Friday, August 19, 2011

“You’re just going to hop in your vehicle and drive me, a complete stranger, all the way to Anchorage?”

(Excerpt from Claimed)

Just then we were interrupted, when Steve carried over the empty beer jug to order another.

“Can I get another jug of Bud?” He asked the bartender. Simultaneously as I blanched at the idea they were drinking more; he looked over and noticed I wasn’t sitting alone. He fired up, “there you are! We were wondering where you got to.”

“I had to get an orange juice.” I spoke crisply. “My blood sugar was low.”

Flint’s eyes narrowed, “Jessica has been sitting here for the past ten minutes, she wouldn’t have been hard to spot from where you’re sitting.”

Steve’s eyes narrowed back, as he came over to put a possessive hand on my back.

“So you’re drinking orange juice with her?” He asked snidely. “Or is there vodka in yours and hers drinks?”

“I don’t drink alcohol,” Flint said warily, “and with Jessica being a diabetic, it wouldn’t be wise for her to drink either, until her blood sugar level has returned to normal.”

“Well thank you for baby-sitting her,” Steve said sarcastically, “but she’ll be coming back to sit with her friends again.”

“No,” I shrugged off his hand, “not unless.”

“Huh?” He uttered, as his breath reeked of beer.

“Not unless you stop drinking right now, and we all hop into the rental and drive to Anchorage!” I snapped.

“Jess, we have the tents! We can camp on the side of the road and get up at dawn, to finish the drive. Brian and I talked about it. You’re not gonna miss your flight.” Steve rolled his eyes, like I was the one being difficult.

My heart pounded as my eyes widened with fear that I could be stranded...

“I’ll drive you to Anchorage.” Flint said simply.

“What?” Both our heads snapped around in surprise.

“I’ll drive you to Anchorage, when you’ve eaten your burger.” He said calmly, as he held my gaze.

“What burger?” Steve tipsily looked around.

Perfectly timed, a hamburger with the lot and a side of fries, was carried out by a younger Native Alaskan man, wearing an apron.

He placed it on the counter before Flint, who slid the plate before me.

“Thanks Harry,” he patted the younger man, on the arm.

“No problem, Flint.” The youth smiled back, before he returned to the kitchen.

“Mmm yum!” Steve picked up a couple of fries, to jam into his mouth. “Good idea, Jess. I’m hungry!”

Flint didn’t like this and he stood up to tower over his opposition. With his height and width, he easily dwarfed Steve. He looked dangerously upon the male who was interfering.

“I bought the burger for Jessica, I didn’t buy it for you.” He almost growled out.

“Fine,” Steve drunkenly laughed, “if that’s the way it is, Jess is getting strange men to buy her burgers in bars? Then it’s fine with me! You can make your own way to Anchorage.”

“Wait!” I stood up frightened, as this situation went from bad to worse. “Steve, please just take me to Anchorage? Tonight? I’ll even get a separate hotel room, if you like. You can break up with me in Anchorage and we’ll never have to see each other again. Just take me to Anchorage?”

“Oh, now you want to be with me, huh? Burger boy doesn’t cut it?” He raised his voice. “Sure this guy is as big as a lumberjack, but I bet he’s not a Partner in one of Seattle’s top law firms! What’s his salary per year? One dollar per tree he cuts down?”

I thought I heard another growl come from Flint, as I tried to calm the situation down.

“C’mon Steve, it’s not like that! Flint was just being nice.” I said desperately. “He saw me shaking because of my low sugar level, and he bought me some food and drink. Please just take me to Anchorage tonight? Please?”

“Jess, I told you what our plans are tonight! Stop your nagging! Man, we’ve only dated for two months, and you’re already trying to tell me what to do?” He turned away, to pay for his jug of beer.

“The lady is frightened, especially when she’s unwell and she’s far from home. A real man would see to the woman’s safety first, especially the woman he supposedly has feelings for.” Flint spoke coldly.

“Oh is THAT what a real man would do?” Steve taunted. “I bet that you know a lot of ‘real’ men, all the way up north, cold and alone, huh burger boy?”

“Steve!” My face burned bright red. “Don’t be such an asshole!”

Now the bartender got involved, when he put down the new jug. However he moved it away again, after he heard the arguing. Indeed, the whole bar was watching.

“I think you’ve drunk enough, friend.” The bartender looked on warily.

“Excuse me?” Steve turned on him. “What kind of customer service do you call this?”

The older man looked from Flint to back to him, before he said calmly; “maybe you and your friends should leave.”

“I could sue you for this!” Steve said sulkily. “But you wouldn’t be worth the paper work.”

As he returned to the table to talk to Brian and Abi, I grabbed my handbag and prepared to go with him, in case they were driving to Anchorage now.

Flint calmly looked down into my face with his great height; “I’ll drive you to Anchorage Jessica, after you’ve eaten.”

That gave me pause, as I looked on his face which seemed open and kind.

“Why?” I wondered. “Are you going to Anchorage yourself?”

“I’ll drive you there and make sure you don’t miss your plane,” he said seriously.

“You’re just going to hop in your vehicle and drive me, a complete stranger, all the way to Anchorage?” I asked in disbelief.

“I think it’d be safer than if you remained with your friends, who’ve been drinking.” He said then he leaned in closer and when he did, I got a whiff of whatever aftershave he was wearing. Man, did this guy smell good! He spoke softly, “you have nothing to fear from me, Jessica Tandy. I will make sure you don’t come to harm.”

I don’t know if it was from how deep and gravely his voice sounded then, or his addictive aftershave, or even if it was just his handsome face? Maybe it was all of the above, but my strong attraction made me believe him.

In the corner of my eye, I noticed Abi and Brian get up from the booth, and she looked uncertain. Whereas Brian and Steven went over to the door, she walked over to where I was standing at the bar, to speak to me direct.

“Um, Jess? We’re leaving for Anchorage now. Are you coming?”

“Jessica has a ride to Anchorage,” Flint answered for me.

She looked over the tall stranger warily, before she leaned in to speak quietly; “look, I know Steve can be a bit loud when he’s drinking. But we are driving back to Anchorage tonight, for our flights tomorrow. I don’t think it’s a bright idea, to get a ride with a stranger you only just met in a bar, Jess.”

“You’re only driving to Anchorage now, because you’ve been kicked out of the bar, Abi.” I replied curtly, offended at how she just made me sound!

“Jessica can call her parents in Seattle, and give them my name, address and my number plate. If anything happens to her in Anchorage then they’ll know how to contact me.” Flint organized.

Abi looked on in distrust, “we’re out of range for our mobile phones.”

Instantly, he called on the bartender; “Charlie, can we use your phone?”

“Here we go Flint,” the bartender who I now knew as Charlie, immediately lifted it up from behind the bar.

Flint told him, “Jessica needs to call her parents in Seattle, to tell them I’ll be driving her to Anchorage.”

“It’s the safe thing to do, Miss.” Charlie gave me a nod. “I mean, I can speak for Flint, since he’s a good man? But if anything happens to you in Anchorage, at least your parents will know where you are.”

“Er, my parents are actually in Michigan, I live in Washington State.” My face flushed at their attention. “But I have a best friend I can call, in Seattle.”

“Go right ahead,” Charlie pushed the phone closer.

“Jess!” Abi looked guilty. “Just come with us, we’re leaving now.”

“I’ll get Jessica’s things from your RV, while she makes the calls.” Flint told her. “Then she’s going to eat her burger and afterwards, I’ll drive her to Anchorage.”

“I’ll speak to the guys and see if they can wait, while you eat.” She said annoyed.

Now SHE was getting annoyed at ME? That’s it, I’ve had it up to here!

“Oh, I’m so sorry for having low blood sugar that I need to eat instead of just drink beer. I’m sorry I couldn’t cook over an open fire, so I’ve practically been starving all week! Especially since everybody who’s been camping before, didn’t offer to help! I’m sorry my college education didn’t include putting up tents! I’m sorry I made such a fuss about using a tree for a f***ing bathroom, or I can’t bathe in a freezing cold river! I’m sorry I’ve been looking forward to a hotel room in Anchorage all week, where I can shower, sleep in a proper bed and order room service!” I vented.

“Fine!” She said indignantly. “But I’ve never met anyone that has complained as much as you do, Jess!”

“Of course I’ve complained!” I shouted back. “Diabetics get shitty when we’re cold, hungry and tired!”

Suddenly the whole Bar erupted into laughter, which included Flint and Charlie.

Abi’s face turned bright red, whereas Steve and Brian turned and left angry.

“I’d get shitty if I was cold, hungry and tired all week too,” one of the men at the counter, chuckled.

“And the showers! Don’t forget the showers,” one of the Native Alaskan men Flint had been playing pool with, laughed along.

“When our pulsating, massage, shower head broke, my wife was shitty for two weeks!” The Native Alaskan man with the short hair, guffawed.

Flint put his hand over mine, which felt warm and strong and even soothed somehow.

“You sit and eat whilst I get your things,” he ordered gently.

Unconsciously, I found myself doing what he said, as I returned to the stool. I watched him leave the bar with her, when I saw one of his friends, walk out after him. It was as if they were worried that MY friends were the dangerous ones!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

“Yeah, I do look like I’m trying too hard to belong in the Alaskan wilderness, don’t I?”

(Excerpt from Claimed)

The bathrooms weren’t as dirty as I had imagined, nor were they that clean. I placed my handbag on top of the sink and took out the small pack, I always had on me as per doctors orders. I pricked my finger, before eying the readouts of my sugar level, with dissatisfaction.

I really needed a hot meal. I really needed to shower and climb into a comfortable bed. I really couldn’t miss that flight tomorrow, at 10 AM. I really couldn’t miss my Monday morning meeting.

The more worried I felt, the worse my shaking grew… I felt like bursting into tears at the lousy time I was having! Back in Seattle, Steve had been a nice guy but with this camping trip, we both had seen a new side in each other. He had turned into a cold, obnoxious male and I had turned into a nagging, nervous wreck!

I’m NEVER going camping again! I hate Alaska! I want to go home to Washington State!

I packed away the diabetics kit into my handbag, before I walked back out. Instead of returning to the booth, I went and sat on a stool at the bar. I tried to sit patiently as I waited to be served, but my trembling went from bad to worse.

When I raised my hand to attract the attention of the bartender who was chatting to another patron, my hand shook uncontrollably!

“Charlie!” Suddenly, a loud voice boomed. I jumped in surprise, just as the bartender did. We both saw it was the handsome, older, Native Alaskan man, now standing beside me. “The lady needs a drink.”

The middle-aged, male bartender immediately came over, “what can I get for you today, Miss?”

“Um, can I please have an orange juice?” I managed out.

I had to hug my hands between my legs, to try to stop the shaking.

“And she needs to eat,” the handsome man added, whilst looking on my hands in my lap.

“What would you like?” The bartender pulled out a pen and pad.

“Um…” I tried to think, but I couldn’t clearly.

“Make it a burger with the lot,” the man spoke for me again, before he looked my way. “Is that OK? It practically has all of the five food groups, in one meal.”

“Hey, Harry? We need a burger with the lot!” The bartender called over his shoulder, to an open doorway where the kitchen must be.

To my further surprise, next the handsome stranger handed over a twenty dollar bill, to pay for me!

“No!” I cried out, a little loudly by accident. I scrambled for my purse, but the bartender took the man’s money and moved away. I tried to hold my purse steady, as I pulled out another twenty dollar note. “Here, take it.”

“You come from a city, don’t you?” The stranger smiled in amusement.

“What has that to do with it?”

“Here, when a person is shouted a meal and a drink, they simply say ‘thanks’.” He said evenly.

“But I don’t come from around here, so I won’t be able to pay you back.” I tried to point out.

He openly looked over my hiking boots, cargo shorts and water-proof jacket, all of which I had bought recently, for this camping trip from hell.

“Yeah, I guessed you weren’t from around here,” the man joked.

Self-consciously, I looked down at my appearance, before I looked back.

“Yeah, I do look like I’m trying too hard to belong in the Alaskan wilderness, don’t I?” I laughed nervously.

“Why try?” The man leaned on the bar. “Most people here, all come from somewhere else. Except my people of course, as we’ve always been here.”

“Yeah, I guess from your appearance I can see that too.” I laughed as did he.

“I’m Lokoti,” he said.

“Oh, hi Lokoti.” I offered him my hand to shake. “I’m Jessica Tandy.”

“No, my name’s not Lokoti, it’s the name of my people.” He chuckled, as we shook on it. “MY name is Flint Riverclaw.”

“Oh!” I blushed at my stupidity. “Sorry.”

The bartender put a tall glass of OJ before me, before he moved away to continue his conversation with the other patron.

I tried to keep my hands steady, as I took hold of the glass and raised it to my mouth. But my hands shook so badly, the man kindly put out his hand to help hold it. I felt my face burn in embarrassment, as I drank half the glass, before he lowered it.

“I’m sorry, I’m – I’m diabetic...” I continued to blush, “…my sugar levels are a little low at the moment.”

“Hmm, I smelled that.” Flint Riverclaw frowned in concern.

“You smelled that?” I echoed, thinking that it was an odd thing to say.

Then I watched him flash an angry look at the booth, where Steve was sitting. However, my boyfriend’s back was to us, as he was laughing away with Brian and Abi. The three didn’t appear to be feeling my absence.

“Your mate should be looking after you.” Flint said in disapproval, whilst glaring at Steve’s back.

“My who? My boyfriend? Well, I don’t think he’s going to be my boyfriend for much longer.” I glared into my glass.

“You are unmarried?” He looked on, in partial surprise. “I thought you were with the male who was over there, with his friends.”

“You mean my soon-to-be ‘ex’? No, we were never married. We only started dating two months ago. When he invited me up here, to go camping with he and his friends? I thought to myself, ‘well he knows I’m not the outdoors type, but he must be serious about this relationship if he wants me to go away with him’. But this has been the week from hell! He and his friends have done nothing but laugh at me, because I couldn’t put up a tent, I couldn’t start a fire, I couldn’t cook over the flames and I hate using trees as bathrooms!”

All of a sudden, all of my grievances came out in one rant!

“He didn’t help or provide for you?” Flint further frowned.

“Only when I burned the baked beans,” I said darkly then I started to rub my face from stress. “Now he’s drinking and when he starts, it’s hard to get him to stop. We’re supposed to overnight in Anchorage, for our flight back to Seattle tomorrow morning, but I’m scared we won’t make it.”

I wasn’t sure if I imagined it, but I thought I heard a growl? When I looked up sharply, I found Flint looking dangerously on Steve, for some reason.

“Er, so Flint, are you married?” I tried to move the conversation along.

“I have no mate,” he answered as he pushed my orange juice closer, to hint that I should have more. I smiled at his concern, as I picked it up and downed the last. Then he even ordered another for me. “Charlie, can I get two more orange juices?”

“Two OJ’s Flint?” The bartender acknowledged. “Coming right up!”

“Two more?” I echoed. “I’ll probably only drink one!”

“One of them is for me,” he chuckled again.

“You’re not going to have a beer?”

“I don’t drink alcohol,” he said simply, as he pulled another note from his wallet.

“No, let me!” I scrambled for my purse. But he ignored the note in my hand and so did the bartender, as he took Flint’s money instead. “What, is this a conspiracy? Don’t women pay for drinks in Alaska?”

Flint smiled at my humour, “so Jessica Tandy, what do you do in Seattle?”

He picked up one of the new drinks which were set down, as he waited to hear what I had to say.

“I’m a manager at a large PR firm, called ‘Wildenstein Dreams’.” I said proudly. “I was promoted at the beginning of the year. I’ve won a couple of awards for my event designs and now I earn 50k a year. What do you do, Flint?”

“I work in construction,” he advised.

“Really and how’s that going for you? Do you own your own construction company? How much do you pull in per annum?” I asked congenially.

“In my culture, it’s rude to ask how much a person earns.” He said casually.

“Oh.” I sat up straighter in surprise. Don’t tell me I just offended this nice man? “Sorry.”

“The only time you ask a Lokoti that question, is if you are the father of the woman you want to mate with.” He grinned in good humour.

“No shit,” my face fell, “erm, sorry Flint.”

“The father may not ask that question specifically, instead he’ll ask how the man can provide for the woman? Especially when the woman gives the man children. In that respect Jessica, I can tell you that I can provide for a mate should I take one.”

“Oh er, good for you.” I patted him on the arm, as I wondered what to say to that? But it made Flint laugh again.

“I like your blue eyes.” He openly stared at my face. “They stand out the most, with your white skin and blonde hair.”

“Do they?”

“Tell me about your life in Seattle, Jessica.” He sat down on the stool beside mine.

I laughed at the intense look on the handsome man’s face, as he came across as very mature. Flint may look like he’s 39 years old, but he reminded me of someone in their fifties or older, from his wizened look. He gave the impression of someone who’s ‘been there and done that’.

“Um, there’s not much to tell.” I tried not to blush again, at the interest he showed. “I wake up at 6 AM, buy a cappuccino on my way into the office, where I work from 8 – 6, Monday to Friday. Then I go home to my apartment which I’m paying off the mortgage, and to my cat named Fritz. He’s a Persian Blue and usually he’s the man of my life. I don’t like sport, I HATE camping…” here the two of us laughed, “…and I like to spend weekends with friends, by going to restaurants and seeing movies or shows.”

“Alma has a small cinema,” he offered.

“Alma?” I gave a funny look. “Where’s Alma?”

“This is Alma,” he chuckled at my vagueness.

“This town we’re in right now, this is Alma?”

“Uh huh,” he said patiently. “Alma has a cinema, this bar as well as a milk bar. It also has a school, which Lokoti kids attend, and a supermarket. On our tribal lands, we have a Meeting Hall where we put on dances, bingo, or family celebrations.”

“It sounds like you enjoy the quiet life, Flint.” I remarked.

“It sounds like you enjoy the fast life, Jessica.” He smiled back.