It had been weeks now since sharing the bed had gone from necessity against the night’s cold towards an air of embrace. We had both surrendered to the truth that we really wanted to be there together.
Neither of us had a word for what was happening between us. I would wake up some mornings and he had been watching me sleep. I could feel against my hip that doing so pleased him a great deal. We would both remember these first few nights in our snowed in escape.
“I love you,” I said rather suddenly and softly.
The morning sunrise struck through the window onto his face, his sweaty chest hair in rivulets down his stomach. His beard wet and soft.
“You need to be careful where and when you say that, ” he said stopping me, touching my bottom lip, “You and I are the only ones in the woods who will understand this.” he said adding weight to his erectness and body next to me.
” ‘n, nobody else should be expected to. and blurting out a word like that could get all this destroyed. ‘er worse things. its warmin’ up out and with it brings all kinds a’trouble with it.”
An immediate and palpable silence fell between us. He could see his words frightened me. There will lay under skin rug blankets we’d hunted and made together. Layed bare in a pool of each other’s sweat, tasting ourselves on each other. Tears had begun to pool in my eyes as he thrust himself down on me pouring kisses in my mouth, licking my tears away. We were both quite lost to what was happening between us.
Later that day as we were about to head out to work and feed the sheep and horses, I stopped him.I understood how important it was that another soul never suspect was happening in our shared hollow, how any risk could be the last one we took.
We’d build a secnd cabin – and make sure that by all appearances, we were sheep herders helping settlers find the next valley. If these weeks were turning into a life together up in these woods, we’d have to protect it from all predators – most importantly our inquisitive settlers. Appearances would have to made – efforts to get the hounds off our scent, if you would.
The thaw would bring more wagons and travelers to the region. The full creeks and rivers would bring with a flow of folks, still fresh with the scent of the puritan country some 1200 miles to the east on their clothes and wagons. Fresh bibles kept at the ready to share with an unsuspecting traveler.
Faith branched across the continent into Mormonism, Calvinism and old world’s Protestants and Catholics. The First Nations – the Algonquin, the Iroqui and the Abenaki were whispers on the voice of history. Puritan religion had seen to that quite matter-of-factily.
The Umatilla of these parts were friends of Lewis and Clark; but also understood how important it was to hide up high in the mountains away from the white man’s judgmental stare. Imagine living on a land for generations only to have another race of people sweep in and take it. The First Nations had seen this before from warring nations, but never on the scale of the white man.
Europeans fought with cruelty and a sense of righteousness, the fruit of the Puritan seeds planted into the ground so many years before by their Fathers. Strange how a country can form itself upon fleeing religious persecution learns so very little from it’s humble beginnings, resorting to the worst side of themselves when things really counted.
A few of us had hoped that jumping up on a horse and riding it for as far as we could go, that the world would not catch up. We were quickly proven wrong.
We would start saying that spring, but never quite saying, you are welcome here but please don’t stay. Stories of brighter sunrises, deeper valleys and wider expanses ahead, kept most folks moving on. If we could appeal to their sense of manifest destiny – they would leave him and me. They would leave him and me well alone.