The Girl was exhausted by their deep discussion on the Nature of God, the universe, and reality. She was also recovering from what looked like a significant beating, which showed on her face, and the parts of her arms and legs that were visible.
Bear was very much aware of how tired she would be, so encouraged her to lie on the couch when she had begged not to be left alone, to stay in the great room with him.
He also suspected that she was in a great deal of emotional distress, which was part of the reason he had distracted her with his long diatribe on the probability of God’s existence. Besides, it had been a long time since he had had a chance to talk about anything with anyone. He found that it soothed his soul, which seemed appropriate to the subject.
He covered her with the old, red, woolen blanket that had been scratchy at one time, but was now worn smooth, and watched her for a few minutes, then lay down on the rag rug nearby.
Girl lay on the sofa, pillow under her head, turned towards the fire, watching it leap and dance before her. Normally, Bear watched the fire until he slept, but tonight he was turned sideways so he could keep his eyes on her. He did not stare at her, but mostly watched her through his peripheral vision, glancing over from time to time, until it was clear she was asleep.
He waited further until she turned, one hand falling from the sofa towards the floor, and her head turned towards the ceiling. Knowing that this would leave her stiff and aching the next morning, he got up, went into the bedroom, drawing back the covers, then padding back into the great room.
He gently lifted her from the sofa and carried her into the bedroom. She was collapsed like a rag doll, boneless, which was probably better anyway, but he was careful to cradle her head so it didn’t droop.
He placed her softly on the bed, head on the pillow, then pulled the blanket up over her. She stirred, moving stiffly, with pain showing on her face, then anxiety.
Bear lay on the floor, opposite the head of the bed, next to the chest of drawers. From there he could watch her, and she could see him if she woke, but she wouldn’t step on him if she got out of bed…which seemed likely at some point in the night.
Watching her pained expressions for a time, he started humming a lullaby his father had sung to him when he was little. He didn’t even know the name of the song, but called it “Skeeters am a hummin’…” from the first line of the song. He had always found it soothing while his pappy…as Bear thought of him in the context of this song…held and rocked him when he was little.
Girl’s face gradually smoothed out, and she settled into what looked like a peaceful sleep. Bear watched her for a while, then shut his eyes, and slept in his turn.
He heard her get up in the middle of the night, listening to be sure she didn’t fall. He didn’t let her know he was awake, but listened to her walk to the bathroom and back, then collapse back into bed. She turned for a bit, apparently trying to find a position that invoked the least amount of pain from her bruises, until finally, her breathing became smooth and regular. He listened for a while, then returned to his own dreams.
And for once, they were not lonely dreams, full of yearning for times and people now gone from his life. Instead, they involved a mysterious Girl who appeared out of nowhere and kept him company.
But they were comfortable dreams, unlike the painful ones that usually afflicted his sleep. He smiled in his dreams, and slept more soundly, and more comfortably, than normal.
When the sun started to line the sky through the window, Bear opened his eyes, and listened to Girl’s breathing. It was smooth and even.
After a while, Bear got up, cautiously, and padded quietly into the great room, leaving the door to the bedroom open so Girl could see where she was.
He would normally have gone out foraging for food, but today, he wanted to be there when she awoke. He suspected she would be disoriented, and did not want her to panic on finding herself alone in a cabin in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. He was also aware that the man who was hunting her might come back, and she did not yet understand about the Charm. So, he stayed, eating the remaining trout out of the fridge, and letting that soothe this stomach.
He checked, and found that the arrangements he had made had been carried out. Later, he would go down and collect the things he had ordered, but now he needed to stay close to the cabin.
He made what arrangements he could for her breakfast, padded back to check that she was still asleep, then went out to his favorite spot on the porch. It was his place of power, as Carlos Castaneda would have called it, and he made himself comfortable.
Sometime later – neither Girl nor Bear would have been able to tell how long – the Girl stirred, opened her eyes, looking confused, then fearful, then, remembering, puzzled.
She sat up carefully, swung her feet to the floor, and looked around, the puzzled look on her face persisting. Finally, her face smoothed out, and a sense of wonder overtook her.
She gingerly got up, and carefully walked, barefoot, into the great room. Bear heard her, but decided to let her find him, rather than risk startling her. Eventually, she walked out onto the porch, using one hand to steady herself on the door frame. She looked at Bear, sitting at the end of the porch, staring off into the mountains.
“You’re…you’re real! You’re not a dream!”
“Well, that might be a matter of conjecture, but for argument’s sake, let’s assume you’re right, okay?”
The Girl looked blank for a time, then put her hand to her mouth and giggled. “And you’re just as much of a smart ass as I remembered!”
Bear’s head swiveled towards her. “Guilty as charged. How are you this morning, Girl?”
She stopped to take stock, then said, “Painful, I fear…but I can tell it’s getting better. Bruises are usually worst on the third day, and then they start feeling better.”
Bear looked at her for a moment. “One would almost think you had some…experience…in this.” He shook his head.
“Never mind. There’s not a lot we can do about that now except let Nature take Her course. Hungry?”
She looked relieved that he hadn’t pursued the subject, then said, “Yes. What taste sensations do you have for our delectation this morning?”
“Ooohh! Aren’t we all imperial all of a sudden? Well, I’m afraid it will probably be oatmeal again this morning. But I’m picking up some supplies in a bit, so you’ll have some more choice later.”
The Girl moved over to the rocking chair, eased herself into it gingerly, then said, “Bear, how on Earth do you…order stuff?”
He grinned at her, “We Bears have our ways. If you ask nicely, I’ll tell you more about it…later. Now, I need to go get my breakfast, then pick up the supplies.
“But before I go, let me explain a couple of things you need to know, okay?”
Girl nodded, “Sure. Go ahead. I’m all ears!”
Bear rocked back on his haunches, looking uncomfortable for the first time Girl could remember. “This may be hard to believe…”
Girl snorted. “Harder than talking Bear that discusses philosophy, metaphysics, and cosmology? Okay, now I’m really all ears!”
Bear swung his head to look at her. “Are you going to listen, or snark at me?”
Girl spluttered a laugh, then covered her mouth with her hand, pretending to cough. “Um…yes, well…I’m, uh, listening.” She straightened up, trying to force her face to be serious, and failing.
Bear shifted his shoulders. “This cabin is…Charmed.”
Girl looked at him. “Charmed? As in…a spell?”
“Well, I don’t mean that it’s merely charming. Yes, as in a spell.” He looked away from her.
She shrugged. “Okay.”
Bear looked at her. “Okay? That’s it?”
She shrugged again. “Compared to the other impossible things I’ve already had to believe before breakfast, that one’s easy. Okay, it’s Charmed. What does that mean?”
Bear shifted again. “It means that no one can find it…unless I lead them to it. Or allow them to see it.”
He turned to her. “Remember when those two…men… came hunting for you?”
She nodded, solemn now.
“They didn’t see the cabin, but I made sure you kept quiet, remember?”
She nodded again.
“Yet we could hear them very clearly.”
“Right. I thought that was strange!”
“That’s the Charm. If we had made enough noise, they would have seen the cabin…and almost certainly found us. Any outcome after that would not have been good…for either of us.”
The Girl thought for a moment, then nodded, “No, I can see that. You might have overpowered them…but then, a search party would eventually have come looking for them. Not good, even if you had clobbered them. And they had shotguns, so…”
Bear cleared his throat. “What I’m trying to say, Girl, is that if you think anything is amiss, then quickly but quietly go hide in the storage closet, and stay there until I return, okay?”
Girl nodded soberly. Then giggled.
“What?” Bear asked crossly.
She giggled again, then said, “Maybe I’ll be part of your provisions.” Then wondered if that was such a smart suggestion.
Bear opened his mouth, then laughed. “Well, it’s been a while since I had any fresh Girl – and you certainly are fresh! – so it would make a nice change from fish.”
He sobered up. “Seriously, though, Girl. If you think there is any kind of threat, from man or beast, hide there and wait until I return. Can I trust you to do that?” He looked at her steadily, no hint of a smile on his face.
She nodded, then stepped towards him and put her hand to his face. “Thank you, Bear, for keeping me safe.” She stretched up and kissed his muzzle.
He put his paw lightly on her head. “Good girl. I’ll be back soon. Now, can you help me on with these panniers?” He nodded towards a pair lying on the floor next to Bear. “It makes it easier to carry thing for a distance.”
She helped him on with the rig that stretched across his shoulders, then watched him lope off into the brush, heading towards the road. After he was well gone, she seated herself on the rocking chair, sighed deeply, and turned to watch the mountains.
She let her mind wander where it wished…then pulled it back to the much happier present. After a while, she found she was wiping tears from her eyes.
For the first time in a long while, she felt safe. More than that, she felt grateful that someone had finally seen her, and paid attention to what they saw. It was a lovely feeling.