“ELAM!” she yelped and slapped him across the bicep as hard as she could muster. “You scared the living daylights out of me!”
Elam’s dark figure now crouched in a barely distinguishable dark mass across from her, vibrating with unsuppressed laughter. His breath was rasping out of him, turning into a sort of wheeze as he tried to gain his composure. Straightening up he pulled a knuckle under each of his eyes to collect the gathered moisture that had sprung free in his joy.
“Ah.” He breathed deeply, righting himself again. “What a scare’d cat ya are!”
The warm heat around Rydell’s ankle had now begun lapping along the length of her skin. What she now recognized as Hawkeye was burrowing his forehead against her knee, presumably looking for a firm scratch between his ears.
“Of course I’m scared. I’m in the middle of a field of swaying grass in the pitch black, I might as well be one of the extras in Deliverance!”
“Why one’a the extras?”
“Their the first ones to get killed…”
This set off Elam’s humor button as he vibrated once again with laughter.
“Aint much out here that’ll get ya. You’re too close to the house for coyotes’ to come round. That and I’ve been keepin’ an eye on ya since ya left the house. Tommy got a little caught up in the competition and set ya out on yer own, not thinkin’ bout how ya just moved here and didn’t know yer way around yet. So I followed ya.”
“Then decided that no good deed goes unpunished so you snuck up on me and scared the tar out of me?”
Elam chuckled, “Nah. I had no intention of sneakin’ up on ya. In fact I thought my boots were petty heavy on the grass. You were faced in my direction standin’ so still, I thought maybe you could make me out against the dyin’ light.”
“Well… obviously, I couldn’t.” Rydell sulked.
“Obviously not.” Elam chuckled once more under his breath. “I’m sorry I scared you.”
He took a deep breath, “And… I’m sorry I laughed at you being scared.”
Rydell felt that she could still see the glimmer of a cheek raised in a sly smile, but decided it best to ignore it. “Thank you for apologizing.”
“That’s it?” Elam parroted her earlier words.
“And… thank you for keeping an eye on me so I didn’t get lost.”
“Not a problem.” He took a deep breath to speak again but was interrupted by a whistle that sounded much like the call he used with Hawkeye but higher in pitch. He turned his head in the direction of the sound. “I think we’re bein’ summoned. Come on, watch your feet as ya go, it’s a bit rocky in that direction.” He nodded his head in the direction he was heading, and held out his and behind him.
The instinct to avoid collision or sprained ankles in the unfamiliar terrain over came her embarrassment and Rydell took hold of his offering. His palm was warm, steady, and reassuring but didn’t seem anything more than a friendly gesture. She let out an internal sigh. Weather it was of relief or resignation she wasn’t sure.
In what seemed like no time they had reached the bank of the creek. Elam released her hand before they made their way too close to the gathered crowed. Standing with the edge of their feet in the lip of the creek three heads turned around at the sound of their arrival.
I’m still not done with the chapter but my brain kind of burnt out on me today….