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.

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