Margaret appeared many minutes later looking completely different. Her blonde hair was radiant, her skin flawless and when she caught me looking at her, her smile was devastating as it lit her eyes. She wore a cream-colored flannel robe snugged tightly around her narrow waist. Her feet were bare and my need flagged my will.
Her back was facing me for no more than a few moments, but on the reverse of the robe I saw the pagan Tree of Life as above so below. I felt my eyes widen, saw the tree’s colors change from brown to living greens with red fruit. The entire tree shivered like a breeze passed across it. The leaves wavered, fluttered, and some drifted from the branches to the forest floor below. There I witnesses small animals scurrying, climbing, actively engaged with the Tree of Life. Blue birds suddenly filled the tree and were gone as quickly as they appeared. Then beneath the largest, longest branch I saw Margaret. She wore nothing but rays of sunlight. She lifted both arm slowly overhead, and when her hands almost met above her, arcs of blue-white energy passed between her fingertips in a shower of brilliant illumination.
Casually, judging from how she moved, Margaret lowered her hands and used them to invite me to join her.
I blinked twice, and heard Margaret as she walked over casually and sat alongside me. The vision dissipated when she said, “The shower felt amazing.” She glanced down as if trying to keep from letting me, know I smelled and looked filthy.
I forced a grin and tried to enjoy her not too subtle hint. “If you’ll take the captain’s chair, I think I’ll give it a try.”
She nodded and swung her legs into the chair, revealing and hiding. The smile still, curving her lips.
I believe that’s the moment I gave up. We were alone. There was nothing to convince either of us there was even a future beyond the moment we lived then.
The shower was better than anticipated. I shut the water off and reached blindly for a towel. A small delicate hand put a towel in my hand. I looked and watched her robe fold up around her feet with the Tree of Life on top and then added the towel to the pile. Margaret stepped into my embrace. She was soft and warm. Our fingers explored. Our lips met with enough passion that I felt there was never any place I’d rather be then with her.
Resting later with her still in my arms, I wondered if I’d just betrayed Attrea and decided that truly I would likely never see her again. The green cabin might be a place she could not ever leave if her true role was that of a guide for people like me, and Margaret seeking an escape to a safer place.
That made me smile. Up until now there is nothing safe about this place whatever it is and wherever it is and even whenever it is. Margaret stirred, but didn’t waken. I smelled her hair and her liking both.
Then frustration exploded in my chest. Where the hell, are we, and what the hell are we doing? It feels like we are moving aimlessly through a land of magic and not necessarily good magic. Things appear and disappear. In fact we haven’t seen much good here other than each other and both of us are actually criminals on the run.
But they can never find us or apprehend us or even stop us now.
That produced a good feeling. I carefully moved from beneath Margaret without waking her, nearly groaned with the sudden jolt of pain from several locations, but worked my way onto the deck before allowing myself the relief and then did groan.
Damn that hurts. I located the first aid kit from the duffel bag and dug through it until I found painkillers, dry swallowed three and lowered myself into the captain’s chair. The sun was high in the absolute center of the sky. The distant horizon with the brown smudge looked closer. I could see shapes like a forest line, and mounds of hills. There was a line of silver that flickered and wavered and I realized it might be a waterfall.