to distract him.
He put on the baggy sweatpants and tight shirt from yesterday, padded to his door, and opened it. He could hear Marianna in the kitchen, calling Cerebus for breakfast. Marianna’s bedroom door was closed. He resisted the temptation to look into her bedroom, and stepped through the landing’s open door to the bathroom. She’d filled the jug of water on the counter for hand washing and toothbrushing, and added another note to the tips and reminders from last night. This one invited him to shave in the kitchen if he wanted hot water. He brushed his teeth, then picked up a towel and cloth. She’d also left out a couple of disposable razors and a bar of shaving soap. Always thoughtful.
As he came down the stairs the temperature increased. In the kitchen, something sweet was cooking on the stove, and cool warm air breezed through an open window. Marianna was setting the table, for two, he noticed, unsure how he felt about that.
“Good morning, Darwin. Did you sleep okay?”
“Yes, thanks. And you?”
“Apart from letting Cerebus out to pee at two in the morning, yes. He didn’t wake you with his barking?”
Darwin shook his head. “You’re sure you don’t mind me shaving at the kitchen sink?”
“As long as you clean up after yourself.” She poured steaming water from a pot on the stove into a bowl, and set it beside the counter. “The first cupboard on the left has a mirror inside.”
Darwin opened the cupboard. “All mod cons.”
“This isn’t my first rodeo.”
Darwin shaved, deciding he did not want to ask what that meant. In the mirror he watched Marianna move about the kitchen, then position herself at the stove.
“Whatever you’re making smells good.”
“Thanks. Just oatmeal. But I’m heating some maple syrup to go with it. Also boiling some eggs for our hike.”
Her hips were swaying as she stirred the pot. Darwin shifted the cupboard door, so the mirror no longer reflected her. “Our hike?”
“I started the generator earlier and was on my radio. The storm was nasty all over the island. Lots of power lines down, and several road washouts. A couple of motels flooded, and the boardwalk is damaged in Sydney. It will be some time before the road out here is repaired – maybe a week.”
“A week? With no power?” Darwin finished his ablutions and came over to the stove. “Are you going to be okay?”
“I’ll be fine. I’ve got the generator, I can run my laptop on solar, I’ll have internet once they get the cell tower fixed, which could be before or after the road, I’ve got the woodstove for heat and cooking, and I’ve got food. I wouldn’t survive winter here if I couldn’t go a week on my own. Put that on the table, please, and take a seat.” She indicated a small pot. “We just need to get you home.”
“Right. I’m stranded here.”
Marianna brought the pot of oatmeal to the table and spooned some into the bowl in front of Darwin.
“Don’t panic, city boy.” He caught her grin.” One of the guys from Bay St. Lawrence can get you out by boat. Say when.”
“That’s good, thanks.” Carla had never cooked breakfast for him, but then he’d never stayed for breakfast. She spooned oatmeal into her bowl, took the pot to the sink, and came back to the table. He waited until she had poured some maple syrup, then poured some on his. “This is superb.” He’d had maple syrup flavoured instant oatmeal, but this, cooked in a pot and with real maple syrup, tasted so much better it was like a different meal.
“Thanks. But no one can come today – tomorrow at the earliest. They’ve got cleanup there too. It’ll be few days before anyone could drive you into Baddeck or Sydney.”
“Can’t I rent a car, or get the bus, from the village?”
“No. Not anywhere around here. Someone might be able to put you up in there, but Mike said you’re better to stay here if I’ve got room.”
She took a spoonful of oatmeal, swallowed, and continued. “Meanwhile, you’ve been here two and half days, two of which have been heavy rain, and had all your stuff washed away in a flood. I hate to see what the online review will look like. It’s a gorgeous day today, and one attraction of this campground is the hike up the mountain behind us. For you, guided, lunch included, just to make it more attractive.”
“Your company is more than sufficiently attractive without food and guiding. But the exercise will help take my mind off other things we could do to pass the time.” He shouldn’t be flirting with her, he thought, but he liked her plan to spend the day together.
Marianna blushed. “Darwin, you are a great kisser. But as I said last night, it was just a kiss. It’s not going to lead to anything. I’m not interested in a relationship, and even if I was, you’ll be heading back to your downtown Toronto office soon enough. Let’s keep things as friends. Okay?” She held out her hand.
Darwin was about to say he’d just been kidding, but he hadn’t and she knew it, and she was right. He shook her hand.
“Agreed Ms… I don’t know you last name. Agreed, Marianna.”
“Pleased to meet you, Ms. Beecker.” Darwin offered his hand again.
Marianna swatted it away. “Marianna, please.”