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Out Of The Woods
By
Survivor

Out Of The Woods

Tags: drama, love,

It's all my fault. No matter how much I blame the GPS it was still my mistake. Trusting technology over common sense got us into this situation. Damn! I can call it a situation, but it's more serious than that would ever convey. We're lost. Stranded and freezing. We could soon die, if we don't do something. If I don't do something. It's all my fault.

The sandy surface of the California shore was burning our bare feet as we crossed down closer to the tide line. Daphne was kicking the sand up with her wriggling toes, as she giggled and tickled my palm with her long, delicate fingers. Then she spread out our large beach towels, and I placed the picnic basket where we could reach it. I gazed out at the waves rolling in, and felt the sun in my eyes, and on my brow.

A trickle of perspiration dripped down my temple. After wiping it away I put an arm around Daphne hugging her close. Her soft skin was damp with moisture. I bent to taste her kiss, and the salty droplets on her moist lips. It was good to be with the one I loved most in the world. We had driven here in my Range Rover wearing our bathing suits. Now I put up a beach umbrella to give us some shade from the shimmering sunlight.

Daphne was wearing a new bikini, purchased just for this trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea. At just over five feet tall, she was like a pixie, with a dancer's legs. They were taut and firm, from the work she did at the barre. Her body was trim, and now sweating in her new bikini. Whenever I touched her she gently caressed my arm. It was adorable, adding to her charm. She had allowed me into her life.

It was an unseasonably balmy fall here on the coast. October usually cooled off the air north of Los Angeles along the shore, and in the coastal mountains west of the Central Valley. But this year we were feeling the effects of odd weather patterns. The state was suffering drought. The skies displayed few clouds and little rain. We were glad to be on the beach enjoying swimming in the still cool waters, as we delighted in our honeymoon holiday.

The shore was completely empty of vacationers, or beachcombers. There had been no storms for weeks, so few were gathering the sea shells tossed up by inclement weather. Besides, it was Friday, and kids were in school. Parents were back at work. We had the beach to ourselves. We could have walked from L'Auberge Carmel, but Daphne's feet were tender.

We sat and cuddled, mixing the perspiration on our damp flesh. Her chin lifted as she sought my mouth, and she ran her fingers through my hair. Daphne's tongue softly and hesitantly sought mine, then they met, fervently.

Daphne keeps falling asleep, and I awaken her, as gently as I can, but forcefully. She mustn't lose consciousness. Neither of us may. That would end in our taking the long sleep. The descent into darkness, and the abyss. Our shivering bodies cling to each other, and we whisper soft words of love and regret. She doesn't blame me. No, she tries to blame herself, but that will not do. The burden is mine. 

I looked up and glanced both directions along the beachfront. No one in sight. I smiled and continued caressing her smooth, white skin. My little ballerina was always eager to feel my sculptor's hands loving her. 

She called out, louder than the quarreling gulls, "Julian, my love." I fondled her poor feet, heartbreakingly damaged from her discipline, and caressed her long red hair. It was frizzy in the sea air, even if there was little moisture in the atmosphere. We went on kissing and becoming closer, on this empty beach of passion. 

Later we gathered our gear, walking back up a trail to the parking area. It was hot, even as the sun sank lower. The afternoon was nearing an end. Our time together had been as fulfilling as always. Having the wine and cheese afterwards had been a tasty way to put a topping on our day's adventure.

The ocean had cooled us down as we swam offshore, but the sweat was breaking out again. We put our towels on the seats to keep them from getting wet. Our inn was close, in Carmel. It was a treat for both of us. I was a "starving" artist, and she was a dancing instructor. But she deserved it, for being the light in my darkness.

I start the engine of the Range Rover one more time. The fuel gauge still registers empty. I let it run until it abruptly chokes and dies. We didn't really get any heat from the effort. We certainly didn't feel it in our deep core. And now the gas was gone. No more heat, and the drifting snow keeps covering the vehicle. I can see little out the rear window, other than large flakes, covering the trunk and glass. Our hands and feet are so cold. So dreadfully cold.

She had been in some local dance troops in Southern California, but had never been fortunate enough to be a star. Dancing was her life, though. Until I found her. Now she told me I was her life. The same was true for me.

I was working on a sculpture of her en pointe. I didn't usually work in a realistic format, and an abstract piece might actually capture her essence. But for my first love gift I wanted to display her as she first appeared that day in the studio. Back arched, arm curved above her head, and both feet raising her up to glory. Her strength and red hair, in its little bun, would work well in bronze.

That evening we dined at the Dametra Cafe. We both loved Mediterranean food. If we had been a little richer we might have sailed away to Greece for our honeymoon. But this was perfect, anyway. We got back to the inn before midnight, with plenty of time to play. Daphne was holding my hand, caressing the rough skin. That came from working with metal and stone. They were hard, but could be gentle to those I adored.

We had both worked up a sweat again, as we walked back to the inn. The weather was maintaining its unusual heat. As I waited for Daphne to come out of the bathroom I saw her in my mind's eye. I drifted, gratefully thanking the gods for my good fortune. She came out smiling at me.

She hopped on the bed, lying down beside me, and I leaned down to taste her lips. She sighed and looked into my eyes, as she stroked my messy hair.

"Ah, Julian. You know how I love that. Please, baby. Kiss me sweet man."

I was busy for many minutes. Making my soul mate happy. And gradually we drifted off close to sleep, both of us tired from the heat, here and on the shore.

"Julian, may I ask something, baby? Would we be warmer if our bodies could touch? Would that help us? I'm so cold dear. So cold. May we try that Julian?"

We do that. Our teeth are chattering as we slip out of our layers of clothes, then wrap them about us once more. Our bodies do feel a little warmer. It's a good way to go. Close and loving. Feeling the warmth of your lover as you accept the end. The end of a love story. 

As we relaxed, I was holding her with a freckled cheek on my shoulder. We were contented, and then I told her my little surprise.

"It's so hot here, Daphne. We've enjoyed it, but I think we could use a little change. Shall we get up into the mountains, away from this heat? Actually, while you were exercising this afternoon I made some calls. I got us a room reserved for tomorrow. It's up in the Sierra Nevadas. Black Bear Inn. It isn't really snowing yet, but it should be cooler. What do you think? We can play up there in the mountain air."

"Julian...I thought we were going home this weekend. Can we really afford it? I mean, it'll be on Saturday and Sunday nights. Right? Is it expensive?"

"Sweetheart, this is the only honeymoon we'll ever have. I want us to make some memories. We can walk among the Sequoias, and maybe see a theater group. They have lots of things to do. And we have things to do too, even in our room, alone. True, babe?"

"You're naughty, my big artist. You're an artist in more ways than one."

Then we did fall into a contented sleep.

Daphne is touching me. And I want her. I don't really control it. She has that affect on me, even now. Even when we are lost and slowly succumbing to the depths of the frigid weather. I draw her closer, as she huddles down into the clothes and single blanket we have to cover ourselves. Her shivering lips are now touching mine, and I respond.

This is love. We are ending and she is loving me. Her mouth is dry, but it is sweet, as we kiss. It doesn't take long for us to feel the love we know will not die.

We arrived Saturday afternoon, following a drive of several hours. We drove from the west coast over to the eastern side of the state, ending up in the Sierra Nevada range, and the town of Arnold. The staff at the inn were able to make us reservations for a play the next afternoon. And we would spend two nights, leaving on Monday morning. There was no snow on the ground. It was too early in the season.

It was not too late, so we drove over to the nearest grove of Sequoias, at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Living in this state you would think we would both have seen them, but not true. Quite often we get caught up in daily stuff and don't visit the sites that people come to see from all over the world. So we walked, hand in hand, through the big trees. Until I swept her up, and behind one of them. No one could see us. No one was around, anyway.

"What's your plan, big man? You always have a plan, don't you baby?"

I was grinning down at her. I knelt down, lifted her up into my arms and embraced her, as we leaned against the huge tree there by the trail.

We spent that Saturday evening dining at the inn, and then going to bed early. We just went to bed and drifted off, holding each other.

The next day we got up late, had a brunch in our room, and went out to a matinee. We drove around afterwards, doing some sightseeing, and stopped for some fast food. It was still early, so I pointed the Range Rover up one of the gravel roads heading into the Stanislaus National Forest. I put on the GPS, with the inn as our destination. I was assuming it would continually update, and lead us back later. Daphne was having fun.

We drove carefully, watching the landscape around us, and talking about our future together. As we drove the GPS was softly telling me that it was recalculating. I had the volume low, so it would not disturb us, and we continued up and down the valleys of the forest. It was getting darker so I started following the instructions of the navigation system. I believed it would get us back to the inn. It shouldn't take more than an hour I told Daphne.

It was too late when I realized that the system was taking me down a road that was almost completely washed out. Daphne cried out, pointing to a group of deer on a hill to the right of us. I looked, taking my eyes off the track momentarily. My front axle became stuck on a ridge in the trail. As I tried to back up I knew that I was stuck. Getting out I told Daphne it would be fine. I wasn't sure. My first reaction was to call for help. But our cellphones both had no bars at all.

Several hours later, when it was completely dark out, I concluded that I was not going to be able to dig us out. I lacked the proper tools, could barely see anything, and it was getting rather cold. I decided that spending the night in the Range Rover was our only option right now. I had no idea how far away the nearest highway, or cabin, would be. We had eaten late, so we weren't overly hungry. And I always had water in the vehicle.

Daphne is crying. I try to soothe her, but I'm not too effective. I feel the emotions myself. I know it won't be long. I'm finding it harder to stay awake. I take my first and only soul mate into my arms, tighter, and we both begin breathing slower and deeper as our bodies relax. We're losing consciousness. We're out.

The morning sun shone into the vehicle from the east. Luckily we were not too far down a valley, so the sun woke us fairly early. My phone said it was 9:30 in the morning of the 29th of September, 2014. It still had no bars at all.

As we stretched and rubbed our eyes we both noticed the white flakes falling from the sky. Working frantically with my hands and a tire iron I tried to dig us out, but the snow continued to fall, and it got colder and colder. It was no use. I was unable to free us, and tried to stay warm in the Range Rover, while the weather just got worse as the day and night passed.

I feel nothing. The coldness has seeped into my bones. I don't know what has awakened me, but I want to sleep. I don't want to wake up. I try to grasp my soul mate. I try but there is no feeling in my fingers to hold Daphne closer.

My first thought was to wonder where Daphne was. I came wide awake, shouting out her name. A nurse came rushing into the room. At first my brain thought all the whiteness was snow. I slowly became aware that I was in a hospital. It was not freezing. It was cool, but we were not lost in a snowstorm. Wait, where is Daphne? That was all I cared about.

"Mister Cramer, please, it's alright. Your wife's in another room. It's fine. You have to relax. Doctor will be in to talk to you in just a few minutes. Let me call him. Alright, Mister Cramer?"

"Yes, but I have to know, how she is. Tell me she's alright." I reached out, pleadingly, and noticed both hands were completely covered with white bandages. "Wait, what's wrong with my hands? What happened? Please tell what's happening."

"Doctor has to talk to you. You'll be okay, and so will your wife. You both'll be fine. Please, let Doctor tell you everything."

It was more than a few minutes, but the doctor finally arrived. Pain relievers had helped to calm me, but I needed to know so many things.

"So, Julian, the forest service found you after a long hunt. You'd been reported missing on Monday morning by the inn you were supposed to be staying at. But what with the freak storm we had this early in the year, it was the next day before a plane actually spotted your car out on the timber road. When they found you and got you in to the hospital here there were complications. You and Daphne were alive, but we had to do some repair work."

"Doctor, I have to know, how did Daphne do? What's wrong with her?'

"She lost some toes. I know, I know, that's horrible. But she's alive. She'll be fine."

"She's a dancer. She dances ballet. Are you saying that's over? She's lost that?"

"There is no way to really tell. A lot depends upon her strength, both physical and mental. The same holds for you, sir. You haven't asked me, but you have also lost some extremities. You lost some phalanges. Sorry, some of your finger joints. The same prognosis holds true for you. It depends upon you."

"I'm a sculptor. I work with my hands. But I'll be okay. I'll figure it out. It's Daphne I worry about."

"Okay, Julian, I'll have an orderly take you down to your wife in a wheelchair. I'll call for someone. When you get there I'll be talking to Daphne myself."

It didn't matter. I should never have doubted her. She wanted me. She didn't blame me. She continues to teach. She still takes classes, as all dancers do. And I still sculpt. Her statue, my bronze, won an award. She rewarded me for my win in the best of ways. Making love as soul mates. Life would always be good.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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