He came out of the storm and from the very first I wanted to touch him. Dark hair clung to his scalp, a gleaming helmet, and black lashes rained tears onto his face.
He wore a blue shirt, thin and worn. It was moulded to his frame by the rain and his long legs were enveloped in jeans over disreputable boots. I had never seen such shoulders, arms so firm and strong. I had never seen such a shine of beauty in blue eyes. I was captured from the very beginning.
My everyday world spun away from the moment. The crack of the wood on the fire and the bubble of soup on the stove left me and all there was in the whole world was the reality of him, the bulk of his frame in the doorway and the warmth of his blood drying the water on his skin and sending waves of heat across the space between us.
“Jess towels, now girl. Stop gawping bring towels.” My father’s voice speared into the unreal place that I had entered and shattered the magic, as his voice always would.
I handed thin towels to them, his hand brushed mine but there was no sign that he had noticed. I set about serving soup and building up the fire to warm them.
My father pulled up his chair and waved a work roughened hand at the stranger, telling him in his gruff wordless way that he should take a seat at the other side of the table and eat the food. I sat quietly beside the grate waiting for more instructions and trying to eat my own bowl of vegetables and broth as quietly as I could. My eyes strayed over and again towards the table and he glanced my way more than once. A hint of amusement teased at his lips but there was tension in his frame and something more, an expectation perhaps or simply a figment of my overheated imagination.
“Fetch blankets for Jessies’ bed and air them by the fire.”
He was to stay then, this stranger. He must be the man father had fetched from town to help with the ploughing and he would sleep in my brother’s bed in the downstairs room, below my own place…
The dark came swiftly bringing with it howling wind and sweeping waves of rain. Angry and vengeful the tempest threw itself against the windows and seeped in creeping rivers under the door. It was cold and, though we had oil for the lamp, father said bed was the best place for all of us. I climbed the stairs holding a guttering candle and wondered about the man lying now on Jessies’ bed, before the dying fire in the warmest room of the house. Would he sleep or would the complaining wind and whipping rain disturb his rest and hold oblivion at bay, as it would for me in the chill, wrapped shivering in the quilt Mama had made.
I don’t know how many hours passed before I moved, at what point I threw aside the cover and slipped my feet to the rough boards. I felt the rug under my skin as I crept to the door. There could be no candle and in truth I knew the old house so well that none was needed.
The stairs sighed gently as my weight passed over them. I held my breath lest the small noise should disturb the night that had fallen silent with the passing of the storm.
He was resting on the bed but the glint of moisture in his eyes told me that he was awake. I took a hesitant step from the door and he turned to see me.
He didn’t speak, pulling aside the blanket he simply waited and let me make my own decision, though we both knew that my being there evidenced my choices.
His lips took the breath from my mouth, his hands told me things that I had waited a lifetime to know and his body possessed mine completely with a gentle fierceness that was like the sky after the storm, swept with power and passion but shining with purity.
In the morning father found us. I quaked hearing him make his slow way down the stairs but strong arms held me close. Together we faced the fury and rode on the wings of his wrath until he saw that all was decided and though the time that had passed was unbelievably brief our souls were as one, we were home.
Now he sits on the old chair in the porch, his hands shake as he whittles toys for the little ones but inside that old frame is my man, the one who came to me from out of the storm and I love him still.