When Girl woke, she stretched and was pleased to find that she didn’t hurt as much as she had earlier. She lay in bed, and smiled at the ceiling, enjoying the feeling of just being lazy. It was a feeling she had not had very often in her life.
She wondered what time it was – then realized that it was the first time she had wondered about the time of day since she had come here. Other than the sun rising and setting – and the stars appearing, of course – time didn’t seem terribly…important…somehow. She thought it must be Bear’s doing. He never seemed in a hurry, and never seemed fazed by anything.
Except the men who had been hunting her, and she knew who they were, and why they wanted to find her so badly. Or at least…he did.
She shivered, then resolved not to think about him at all if she could avoid it. He had haunted her life almost from the moment she had met him.
No more. That was over…no matter what. She would not go back.
And with that resolution, she decided to get out of bed. Besides, she needed to pee…badly!
She cautiously raised herself out of bed and was pleased to find that although she still had aches and pains, they were much better than when she had arrived. She walked, cautiously, to the bathroom – or washroom, as they seemed to say here in Canada – recycled some water, washed her hands and face, dried them on the – clean – towel, then wondered. Where did the towel come from each morning?
She decided to ask Bear – when she saw him. Some mornings she’d get up, and find he wasn’t there until he came wandering back, looking almost smug. And she was never sure why, and never quite got up the nerve to ask.
But he had brought her some fresh food several days ago – and she still had not got around to asking him about that, either. Where did it come from? It was standard supermarket stuff – although most of the brands were Canadian, and she’d never heard of them before. So, how did Bear get his hands…or paws…on them? And how did he pay for them?
With these and the many other thoughts, buzzing around her head, she went in search of her roomie.
When she walked slowly into the great room, she noticed that the table was cleared and set for her breakfast and that the door was open, with morning light streaming in to one side. She walked to the door, made a quick scan of the meadow in front of the house, looking for a big, white beast – the Bear. Her Bear, for that’s the way she had started to think of him. Her Bear.
She didn’t see him and was about to go back in and have breakfast, expecting to see him rambling in later on, when she noticed a big, white patch on the ground, a ways from the house.
She stepped off the porch and walked towards it, and found, a little to her surprise, that it was Bear. She briefly wondered if he was hurt – but quickly dismissed it. Bear was nine feet tall and weighed about 1600 pounds – most of it probably muscle, although she kidded him it was mostly fur!
When she got near, she saw that it was, indeed, Bear and that he was lying on his back, splayed wide, and evidently relaxing.
“Morning, Mr. Bear.”
“Morning, Sleeping Beauty. You do know you’re beautiful, right?”
She smiled, “If you say so, I’ll believe you, even if my mirror doesn’t agree.”
Bear snorted, “It’s my mirror, and it does agree. Or else!”
“Fine,” she accepted. “So, what are you doing? Keeping the grass from falling into the sky?”
“Nope. Did that last week. Today, I’m keeping the clouds from plopping down to the ground.”
She laughed. “And how are you doing that?”
“Pure force of personality. Charm, in a word. They love me, and will do anything for me!”
Girl snorted in her turn, and said, “Then why did it rain last week when you said we were going to go hiking?”
Bear thought for a moment, “Because they were upset that I hadn’t been spending more time with them. Capiche?”
She leaned forward, laughed, and tweaked his nose, “Of course! How silly of me.”
She straightened up. “Do you think they would mind if I joined you?”
The Bear considered for a while, “Probably not – as long as you don’t go blabbing all the time. They’re silent folk, are clouds. Do you think you can do that? Be quiet, I mean? You haven’t shown many signs of it so far.”
Girl dropped to her bum, legs crossed, then rolled onto her back, mouth firmly closed, then sidled over so she was almost at his side, touching Bear’s fur.
He reached over, and patted her on the head, as someone would pat a favored dog or other pet. Girl snorted but said nothing. Bear chuckled deep in his chest.
Then Girl focused on the clouds. At first, she thought they looked…ordinary. But the more she watched them drifting slowly by, the more she realized just how complex they were. They were three-dimensional, and the colors changed from one side to another in not-very-obvious ways. They shifted shapes, and the colors changed, even as they moved off towards her top left shoulder.
She started identifying shapes, as she had when she was a child. There was a duck, there a horse. That was a dinosaur – she could never remember which one it was. That was a sailing ship. That one, a ghost.
Then she realized that her characterizations were overly simplistic, and looked more deeply at the clouds. Eventually, she gave up trying to fit shapes to objects that were much more complicated than simple pictures and started just watching them.
Over time, she lost track. She lost track of what she was doing, of where she was – of who she was. She got lost in the clouds, and a deep feeling of peace prickled over her skin.
She did not feel sleepy, but she knew she wasn’t really awake. She was…elsewhere. Somewhere. Anywhere. Everywhere.
She was…home, a concept that hadn’t meant a lot to her in a long, long time. But now, somehow it did.
She didn’t know how long she lay there, then all at once, something changed. She felt herself lifting, and being gently jolted along the ground.
She eventually found that the sky vanished, and wondered idly how that had happened. Her eyes had trouble focusing on something that was only fifteen feet away, that was dark, and seemed to criss-cross across her vision in some strange, terribly boring pattern.
Then she realized it was the ceiling of the cabin. And that she was lying on the sofa.
She looked down and found the Bear gazing at her, head on her stomach.
“Welcome back,” he said.
She took a deep sigh in and let it go, letting it leak out of her rather than rush. Rushing seemed so…pointless.
Bear raised his head, and said, “I know it will be hard, but in a little while, you should try to eat. You haven’t eaten anything today, and it’s past noon.
“What? No, I just got up, Bear.”
Bear smiled, “Yes, you did…about five hours ago. You were among the clouds, and they were talking to you.”
She smiled, “Yes, they were…”
And her eyes went dreamy again.
Bear heaved a deep sigh, then gently picked her up, carried her to the table, and placed her on the chair. “Sit up, dear Girl. Sit up.”
She swallowed, and waited, then finally said, “Do I have to, Bear?”
Bear smiled, “Yes, Girl, you do. For me…please?”
She tightened her muscles and sat on the chair, unassisted. “Okay, Bear. For you, I’ll sit up.”
She sat for a while, and Bear eventually brought her some oatmeal in a big bowl, with brown sugar, and fresh raspberries. “Eat this, please, Girl.”
Mechanically, she picked up the spoon, took a big mouthful of oatmeal…and realized how hungry she really was. Shortly, the bowl was empty, and she wished it weren’t.
“There’s more food if you want it, but I think you should get it yourself, Girl.”
She nodded, then caught sight of a cloud through the window, but jerked her attention back to Bear.
“They’re very beautiful, aren’t they, Bear?”
Bear nodded. “And so are you, Girl. So are you.”
That night, Girl’s sleep was more peaceful than she could ever remember. The peace of the morning stayed with her, all through the night.