Bear stopped, sat, and turned to look at her. “Okay, now listen to me, Girl, and listen carefully. Mother Nature is not a ‘person,’ she is a ‘Person.’ And you must speak of, and to Her, with respect, understand me?”
Girl wasn’t quite sure what to do, but realized that, for once, Bear was completely serious. Finally, she nodded, and said, “I promise, Bear.”
“Good. Now, it’s starting to get dark, so let’s get back to the cottage.”
But Girl spent most of the trip wondering about this…Person…Bear called Mother Nature.
Aside from that one side trip, Bear and Girl stayed close to the cabin. Bear consulted with Skrreeee! every morning about the hunters, and every morning she repeated that they were still in the area.
Girl was out in the meadow one afternoon, gathering some wildflowers for a centerpiece when she heard something. Quickly, she crouched down and turned slowly towards to sound, only to see four men off in the distance – the troll’s brothers – come into the clearing.
Although her heart started pounding wildly, she knew better than to make any sudden moves. Instead, she lowered herself slowly and quietly onto the ground and lay flat, head turned away from where they had been. She knew that movement and eyes both attracted human attention, and wanted to offer neither to these…individuals.
She listened as best she could, and, unfortunately, heard the sound of their tramping feet getting louder. She gulped but could think of nothing better to do than stay still and keep quiet.
It seemed as if they were coming straight for her – by coincidence, most likely because if they had seen her, they would be calling to her, or to each other. Instead, there were only the steady, tramping sounds of their boots getting louder.
She wondered what would happen if they found her, and worried that she knew exactly what would happen.
Suddenly, she heard the scree-ing cry of a stooping hawk, echoed by cries of the four men. Then she almost heard a high-pitched squeaking and more cries from the men. The men were calling and shouting to each other, cries of surprise and anguish, and equipment dropped to the ground. Very shortly after that, she heard them swearing and cursing, then the sound of quick steps, now moving away from her, and into the forest.
She lay quietly, breathing hard but keeping it as noiseless as possible. She had no idea how long she had lain there, or how long she should lay there, but decided that longer was better than too early, so continued to lay still. The only problem was that she really needed to pee, whether from fright or natural causes, she wasn’t sure.
Then she heard something else – a quiet slithering as if something was parting the grass. As it got closer, she felt her heart in her throat and wondered what it could be.
“Girl!” It was Bear, whispering urgently. She turned her head and saw him, flattened on the ground, looking at her. She turned her head down, and her eyes filled with tears of relief. She moved her body around and started to eel her way toward him. He waited until they were head-to-head, then whispered in her ear, “Follow me back to the cabin, but stay low, and keep as quiet as you can, okay?”
She nodded, relieved to let him take the lead and decide what to do. He slowly moved his body around so he was facing back towards the cabin, then started to crawl, slowly but surprisingly quietly, back that way.
She followed him, crawling as he was, paying attention only to what she could hear, and thinking of nothing but the next movement forward.
Finally, Bear stopped, slowly lifted his head, and turned it, scanning the area. He turned so he was facing her, then said, quietly, “Follow me.” He slowly crouched up, then walked quickly over to and up the stairs onto the porch, into the doorway, then stood in the open door while Girl followed him.
Once they were both inside, he quietly closed the door and bolted it, then waved her towards the storage room. She shook her head no, went quickly off to the bathroom, did what she needed, then walked, crouched over, back to the storeroom. She tip-toed over, opened the door, and scooted to the far end, sitting tailor fashion, with her back against one of the shelves. Bear quickly followed, lying on his side, head towards her. “Shhhh,” he whispered. She nodded.
The two friends waited, seemingly frozen. As much to reassure herself as him, Girl started stroking his head, feeling the coarse texture of his fur beneath her hands, and feeling the rise and fall of his great chest. After doing that for some time, she impulsively leaned forward and kissed him on the top of his head.
He twisted his face towards her, smiled, then nodded, but said nothing.
She wondered what he was waiting for, then, after what seemed an age, heard the scree-ing sound of a hawk again. Bear got up, turned to face her, and patted the air down with one paw, indicating that she should stay where she was. She nodded and stayed sitting.
Bear opened the storeroom door, padded out, then closed it quietly behind him. Girl waited in the room, wishing she were with Bear. Just his presence seemed to make her feel safer and happier. But she waited.
Finally, Bear appeared at the door again and motioned for her to come out. “Skrreeee! says they’ve gone. We’ll keep quiet just in case, but I think we’re safe.”
Girl shivered, walked over, and hugged Bear. “How did they find us, Bear?”
Bear chuckled, deep in his chest. “It’s more like why didn’t they find us, Girl? They’ve been systematically searching this region, according to Skrreee!, and were bound to come back to this area as this was near where his body was found. You did just the right things, dropping slowly to the ground, then staying there. You’re a smart girl, Girl, and you have a good head on your shoulders.
“They were headed right for you – did you realize?”
Girl nodded, then swallowed hard, “Yes, I heard them.”
“I was watching from the cabin, but couldn’t do anything. I was almost going to break cover and run away from the cabin to draw them off when Skrreeee! swooped down and buzzed them, then looped up again and down over them. Just as they were starting to pull their shotguns up to aim at her, Bartholomew flew at them from shoulder level, flying into each of their faces, and disrupting their aim, then flew away.
“They looked like Keystone Kops for a while, dropping their shotguns, floundering around, then running off in the direction Skrreeee! went.” Bear chuckled again, and Girl began to feel better. “She circled way high up, so they couldn’t shoot her, and kept an eye on them. When they headed back towards their pickup and drove off, she circled back here to let me know. She’s going to keep watch for a while, but believes they’ve gone.”
Girl sighed, then sat down next to Bear. “Are we ever going to be safe, Bear?”
Bear looked at her. “I don’t think you understand what just happened, Girl. You were protected. Do you think that it just happened that Skrreeee! was watching them, and Bartholomew was flying this way? No, Girl. Someone likes you – other than me – and I’m pretty sure I know Who that is.” And he waited, looking at her.
“Mother Nature?” Girl finally asked.
“That would be my guess, Girl. Although why…that’s perhaps a harder question. But if She likes you…that will help a whole heap in keeping you safe.”
Bear slumped to the floor, on top of the rag rug, “Besides, I like you, and I’ll do my darnedest to keep you safe.”
Girl’s eyes filled with tears, “I know you will, Bear. I don’t know why you will, but I know it.” She looked up at him and kissed the tip of his nose. “Thank you.” And she cuddled into his body, up against his stomach, feeling safe once again.