Left to Fate [Attn: Tarlachia]
“What do you think you are doing?”
Not even acknowledging the voice, the woman walked over to the drawer, pulled it open and grabbed an armful of clothes. Moving back to the bed, she dropped the items into the case, and repeated her actions, getting another bundle before she felt the fingers digging into her arm, causing her to drop her load onto the floor.
Flicking her shoulder to release the grip, she glared angrily. “Let go of me.” She spat the words out, as she used her other hand to unfold the fingers from her arm, and then crouched to pick up her things.
“Where are you going?” The voice was loud, the anger evident. “Natalia?”
Rising from the floor, she stood in from of the man, her own voice matching his for feeling. “You think I’m going to stay here any longer? We are finished. I will not stay here while you treat me like a piece of shit.” She moved over to the bed, and dumped her clothes on top of the others, and pressed them down, checking to see how much more she could fit in.
“So you are just leaving? Just like that?” The man moved to where she stood, grabbing her again as he spun her around to face him. “You were just going to go while I was out?”
Natalia pushed at his chest, trying to once more free herself from his hold. “I said let go of me.” She shook her body then pummelled her hands against him. “I don’t owe you any favours. Go back to your bitch, and leave me alone.”
The man swung his hand and caught her across the face. “Do not speak to me like that.” The fury in his face was evident. “There is only one bitch here…” He pulled her over to the mirror, and pointed to her reflection. “And that’s her.” Pushing her suddenly, she hit her legs on the side of the bed and toppled over, catching herself hard on her case.
Hand pressed to her cheek, she turned her gaze angrily to face the man who was making his way over to the bed, undoing the buckle of his belt as he got closer. Turning from him, Natalia scrambled up the bed, trying to reach the bedside table. Suddenly she felt his hand on her ankle, pulling her back down towards him. Kicking out her other foot, she caught him in the stomach, freeing herself from his hold.
Pulling open the drawer, her hand rummaged inside, searching frantically. She heard the moaning coming back towards the bed, anger rising, breath becoming heavy. “What are you doing, you stupid bitch?” He reached again for her leg, as she kicked them wildly.
Her hand touched metal, fingers wrapping around the grip. She turned suddenly facing her protagonist, a gun pointed at his head. “I said, leave me alone.” Sitting upright, she watched as he took a step back, his mouth opening and closing wordlessly. “Stay away from me.”
The man stood staring at her. “This is silly, Natalia. I just want to talk to you.”
“There is no more talking.” As she spoke she edged herself off the bed. “Get back over there, and face the wall.” She stood up, keeping a safe distance between her and the man. “I said, get back!” The man did as he was asked, walking slowly backwards, until he could go no further. “Now face the wall!”
“I said, face the wall! Now!” She moved around the bed, remaining out of reach of the man. As he turned away from her, she flipped the lid of her case closed, and fastened the lock, knowing that the rest of her belongings would have to stay. She grabbed the handle, and pulled it off the bed, the gun still raised in her other hand. “Now you stay there until I’ve gone.”
“This is stupid! You are overreacting, as usual.”
Shaking her head, Natalia edged her way out of the room, walking backwards, until she had gone through the door. Pulling it closed behind her, she turned and ran through the living room, grabbing her keys awkwardly with her gun filled hand, before rushing out of the front door. Behind her, she could hear the scrabbling of the man, as the bedroom door banged open.
Rushing down the corridor, she frantically pushed the elevator button, his footsteps echoing behind her. She turned her back to the door; gun raised and pointed up towards the man as he emerged from the apartment. “I swear I will kill you if you come near me!”
“Natalia. Natalia.” The man lowered his voice, sounding oddly calm to her ears. “We can work all this out. Just come back inside.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you. Now get back.” She raised the gun threateningly, just as the ping indicated the arrival of the elevator car. As the doors opened, she stepped back inside, gun still pointing.
“This isn’t the end, Natalia.”
The doors closed, cutting her view of the man. Leaning against the wall, she sighed heavily, taking in several deep breaths as she tried to calm her shaking nerves. “Oh…” She felt the tears being to well in her eyes. “Damn it, I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry.”
Moments later the door opened, the level indicator displaying the ground floor. She poked her head out, knowing that he could not have made it down the stairs that quick. Placing the gun in her pocket, she picked up her belongings and rushed out into the street, quickly locating and entering her car. Tossing her belongings into the back seat, she inserted the key and drove off down the street, her destination left up to Fate.
* * * * *
Hours later, having driven around absentmindedly trying to calm herself, while working out where her life was going. She thought she had had it all, good job, loving relationship, how wrong had she been. A light began to flash on her dashboard, drawing her attention to her gas gauge. Taking an interest into her location, she glanced wondering trying to locate the nearest station.
Finally finding one and filling the car, she paid the attendant, and walked back to her vehicle. As she made her way to the driver’s door, she looked about her, wondering where she was going to go from here. Climbing in the car, she ran her hand through her hair, checking her appearance in the mirror, she groaned loudly. “Look at the state of you.”
Shaking her head, she turned the key and drove the car back onto the main road, leaving the gas station to grow smaller and smaller in her rear view mirror. On the passenger seat, the phone that resting there suddenly burst to life, emitting the latest number one in the Tartarian chart. Natalie reached over and grabbed the handset, and read the name on the outer screen. Flicking the phone open, she put it to her ear. “I don’t want to talk to you…ever!”
Flicking the phone closed, she tossed it back onto the seat, taking her eyes briefly from the road ahead. Suddenly, she stamped her foot on the breaks, bringing the car to a screeching halt, just managing to stop the car hitting a pedestrian crossing the street…
The whirring of the chain on the Red Arrow Freestyle Mongoose axle was followed by a satisfied sigh as the young man watched the chain now flow like liquid metal around the gears. He got up from his seat on the ground and began to gather his tools back into the toolbox and setting them aside. He turned his attention to the small stereo blaring the current track, Fuel, from one of his favorite albums of Metallica.
He broke into the song's lyrics and began to mock the words as he did a little posing stint with an imaginary guitar. After a few moments of nonsense actions, he returned to the bike and flipped it over onto the wheels. He snatched his digital music player and slipped it into a pocket, putting the headphones around his head. A few minutes later, he was on the bike and speeding down the alley toward the street. He ramped off a truck's bed that had some boards angled upward off the ground. The bike soared a clear three feet and landed surely upon the pavement, "Whoo!" he cried as he skidded around the corner and picked up more speed along the side of the street.
In and out he weaved leaping the bike up and over a bum lying halfway into the sidewalk. The grinding of the extended axles on a low concrete wall was accompanied by the bike lnading on its rear wheel and unicycling for several more yards.
Glancing to his right to linger a gaze upon a young brunette strolling down the street in a rather revealing outfit that clearly defined her assets, the young man turned into the street.
What happened next seemed to be all in slow motion as he first heard the screeching of car tires. He whipped his head about to watch as a car came screeching to a halt next to him. Instinctively, he yanked upward on the handlebars, leaping the bike up to land upon the hood and then roll off to the driver's side of the car. He spun the bike about and glared at the woman behind the wheel,
"What the hell are you doing you crazy fuck!" he cried, "Fuckin' could've killed me!"
He removed the ear buds from his music player and approached the car, "Well? What the fuck's wrong with you?!"
Taking several deep breaths, Natalia looked out of the window, staring blindly as events came to a halt in front of her. Her fingers gripped tightly around the steering wheel, her legs shaking madly as they rested on the puddles. She sat for a moment, not hearing the man screaming at her, as she tried to calm herself, this really had not been her day.
As if coming to her senses, everything replaying itself in her mind, the man’s words seeped into her thoughts, but it was not the voice of the man who had just rolled across. The sound had been changed in her memory, and a familiar face looked back at her. Shaking her head, she pushed the thoughts from her head, and slowly pulled herself out of the car.
“Oh, I’m so sorry…I didn’t see you.” Natalia’s hand went up to her forehead, as if she could clear her thoughts by rubbing them away. Her fingers slid agitatedly through her hair, as her other came to rest on the roof of the car, steadying herself. “I…I didn’t see the lights had changed.” She looked at her victim sadly, her eyes filled with concern. “Are you…are you hurt?”
The young man brushed a hand through his dark brown hair and took a deep breath. That was too close... he thought to himself as he watched the woman extract herself from her vehicle.
She began to apologize, and he was about to begin round two of the ranting, when he looked into her eyes. Truly looking into her eyes.
"I'm fine, only because I managed to avoid being your personal burger on your grill. What the h..." his voice changed to a softer tone, "Hey...you ok? Something wrong?"
Horns began to blare as cars behind the woman's own vehicle had their drivers yelling at the two of them in the middle of the street. The young man glanced at them and returned his gaze to her, "Hey...what do you say we get a drink? Get our nerves back under control?"
Nodding her head slowly, Natalia smiled awkwardly at the man before her. “Um…a drink? Yes, that would be…” She was suddenly distracted by the sounds of the horns and voices blaring in the background. Her gaze fell onto her car, causing more than a little tailback down the street. “I should move this, and then we can sort out the police and things.” Her head span at the thought of trying to explain to them how she had almost killed someone, she would probably be locked up for years.
She pulled open the door, and looked at the seat, afraid to get back in. Her legs almost gave way underneath her. She turned to the rider, her lips twisting in and out of a smile. “Do you…drive?” Her hand shook as she moved it off the door. “I don’t think I can…” Her fingers clenched around the material of her shirt, as she looked at him questioningly.
The man nodded, "Yeah, but what am I gonna do with this?" He pointed to his mongoose, "I sure as hell ain't leavin' this around for some punkass kid to steal."
The woman nodded and gestured behind her, "Yes...the trunk." She popped the trunk and exited the vehicle once more. She walked around to the passenger side of the car and slid into the seat. The trunk slammed shut and the young man slid into the driver's seat, immediately starting the engine. Seconds later, they were driving, the congestion in traffic now over.
"So...now that we've met rather abruptly, I'm Nathan Jordan. I go by Nate." he started as he glanced over to her with a smile, extending his hand to her.
He asked another question, "So...I'm not familiar with this country. Any good bars around here?"
Making herself comfortable in the passenger seat, she returned Nathan’s smile, as she pushed a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear. “I’m Natalia. My friends call me Natalia, Tallie or anything that comes to mind.” She took his hand and shook it, her fingers revealing a little of her nervousness. “I answer to most things.” As he started to car, she looked out of the window trying to determine their location.
“This isn’t my usually haunt, but there is a bar three blocks away.” She grinned slightly. “The name escapes me, but I know you can’t miss it, has huge neon signs declaring its existence.” She pulled absentmindedly at her skirt, as if it suddenly seemed a little too short for comfort. “I’ve been there a couple of times, cheap and cheerful, and more importantly they sell a wide range of drinks.”
Looking out of the window she pointed to the left. “It’s that way, then third on the right.” She turned to him, and gave him a wry smile. “I am sorry…I mean, I don’t almost kill with my car every day. In fact…you are my first.” She felt a blush growing over her cheeks, and suddenly turned away from him.
Nate chuckled aloud, "If that's your experimental idea of hitting on guys, let me be the first to try to convince you it ain't workin'."
He followed the directions that Natalia gave and soon the car pulled into a parking spot. He shut the engine off, looking over at the bar's neon signs. "Jeez, reminds me of something strip clubs would use."
He looked back over at Natalia with a smile. "Come on, let's get ourselves a drink." She was about to start getting out when he placed a hand on her arm gently. "No no...wait a moment, please."
He released her and got out of the car, making his way over to her side and opened the door, holding his hand out. He grinned, "Even a extreme biker like me has some good ol' fashion'd sense."
Thank you grandpa... he thought to himself, as he remembered the many lessons on hospitality and civilized behavior.
Natalia laughed lightly, as Nathan walked around the car and opened the door for her. Whatever she had expected from it, she certainly wasn’t expecting that. Climbing out, she stood before him, and looked over at the bar, it looked worse than she remember. “I must have been drunk last time I came here.” She frowned, letting out a long sigh. “I hope it isn’t a strip joint.” She pushed the door closed behind her. “This was one of David’s favourite haunts.” She shuddered as the name passed through her mind.
“Still, I’m sure the drinks are as potent as they are elsewhere.” Giving him another wry smile, she moved away from the vehicle, her hands brushing over her skirt. She swished her head, running both her hand through her hair, tidying it as best as she could. She wrinkled her brow, wondering how bad she looked. Still, with any luck, most would be too interested in her shapely legs rather than her face. She turned suddenly. “I’m not sure this is such a good idea…it looks kind of rough. Maybe we should try somewhere else.”
Nate took another look at the building and then back at her with an amused look, "Nah, I think we'll be fine here. Let's see how it goes first. If you don't like it, we can leave."
Together, the two walked toward the bar, and he held the door for her as she entered. Once inside, he escorted her to the bar. "Get whatever you like, its on me."
He beckoned for the barkeep to come over. He glanced back at her and smiled, "Ladies first."
Looking at the barman, Natalia smiled then ran her gaze over the bottles behind the bar, flicking quickly between each of them until her eyes fell on one that took her fancy. “I’ll have a brandy, a large one.” She looked at Nathan and smiled. “For my nerves.” As she waited for him to order his drink, she gave her surroundings a little attention.
If they thought the outside looked bad, the inside did nothing to change their opinion. The lights were dim, which was probably a bonus as it hid a lot of the décor, which seemed to be trying to be something it was not. Looking like a cross between an opera house and a boudoir, with a few neon lights detailing the location of the toilets. The seating comprised of tables and chairs shattered randomly about the place, with a few hidden in curtained cubicles.
Just past the end of the bar, or more rightly where it turned off at right angles, the area was partitioned off, a thick dark red curtain acting as another door, pulled half open with a tasselled sash. Beyond was some other seating area, containing more private cubicles for various uses.
The clientele was an odd mix; business men, bikers and women that could only be there for professional reasons. These tended to be draped over the more upmarket customers, or those that seemed to have the most money at least. Propped at the bar appeared to be a few people who seemed intent on drowning their sorrows in a line of drinks laid out before them.
Letting out a sigh, Natalia drew her attention back to Nathan, allowing herself a brief moment to check out exactly what she had not pulled with her technique. Despite what he may have said, if she had not almost killed him she would surely be drinking on her own right now. She had never really been attracted to bikers, but there was a first time for everything. Shaking her head, she laughed lightly to herself.
“This place will do.” She looked at the barman. “Do you do food?” He pointed over his shoulder at a chalked menu above his head, his attention never really taken from Nathan. “Thanks.” She cast her eye over the list as she waited for her companion to order.
Nathan brought a hand to his chin as he thought momentarily on what to get to drink. His eyes were surveying the bottles that advertised what was available. He finally looked up at the barkeep and spoke, "Why don't you give me something unique, something...Tartarian?"
He scanned his eyes over the chalkboard menu and finally settled with just a batch of spicy chicken wings and some ranch dipping sauce. As they waited, Nathan studied Natalia passively, committing to memory her face and features. Finally, he brought his drink up to his lips and took a quick swig before speaking, "So. I take it you're hookin' it with some guy named David?"
He paused, then raised his hand, "I'm sorry, that was too personal. I was being nosy. It's just that you mentioned a David earlier."
He sighed exaperatedly and looked around the bar, taking in the various patrons and patron's patrons... He shook his head and turned back to Natalia.
Listening as Nathan ordered his food, Natalia smiled first at him then at the barman. “I’ll have the same, sounds tasty.” Having completed her task, she turned to her companion, her glass cupped in her hand. She gave the contents a slight swirl before bring the golden liquid to her lips, taking a large sip. She could feel the burn of the brandy as it slipped down her through, causing her to wince slightly as she fought off the urge to cough.
Lowering the glass, Natalia once more turned her full attention to Nathan then laughed. “Oh, no, I’m not ‘hooking’ with anyone, especially someone called Dave.” She took another sip of her drink. “He’s ancient history.” She shook her head, as if trying to clear the thought of him from her head. “This just used to be…” Slowly she looked around the bar, grimacing at the décor. “…his favourite…hang out.” What did I ever see in him? “Shall we find a table?”
The barman looked at the couple. “That’s twenty-one Acherons. Do you want to settle or open a tab until you are finished?” He focused his attention on Nathan, though his eyes kept flicking to Natalia as if he thought she was going to make a run for the door.
She smiled sweetly, at the barman. “We’ll take a tab, and we’ll be sitting over there.” Cocking an eyebrow, she grinned at Nathan and strolled over to one of the enclosed tables, wiggling her hips a little more than was necessary. She gazed back at the bar, and winked before disappearing behind the curtain. “Now I remember why I only came here once or twice.”
She placed her glass on the table and made herself comfortable, watching Nathan as he took his seat. “Listen, I’m not normally like this…I mean, it’s not every day that I have a day like today.” She shook her head. “I just hope it doesn’t get any worse…” She frowned suddenly. “Oh, not that I’m not enjoying this.” She flicked her finger between him and herself, indicating their companionship.
Naturally, Nathan watched Natalia walk away with a slight smile on his face, easily catching the ever so subtle seductive movements by the woman. After he slid into his seat, Natalia attempted to apologize for herself, and he accepted her words, though he didn't really care if she was like that or not on a regular basis.
Something was captivating about this woman, and he intended to find out. Taking the offered hole at the end of her speech, he ran with it, "I'm enjoying this between us too. It's not everyday that a girl makes your heart stop for a moment..."
Nathan grinned, slightly laughing.
Natalia laughed, feeling more relaxed than she had since stepping out of her apartment. She picked up her drink and took a sip before cradling it in her hands, swirling the contents slightly. The man sitting opposite her was a complete stranger, other than knowing his name, she knew nothing about him. And on top of that, their meeting was far from auspicious, she had almost killed him, yet he was sitting opposite her, sharing a joke about his ordeal and being the best company she had had for a while.
“I think I would be more flattered if I had stopped your heart in a more pleasurable way.” She smiled, before taking another sip of her drink, feeling warm and fuzzy as the first drops worked through her body. “And yet, despite my regret at almost killing you, it has had its upside.” She lowered her eyes from his face, her attention riveted to the motion of the once more swirling liquid. “I wouldn’t be sitting here with you, if I hadn’t.” Her eyes met his again, as she raised her glass. “To the Hand of Fate.”
So genuine...God I haven't met a woman like her in a long time... Nathan smiled and raised his glass, "To the hand of Fate!" he replied.
Their glasses clinked together. Then again, I've only been around hardly two decades...
"So, Natalia," he took a gulp of his drink and placed it back down, "Tell me about yourself. Such a beautiful woman as yourself surely has a story to tell?"
Nathan winked and smiled, showing a clean white smile.
Taking a sip of her drink as he spoke, Natalia placed the glass down on the table and looked at Nathan, her smile as bright as his. She could not remember the last time she felt this comfortable around anyone, and that included David. “My story?” She grimaced slightly at the thought then smiled again. “Let’s just say, I’ve just closed the book on one part of my life, a part I would rather forget ever happened…and now I’m free and starting fresh.” She pulled a comically wry expression. “Which I hope isn’t going to continue as dramatically as it started.”
As she finished, the curtain twitched and suddenly two food laden plates appeared, followed by a woman, who looked at the two questioningly. “Are you the two chicken wings and dips?” She flicked her eyes between the two, before depositing a plate in front of each of them as they responded in the positive. “Enjoy your meals.” She smiled, turned and then left.
Natalia watched her go and laughed. “Service with a smile.” She looked at the food steaming in front of her. “Looks edible, and hot, which is always a good start.” Picking up a piece of chicken, she raised it to her lips and took a bite, wishing she had waited for it too cool slightly. “Actually…it’s very hot,” she managed to mutter after finally swallowing the food, her hand waving frantically in front of her mouth as she giggled.
Nathan laughed along with her, then pushed her drink closer to her, "Take a drink. It'll cool the food down for ya."
The rest of the night passed quietly, as they shared their jokes and stories. By the end of the night, they were more than a little inebriebriated, but still sober enough to understand they needed a cab. Before they parted, Nathan held her arm gently,
"Hey...this was fun...what do you say we get together tomorrow, ya know..."
He gave a drunken wink to her and laughed. He managed to produce a card from his wallet and handed it to her. It read: Nathan Jordan, Extreme Daredevil.
He grinned as she read the words, "Me...*hiccups* loves to do things *hiccups* that no one else does..."
He gave a sloppy bow, and kiss to Natalia's hand, "Until then, adieu!"
He smiled broadly and bumped his head as he got into his taxi, which drove away promptly.
Natalia looked at the card after Nathan had driven off in the taxi, not that she really took much notice of the words, her eyes were having difficulty in focusing on anything other than the white rectangle of card. Placing it safely in her pocket, or as safely as someone who does not really have full control of her thoughts, being under the heady command of alcohol.
She giggled suddenly, not sure what had caused this outburst, as she slowly and not in an altogether straight line, made her way over to her car. After rummaging through her bag, she realised that the man that had just disappeared had taken her keys with him.
“Shit!” She bashed her hand against the car roof, suddenly feeling a lot more sober than she had only minutes before. She ran her hand through her hair, and looked about her. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” She fought of the urge to burst into tears of frustration as she found herself stranded in the car park of an establishment that she really did not want to be alone in. “Can this day get any worse?”
Rummaging through her bag again, she pulled out her phone, her hand shaking as she punched in the number of a cab company, who informed her they would have a taxi for her in ten minutes. Throwing the phone back in her bag, she realised that even when it arrived she had no where to go. She thought about her friends, but most of them lived outside the capital, and those that did were far to close to the man she had pulled a gun on earlier that day. And David would have told them all about it by now.
She leant against the car, her head pounding with a mix of the alcohol and frustration. Placing her hand in her pocket, in search of a tissue, she felt the card from Nathan. She pulled it out and looked at the words written on it, just as she heard the sound of a car approaching.
“Cab for Miss Thornton?”
A voice broke through her thoughts, drawing her attention from the card. She nodded her head, and moved over to the driver’s door and showed him the card. “Take me there.” She waited until he had flicked his eyes over the words, and indicated for her to climb in. Moments later, she was settled in the backseat and on her way into the unknown.
Nate had stripped his shirt off and was stumbling around his apartment as he got a drink of water and moved to the bedroom. As he sat down on the bed, he stared forward, remembering the night with Natalia. He chuckled drunkenly, "Sezxy numbah..."
The knocking on the door wasn't first noticed until the person had knocked for a third time. He turned his head to the doorway and slowly got up, holding his hand out to steady himself. Managing to make it to the front door without tripping, he struggled with the locks until the door finally swung open. He beheld Natalia standing there, with a straight face. Finally he smiled, and called out in a loud voice, "Hey! I knowz yous! Yous that babe from thuh bahr! Yous comez tah gits laid?"
He grinned drunkenly and pulled her inside, "Come in, come in. Itz col' as ice out therz!"
Shivering slightly, from the cold, the worry of where she was going to go and the effects of the alcohol, Natalia allowed herself to be pulled inside. She let her eyes flick quickly around before fixing her gaze on Nathan. “I’m sorry for turning up announced.” She moved away from the door as he closed it behind her. “I…ah…I think you have my keys.” A shiver rushed over her body, causing her teeth to chatter.
She smiled at him, the effect not working too well with her lower jaw moving because of the cold. “Do you have something warm to drink? Like a coffee?” She rubbed her hand up and down her arm, trying to get some heat into her body. If she could have gotten to her coat, which was on the backseat of her car, she would not have felt so bad. “Or something stronger?”
The effect of her teeth chattering was not helping with the feeling in her head. She had never been one good at drinking large amounts of alcohol, usually preferring to stop well before the stage where her head was spinning, and now it was spinning. In the cab she had been sure that she was going to be introduced to her dinner, but had managed to control the gurgling of her stomach. She placed her hand against the wall, as the room began to spin around her.
Nathan managed to catch Natalia as she fell forward, and managed to remain standing while doing so. He held her up as the two of them made their way to the kitchen, dropping into their chairs. He walked unsteadily to the coffee machine and turned it on, grateful that he had a habit of having it premade for the next day already. He was too drunk to have gotten it right.
As the coffee churned and slowly filled a mug up, he looked over at Natalia, then approached her. He sat down in a chair next to her and looked over at her lopsided.
"Yous kin goes sleepy here. No needz tah go home like yous is now..." he slurred with a smile.
Natalia accepted the mug of coffee, and brought it up to her lips, taking a long sip. As she lowered it, she gaze him a warm smile, feeling better now that she was off her feet. Her teeth slowed their movement, and stopped altogether as she warm liquid sent one last shiver up her spine, dispelling the cold feeling inside. She cupped her hands around the mug, using its heat to warm her hands.
“I don’t…want to cause you any…trouble.” She looked at him, her eyes revealing her gratefulness. Despite only knowing him for less than half a day, she felt oddly comfortable accepting his offer. Placing her mug down, she attempted to stand, stopping her efforts as she fell back into the seat. “I like this chair.” She laughed suddenly. “I think I’ll stay here for a bit.” Sitting back, she smiled at him, her gaze fixed to Nathan's.
Nathan laughed and slapped his hand on the table several times after Natalia had resorted to her chair once more. He too held a cup of coffee in his hand, each sip bringing him back to the sober world more and more. Unfortunately, it started to give him a hangover too.
"Hey, no problem. I'm actually glad I met you...abruptly as it was. Anyway, as for a place to sleep...I don't have a couch yet, but you're welcome to use my bed for the night. I'll just grab a pillow and blanket and crash out on the floor. Besides, I'd probably end up there, as drunk as I am!"
He laughed once again, then took another long sip of coffee.
“Oh, no, I can’t let you sleep on the floor.” Natalia shook her head wildly, feeling suddenly guilty, and soon very dizzy as her head movement caused a spinning sensation to almost send her out of her chair. She gripped the table, managing to stay put. “I don’t mind sharing…” She shrugged slightly, and then laughed. “I don’t think either of us is capable of more than sleeping anyway.”
She lowered her eyes, suddenly hoping that she had not offended him in any way. Picking up her mug, she took a sip to hide her embarrassment. Feeling the warm liquid flow through her body, making her feel better with every drop, she once more cradle it in her hands, as she raised her gaze back to his, taking a moment to focus.
Nathan laughed with Natalia as he drained the last of his coffee. He got up and put it in the sink and returned to the table. "Come on, let's go play a game or somethin'. I'm not tired anyways..just...off me rocker!"
He pulled her to her feet and led her to the living room. He plopped down on the floor and looked over to her, "So, whaddaya wanna play?"
Barely managing to get the mug back on the table before she was pulled out of her seat, Natalia gave little resistance as she was taken into the living room. She laughed all the way there as she collapsed onto the floor in a heap, unable to right herself as she became overcome with giggles. After a few minutes, she managed to compose herself, sitting upright as she looked at Nathan.
“Game?” She frowned for a moment as she gave the subject some thought. “I don’t know…um…cards perhaps. I like cards…and I’m pretty good too.” She laughed again for a moment, as she placed her hand on the floor to keep her from falling over. “Do you like cards?” She grinned suddenly. “We could play for the bed if you don’t want to share?” As she spoke she pulled her shoes off, and curled her legs under her.
Nathan grinned then went and got a deck of cards. He also brought back poker chips which he placed between them. She looked at him questioningly, but not for long.
"Let's play some blackjack...with a twist..." he grinned.
He allowed a few moments for her to wonder what he had up his sleeve.
"Are you familiar with Strip Poker?"
He grinned again, still well enough under the effect of the alcohol.
Taking a moment for his words to sink in, she laughed again and nodded her head. “Oh, yes, I know Strip Poker.” She looked over at her opponent and grinned, seeing that he was already wearing far fewer clothes than herself. She let her gaze linger on his body, already imagining him in his losers apparel. “I accept the challenge.” She moved her legs, sighing slightly at the fact that she had already taken off her shoes.
“One piece of clothing per win, I take it.” She smiled charmingly, and looked about the room. “You have anything to drink?” Pushing back on her hands, she tried to raise herself from the floor, not managing to get more than an inch off the floor. “If you point, I’ll get us something.” She giggled again, as she once more made an attempt to get up, falling backwards instead.
Nathan held his hand up as he struggled to his feet, "No no, I'll get it."
He made his way to the fridge and opened it, "What do you want? I've got orange juice...beer...milk...apple juice...oh...and my vintage 1884 wine, which I'll never know if I'll ever open!"
He laughed aloud while keeping the door open, waiting for Natalia's response.
Giving up the effort of trying to stand, Natalia watched as Nathan moved towards the door then disappeared through it. She smiled to herself, feeling very fortunate to have almost killed someone so nice. Although her thoughts barely stayed for long on her circumstances, she was relieved to be someone safe.
Hearing his voice, she gave his question some thought. “Juice and beer will be fine.” She laughed lightly, again for nothing other than she could not stop herself. “1884?” Crawling carefully to the door, finally managing to get to her feet using the doorframe, she walked or tottered slowly into the kitchen, smiling at Nathan. “I think you should keep it for a special occasion. Unless you think surviving today should be celebrated.”
She walked over to where he was standing, and looked him in the eyes, before moving suddenly and planting a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you.” She turned then and looked in the fridge. “Do you want me to take anything in?”
He put the wine back into the fridge and got out a few drinks for the two of them. He froze as Natalia kissed him and he smiled warmly, "No problem..."
He stood there, just looking at her calmly, reflecting with his drunken mind back on the day's events, culminating to that kiss. He smiled again and leaned in to kiss her, this time on the lips. The moment was frozen in their minds as a strange feeling passed between them. He abruptly broke it off and walked away, "I'm sorry...I shouldn't have. I'm drunk, you're drunk...I'm sorry." he stammered as he avoided her gaze.
Natalia brushed her finger lightly over her lips and smiled, turning to face him as he looked away. “No problem.” She laughed lightly then stopped, realising that he seemed embarrassed by his actions, a blush creeping momentarily over her cheek as she noticed that she had not been. In fact, the spontaneity had made her feel exhilarated, something she had not felt in many months.
Pushing the fridge door closed, she leant against it, letting it bear the weight of her body for a moment, as she watched him make his way back to the living room. “So, are you ready to get naked?” She stopped for a moment and laughed, hearing that spoken loud, knowing that it could have easily been mistaken for an invitation. “I…ah…at cards, you know.”
Nathan laughed, relieved that she had not taken offense. He turned to face her, his face clearly showing his relief. She sauntered into the room a grin upon her face.
"Damn right!" he replied with an equal grin, as he began to shuffle the deck quickly. He paused and looked up at her, "Ladies first though."
He laughed aloud and dealt the first hand.
Grabbing herself a beer as she watched him shuffle and then deal the card, Natalia made herself comfortable back on the floor. She took a sip, before placing the bottle on the floor, careful not to send it sprawling as she picked up her cards, studying them intensely, as she began to work on her plan of action. She lifted her attention from her hand, and looked at him, her cards pressed closed to her chest as if she was afraid he would see them.
“So, how does this work?” She frowned slightly, having to concentrate hard in her slightly less than perfect state. She had never really been very good at cards, she did not seem to have the patience to bluff her way into winning, but then Blackjack was not Poker, so she tried not to give it much thought. “Winner gets a piece of the losers clothing, right?” She smiled at him, the drink giving her more bravado that she would normal have in this situation.
Nathan smiled, "Well, it's a simple game really. I'm the dealer, so you've got to best any number of random cards dealt to you against anything dealt to myself. You are allowed a max of a score of 21. If you go over, you've lost. If you don't get enough to best me, you lose. And since we're playing strip, I'll make it more fun by having it go like this. For every five wins by you, I take a piece of clothing off. For every five wins by me, you take a piece off. It's not necessary to gain the wins in a row, they can be cumulative."
He grinned and smiled, "Got the idea now?" He thought for a moment, "Oh, and if you need another card, just say "Hit."
Natalia nodded her head, and instantly regretted the move. “Yeah, I get the idea.” She moved her cards forward so that she could once again look at the cards she had been dealt. A frown marred her features as she counted up her score, realising she had a little way to go to get close to a total of twenty-one. The five of spades and the two of diamonds, a total of seven, and she needed to beat him.
She flicked her eyes between her hand and Nathan’s eyes, a smile appearing on her lips, supposedly making her look like someone with a good set of cards. “Hit me.” She giggled, finding the phrase funny for some unknown reason. Picking up the card, she smiled, nodded her head and placed it between the two others. The eight of hearts, taking her score to sixteen, still too low in her mind to stand a chance of winning.
Nathan couldn't help but laugh as he saw Natalia's eyes. He ignored the smile she gave, instead focusing on her eyes, reading them. She's got nothing...
He looked at his cards again, nine of clubs paired with a king of hearts. Eighteen.
He waited as she made her decision at long last. Dealing the card, he waited to see her reaction, wondering what she had so far.
Slowly Natalia picked up the second card from the floor where it lay, her heart pounding loudly in her chest as if millions rested on the turn of the card. She kept her eyes locked to his as she raised it in front it her, breaking the look only when the card was level with her hand. She smiled for a moment, as she carefully focused on the number in the corner.
Six of Spades, damn it. She continued to keep the smile on her face, but her eyes gave away the feeling of defeat as her total toppled over twenty-one by just one point. Throwing the cards onto the floor face up, so that he could see her count, she groaned loudly, as she once more reached for her beer.
As the game progressed, Natalia had a few hands that beat Nathan's own, but also lost hands as well. Soon, the two sat before each other, clad in nothing but their underwear. Their clothing had been tossed toward the other in playful banter as the game progressed.
Nathan dealt his card to himself and moaned silently, but kept a straight face. He looked up to Natalia and waited to see her hand. She held a twenty. He had gone over. He removed his last remaining sock and tossed it aside. He held his hand up and spoke, "All right, the stakes go higher now. Next game, whoever wins, gets to do whatever they wish to the other."
She looked at him with an amused look, laughing, "All right."
He dealt the final round...
Enjoying herself more than she had for a while, Natalia picked up the cards that had been placed before her, smiling to herself as she saw the cards. Not that she had the best of hands, more so because her alcohol clouded mind thought the terms for the last hand was most tempting. She had taken the opportunity to gaze at the slowly undressing Nathan as they played, and she could not help thinking how lucky she had been to meet him, even if it was very dramatic.
Moving her lingering gaze from his body, she once more turned her attention to her cards, middle of the road, neither an obvious winning nor losing hand. Still, Fate had guided her, this far, and Natalia was more than willing to let the rest of the night rest in Her hands.
Leaning over, she picked up her bottle of beer, bringing it quickly to her lips, finding the contents gone. She frowned as she lowered it back to the ground, smiling at her challenger. Having little choice in her first action, her cards adding to less than sixteen, she slurred out a ‘Hit Me’ then waited for him to deal her card.
Nathan smiled as he dealt the last card to Natalia. He looked at his card. The total was seventeen. Decent, but he wanted a better score. So, he dealt himself his last card. Normally, under sober conditions, he would have held his hand, and see how it fared. As he turned his card over, he kept his eyes closed comically, with a hand over his eyes. "And now for the moment of truth, my lady!" he declared with a laugh.
He turned the card over. King of Spades. He groaned audibly. He was most likely in trouble now.
"Dealer busts. You win by default..." he announced. He shoved the cards aside and looked up at her, "What shall be my punishment for riding the bike in front of your car earlier...oh what was it? Two days ago?" He laughed, "Oh well, it matters no more how long ago it was..."
Natalia’s heart was beating loudly in her chest as the last game was played, excitement and fear playing through her body. Her eyes flicked between Nathan and the cards, each second dragging into what felt like hours. Whether she was worried or not about losing, she could not say, but either way, she was sure not winning still had its bonus. Finally, as the last card was turned over, she stared at it, for a moment not realising what it meant until his words seeped through into her thoughts.
“I won!” She practically leapt at him, knocking him backwards onto the floor. She looked down into his face, from her position on top of him, laughing with pleasure. Her inhibitions had disappeared several hours ago, lost in a bottle of alcohol. “My own personal slave, huh?” She grinned, as she looked into his eyes, a frown etching into her forehead, as she gave the situation some thought. “Hmm, what punishment to give you?” She frowned even more then smiled, as she lowered her lips to his.
Nathan felt Natalia's warmth spread to him and he smiled in return.
"Punishment is for those who've been bad." he replied with a sly grin, "I think I've been drinking..."
She soon beckoned for a kiss, which he gladly returned, locking their lips together, savoring the moment. They parted and he lay there, holding her close. Their bodies rose and fell with his breathing, slow, rhthmetic. He waited to see what she would dare to do now. As he waited, he brushed a hand across her cheek, gently sweeping her hair out of the way so he could get an unobstructed close look at her eyes. They were captivating eyes, brilliant with life. He could feel her flesh pressed into his, only their bare clothing separating them. But for some reason, as enticing as it was, he couldn't pull his attention away from her eyes.
She was as deadly as a siren, for her eyes held him immobile so.
Smiling down at Nathan, Natalia fixed her gaze to his, as she gently stroked his cheek, running her fingers down over his jaw, along his neck until they came to rest on his chest. “Mmm, now what to do with you?” She thought for a moment before once more lowering her lips to his, kissing him harder than before, lingering longer, enjoying the touch of his body beneath hers.
As the kiss ended, she ran her hands over his body, caressing his skin. Sitting up, she straddled him, remaining there for a moment, before carefully getting to her feet. Her fingers travelled down his arms as she moved, until her hands clasped his. Not saying a word, she pulled him, helping him rise to his feet.
“Today might just turn out better than I expected.” She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close, one hand resting on his back, while the other worked its way upward, until her fingers weaved through his hair. Applying a little pressure, she pulled him into another passionate kiss.
Nathan warmed to her gentle feminine touch as she delivered another wonderful kiss. This time, however, it was more passionate, filled with more hormone racked moments. He too slid his hands along her backside, taking a gentle hold of her head with one hand. The other gently but firmly gripped her buttocks and lifted her. She wrapped her legs around him, her arms now wrapped around his neck. She gave him an amused look, "And where are you taking me?"
He smiled in return, "To where a fair lady such as yourself deserves!."
She laughed, her silky naturally blonde hair that hung just past her shoulders, framing her face quite exotically. Soon, they lay upon the bed, their hands gently removing each others clothing and tossing them away.
He moved his hands gently over her flesh, carefully kneading her muscles, ever exchanging their kisses. He felt his vision begin to spin, his consciousness losing grip on reality as he slid beside her, holding her close and slipping into drunken unconsciousness...
Darkness began to evaporate as daylight pushed its way into her consciousness. Blinking herself awake, Natalia opened her eyes then instantly closed them as a stabbing pain shot through her head. She murmured a few unpleasant words under her breath, as her hand moved to her forehead, as if it could remove the feeling. Taking a couple of deep breaths, and opening her eyes very slowly, she finally managed to win the battle with the light, even if her head screamed in agony.
Trying to put the feeling behind her, she let her focus centre of her surroundings, and instantly wished she had not, as the unfamiliar décor made her headache even more.
“Mmm, where am I?” She asked sleepily as she moved, feeling the warmth of a body against hers. Smiling to herself, she felt happy that for the first time in weeks she had woken with David lying beside her. Wrapping her arms around him, she played her finger lightly over his skin, nestling in his arms. But the touch of him felt different, his muscle tone and shape wrong somehow.
Turning her head slightly, she looked into the face of her companion, gasping slightly, as her gaze fixed on his face. Suddenly the memory of the previous day flooded her mind. The fight, the car, the accident, the bar… The bar… And nothing. She closed her eyes, trying to fill in the gaps, not that they were really that necessary as there was no doubting what had happened, as she recalled the fact that she was sharing a bed with a virtual stranger sans clothing.
"Yo man...shut the hell up!" Nathan cried out somewhat quietly. His head raged with the morning's delivery of the worst hangover he'd ever had. He slowly felt his conscious world coming back to him.
First the harsh sunlight shining into his closed eyes. Then, the voice. The voice he didn't recognize at the moment. Then the warmth of the woman wrapped in his arms, their legs entwined together.
Upon this last bit, he shot his eyes open, only to suddenly groan and cover his eyes with a hand. He peered out at the woman next to him from between his fingers. She too was looking at him, looking just as badly as he felt.
The eyes...God, they looked so familiar.
Finally, the memories returned, beginning with the near car accident and his bike. Then the bar. The copious amounts of empty glasses and bottles obviously used for alcohol. However, his memory could remember nothing beyond the bar.
"Ohhhhhh..." he groaned slightly as he rolled over onto his backside, "I drank too much..." After several minutes, he turned his head to her, feeling his brain slosh around like soup in a bowl on the high seas.
"You...you're naked..." he stated. No shit, Captain Obvious. he scolded himself. He glanced down at himself, noticing that he too bore a similar predicament. He looked up at her again, content to remain lying down. If he sat up, he knew his head would explode.
"Did we have sex last night?" he asked, somewhat worriedly.
Sitting up and pulling the covers around her protectively, Natalia looked at him for a moment, as if he had been speaking some unknown foreign language. His mouth was moving, but she could not have repeated anything he had said with any clarity until he reached the last line. That hammered it’s way through her head full force.
Did we have sex? I don’t know. Probably not. I mean, we just met. She smiled to herself. But then, why are we naked? Not that that means anything…it could have been hot during the night. Yes, that’s it, it was hot. The smile grew. And you are wrapped around him like a blanket because…? We had sex. We had sex… She shook her head, and frowned. What the hell were you thinking? Not that you were thinking. You can’t even remember what you did last night.
She smiled at him weakly and shrugged. “Um…well, it’s like this…” She faltered, blushing slightly as she looked at him, thinking to herself how tasty he looked. Stop it! She looked away for a moment before focusing once more on his face. “I’m not sure…but I think so.” She felt like an idiot. “I mean…” She indicated their state of undress, as if that answered all the questions.
At almost the same time she pulled the sheets up around her body, he too took appropriate measures to cover himself. Although he didn't boast a rather nice rack like her, he felt a little uncomfortable lying there with his goods out on display as they were.
He slowly slid upward until he too sat there, using the blanket to cover himself. He looked over at her. "All I can remember from yesterday was the near-accident, and the trip to the bar. I don't remember much beyond that. What about you?"
He unwittingly found himself lowering his eyes to rest upon her chest, particularly the dual mounds of flesh that pressed out against the sheet. He noticed she was a little..."alert". Man...if we did have sex...I missed out on a great memory...wait...what am I thinking? I hardly know her!
He spoke up again, "I don't know, but our current--" he groaned slightly as his head sent a wave of pain across his eyes once more. He lowered his voice again, "--our current situation highly suggests we got our freak on..."
His voice trailed off as he considered the possible activities of the previous night. At least, she's hot...perhaps we can work something out of this...if I recall correctly, we did hit it off pretty damn well...
Placing her hand once more against her head, Natalia forced herself to remember what had happened. She had a hangover, yes. A very bad hangover. One that made her head feel like it was going to explode any second, but she could not have drunk that much could she, after all, she had her car with her, so she must have been fit to drive. At least, she thought she had her car with her...
I almost killed him…so I know I had my car. I drove it here from the bar… Her head pounded causing her to close her eyes against the light, as her stomach churned. She fought down the rising bile in her throat, before opening her eyes. “If we did…get a ‘freak on’, I’m…ah…I don’t normally…” She gave him a wry smile. “I don’t do this all the time.” Like he’s going to believe that.
She pulled the covers tighter around her, as if trying to cover her embarrassment. Her head was pounding, like she had a brass band playing in her head, with extra bass drums for effect. She lowered her head carefully down onto the pillow, and pulled the sheet over her head. “You don’t have any aspirin, do you?” Came her muffled voice from beneath the covers.
Nathan watched as she buried herself underneath the covers once again. Now that she couldn't see his face, he gave a face that could have been mistaken as pining for her.
He got up from the bed, leaving the blanket behind. He figured she'd remain under the covers anyway, so she wouldn't see him walking about naked. He disappeared into the bathroom, to return several minutes later with a small bottle of aspirin and a glass of water. He climbed back into bed, mindful of the water. He pulled the sheets down with his hand that held the bottle of aspirin, revealing her face squinting up at him.
"Here you go...I think I need a few myself. Or a whole bottle."
Giving him a tiny smile, as it hurt too much to do little else, she pulled the covers around her and gratefully took the aspirin bottle, fighting to open the lid. Shuffling slightly, she sat back up again, resting her body against the head board and pillows. She tipped enough tablets on her hand for her and him, then closed the container, dropping it onto the bed. She then opened her hand in front of him, offering him a couple.
“How much did I drink?” She asked, trying to picture the table in front of them, recalling seeing a few empty glasses. “More than I should have, I think.” She took the water from him, quickly downing the tablets before returning the glass to him. “Thanks.” She nestled back into the pillows, sliding down into the bed a little more, though not returning to lying down flat. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt like this before. I’m not sure I’m even still alive.”
She turned her head to him and grinned. “You know, I wish I could remember last night.” He really is very tasty. I don’t think I could have chosen better if I had aimed my car at him on purpose. She lowered her eyes in case he could read her thoughts, not that he had not already experienced more intimate things with her. “I’d hate to think I made a fool of myself.”
He downed his aspirin and soon followed it with the water. He drained the cup and set it on the nightstand. He slid closer, somewhat hesitatingly. However, she did not give any indication he should halt and so he finally settled in. They sat there, just smiling slightly. The shock of finding each other nude and in each other's arms was beginning to wear off. It almost seemed...normal.
He thought back to the previous night, to the number of drinks each had. Finally, he too conceeeded, "Too much."
She turned her head to him and grinned. “You know, I wish I could remember last night.”
He grinned in response, somewhat relieved she didn't seem to want to be getting out of there anytime soon.
"Yeah...me too." he replied quietly, more for the sake of their hangovers than any other reason. He looked back up at her mischieviously, then turned and leaned close. He hesitated as he held his face inches from hers. She did not pull away, instead watching his eyes, the shy look somewhat evident in her eyes. He kissed her.
This time, with the drunken stupor gone, the kiss proved to be more electrifying for both of them. He felt her breath exhale suddenly as she melted under his kiss. It was slow, gentle, almost apprehensive. His mind wandered like lightning from thoughts of Have I messed up? to Her lips...so lusciously delicious... to Damn, she kisses like a pro...
Finally, he pulled back, his self reservations reeling him back in. Calm down you hormone stoked beast. he said to himself, trying to collect himself. He looked back up at her. That was a beautiful kiss though...
The emotions that swam around Natalia’s head in those few minutes were enough to compete with the hangover. She was simultaneously happy and content to let what was happening continue, and afraid. Her mind whirled over the events leading up to their meeting. She had just walked out on one relationship, if it could be called that, and despite finding Nathan not only attractive but very kind, she was not sure she was ready for this. Already she had started their acquaintance in a poor light, she did not want to make him think even worse of her.
Looking into his eyes, following the kiss, she smiled then without warning, she sat up, turning herself away from him. She placed her hand on her head, willing the pain to go away so that she could at least concentrate. “I…I need to go.” She looked about the room for her clothing, pulling the sheet around her to hide her body, despite him already seeing everything she had. Turning she looked at him, feeling a little foolish and embarrassed. “Do you know where my clothes are?”
Shaking her head, she wanted to scream at her stupidity. What was I thinking? You know what you were thinking. He’s so cute. Damn it, I really don’t need this right now. Standing up, no longer worried about her nakedness. She wanted to get out before she did something she regretted, like having sex with him while knowing what she was doing. She sighed sadly, wondering what she was going to do once she left.
Bending down as she walked across the floor, she discovered her panties, managing to get them on after a little shaky balancing, followed shortly after with the locating of her bra. She frowned as she put it on, her eyes scanning the room for the rest of her clothing. Please tell me I had my clothing when I entered. Looking back at the bed, she smiled sadly as she looked at him, wishing things had been different, before heading quickly out of the room in search of the rest of her outfit.
Nathan sighed as she hastily beat a retreat, and sought out her clothing. He was silently cursing himself for having taken such a direct action. Now she was running.
Just like every other girl in my life. I'm cursed. he thought sullenly to himself. He got up and looked around the floor, finally locating his pants and boxers first, pulling them on before he found her clothing lying nearby. He looked up to see her finishing attaching her bra. "Here you go." he muttered, holding the clothing out. She accepted it silently and quickly put them on.
He stood there, shirtless, unsure of what to say or do now. His head still throbbed incredibly, but he managed to ignore it, and also refrain from spilling his guts across the room. He could only watch her leave as he escorted her to the doorway, where she soon disappeared, after a moment of hesitation and looking back at him.
In that moment, he committed her face to memory. Another one for the dreary nights to remember... he thought silently. "Have a safe trip. Thanks for the fun." he said softly to her, to which she nodded and disappeared from sight.
He closed the door and slid down with his back to the door. He leaned his head back, thumping it slightly against the door. That was a mistake, for the headaches made it a point to clearly state they were still around.
By the next night, he had pulled himself out of his hangover, after several cups of coffee and had packed his bags for the upcoming trip he had already been planning for several months.
He was to go to Chile and go skydiving over various places across the country. He locked the door behind him, and left the note in the landlady's mail slot, informing her where he was going. Several hours later, he was thirty thousand feet up in the air, flying southwest.
How she managed to get out of the apartment amazed her more than anything, especially without changing her mind and dragging him back to the bedroom to finish what they had started. Despite her misgivings for her drunken actions, she did find herself attracted to him, which was fortunate considering what she had done. She shook her head, trying to push the thoughts to the back of her mind. The last thing she needed was to dwell on a one night stand.
Walking down the street, she could not locate her car, and after pacing back and forth for over quarter of an hour, she decided that she must have been a conscientious drunk and had left her vehicle at the bar. Rummaging through her bag, she found her phone and dialled for a cab, finding herself outside of her car and the bar that had been her last clear memory some thirty minutes later.
What happened then was a blur of activity, and lots of thinking as she drove around Erebus, trying to think of her next course of action. She found herself several times driving down Nathan’s street, gazing at the door, wanting to knock and beg for a place to stay, but she did not know him well enough, and he had probably forgotten about her the moment the door had closed shut.
Finally coming to a solution, she drove in the direction of a friend, an old friend, one that had nothing to do with David. One of the friends that David had slowly distanced her from, as he introduced her to his set, giving her a new life that matched his. Looking back, she wondered what she had seen in him, as she silently congratulated herself for not letting go of her life entirely.
Picking up the phone as she drove, careful not to hit any other cyclists, Natalia made arrangements, and was warmly greeted by her friend when she turned up on her doorstep fifty minutes later, loaded down with her life’s belongings. That night as she resting in her new bed, her thoughts turned to the previous evening, wondering as she lay there just what she had missed out on.
It had been three days since that near-accident with Natalia. It had been two and a half days since she had left his apartment. Since then, Nathan had been unable to get his thoughts off her, even when he found himself plunging from high altitudes toward the earth.
He whipped the snowboard, which was securely attached to his feet, about and completed a series of tricks in flight. Below him, sat Chile's tallest mountain, covered in peaks of freshly powdered snow.
He pushed her to the back of his mind as he focused upon the thrill of the stunt. He flipped upside down and began to complete a tight spiral downward, the earth spinning rapidly below him. Hardly a minute later, he was back upright and yanking the cord, feeling the parachute suddenly jerk his entire body upward as it caught the air. He maneuvered to the slope of the mountain and released the parachute several feet above the snow.
He plummeted and immediately raced down the slope, weaving, cutting and leaping over great obstacles in his path. There was a great crevice in the side of the mountain coming up, the best challenge for him so far. As he neared, he used a fallen tree as a slope and launched into the air. In flight, he completed a backflip followed by a 180 degree turn before landing in a shower of powdered snow.
His daring cry of victory resonated throughout the mountains as he raced to the base of the mountain. He slid to a halt, sending a spray of snow from his board as he looked back up the mountain and gave a victorious cry once again.
He jumped down the smaller slope just below him and slid toward the mountain resort that sat at the base of the mountain. Another extreme stuntman approached and slapped him on the back, congratulating him. "Hell of a ride Odd!" he cried. That guy's name in the extreme stunts world was "Nuts". Nathan himself was known as "Odd", for he often stived to find the oddest things to combine together for the thrill of adrenaline.
He took a seat on the bench, looking back up the mountain of his latest adventure. He sighed. Nuts sat next to him and looked over at him, "Yo man, what's buggin' ya?"
"I dunno man, I just feel like I'm missing out on the greatest adventure of my life. The greatest stunt." he replied after a moment of thought.
Nuts pressed for more information, "Whaddya mean?"
Odd kept his eyes on the mountain, allowing his eyes to survey the slopes and peaks. He recounted the events of the encounter with Natalia several nights before.
"Man...you're just love-struck. You'll get over it. We all do man. Besides, women keep us from doing these sick stunts like what you just did!"
Odd grinned, "Yeah...I guess..."
Nuts got up, "I'm heading in, gotta check my gear for that ice-shelf stunt I'm doing tomorrow."
Nate nodded, "Sure thing man. Gonna be a hell of a sight to see!"
"Hell yeah!" cried Nuts as he disappeared. Nate remained where he was, still looking back up at the mountain. She ran out on me. She wants nothing to do with me. For God's sake, we were drunk and got carried away! Get over it, Nathan!
He looked up at the clouds that had begun to come in from the horizon, just over the top of the mountains. Another storm that would dump new, fresh snow onto the slopes.
Natalia rested in her bed, barely able to drag herself out of it for anything other than the basics. She had called in sick for work, not that she had a regular nine to five job, working more freelance. But she had been given an assignment to compete, and did not feel up to the task. Instead she lingered in her room, barely speaking to anyone for the last few days since she arrived. At one point her friend has forced herself into the room to make sure that Natalia was still inside and had not done anything stupid.
Four days after she had met Nathan, she finally dragged herself out of the covers, and headed for the kitchen on her daily midday breakfast run. As she moved towards the fridge, Sarah poked her head around the door and groaned as she saw the state of her friend.
Natalia tried to ignore the feeling of Sarah’s eyes boring into her back, but eventually she turned and looked the other woman in the face. “What? So I stayed in bed for a bit.” Sarah raised her eyebrows. “Okay, three days…but that’s nothing.” She turned back to the fridge and grabbed some milk. “I’m just not having a good time right now, and sleeping the days away make them more bearable.”
Sarah leant against the counter and sighed heavily. “I can’t believe you are letting him ruin your life, like this.” She turned and flicked on the kettle, before reaching up and pulling two mugs from the cupboard. “You are well and truly rid of David.”
“It’s not…” Natalia stopped suddenly, shaking her head slowly. “I just don’t know where I’m going at the moment. Things have changed so much, that I feel like I’m looking at myself from a completely new and not entirely pleasant direction.” Placing the milk on the counter, she faced her friend. “I did something really stupid.”
Putting the mugs on the counter, Sarah proceeded to spoon some coffee into each one, not looking at her friend. “Oh? You did something foolish?” She let out a mocking laugh. “When was the last time you did something stupid? Damn it, Tali, you are too straight laced to do anything to be ashamed of.”
“I slept with a stranger.” Natalia shot the words out of her mouth, being rewarded with an incredulous look from her friend, her draw moving but no words came out. Natalia looked at her and nodded. “The night before I came here.”
Sarah stopped whatever she was doing, and stood staring at Natalia, before breaking into a grin. “How? Why? What was he like? Handsome? Good in the sack?”
“Sarah!” Natalia turned away, giving her attention to the inside of the fridge, pretending the other woman had said nothing. Slowly she poked her head out from behind the door, and smiled. “He was very good looking. And very understanding. I mean, there aren’t many men that will take you for a drink after you almost hit them with your car.”
Sarah blinked. “What? Hit him with your car?”
Natalia nodded slowly, as a wry smile spread over her lips. “Just after I walked out on David. I didn’t see him. The next minute he’s flying over the front of my car.”
“And then he’s got you in bed.” Sarah grinned, watching Natalia squirm uncomfortably. “So, what was he like?” The colour deepened on her friend’s cheek. “Come on, you can tell me.”
Natalia shook her head sadly. “I don’t know what he was like.” She looked Sarah in the eyes, giving her a very embarrassed look. “I…I don’t remember. I don’t even know if we did anything. All I know is we woke up naked, wrapped around each other.” She grinned suddenly. “But he was very good looking.”
Sarah burst into a fit of giggles, reminding Natalia of their teenage chats. “When are you seeing him again? Tali?” She frowned as she saw the expression on her friends face. “You are going to see him again, aren’t you?”
“Don’t be silly, Sarah. It was just a one night stand.” Not waiting for her coffee, Natalia walked quickly past her flatmate, heading back to her bedroom. Climbing back under the covers, she once more tried to remove the thoughts of Nathan from her mind.
The Great Barrier Reef, Southeast Asia
The slab of bloodied meat splashed into the ocean, sinking quickly until it hung suspended in space by a strong, thickly corded steel wire that had equally strong hooks jutting dangerously from the meat.
In hardly a minute's time, the swarm of sharks spiraled upward from the depths of the ocean, blood completely engrossing the primitive minds of one of nature's most vicious predators of the high seas. The swept past the reinforced shark cage in which Nathan floated. He held a high-speed camera in hand, carefully recording the great predators that swam dangerously close, their jaws of death glinting slightly in the dispersed sunlight. One shark snatched the meat and quickly tugged with tremendous force downward, with the intention of quickly devouring its meal. The camera followed this shark, but soon focused upon several other sharks that gave chase, and began to fight for the meat.
Suddenly, the battle for the meat became a battle for survival as one shark suddenly tore its jagged teeth into the flesh of the shark holding the meat. Instantly, blood saturated the water, sending the hordes of sharks thrashing and viciously biting and tearing apart the crippled shark. The camera caught every bit of the titanic struggle under the alluring waves of the southwestern Pacific.
The shark cage opened and Nathan silently swam out of the protective bars of steel. He wanted a closer look, a closer look at the carnage taking place below. He heeded distance though, for he didn't wish to become an unwitting victim. He floated closer, sinking further underneath the waves, the camera continuously rolling, catching the exciting actions of the legendary predators. Suddenly, Nathan caught sight of a shadow to his left, and turned to face a tiger shark at least fifteen feet in length, watching him, silently following. He cursed, for he recognized the patterns of movement.
The shark was hunting...
Swinging the camera to lock onto the helmet he wore, he began to swim upwards, to get away. He moved carefully, knowing that thrashing and panicked movements would only entice the shark more. He kept constantly looking back at the shark, which had shifted its trajectory to follow him at a distance. Nathan cursed. It was onto him, and it looked rather hungry. He reached down and drew his knife from its sheath, holding it tightly in his hand as he continued to move as quickly as he dared.
The shark disappeared from sight. Nathan knew it wasn't gone. It had gone into 'stealth', as he liked to call it. He spun about, carefully searching the waters in every direction. He had to know where the shark was, or risk being caught unawares. Suddenly he caught sight of a shadow moving below him, suddenly shooting upward. His nerves nearly lost themselves as he felt the adrenaline suddenly flow with unbridled quantity. He watched as the shark approached with stunning speed and agility, its tail slashing back and forth behind it, propelling it forward like a torpedo.
It was, after all, the perfect predator of the seas...
The shark opened its jaws, revealing its gaping mouth full of hundreds of sharp teeth. They moved slightly, almost scissorlike as they reached for its prey. Nathan spun about in the water, narrowly missing the snapping jaws. His hand took hold of the dorsal fin and gripped tightly, his body suddenly launched forward in conjunction with the predator's path. It thrashed about, attempting to dislodge Nathan, attempting to complete its deadly hunt. For a brief moment it snapped its powerful jaws into Nathan's thigh, but soon released as Nathan buried the knife into its eye.
Narrow trails of blood became tracers as Nathan plunged the knife repeatedly into the shark's leathery flesh. Over and over he stabbed, aiming for the brain, anything of importance to the predator's movements. Crimson blood now surrounded him and the shark as he defended against the violent shark, which now struggled to escape the incredible pain from the steel blade plunging into its flesh. It realized it had made a mistake trying to ensnare the man, and now only fought to survive.
Nathan let go as he felt the shark dive for the deeps, watching as it swam away into the darkness to nurse its wounds. He knew it wouldn't get far, for the copious amounts of blood trailing behind would doom the shark to the vicious cycle of life and death in the dark blue waters of the Pacific. He looked upward, now wishing to get away from the blood that floated about him. It wouldn't be long before other sharks came to investigate, and he did not intend to be around when they did.
He pulled himself up on the deck of the fishing vessel, extracting himself completely. He looked up to the man who came rushing up to him, "That was incredible! I saw it on the cameras man! It's better than Jaws!"
Nathan grinned as he quickly stripped his wetsuit off to inspect the jagged bite into his thigh. It had been a damn good bite, and it hurt like hell, but within minutes, he managed to stem the bleeding. His fingers brushed across something buried into his leg, and he extracted it, holding it up to his face.
"Holy...mother..." he muttered as he beheld the bloodied inch and a half long tooth.
His buddy finished hoisting the shark cage onto the deck and turned to gape at the tooth. He cheered, "Awesome souvenir man! But come on, that bite looks bad. We gotta get you to the mainland, get that looked at."
Nathan looked back down at the wound and muttered, "Yeah, looks like a few stitches might be needed." He kept the towel he held in his hand applied to the wound. "Get us the hell out of here." he commanded as he looked back into the waters off the stern. The water was still tinted with blood.
Oh yeah, it had been an incredibly adrenaline-pumping adventure. Perhaps stupid too, but he didn't care. After all, he was Odd.
Natalia was not having a good day…in fact, she was having a very bad day. She had arrived in the office of the news agency that she was doing some pictures for, half an hour late. Her alarm clock had decided that she needed more sleep than she had planned, and had kindly gone off at the exact time she was supposed to be climbing into her car. Having spotted this tiny fact, she had raced around the apartment like an idiot, managing to get at least washed, dressed and to her car in ten minutes, which of course meant that she arrived at the office looking a mess and agitated.
Not only did her alarm conspire against her, but so did the whole vehicle owning population of Erebus. She had been faced with every road hog and bad driver there was on the road, not helped by her own need to get somewhere in record time. With countless horn blasts and unsavoury words, Natalia finally pulled up outside her place of work.
Climbing out of the car, she rushed into the office, almost running unceremoniously into the man who had hired her. He had not looked at all impressed, and his expression was hardly complimentary as he gazed at her ruffled appearance. But the rest of the assignment had gone without a hitch, much to her delight, and despite the bad start, her boss seemed pleased with her work, which meant that she would at least get paid for her troubles.
When she left the building several hours later, she had regained some of her good humour, and was looking forward to the lunch she had arranged with Sarah. Reaching her car, she rummaged around in her bag, searching for her keys, only to discover to her annoyance that they were hanging from the ignition. She bashed her hand hard on the roof of the vehicle, causing her to grimace with pain that did nothing to help with her mood.
An hour later, and following several telephone calls to a garage and her friend, Natalia was able to climb into her car. Having had enough of the day, she drove uneventfully back to her apartment, she kicked shut the front door behind her and quickly disappearing into her bedroom, throwing herself down on the bed.
Several hours later, Natalia blinked open her eyes, and stretched, hoping that she had got rid of the bad luck that seemed to have been following her around. She climbed off the bed, feeling her stomach churn as she did. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she looked over at the clock and sighed as she realised that it was already evening and she had not eaten anything.
Sliding off the bed, she walked to the kitchen and popped on the kettle, wanting nothing more than a nice mug of strong coffee. She pulled out a mug, and tipped in some granules. As she waited for the water to boil, she began to flick through the pages of a magazine which Sarah had left lying on the counter. Nothing of interest from page to page, until suddenly her eyes came to rest on an advert for women’s goods, her thoughts gripped totally.
Closing the magazine, she rushed back into the bedroom, and scrambled around in search of her bag. Rummaging frantically, she finally pulled out her diary. Flicking quickly through the pages, she located the one she wanted then counted the days from that point onwards, her heart sinking as she reached and passed twenty eight days by more than a week.
“Shit!” Natalia sat down on the edge of the bed, feeling tears begin to well in her eyes. She mentally shook herself, wondering how she had failed to notice. But she had hardly been her usual self lately, and they had failed to take any precautions. She had stopped taking the pill months ago, when she first suspected David of sleeping around, knowing that the thought of him making her pregnant would help her to refuse his requests for satisfaction, not that he had done much asking.
Dropping her head into her hands, she closed her eyes and felt the tears begin to stream down her face. “This can’t be happening. It can't be.” She shook her head and then rolled onto the bed, lying down, curled into a ball. Finally she cried herself to sleep, having decided during that period to get confirmation before she did anything else.
The following morning, on a day that did not improve much on the previous one, her first task was to get a test kit.
It was several days later that Natalia pulled her car up outside the apartment block where Nathan called home. She had been debating her course of action, wondering what her best options were, and after lots of thought she was no better off than she started. She always considered herself an independent woman, thought that she could handle anything that life threw at her, but here she was faced with the prospect of having a baby and she had lost all coherent thought.
She sat in her car with the engine running as she watched the door. It was a simply thing to do, walk up to the entrance, find his apartment and face him with what had happened. He had been understanding about the car accident, he would be able to deal with this too. Yet still she sat, watching as if waiting for some sign that this was the thing to do.
“It will be fine, Tali. He’ll tell you what to do.” She looked at herself in the mirror, checking her appearance and instantly wishing she had done something different with her hair, putting it up rather than just letting it fall about her face. She ran her fingers through it, trying to make it look a little more respectable. “Damn it, you are here to tell him he’s about to be a father, not attempting to get him in the sack. Look where it got you last time.”
She sighed heavily, and cut the ignition. Climbing out of the car, she brushed her hand over her outfit, straightening out any creases. The walk from the roadside to the door seemed to take forever, and the walk to his apartment went on and on, her heart sinking with every step.
Finally she stood outside the vaguely familiar door, and knocked. She stood back slightly, hoping that he was in and in a good mood, not that he would be for long. She waited a moment, and nothing happened. Knocking harder the next time, she started to get frustrated as she stood there, as well as began to lose her nerve. Her imagination ran away with her, as she visualised what she would do if some woman happened to be in there with him. As the images got more elaborate, she moves away from the door and almost collided with someone coming the other way.
“I’m sorry,” Natalia stuttered, feeling completely out of sorts with her thoughts. “I…ah…” She looked at the woman standing in front of her, who was eyeing her critically.
“Can I help you, my dear?” The woman asked, looking passed Natalia at the door of Nathan’s apartment, before returning her gaze to the younger woman’s face. “Are you looking for someone?”
Natalia stood looking at her for a moment then smiled. “I was looking for Nathan, the man from the apartment over there.” She frowned slightly, while laughing. “He seems to be out. I’ll call back later.”
The little old lady gave a little chuckle. “Oh, Nathan.” She gave Natalia the once over, like a mother checking out her son’s prospective bride to make sure she was good enough. “I’m afraid he left a few weeks ago, won’t be back for some time.”
“Left?” Natalia’s heart sank, her expression revealing as much.
“Yes, he’s always leaving. The boy spends more time away than he does here.” She shook her head. “I swear he would fade to nothing if he remained in one place for too long.” She gave Natalia a friendly smile. “Still, he always sends me a postcard. I have quite a collection from him…from all over the world.” She looked a little distracted as she thought of the young man she practically considered family.
“Do you know when he’ll be back?” Natalia suddenly felt sick. This really was not going to plan, and she could think of no way to get things back on track.
The landlady frowned. “Well, not for some time…he usually disappears for weeks, sometimes months on end.”
Natalia could have cried at the woman’s words. “Months?” She shook her head, trying to stop the tears from welling in her eyes.
“Are you alright, dear?” The woman looked concerned, and did not seem to believe the younger woman as she nodded her head and said she was fine. “Come back to mine, I think you need a nice drink of something warm.”
“Oh, no, I really can’t impose…I, ah, need to go and find some way to get hold of him.” Natalia felt herself begin to shake. Now I’m going to tell him long distance, this is turning out great. “Thank you for your help.” She shot the woman a little smile and began to move away when she felt a hand on her arm.
The woman smiled at her. “I don’t know if it will help, but he left his contact details in case anyone called.” She chuckled lightly, wondering if this was the person Nathan had been expecting to visit. “I’ll just go and fetch it for you.”
Natalia’s heart leapt, as things seemed to be starting to once more go in her favour. She waited patiently as the old lady disappeared, returning several minutes later with a piece of paper containing hand written details on it. She gave the woman a hug, and dashed out of the door, calling back her thanks as she went.
Getting back into her car, she looked at the paper in front of her, and felt her heart sink again. There did not seem to be any number to contact him on, which she meant she had no other choice than to fly out to him, and speak to him in person. At least she would get to tell him to his face. Gunning the engine, she headed back to her apartment, where she began to make the plans for her travel.
The leg lay prostrate on the edge of the table, the light of the flourescent lamp shining down on the shark bite. The doctor walked in, just as the nurse finished administering prepatory treatments. He looked down at the wound and whistled. He pulled out a device to measure the length of the bite. He wrote the numbers down on his paper, and took hold of several tools, but not before snapping on some gloves. He instructed the nurse to inject a morphine into the leg, and soon Nathan couldn't feel the leg.
He watched as the doctor began to stitch and close the wound. "What were you doing out there?" asked the doctor, who glanced up at him momentarily.
"Getting some great footage on camera of shark predatory rituals. I unfortunately got a little tossed into the action unexpectedly. Big brute sitting off to my side, then tried to attack me from below. I was ready for him, with my dive knife."
The doctor whistled again, "You know how long that shark was? Seventeen feet in length, according to the bite size. Sharks that size easily tear people in half."
Nathan grinned, "Guess I'm a lucky guy."
The doctor chuckled, "Or a dumb-ass."
"I prefer 'daredevil' better."
The doctor looked up at him, "No, dumb-ass is more appropriate. I can only imagine what else you've done to endanger your life." He returned to finishing up the stitching, carefully pulling Nathan's flesh back together and creating an interlaced curve of flesh that had black stitch string holding the flesh together. Once finished, he declared it so, and instructed Nathan with a stern look, "I want you to remain around here for a few weeks. I want to make sure your wound doesn't become infected or reopen."
Nathan nodded, "Sure thing. I'll just go to the beach, check out the Aussie lasses."
"You do that, but keep your walking as minimal as possible. You need to let the leg heal."
Nathan nodded and thanked the doctor, and paid the front desk. He walked back out to the rental Jeep Wrangler and soon was on the highway, the top down, the sun shining brightly. However, the intense heat of the Australian summer was barely alleviated by the breeze flowing past him.
He pulled into the beachside resort, and made his way to his room. He went out to the balcony and sat down, gazing out to the ocean beyond, its allure calling to his soul.
The flight had been a long one, or so it felt to Natalia, who checked the address that Nathan’s landlady had given her days earlier. She could not really believe she was sitting on a plane, chasing down a man she had met with only once. She sighed heavily; wondering not for the first time what she was doing, and being reminded of the conversation she had had with Sarah as she packed her bags for her trip.
* * * * *
”What are you doing? You don’t have to move out, you know?” Sarah had joked as she walked into Natalia’s room, and saw the open suitcase on the bed. “I really don’t mind having you around.”
Natalia walked over to the chest of drawers, and began rummaging through her belongings for suitable pieces of clothing. “I have to go away for a few days.” She looked over at Sarah and smiled, wishing she had the nerve to tell her friend what had happened. “I’ll be back before you miss me.”
Sarah looked at her, concern etched on her face. “Sudden assignment?”
“Something like that.” Natalia moved over to the bed, carrying several items of clothing and placed them into the case, before running her hands over the piles to see how much more room she had left. She felt guilty lying to Sarah, but she already felt like a fool without receiving pity from her friend.
The other woman frowned. “Tali, what is it?” Sarah moved over to the bed, and placed her hand on Natalia’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Natalia turned and gave Sarah a sad smile. “I’m going to Chile to find Nathan.” Her friend gave her a smug look at this piece of information, and grinned, ready to make a reply, but Natalia cut her off mid-breath. “I’m going to tell him I’m pregnant.” The look that she received at following this revelation was the one she had been dreading.
* * * * *
The taxi pulled up outside a building that apparently coincided with the address on the note. Stepping out of the car into the hot air, Natalia fanned herself with the guide book she was carrying and looked at the driver. “This is definitely the place?” She asked slowly, ensuring the man understood her.
He nodded his head, and got out of the vehicle, walking quickly around to the boot. He removed her luggage from the trunk as she fished out a handful of notes. She gave them to him, after he dropped her bags onto the pavement. With a quick thanks, he got back into his car and drove off down the street. As she watched the taxi disappear out of sight, she wondered if she would have been wise to ask him to wait.
Picking up her bags, she looked at the building before her, and suddenly felt afraid. She took a deep breath, knowing she had two choices, walk up to the door and face him or make her way back to the airport and fly home. Not wanting to do the second option, she walked up to the door and knocked loudly, waiting for some sign of life.
The knocking at the door was soon responded with the door swinging open, revealing a young man with tossled hair and wearing light clothing, despite the chilled air of the room that seemed cold enough to see your breath in.
"Can I help you?" asked the man as he stood there. He wondered if the woman was lost. It happened occassionally in Chile, people visiting relatives ending up on the wrong side of town, people seeking some travel agent showing up at random doors, trying to find their way about. He figured this woman was one of the former, lost just like many others before her.
He scanned his eyes up and down the woman's features, marveling in her sight. She was beautiful, perhaps even model-worthy. Probably is one... He glanced once again at her dressed in a snug teeshirt and khaki shorts, an effort to combat the heat of Chile summers. She looked good in that outfit, he had to admit, perhaps too good. He looked back up from his furtive glances at her to await her response.
Natalia smiled as the door opened, only to have it fade momentarily as the man who appeared turned out not to be Nathan. She placed her bags down on the ground, freeing up her hands. “Is this the right address?” She asked, looking at him hopefully as he read the piece of paper she handed him and confirmed she was where she wanted to be, which made her feel instantly better.
“Well, that’s a relief.” She smiled, this time more genuinely than before. “Is Nathan here?” As she spoke, she flicked a loose strand of hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. “Nathan Jordan?” She did not like the expression on the man’s face as she said the name. “I was told he was residing here.”
Suddenly those bad thoughts returned, just as they had when she had been standing outside his apartment in Erebus. Here’s there with a woman, and this man is searching for the right words to tell me he’s out. She frowned with worry. What made me think coming here was a good idea? “I need to speak to him urgently.”
A thin line of light squeezed itself through the gap in the curtains, coming from one of the street lamps outside the hotel. The glow allowed a minimal amount of sight, giving up some of the rooms detail to the observer. Not that the room was much to shout about, basic furniture, the kind of place someone crashed in rather than lived. The bare essentials, necessity over luxury. Yet despite this, the room was somewhat cosy.
Natalia turned over for the hundredth time, trying to find the elusive sleep that seemed within her grasp before running from her again. She lay on her back, looking up at the ceiling, and let out a long sigh. It had been a long day, a very long day. And to top it all, it had been a fruitless day. The thought made her want to cry, a mixture of frustration and hormones. She wondered for the countless time that day what she had done to deserve this.
This will teach you to drink.
Lying in the darkness, she pulled one of the pillows from under her head, and snuggled against it. She had been told by ‘Nuts’, or so she thought he had called himself, whether that was his name or just his description she was not quite sure, that this was Nathan’s room, which oddly made her feel a little less out of sorts. She closed her eyes, and rolled onto her side, imagining her arms were wrapped around the man she seeked.
* * * * *
“Nathan?” The man at the door frowned for a moment before giving her a huge grin. “Oh, ya mean Odd.” He laughed out loud for a moment as Natalia just stared at him, wondering what the man could possibly be on. “What do you want him for?”
Natalia went silent for a moment, her mind working overtime trying to think of what to say other than ‘I want to tell him he’s going to be a father’. She sighed audibly then smiled, her face still revealing a slight discomfort. “He’s a friend…that I have not seen for a while…and, well, I’ve come all the way from Tartarus and I’m only in town for a few days...” She raised her eyebrows questioningly as she waited for him to give some sign as to whether he was buying her story or not.
“Yeah, Odd has them all flocking after him, lucky sod.” He gave her a grin that made her think she had come across some kind of crack house.
She gave him a smile. “Is he in?”
Natalia frowned slightly. “Can I come in and wait for him?”
Nuts laughed and pushed open the door for her. “Sure thing, babe.” He watched as she picked up her bags ready to follow. “Not sure when he’ll be back though, he’s in Australia.”
Stopping mid-stride, Natalia looked at him incredulously. “What?” She shook her head, obviously having misheard what he said. Her stomach spun rapidly, making her feel suddenly sick.
“Yeah, he headed down to Oz, about a week or so ago.” Nuts looked at her, frowning slightly. “I’m sure he’ll be back, he always comes back eventually, and you are more than welcome to bide your time hear with me until he shows.” He laughed and pointed her inside. “You look like you could do with a drink.”
* * * * *
Sitting up in the bed, Natalia felt the tears spring into her eyes, and then roll down her cheeks. She really did not need this. She wanted Nathan to be hear, to help her with her troubles, to tell her what to do or at least just to share what she was feeling. Here she was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded with people she did not know, when all she wanted was to see one friendly face.
Rubbing her hand over her eyes, she brushed away the tears, not wanting herself to fall apart this soon into her endeavour. She had little choice in what to do next, go home or on to Australia. Neither sounded particularly appealing in her current state. She knew she could not go home and face this on her own. She would remain in Chile until she could get a flight, and would follow him to down under.
The following few days, Natalia flitted around the house, fortunately Nuts was kind enough to let her stay on as she made arrangements to continue her trip. She woke up on the morning of her flight, feeling more than a little worse for wear, having to begin the day with her head over the bowl. She had got some sympathetic remark from Nuts as he offered her breakfast, which she almost had to run away from. She put it down to something she had eaten, and settled for a coffee instead as she tried not to watch him eat.
Bidding Nuts farewell several hours later, she sat in the back of the cab as it whisked her towards the airport, Nathan’s address currently stuffed safely in her bag for her arrival. She hoped she had more luck catching up with him there than she had this time, or back in Erebus. She could not help wondering if she was meant to find him. Perhaps she was just being a fool, following a stranger around the world. She could deal with the problem herself, and he did not even have to know about it. But the thought made her shiver, so she had little choice other than to find him.
Her thoughts were miles away as she made her way for through check in, and she did not even wander through duty free as she went through departures. She made her way to a seat near her gate, and sat their skimming through a magazine she picked up the previous day, not that she read any of the articles with any real enthusiasm. After what seemed like forever, her flight was called, and she began the next step of her journey, her heart filled with both anticipation and dread.
The rolling thunder dumped rain upon the Australian landscape with relentless vigor. Nathan picked up the Australian beer in his hand as he sat on the balcony, listening to the rain. He breathed in deeply, savoring the sweet smell of the cleansing rain. He took another deep swallow of the liquor, and turned his eyes to his new scar on his thigh. He grinned. That shark had almost made him mincemeat.
The beer came up once more to spill more beer into his mouth. He paused as he thought about a night in the distant past. Her eyes still could be seen in his mind, so radiant, so alive.
He got up, minding the stiffness of his leg and walked inside. Pulling out a calling card, he picked up the phone and placed a call to Chile.
"Yo yo! Nuts here!"
Nathan grinned, "Hey Nuts. Just calling to let you know our plans for Everest are gonna have to be on hold."
"What happened Odd?"
"Shark bite. Got me in the leg. I've got a pretty scar now on my thigh. Was a seventeen foot tiger shark. Little fuck just left me with the bite and a pretty souvenir tooth."
He picked up the tooth which sat on the table next to the bed, gazing at it. "I got him back though, knife into the head multiple times."
"Damn Odd! I hope you got the footage of that!" cried Nuts through the phone.
"Hell yeah!" Nate replied with a laugh. That footage was the kind of stuff many dreamed about, and few experienced.
"Oh Odd, thought I'd let you know something. Some hot chick, foreign accent came looking for you a few days ago. Says she has something important to tell you. I've never seen her before man, but damn, she's got a killer bod!"
Nathan focused on his words, "Did she leave a name?"
Nuts replied, "Yeah, Natalia something. I forgot her last name."
Nathan stood up, ignoring the dull pain from his wound screaming at him, "Natalia Thornton?"
"Yeah, that's it. How'd you meet her man?" asked Nuts.
"I'll tell you another time. Where did she go?" Nathan asked.
"She's coming to you right now."
Stepping out of the airport, Natalia blinked, trying to get her eyes accustomed to the light outside. She was feeling more than a little drained, having been in the air more often than she would have liked over the last week. Sighing heavily, she made her way over to a row of people who seemed to be queuing for cabs. She joined the end, and ran her hand through her hair, wondering how much of a sight she must look. She brushed her tongue over her teeth and sighed again, as her mouth felt less than fresh.
She let go of her case, and turned her attention to her bag, rummaging inside as she searched for the note given to her by Nuts the previous day. What are you doing, Tali? You must have lost your senses. Finding the piece of paper, she read the address, then slipped it away, deciding there was no way she was going to turn up at his place of residence looking or feeling as she did.
Running her eyes down the length of the queue, and noticing the distinct lack of vehicles, she perched herself on her case, getting ready for what appeared to be quite a wait. She looked at her watch, and began to work out what time it would be back home, before once more asking herself what she was thinking.
He isn’t going to be happy to see you, you know. In fact, he probably doesn’t even remember you. You are going to turn up on his doorstep and he is going to look at you blankly. She let out an audible sigh, which earned her a glare from the man in front of her, who she awarded a smile until he turned away from her. You should have gone home. You could still go home. What? After I spent all this time and money getting here?
Her thoughts continued along this vain until finally she neared the front of the queue, just the man and then her. Suddenly she realised she needed a plan, if she was not going to his place from the airport, she would need a place to stay. This will teach me not to plan, she thought sadly, as the man before her climbed into a taxi.
Nathan pulled his Jeep Wrangler into a parking spot and got out, wincing slightly as his leg protested his movements. He took off for the airport's main terminal, and soon found several screens that told of flight information. He scanned his eyes until he found what he was looking for. He read it aloud, "Flight 4283, Santiago, Chile. 11:25am. Arrived."
There was another flight coming from Chile, but it wasn't due until three in the afternoon. He made his way to the departure terminals, wondering if Natalia had indeed taken this flight. He scanned the crowd, and finally saw a familiar figure get into a cab at the far end. He cursed slightly as he started after the cab, but then realized he wouldn't catch it in time, especially with his leg the way it was. He turned and ran as quickly as he could with his leg raging at him to his Jeep. Slamming the door, he revved the engine and peeled out of the parking spot. He watched as Natalia's cab turned around a corner and began to head toward the freeway. The Jeep's engine roared, the tires squealing on the pavement.
For miles he followed the cab, attempting to catch up. Yet, it seemed Fate wanted to play games with him, and kept throwing as many obstacles in his path, from slow drivers that refused to move out of the way, to a vehicle accident of a car that had lost control and flipped over on the side of the road, and construction.
"Oh for the love of God, get the hell out of my way!" he roared at the elderly man driving directly in front at ten below the speed limit. Finally an opening showed itself to the left and he took it quickly, flying past the elderly man who looked at him and gave him the finger. Nathan ignored him.
The cab turned off at an exit and soon began to slow to a stop at a light. The Jeep pulled up several cars behind. Nathan sat behind the wheel, tapping his hands on the steering wheel to Iron Maiden's Paschendale currently playing on his CD player.
Finally, the light turned green, the traffic turning to the west. The cab was headed for a hotel that was about ten minutes down the road. Nathan floored the pedal, and pulled up alongside the cab at long last, he opened the window and called out to the driver "Pull over! I have to talk to her!" He indicated the woman in the backseat, still oblivious to his presence.
"Pull over!" he called out again when the driver opened his window to hear him.
Sitting in the back of the cab, Natalia rummaged through her bag, silently making a note to clear out all the junk she had managed to gather in it. Finally her fingers came to rest on her mirror, which she pulled out and opened quickly, groaning as she looked at the image staring back at her. “Oh, I look a state.” She frowned and rubbed her fingers around her eyes, checking out the dark shadows that seemed to have moved in under her eyes.
Having decided that nothing would cure those expect a week in bed, she moved her attention to her hair, which looked to her like a mass of straw stuck on the top of her head. She ran her finger through it, frowning as her hand caught on a knot. Lowering the mirror and placing it on her lap, she began the search for her brush.
“How long until we get to the hotel?” She asked the driver, as she rummaged frantically.
The man shot her a look in the mirror and smiled. “We’ll be there soon.” He turned his attention back to the road, flicking his gaze to the mirror every now and then. “First time in Australia?”
“Mmm, yes.” She frowned as she began to empty the contents of her bag onto her lap.
He grinned some more, happy to be making conversation. “Business or pleasure?”
She looked up and caught his gaze in the mirror. “Visiting someone, a friend.” Smiling briefly she returned her attention to her search as they pulled up at some lights, drawing to a stop.
As they began to pull away, Natalia heard the voice of the driver, but was no longer in the mood to engage in some small talk, so conveniently lost herself in her endeavour. Minutes later, as the car pulled to a halt, she smiled and let out a long sigh, looking forward to getting into a shower and then taking a long sleep, something she felt like she had not done for a while.
Raising her eyes to the window, she was surprised to find they were not at a hotel, at all, but had stopped at the side of the road. “What’s the matter? Why have we stopped?”
The driver shrugged and pointed out of the windscreen to the vehicle that had stopped before them.
Natalia frowned as she watched. “Police?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so, but whoever it is, he wanted to talk to you.” He turned and looked at her. “You didn’t skip through customs, did you?”
“I’ve brought nothing in.” She opened her mouth to speak when her voice disappeared on her breath, as the driver’s door opened revealing the occupant as he climbed out of the car. “Nathan? How…?” She once more lost the ability to speak as she wondered how he happened to be right where she was.
Nathan approached the door as Natalia got out and hugged him. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I needed to see you..." she replied, watching as Nathan turned to the driver and pulled his wallet out. He paid and left a decent tip, apologizing to the driver. Minutes later, Nathan was hefting her bags from the trunk and setting them into the back of the Wrangler. He held the door open to her, and closed it behind her as she got in. He made his way around to the driver's side and climbed in, mindful of the injury underneath his long pants. He winced slightly once again.
Soon enough, they were back on the road, traveling eastward. "What's going on? What have you been up to lately? Have you gotten in trouble with David again?"
The questions seemed to be bursting like water from a dam, seeming with no end in sight.
Making herself comfortable, Natalia looked at Nathan and smiled, hardly being able to contain her joy and surprise at seeing him. Despite how well she had remembered his face, she had forgotten quite how handsome he was. She pulled her gaze from his features, calming down for a moment, as her heart raced with countless feelings, excitement and fear being the major two.
“Um…well, I’ve been working and finding somewhere to live.” She looked at him and smiled. “I’ve not seen anything of David since that day, which I am more than happy about.” Her eyes once more focused on the road ahead. “Other than that, I’ve done nothing exciting. Unlike you, travelling the world and all.” She looked at him and laughed. “You are not an easy person to get hold of, you know?” Her laughter continued as she shook her head slowly. “You are quite elusive. Oh, and your landlady sends her love.”
Nathan laughed, and looked over at Natalia. "Yeah, I figured Rose would've told you where I went."
He turned off onto a side street which wasn't kept in maintenance as much as the major roads. The potholes and bumps in the road caused him to clench his teeth as the Jeep rumbled down the street. This road was the quicker way to the hotel, he had found, rather than taking the long route of the main road.
"Yeah, I just love to travel you know? Remember that card I gave you? It said Extreme Daredevil under my name. It's what I do. I go out and do crazy things that others would never do."
Finally, he pulled in through the rear entrance and parked the Jeep. He shut off the engine and got out. He pulled her bags out and began to carry them toward the hotel.
"I find a rush like nothing else, doing the stuff I do." he continued. "And here we are. Welcome to my Australian home!" He grinned as she went before him through the door. Soon, he had his key out and was opening the door to his suite. It opened up to the windows looking out over the ocean, the room being one of the rooms on the top floor.
“Wow, this is some room.” Natalia walked over to the window and admired the view outside. She stood there for a moment, lost in the scenery, before turning around and looking at him, a large smile plastered on her face. She felt so relieved so be looking at a familiar face, and even more so as it was Nathan’s.
“Um…Nuts – is that his name? – said you where out here doing crazy stuff, although he never actually said what.” She laughed lightly, as she recalled the couple of days she spent with Nathan’s friend in chile listening as best as she could as he rushed though several conversations of his exploits. She had tuned out several times, her thoughts filled with other more important things. “I couldn’t believe it when he said you had moved on already. Fortunately, he let me stay.”
She paused a moment for breath, just standing there staring at him as if he had suddenly grown a second head. “It is so nice to see you. I can’t actually believe I’m here looking at you.” He probably thought she had gone mad, but she was so relieved to be standing in front of him, now she had to find a way to tell him. “What wild adventures have you been on to get your rush?"
Nathan grinned as he sat down on an edge of the bed. Natalia took a seat next to him, smiling ever so sweetly.
"Well, while in Chile, I did a stunt that combined skydiving and snowboarding. Quite a rush. Then, I came here to Australia. I wanted to some footage of sharks on the hunt. I hopped into a shark cage, then my buddy on that day tossed some meat into the water. The footage was amazing! I wanted more though, so I left the cage and filmed the sharks moving in their patterns. Exhiliarating really! Until I got in a bit of a scuffle with a seventeen footer tiger shark..."
He leaned over to pick up the shark tooth on the table next to the bed. He held it to her, offering her to hold it, inspect it.
Natalia held her hand flat as he placed the tooth in her palm, her eyes wide as she looked at it. Picking up with the finger and thumb of her other hand, she inspected it closely and then looked at him. “How did you get its tooth?” She shook her head incredulously. “Wow, I…I don’t know what to say.” A little nervous laugh escaped her lips. “I’ve never met anyone who has swum with sharks. I always thought they were dangerous.”
She moved her gaze from the tooth to his face. “What kind of skirmish did you get into?” Her brow was creased by a questioning frown, as she passed the tooth back into his hand. As she moved, she brushed her hand against his leg, her eyes fixed to his. “You said you were outside of the cage? Or did I just mishear you?” She was stunned by this revelation. When she had read his card in her sober state, she had assumed he had ‘extreme daredevil’ on the top as some kind of masculine statement rather than his actually profession.
Nathan smiled kindly, "Actually, sharks are really tender creatures, except while they are hunting. You just have to know when it is a good time to approach them. I however, like to push that limit, see how far I can go to film one of nature's most infamous predators.
As Natalia's hand inadvertently rubbed his wound, he stiffened and visibly clenched his jaw. "It was a skirmish few live to tell the tale about." He stood and looked over to her, "I'll show you." With a slight grin he spoke, "This should be something you're used to now..." His hands unbutton the loose fitting cargo pants and lowered them, revealing the shark bite scar that was below his boxers on his right leg. He placed a gentle finger on one spot that was a bit more jagged in the scar, "Here's where that tooth was."
He saw her eyes grow wide as she stared in surprise at the scar on his thigh. He muttered an apology, realizing it might have been too much for her to handle. He buttoned his pants once more, sitting down next to her again. "Hey, I'm fine. The shark got a worse treatment from me."
He looked up into her eyes, "Hey? You ok?"
Natalia stared at the huge scar that dominated Nathan’s leg, her thoughts in a whirl as she began to understand the kind of scuffle he had had with the shark. It was not a little run in, it had been a battle for his life, and fortunately he had won, even if he did not come out of it without a scratch. But he might not have won, and she might be sitting someone in the middle of nowhere being told by a complete stranger that he no longer walked the Earth.
“Are you mad?” She got up from the bed and began to pace the length of the room, her eyes flicking in his direction every now and again. “What the hell are you thinking?” Her hands moved agitatedly through her hair, as she shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. “Damn it, I don’t want to raise this baby without its father. What will I do if you kill yourself?”
She continued to walk, not sure what she needed to do to calm down. She did not even know what she had said as she looked at him, taken aback by the expression on his face, wondering if she had stunned him with her tirade. She moved back to the bed and sat down. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have shouted at you. I guess your injury made me forget myself.” She lowered her head, feeling more than a little embarrassed. “It must hurt…a lot.” She raised her eyes to his and smiled awkwardly.
Nathan felt like he was in the Twilight Zone, complete with the eerie music. Her words kept repeating in his mind, over and over, for all eternity.
“Damn it, I don’t want to raise this baby without its father. What will I do if you kill yourself?”
His throat suddenly found it very difficult to swallow. His face grew pale slightly, the look in his eyes both of shock and disbelief. He swallowed with difficulty, staring straight ahead where she had stood before him and ranted at him.
“Damn it, I don’t want to raise this baby without its father. What will I do if you kill yourself?”
He felt his stomach take a plunge, the weird butterfly effect fluttering about inside.
“Damn it, I don’t want to raise this baby without its father. What will I do if you kill yourself?”
I'm a father?
He looked over to the balcony windows, and slowly got up. He walked slowly, somewhat stiffly as he favored the injured leg. Finally, he stood before the windows, staring outward.
“Damn it, I don’t want to raise this baby without its father. What will I do if you kill yourself?”
Now I know what happened that night...
He turned to look at her, his face slowly composing itself, the shock wearing off. What replaced it wasn't much better. He nearly yelled, "You're pregnant?!"
He suddenly brought his hands to his face, as if he were trying to wipe her words from his mind. "No...no...I...I can't have this. I've got..."
He fell to his knees, the jolting pain causing him to cry out in a whimper matched with a clenched look seconds later. Words lost themselves in the storm that had suddenly blindsided his mind.
“Damn it, I don’t want to raise this baby without its father. What will I do if you kill yourself?”
This wasn’t meant to go like this.
Natalia walked over to where Nathan knelt, her body shaking all over. She had watched the way he had reacted to the news, not that she had planned on telling him like that, but when her had revealed his wound she had lost all control of the situation.
“I’m sorry.” She crouched down beside him, her hand poised by not quite touching his arm. “I didn’t mean to tell you like this. It wasn’t supposed to come out like that.” She felt tears welling in her eyes as she watched him sitting on the floor in pain, not only from his injury. “I didn’t want to throw it at you this way, I wanted us to talk.”
Her hand lowered lightly onto his arm, trying to comfort him, trying to make everything alright. “I know it’s a shock. I mean…it was to me too.” She recalled the moment the test had indicated what she had suspected, and she had had time to get used to the idea. “I had to tell you. I’m so sorry, Nathan. I really am.”
Nathan kept shaking his head, his hands still holding his head. He was still muttering to himself, "No...no...I can't let this...I'm such an idiot...what the hell am I gonna do?..."
Her hand touching his arm gently, followed by her words seemed to snap him out of his spiraling thoughts. He looked up at her, almost as if she were a stranger. No longer did he see the woman that had almost hit him, that he had partied too much with. Now, she was the one whom he had impregnated that night so long ago. She was a mother. She looked at him, gently raising a hand to hold his face. "I'm so sorry..." she said again, "But I had to tell you..."
Nathan got up, gently pushing her away. He walked to the door, before turning back.
"I've got to take a walk..." he said, his voice still struggling to be clear in its transmission. He turned and left the room.
Soon, he was walking upon the beach, walking to the waves that rolled and broke softly upon the sand. He fell to his knees in a place that had no one nearby for quite a distance in either direction. He just sat there on his haunches, staring out at the ocean silently. And he cried...
Rushing to the door as he exited, Natalia watched as he stalked away, knowing that he needed time to take in what she had told him. As she watched his back disappear from sight, she moved back into the room, heading over the window, her gaze drawn at first to the sea as it pounded against the beach, and then upon the lone figure that appeared.
She followed him as he walked a little, and then fell to his knees, almost like he had down on earlier. Her heart ached for him, as she looked down at him from her vantage point. Pulling open the door, she stepped out onto the balcony, the faint breeze blowing her hair, partially obstructing her view.
“What have I done?” She asked the air, her tears falling more readily now. It had been a mistake for her to come all this way. She shook her head, feeling her guilt begin to rise, wishing she could turn back the clock and alter her path. If only she had returned home. She could have gone on without him, had the baby on her own, or if she did not feel that she could have coped, she could have done the unthinkable. The thought made her shudder with disgust.
She gazed down upon him for a while, not sure how long, as her thoughts were torn apart. “I shouldn’t have come. You didn’t need to know.” She turned away from the tragic sight in front of her, and returned inside the room, moving quickly to where Nathan had placed her bags. But she could not leave, not like this, she had to make her peace.
Following the route that he had taken earlier, Natalia soon found herself on the beach, her feet sliding in the dry hot sand. She made little noise as she moved closer to where he knelt, her face wet with her tears, her eyes red with anguish. Stopping a little way from him, she spoke softly, so as not to startle him.
“Nathan?” She sighed heavily, wishing she could make everything go back to the way it was, her mopping in Erebus while he lived a life adventure. “It was wrong of me to do this to you. I…I should go home, and you can pretend this never happened.” She sniffed back another flood of tears. “It’s probably for the best.” She stood watching him for a moment, before turning, hoping that he would say something to stop her.
Nathan heard Natalia's voice behind him and he closed his eyes. He didn't lash out verbally or otherwise. Instead, he spoke softly, his voice covered in his tears.
"No...stay...we have to talk."
He turned to her, rising to his feet slowly. He swallowed the lump in his throat and organized the thoughts in his mind. I'm a father... Natalia turned to look at him, herself also quite a mess from her own tears. And she's a mother...
He stepped closer and took her hands in his, looking down at them for several moments. He smiled softly, trying to calm her some more. He looked up to her eyes and held them. She could see that he had come to accept this surprise announcement. He squeezed her hands slightly, asking slowly, "Are you sure it's mine?"
Natalia felt a little relieved as he asked her to stay, and felt a little more relaxed as her took her hands, but within seconds she was back to square one. “What?” Not that she had failed to hear his words; she had in fact heard them loud and clear. What she could not understand was why he was asking her such a thing, did he think she was promiscuous.
She stared at him for a moment, her mind whirling trying to find the right thing to say, but she could not, so she just opened her mouth… “Do you think I am some kind of slut who doesn’t know who she’s been sleeping with so picks one out of a hat to call the father?” She pulled back her hands, feeling hurt and ashamed that she had travelled all this way for this kind reaction. She would have preferred it if he had shouted at her and told her to get lost.
The tears once more began to roll down her face. “I don’t think we have anything else to say.” She turned and stopped, her eyes closing as she began to cry harder, her hand moving to her eyes, trying to sweep away her misery.
"Oh hell..." he muttered to himself as he caught up to Natalia. He turned her around, his hands holding her arms firmly but not painfully. "I'm sorry...I just thought..."
He pulled her close and hugged her. He spoke some more, "I just thought it might've been David's...I...my mind was confused, rather surprised..."
He pulled back and held her waist with his hands. He looked into her eyes, "Please...just give me a chance...I won't walk away..."
Nor will I run... he thought to himself.
Natalia turned at his touch and buried her head in his chest, as he took her in his arms, her tears slowing slightly. “I’m sorry, I…” She raised her face, looking into his eyes, her own red from crying, bringing out the blue of her irises. She let her arms slacken from his body, while keeping hold of him in case he changed his mind.
“I didn’t come here to ruin your life.” Her voice sounded choked as she spoke. “I…I just didn’t know who to turn to.” She released one of her hands, bringing up to her eyes, and wiping them with her sleeve. “As for David…I don’t even want to think about him. If there was a chance this was his, I would not be pregnant still.” She suddenly felt guilty about her comment, and unhooked her arm from about him.
“If you say the word, I will disappear from your life and you can go on with your wild adventures.” She let out a long sigh. “I don’t want to be a burden to you, I could not bear for you to hate me over this.”
Nathan shook his head negatively, "No, this is as much as my responsibility as it is yours. I cannot leave you alone to raise...our child." With gentle moves, he began walking with her in his arms back to the waterline. They sat down with their feet occassionally swept with warm ocean waters. He looked out to the ocean's horizon. Natalia kept her head on his shoulder, also looking outward.
He found himself talking to her, without realizing it, "The ocean has a most interesting voice. It can speak softly to you, or it can terrify you with its roar. And yet...it has a special allure in its mystery."
He looked down at her, resting his cheek on her head. "This child has a similar allure, for neither of us knows what is going to happen in the years to come. But...this is the greatest challenge to me...and you. This pales every other challenge I can ever do..."
He fell silent as he looked back out to the ocean, the waves crashing quietly on the shore.
Natalia remained silent for a moment, listening to Nathan’s words. She tilted her head, and looked into his eyes. “I don’t want this to be a challenge…something to take you from the things you like to do.” She lowered her face and shook her head sadly. “To be honest, I don’t know if I should even be here telling you about it. We were…are strangers. We had a one night stand…”
She fell silent again, thinking through what she was going to do. If only we had not gone that far. If only we had not had too much to drink. If only I had not almost hit him with my car… If only? There are far too many ifs.
“Don’t get me wrong, I…I want your input and your help, I just don’t want you to throw your life away.” She felt the tears rolling down her cheeks again. “One of us doing that is more than enough.” She wrapped her arms around him, and buried her face in his chest. “I’m sorry…I just don’t know what to do,” she muttered incoherently between sobs.
Nathan looked over at Natalia, a sense of responsibility and honor now weighing in on his soul. He spoke quietly, "I'll tell you what we're going to do. We are going to raise this child together. We may not know a lot about each other but...if you'll have me, I'd love to see what it is I see in your beautiful face..."
Holy hell...am I proposing what I think I am?...Yeah...I guess so...
He smiled kindly as she lifted her face to look into his eyes.
There's something about Natalia...something I love...
Natalia felt better, not just because he was proposing them bringing up the child together, but more so because he was not running away from her. She had been with men before, David for one, who never thought of anyone but themselves. She could imagine how he would have reacted if she had come to him with this kind of news. She could not help thinking that she would have been knocked to the ground already, and would have been called every name under the sun. What had led her to meet Nathan, she did not know, but she was thanking Fate for it.
“I know this is hard…and I’m not asking you to be there twenty-four seven.” Not that she would not have been grateful if he was. There had been something about him that she had liked from that first moment, something special that had stirred something in her. She had not been able to put him from her mind as much as she had tried to. “I mean…we are strangers…” She smiled up at him weakly. “But I would like for us to…you know…get to know each other, and who knows what will happen.”
She gazed up into his eyes, her own revealing a multitude of emotions. The smile grew on her lips, and her whole being seemed to visibly relax. “Thank you, Nathan. You don’t know how happy…” The words caught in her throat as another bout of tears rolled down her cheek.
Nathan smiled as she nestled her head on his shoulder, finally releasing the stress that lay on her mind. At that moment, somehow he just knew that they would get through this challenge to their minds and lives. At the same time, he began to suspect a possible truth.
Are we destined to be together? he asked the crashing waves. They replied with a soft voice, which caused him to relax completely and take Natalia into his arms as he led her back to the water's edge. She sat in front of him, with his legs around her as he held her close and rested his chin lightly on her shoulder.
"I'm glad you're here..." he said softly into her ear. It was true, he had missed her while he was abroad, and to find her surprisingly show up was becoming more of a relief to him than anything else.
He had missed her.
The very notion was something foreign to Nathan. He had never missed anyone like he had missed her. He had always been able to part company without any problems or hesitations. Until now.
Now, he realized, he just didn't want her to leave again. He couldn't let her.
Natalia sat cradled in his embrace, her back leant against his chest, as her fingers idly stroked his leg. She watched silently as the wave crashed against the sand, time and time again, their presence not distracting from its pattern. Two specks in time, lost in the grand scheme but to Natalia nothing was more important than them.
His words made her smile. She turned her head a little, as her other hand rested upon his, where it lay on her body. “I’m glad I’m here too.” She lowered her eyes, the smile remaining. “I missed you. I, ah, wanted to see you again…but I felt so…” She turned her head back and gazed at the sea. “I though you might not want to see me. It was amazing how many times I seemed to drive down your street.” She laughed lightly, feeling a little embarrassed admitting that. “But I was always so sure you had forgotten me or…I don’t know.” She fell silent, once more losing herself in the crashing of the waves.
Nathan smiled and rubbed his cheek gently across the side of her face. He looked down to her hand which had reached up to caress his face with impeccable feminine softness.
"Forget you?! Are you crazy? You made my heart stop twice. Once, with the accident, the second when I saw you that next morning, when I saw your beauty..."
He smiled as she blushed slightly, and laughed, holding her close with a gentle, firm hug.
Natalia felt safe in his arms and wanted to remain wrapped in them for as long as she could. Enjoying the solitude of the beach, hardly a soul around, and none close enough to come into her little sphere of happiness, she smiled. When she had started out on her trip to find Nathan, she had not expected him to greet her with open arms, and for a while he had not. But now, as she sat on the sand with him, all the bad disappeared, leaving her feeling content.
She leant her head on his shoulder, tilting her head slightly as she gazed up at his face. She wondered how many times his image had appeared in her head from the moment she left his apartment that fateful morning. A sigh slipped out of her lips, as she realised how much time she had missed. He had been offering more than a one night stand at the time, but she had been afraid to jump into a relationship having just walked out on a previous one.
She turned around in his arms, until she was kneeling on the ground between his legs. Her eyes locked to his, twinkling with her happiness. “Do you mind if we go back in?” She pressed her lips to his, kissing him tenderly, once more regretting what she had almost thrown away. Would she have ever seen him again if it were not for the baby? “I really could use something to drink.”
Not waiting for him to answer, she rose to her feet, and presented her hands to Nathan, offering to help him up. Her body was filled with a feeling she had not experienced for some time, if ever. As she looked at Nathan, she knew he was someone special. If she was not mistaken…she loved him.
Nathan nodded and allowed Natalia to help him to his feet. They walked, hand in hand, back inside and to the room. Once inside, Nathan arranged for room service to bring a variety of foods and drinks for them.
As he did this, he watched as she walked to the balcony doors and looked out, while lost in her thoughts. Once finished, he spoke to her.
"Room service will be here in a few minutes."
He stepped closer and turned her to him, studying her. Finally he smiled gently, caressing her face with a hand.
"Have you gotten enough rest since chasing me around the world?"
Natalia could not help but smile as she stood before him, his hand gently caressing her cheek. However she had imagined this would end was could only hope that this would have been it. She placed her hand lightly over his, holding it as she lowered it from her face. Her fingers gently stroked over the skin of his hand, her own still shaking slightly as she came to terms with how this was all moving.
“I managed to get a few days rest in Oz. Your friend there kindly let me stay.” She grinned like a cat that had got the cream, unable to believe her luck to be standing here with Nathan. “Although, I admit that perhaps a short lie down after food will not go amiss.” She brought his hand up to her lips, and kissed it tenderly.
She moved over to the couch, pulling him along gently by the hand and sitting, before patting the seat beside her. “So, what are your plans for after here?” She looked at him questioningly as he lowered himself to the seat.
Nathan gave Natalia a gentle kiss upon her forehead as he held her close and pulled to lie down on the bed. There, he wrapped his arms around her and answered her question.
"I'm not sure, honestly. We'll figure something out."
Despite his words, he had already begun to plan something special, just for the two of them. A cruise back to the States on a sailboat capable of traveling the high seas. He knew of a friend who would be willing to lend him his boat for them. They would gather the necessary supplies as well before leaving. Smiling slightly, as she lay in his arms, he kissed her again as he heard the knock upon the door several minutes later. He rose to open the door and greet the employee pushing a cart before him. He tipped the man, and pulled the tray closer to the bed. By that time, Natalia had sat up, crossing her legs before her.
He turned to her, watching her as she was looking down, running a gentle hand upon her abdomen thoughtfully. There was no bulge yet, but he knew she was thinking about the future and the developing changes of motherhood she would be experiencing. Finally she looked up and smiled as her eyes met his.
Three Days Later
"Watch your step." Nathan said as Natalia descended upon the sailboat and gazed about with an excited look upon her face. A sailboat cruise, halfway around the world and with the one man whom she was falling in love with. Despite the trip, she felt safe as long as he was there. He had assured her of his ability to navigate the high seas, and cited several certifications to ease her worries.
On the dock, Nathan's friend, Miguel smiled and waved as he cast the rope to the deck. "Take care of the Sea Queen, Nathan, or I'll have your hide!" he called out with a laugh.
"Of course, Miguel. Thanks a lot!" Nathan replied laughing as well. He adjusted the sunglasses on his nose.
"You're a lucky lady, ma'am. Nathan's one of the best navigators I've ever had the pleasure of traveling alongside him on the open seas!" Miguel commented to Natalia. She smiled and thanked him, resting a hand around Nathan's waist.
As the sailboat slipped silently away from the dock and the sails unfurled to the morning breeze, Miguel's voice could be heard carrying over the waters.
"I want pictures! Send me pictures of the kid!"
Nathan laughed as he adjusted the course to lead out of the harbor and toward the inviting waves of the wide ocean beyond.
As the yacht slipped out of its moorings, and began to head out to open waters, Natalia waved enthusiastically at Miguel, as she continued to hold Nathan. Once they were far enough out, she moved over to a convenient place where she could sit, not wanting to lose her sea legs too soon and end up overboard. She had never been the best of sailors, not until she had grown used to the movement of the vessel, and the last thing she wanted was for them to start the trip with her being ill all over the place.
She gave Nathan a smile, her eyes twinkling with excitement. “I can’t believe we are sailing home.” She laughed lightly, not being able to hide how happy she felt. “Once we get back, I’m going to have to send Miguel something very nice to thank him of the use of his yacht.”
Placing her hands on the deck behind her, she leant back, closing her eyes against the sun and enjoying the heat on her face. A large smile dominated her features, as she thought about the voyage ahead. Her and Nathan alone, spending value time together, learning to live with each other, experiencing what was hopefully to come. She did not want to rush him, or want to expect too much from him. She knew the baby would arrive in a time limit, but that did not mean that they had to rush things to meet a deadline.
She opened one eye and looked at Nathan, admiring him as he guided the boat out. As her other eye followed suit, she leant forward then got carefully onto her feet. “Would you like me to get you a drink or something?” She moved over to him, holding on to things to keep her balanced. “I’m feeling a little thirsty myself.”
Nathan turned the yacht to tack with the wind and looked over to Natalia. Once again, he was taken aback by the natural beauty of her smiling face. For several moments, he didn't reply as he just stood there looking stupid with a grin on his face. Finally he replied, "Sure, a bottle of water, if you would?"
He glanced down at the compass, adjusting the course by a fraction of the wheel being turned. He raised his eyes to watch as Natalia went below in search of the refreshments. Taking a deep breath of the salty air, he smiled again. He pulled off his teeshirt and tossed it down into the well leading to the cabin. By the time they were in the States, he knew he'd have a dark tan and the smell of the ocean saturated into his pores. It didn't bother him, for he loved the ocean.
Nodding her head, Natalia made her way carefully below, and began looking around for some drinks for them both. She began humming a cheerful little tune that was some sea ditty that she could not name or sing the words to, but recognised the melody. She could not recall a time when she felt happier or more content. Opening a cooler, she pulled out a couple of bottles and holding them in the crook of one arm, made her way back up on deck.
She stood for a minute, gazing at Nathan as he steered the yacht, his eyes focused away from her. Biting her lip, she grinned to herself as she admired him, not entirely seeing him in the clothing that he was standing up in. Feeling a blush creeping onto her cheeks, she made her way over to him, and handed him the bottle, pressing a smile to his cheek, and looking down the length of the yacht towards the open sea.
“If someone told me a month ago that I would be sailing home, on a yacht captained by someone that meant so much to me, I would have thought them mad.” She unscrewed the cap of the bottle and took a long refreshing sip. “Thank you for this. Actually, thank you for everything.” She laughed lightly. “Who would have thought all this would have come from me almost killing you.” She looked in his eyes, all humour gone. “I’m so glad I didn’t hurt you. I would never have been this happy if I hadn’t met you.”
Nathan smiled in return, taking Natalia into his arms as he steered. She molded to his grasp and watched ahead as the ocean unfurled before them. She heard his reply, next to her ear.
"Sometimes, I wonder if Fate has thrown us together as violently as we had met intially simply because we were too naiive or heading the wrong way down our paths in life."
A hand slipped across her stomach as he caressed her gently. "Perhaps because we needed to bring another path of life to light."
The wind shifted slightly, causing the sails to creak at an angle in reply. It seemed that the winds were agreeing with him.
Placing her hand over his as he caressed her stomach, Natalia smiled, wondering what she had done to feel this good. She thought back to the day she had met Nathan, and the life she had had before hand, and if Fate had had a hand in things, she had managed everything perfectly. Natalia could not imagine anyone more wonderful than him. She had nearly killed him, and fallen pregnant following a one night stand, and had turned up unannounced on his doorstep, and here they were happy and content.
She turned in his arms, until she was facing him, and tilted her head, pressing a tender kiss to his lips. “I feel so very lucky.” She gazed up into his eyes, watching them reflect the sun in the distance, but was more interested in the feelings that were displayed there. She gently stroked her finger across his cheek. “I love you. Thank you for being there for me.”
Eight Days Later
Conditions: Partial overcast, choppy seas
It had been smooth sailing for the most part during the voyage eastward across the greatest ocean on Earth. The seas were calm, and they kept to the known currents. They had been lucky thus far with the strong winds and fair seas. They had even passed by a pod of humpbacks surfacing no less than fifty feet to their port side. They had managed to capture a few pictures with one of the disposable cameras.
However, the seas were beginning to get choppy, and there had been a slow but sure cloud build-up chasing them. Natalia was below, sleeping soundly after taking her turn at the wheel. Nathan had taught her a few things about navigation, and she had taken to it as easily as second nature. He looked behind the ship again and frowned once more for probably the fifteenth time since he had taken his shift. He returned his gaze to study the compass, then the winds in the sails. He had memorized the morning's weather report that had come in over the satellite fax in the cabin. They had shown a storm system nearly as large as the state of Florida, and wrapping nearly completely around them. He knew they were trapped, and would have to ride it out as best as they could.
He grinned slightly as he realized this was the kind of thing he lived for. This danger of playing Russian roulette with Mother Nature. He, the rebellious child of hers now dared her to unleashed her wrath. The grin disappeared as he realized that this time was different. Natalia's life was in his hands. And the baby's life...
He glanced to the storm clouds again, All right Mother...let's take it a bit easy this time around. I promise you and I will have a chat one on one soon enough. Just not with Natalia around.
There was a crack of lightning striking the ocean's surface behind them. He swallowed as he spied the wall of rain that had begun to fall. The cycle was beginning. From earth to sky to earth again. The cycle would continue for as long as the storms remained over favorable seas or they ran into unmoving landmass.
And they would be caught in the middle of it all. Nathan was thankful it wasn't a spawning typhoon, known to be more ferocious than the Atlantic basin's hurricanes that ravaged the eastern seaboard of the Americas.
The rain began to caress the ocean, warm and soothing at first. Nathan knew it would only get worse. He locked the wheel to keep the ship from turning away from their path, then quickly moved to ensure all items on board were secured tightly in preparations for the oncoming storm.
Natalia had awoken from her sleep as another crack of lightning had struck, pulling her rapidly out of her dreams. She lay on the bed for a moment, trying to swallow down the wave of nausea that hit her. The boat was rocking more than usual, which was not helping at all. She sat up, instantly regretting doing so, and then climbed off the bed, her thoughts turning to Nathan, who she knew would be on deck.
She raced through the yacht as best as she could, crashing into items as the boat rolled over the growing waves. They had been lucky so far, had been blessed with good weather. She had caught the end of the weather report, and had heard that there was going to be bad weather, and Nathan had reassured her that everything would be fine. Despite her faith in him and his abilities, as that moment she had already visualised them sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
Reaching the door, she looked around the deck, her eyes fighting against the rain that seemed to be focusing on her eyes, making it difficult for her to see. “Nathan?” She shouted over to him, finally managing to focus her gaze. “Nathan, can I do anything to help?” She grabbed the frame, the boat shifting suddenly as it caught another wave, almost sending her flying back inside the cabin. She tightened her grip, as her other hand moved protectively to her stomach.
"Nathan?" Natalia's voice carried lightly in the air, almost completely swallowed in the chorus of the storm and ocean. "Nathan, can I do anything to help?" she called out again. This time, Nathan heard her and turned to her. A wave crashed against the starboard side, casting the boat to the side at an angle. Nathan glanced up to the masts, now devoid of the sails. They seemed like lightning rods in the ensuing storm.
"Secure everything below!" he called back to her as he braced himself with the wheel and attached a lifeline to his body for safety. "Get yourself seated down below and hold on! It's going to be rough!"
He returned his attention to steering the craft as Natalia disappeared below, closing the door and securing it behind her. He grimaced as the boat strained to move in cooperation with the waves. "No way, mother!" he declared to himself, "We're going to play this game my way."
He checked the fuel meter to the engine, noting that there was just under a full tank. The good tailwinds over the past eight days had allowed them to not have to use any of their fuel until today.
The ship shuddered under the impact of another wave. Nathan's muscles gleaned in the rain as he remained stout at his post, relentless in his control. It had only been an hour and a half earlier since he had taken this shift, and the storm had come not too long after that. Now she was overhead, howling her monstrous voice like a mother would in scolding a uncooperative child. Nathan grinned as he allowed himself to enjoy the struggle against Nature. He released his own howl, swallowed in the thunderous booms of the storms and the bellowing swells of the seas.
Doing as she was told, Natalia raced around inside, trying to secure everything she could. The rocking of the boat meant that for every two steps forward she took, she seemed to take one back. She would possibly be able to play join the dots with the bruises she was likely to have, yelping as she bashed her leg against the side of something. Looking about her, she decided that she had managed to tie down, put away or lock everything she could think of. It was then she followed Nathan’s second instruction and sat down, holding on tightly for her life and that of their baby.
If she had been religious, she would have turned begging to her god to deliver her safely from whatever lay ahead, but it had been banned from Tartarus a long time ago, but despite herself, she found herself asking whoever was listening, to get them safely home.
As a wave hit the boat, trying to take it under, she lost her grip, sending her off the seat and onto the floor. She curled her legs up in front of her, cuddling herself, wedging herself in a corner, still holding on for dear life. She let her mind focus on her child, and began to gently speak, telling it that they would be alright. Unfortunately, her words did not hold much conviction, as her voice trembled in fear and a tear rolled down her cheek.
"Oh Mother of God..." muttered Nathan as he stared wide-eyed at the monster wave that had rolled out under them and rose up before them like a gaping maw of death and sure destruction. It's foam lips seemed to spawn teeth that rose upward with the swell, growing larger and larger.
"Come on!" he growled as he drove the craft upward, further and further up the wall of water.
The wave was beginning to arch forward.
"COME ON! COME ON!" he cried, his knuckled white on the wheel, his feet firmly wedged between the wooden planks that were there specifically to allow him a grip upon the slippery surface of the ship in conditions such as this.
He closed his eyes, unwilling to see the outcome of this battle with this beast. He prayed aloud, his voice lost in the howling cacauphany of the storm.
Foam spewed across the bow, sending plumes of white foamy liquid downward, hammering into Nathan's body. Still, he managed to hold on, although he lost his footing with both feet at one point. Sheer determination, and just enough strength had allowed him to hold on. The ship, having long been moving almost vertically upward, suddenly lurched downward, as it broke to the top of the wave and coasted down the backside of the wave. Nathan planted himself again and opened his eyes. The sight he beheld was one he found himself quite grateful for.
Sunlight. Thin beams of light, penetrating the stormy clouds, striking the ocean's surface like pillars of light holding up the heavens.
Nature was not done though, for she still wished to leave Nathan with an earful of her thundering voice of the seas, as well as deliver a final set of slaps across the face and keel.
Yet, even Nature grew tired, and so she passed on, the oceans passing into calm waves yet again. Nathan at last, released his grip on the wheel once sunlight fell upon the ship. He locked the wheel to the course of their path, and stumbled into the cabin. Tripping on the last step, he landed upon the ground. Yet, he was so fatigued that he hardly noticed.
He snore quietly as he slept...
Natalia had been holding on for dear life as the boat rocked from one side to the other. She had seen her life flash before her eyes on more than one occasion, and had spoken comforting words to her unborn baby as she gently stroked her stomach, more for her own reassurance than anything it would do for their child. She had closed her eyes, but that just made her feel sick. She had kept them open but that had caused the same effect. And it got to the point that she had really given up trying everything and was expecting the sea to swallow them up any moment.
That’s when the yacht hit a calm patch, which for a moment, she failed to notice, as she sat pinching herself wondering whether she had died and was just waiting for the reality to sink in. As the short sharp pain shot through her arm, she decided she was still alive and was just climbing to her feet when she heard Nathan approaching the cabin.
Sighing with relief that he was okay, she was just about to greet him when he seemed to slip off the last step and collapse heavily on the floor. “Nathan!” She cried out as she raced over to where he was, still trying to orientate herself following the fierce rocking of the yacht. “Nathan?” She crouched beside him, her fingers lightly brushing over his head, looking for signs of injury.
Carefully, she rolled him over, panic filling her body, until she realised that not only was he breathing, but he sounded asleep. She sat back on the floor, her body suddenly losing all strength, as she watched the man she loved lying on the floor, tears rolling controllably down her cheeks as she burst into tears of relief.