We’d cleaned up, but not properly bathed, in our bed clothes when he spied me trying to figure out a sleeping arrangement by the fireplace.
“First off, you are one pine spark away from waking up in the night on fire that close. Second, it’s a lot warmer in the bed and its just sensible.
I’m not going to get fresh on ya or hurt ya in your sleep. It’s going to get cold, even with the fire. so you’ll sleep in the bed.”
I was too exhausted to muster up a complaint. We had come in off the trail, racing in front of a snow front. You could smell it in the air, the change from water to ice. Before we’d fed the horses and headed back up to his small cabin to make supper, a light snow had turned into a steady one. You could almost feel the cabin ache as the temperatures dropped further after dark.
So there I was hours later, listening to him sputter and sniff in the dark. It is strange, that soft and foreign sound a man makes when he’s sleeping. He was a big man, but by no means a loaf. He’d earned his muscle and size from forest work. Logging, hauling, and hay bailing in the fall.
He had that beard that meant he wasn’t committed to growing it out proper, but wasn’t all that committed to shaving either. As he breathed out he sputtered subconscious gibberish that sounded like they could be whispered spells from around a witches caldron.
In a flicker of firelight, I noticed some thick scars on his neck and upper back. A man’s body tells stories that he can’t hide. Worried he might catch me staring over at him, I turned my back and tried to get back to sleep.