Frienemies: Fawn Sleeps While the Battle Starts

This is just the second half of the chapter.

Fawn had been gone for three days. She had fasted, drank little water, and was getting feverish, delirious, and weak. Wrapped in a blanket she had taken with her, she sat on the ground, propped against a tree trunk. Black carpenter ants crawled under the blanket, into her clothing, and began biting her. She jumped up, sweeping at them, stripping her clothing off. She stumbled into the icy river, which had not warmed up much as it was still early May, until the only thing above water was her head.

Time seemed to fade away. She had no idea how long she had been in the water, but her fever grew weaker. She became aware that her body needed nourishment and water. The river was a clear stream and she scooped some of the cool liquid in her hands. She choked on the first gulp and reminded herself to slurp instead of gulp.

Still standing the river, her gaze traveled the shoreline. There was no sign of anyone near. Energized by the cold water and her shivering body, she bolted back to where she had dropped her clothing, made sure everything was free of ants, dressed, and went searching for food.

There were places along the river where cattails grew in the shallows. They were about six to eight inches tall she guessed. She picked three of them, peeled the bulbs and ate them. Perhaps she would save the heads and take them back to the Gardner place to be roasted and eaten later, like corn on the cob.

It was not the best thing she had ever eaten but it would do. After the third bite her stomach rebelled at the raw roughage. She gagged and retched.

Defeat and discouragement bowed her back, causing her head and shoulders to stoop as she trudged back to her horse. Her feet dragged and stumbled as she led Midnight Sun away from the river and into the woods. She found a spot that still had a layer of pine needles and leaves from the winter. After checking the area for any kind of ants and seeing none, she removed the blanket from the horse and laid it on the ground.

As she drifted into a troubled sleep her only thought was I’ve been abandoned and I’m all alone.

The angel bent low and gently brushed her brow. “Sleep little one,” he whispered. Fawn heard nothing but the screaming in her head.

“Is it time yet, Lord?” the gleaming white being asked. There was no time for an answer.

A sulfurous black shape drew its machete-like sword. “You will die now,” the shape hissed at Tal.

Tal waited for the command, then shifted his position as he drew his gleaming sword. “On the contrary, fowl spirit; it is you who will die this day.”

The dark shape raised himself up at the same moment Tal struck. The loathsome demon ducked and tumbled through the air, positioning himself for a rebound.

Tal changed his stance and awaited his chance. “What is your name, foul spirit?”

The demon smirked and stuck out its tongue, licking its lips as if in anticipation of a good meal, or a good fight. “Slither” was his answer.

Tal laughed. “Yes, I can see why. Slither toward me if you dare.”

Slither jumped forward,lurching at the same time, arm outstretched, slicing the air with the machete. He missed. Tal did not. With a screech and an ebbing wail, Slither tumble away in a fog of sulfuric vapor.

Tal knew others would come. He stood guard and waited for reinforcements.

Frienemies: Chapter Thirty-Nine

“This has got to stop,” Nana shouted. “She can’t keep running off like this.”

Ellen hugged her friend. “I know you’re worried, but she probably just needs some peace and quiet. Fawn isn’t used to all of this commotion. Give her some time.”

Nana wasn’t convinced. “Maybe, but Ellen, this is the second time she’s taken off and disappeared, not tellin’ anybody where she was goin’. I’ve a mind to take her over my knee; I don’t care how old she is.”

“Come on outside to the garden with me,” Ellen said. “You can sit on the bench and tell me where the weeds are. It will do you some good to get outside in the sunshine. We can pray out there where no one but the birds and squirrels will hear us. God knows exactly where Fawn is. She’ll be alright.” Her voice was gentle as her lips parted in a half smile. Then she took Nana’s left elbow and helped her toward the back door. Nana held her cane in her right hand.

Nana’s expression warred between anger and worry. I know worry is a sin, Lord. I know I can trust You, but I don’t know what you’re gonna haveta do to get Fawn’s attention. I don’t wanna see her hurt anymore. Her chest heaved a heavy sigh as pain stabbed her back in her effort to straighten her spine. She quickly remembered her arthritis and gave up standing straight.

#

Joel awakened disoriented with his head splitting and his eyes aching. Where was he? He tried to sit up by using his left elbow to prop him up. He seemed to be in his own bed. As soon as he was halfway to being in an upright position his stomach lurched and he fell back into a prone position. He rolled over toward the side of the bed and retched. When his stomach was emptied he wiped his mouth with the blanket, laid back, and covered his head with his pillow to block out the light.

Two hours later he awoke again, thirsty and anxious. He tried to recall the events of the previous day. How did he get home? The last thing he remembered was arguing with Angel in the barn when someone hit him from behind. If he didn’t know how he got home then he obviously didn’t know how he got in bed either. What day was it? Was he supposed to be at work or was it a weekend? His head pounded with each unanswered question. He needed to find Angel. She surely knew what had happened. He sat up slowly and put his feet on the floor while he continued to sit on the bed. Pushing himself gently to a standing position with his hands, he found his feet would not support him. He slumped back onto the bed.

I can’t even get myself a drink of water was his last thought before drifting back to a troubled sleep. His dreams were filled with vague scenes of fire, property destruction, and being pulled in opposite directions by faceless people. He awakened some time later to find himself tangled in his sheet with his head at the foot of the bed and his feet at the top.

The thunderous rapping at the door sobered his mind somewhat. He fumbled to put on his pants while mumbling for the caller to wait a minute. Yelling was out of the question. It would have produced a whopping headache.

He opened the door to a retreating back. “May I help you?” he croaked.

His employer turned and came back. “Been drinking have you?”

Joel’s right hand attempted to comb his hair as he spoke. “No, sir.”

“Looks like it to me. If it’s not the drink then what is it?” He was a short man with thin brown hair, a graying mustache, and a paunch that mocked his otherwise reedy frame.

“I got attacked from behind while at a meeting. Got knocked out and somehow ended up here and in bed. What day is it?”

“Two days since you last graced the office with your presence. You were not scheduled for any meetings since then. What have you been up to?”

Joel realized they were still standing at the door. He opened it and waved his employer into the room. He motioned to a chair against the wall while he himself sat back on the bed in his boardinghouse room. With his head held in his hands, elbows on his knees he tried to think of a reply.

“It was an unscheduled meeting, sir. A lady in distress wished to speak with me privately. Apparently it turned out to be an ambush.”

His employer tapped his left foot on the floor. He was not a man who liked to raise his voice. It mattered not. His tone was full of ice, his words like shards of broken glass. “This is your last chance, young man. You either come to work as scheduled or you seek other employment. If you do not show up tomorrow, do not come back at all. You will not get a recommendation from me. Good day.”