(Excerpt from Claimed)
Twenty minutes later, I found myself sitting on the front seat, of a blue pick-up truck and riding shot gun down the highway.
The vehicle was old, so the suspension wasn’t the best but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Every time there was a bump in the road, I practically went ‘boing boing boing’ on the seat. The leather seat was so springy, it almost served as the truck’s suspension in itself.
Our seatbelts were fastened and the tiny township of Alma, was a couple of miles behind. A comfortable silence filled the cab, as I didn’t feel obliged to talk and neither did he. Besides, I was enjoying the scenery of the dark green pines, contrasted against the majestic, snowy peaks.
“Oh,” he spoke after a while, “I got some snacks and drinks, in case you get hungry.”
His hand moved over my lap to the glove compartment, to show the goods.
I saw two cans of cola and a packet of plain potato chips; “er, thanks.”
My heart pounded, as his hand closed the compartment again and moved back over my lap, to return to the wheel.
“How about some music?” He turned on the radio. Country music filled the cabin and I held my tongue. However, Flint Riverclaw was a remarkably perceptive person, as I was starting to see. “You don’t like country?”
“Um, if you want to listen, I don’t mind.” I tried to be polite.
Instead, he moved the dial around to find something else but we didn’t have a huge range of stations, to choose from. There was more country music, old rock songs from the 1950’s, or classical.
“It’s a four hour drive to Anchorage,” I said guiltily, “if you want to listen to country music then go ahead.”
“You don’t like silence?” He flashed a grin, my way.
“OK…” I managed back nervously, “…I can be quiet.”
“I don’t mind conversation, either.” He chuckled. “I like silence, I like talking and I like country music.”
Just then I laughed at how he put that, as he made me realize that I was the one who was making me nervous, not him.
So I’m attracted to the guy, so what? I may as well as enjoy his company for the four hours I have it. After tonight, I may never see him again.
“Flint, I feel like I’m always saying the wrong thing around you!” I cried out, with a pink face.
“That’s a pity, because I like your voice.” He smilingly looked out at the road ahead.
“I like your voice too, it’s very deep.” I decided to give honesty a shot. “Why are you unmarried, Flint?”
“Why are you?” He returned. “I’ve never met the woman I wanted to marry.”
“And I’ve never met the right man.”
“Tell me Jessica Tandy, who is this ‘right man’?” He smirked.
“You mean what do I look for?” I guessed and when he gave a nod, I continued, “well somebody tall, somebody polite, somebody whose company is easy going. I’d like someone smart or intelligent, so I can talk about world news, instead of just sport… what kind of woman are you looking for?”
“I’m not,” he said simply.
“If I fall in love with a woman, I simply will. I can’t tell myself who I must fall in love with, as it doesn’t work like that. The person I end up with, will simply be the person I fell in love with.”
I frowned, “then why are you unmarried? If you haven’t found the woman yet, whose qualities you weren’t looking for anyway, you could have fallen for any old person.”
“I haven’t fallen in love.” He shrugged. “I haven’t met the woman whom I wanted to be with, for the rest of my life.”
“Oh, so you’re looking for the thunderbolt?”
Now he passed me the peculiar look. “Huh?”
“You’re waiting for love at first sight?”
“No, I don’t believe in love at first sight.” He shook his head. “I believe in attraction at first sight, but I don’t believe in love at first sight.”
“OK Flint, you’ve confused me.” I sounded cross, but I was smiling which he saw. “Tell me how you see it then.”
“This ‘woman’ we keep talking about, I assumed I’d be attracted to her in the beginning. After I spend some time with her then I might fall in love. I’ve been attracted to a couple of women, over the years. I’ve spent time with them. But I didn’t fall in love, so I did not marry.”
“Just like that,” I tittered at his easy-going view. “Hey, why did you call Steve my mate, before? In your culture do you -”
“In my tribe, if a man and woman live together, they’re mates.” He shrugged. “Since you went camping with him, I thought you may have lived together.”
“So the woman you live with, will become your mate?” I asked in amusement.
“Yes, she will bear my young and we will be mates.”
“Sounds like the animal kingdom,” I said to myself, as I looked away.
“Which animal though?” He overheard. “Some animals mate to reproduce, then they separate. Other animals, like the wolf or the fox, take a mate and they stay with that mate, for life.”
“Really, do foxes do that? I didn’t know…” my eyebrows rose, “…I didn’t know wolves were old romantics either.”
“In a pack, the male wolves fight each other to become first, as do the females. Then the first male and the first female mate, and the other wolves help them raise the young.” Flint explained.
“Sounds like a lot of work, just to get laid,” I joked.
“Has a man proposed to you, Jessica Tandy?” He asked, out of the blue.
“Why didn’t you marry this person?”
“Because something just wasn’t right about him,” I sighed. “I mean, he was a nice guy but there was something missing.”
“Were you in love with him?”
“I thought I was, but now I don’t know.”
“Was it Steve?”
“Hell no!” I cracked up laughing, as did he. “It was two guys before him. I actually did live with this guy I nearly married, for about two years.”
“Do you have children?”
“No,” I shook my head, “good ole pregnancy prevention methods, protected me from that catastrophe. But funnily enough, it was the idea that I didn’t want to have children with this guy, which made me not accept his proposal.”
“He did not make you feel safe?” Flint guessed.
“Actually, I think it was something like that.” I looked his way, impressed again at his perceptiveness.
“Then Jessica, instead of looking for a man to talk about world news with, why don’t you look for one whom you feel safe with.” He said gently.
I stared out at the long road ahead, tiredly resting my head on my hand, which was propped up against the door.
“Maybe you’re right,” I said wearily, “or maybe I’ll just give up and grow into an old spinster, surrounded by cats?”
Flint laughed aloud, “with your pretty blue eyes, it would be a shame.”
“It’s not a bad life.” I shrugged it off. “I won’t be lonely, my best friend would never let that happen.”
“My friends don’t let me get lonely, either.” He smiled softly. “They have mates and young, but if they think I’ve been alone for too long, they come to visit.”
“So do you have an apartment somewhere?”
“I built a log cabin, which is as big as a house. It has three bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, living area and front veranda.”
“You built a log cabin, by yourself?” I stared and he nodded. “It sounds like you don’t like to get bored.”
“Occasionally I had help, such as with the plumbing or electricity.” He explained. “But I built it myself, over two years. The land it’s on, has always been in my family. It’s away from the community centre of our tribal lands, so it’s quiet and secluded, amongst the trees.”
“It sounds peaceful,” I smiled sleepily, as my eyes started to close by themselves. “Tell me more about your house and your tribal lands, Flint.”
He paused, and I sensed he looked over and saw how tired I was. So he started to talk softly, as if he was telling a child a story. It suited his deep voice, which lulled me into a relaxed state.
“The Lokoti have always lived in the same place, in the Alaska Range. The majority of it is a large National Park, where my people hunt. We have always lived off the land and will continue to do so. We get our meat, pelts, timber and vegetables from the land. Our tribal lands are older than the township of Alma, and older than the state of Alaska. We follow our own ways, which were born from loyalty and love long ago. We live by the old traditions, because it protects our families and it protects the land. What your people call, ‘land conservation’ or ‘environmentally friendly’, is what we’ve been doing for thousands of years. By respecting nature and her gifts, we also learn respect for each other. The man who takes a woman as his mate, protects and provides for her, just as the male Lokoti Wolf fights for his mate, in the wild…”
Flint kept talking in a soft manner, it soon put me to sleep.
A couple of times I opened my eyes, to make sure we were still on the highway and I wasn’t being kidnapped. However the long stretch of asphalt ahead, always greeted me. I wasn’t sure what it was about this giant called Flint Riverclaw; but in his company I felt warm, comfortable and most of all safe. The last time I opened my eyes, I found a man’s jacket resting over my bare legs, which must have been his.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~