Why hello there! May I say that you’re looking lovely today? Welcome to the first Moose Hall story jam, in which five authors will be taking each other, and you, for a riotous and singularly Canadian ride.
It works like this: Each author will write 150-300 words, and then pass the baton. A new instalment will be added each day from January 30 to February 13. To
torture challenge each other, each author will, at the end of her story segment, provide a phrase which must be used by the author of the next bump. I am going to be in trouble if someone gives me “Bill O’Reilly’s thighs” or the equivalent, but these are the risks we run.
Leave a comment at any point during the story jam, and you’ll be entered in our book draw, with a chance of winning one of these fabulous books.
Right, that’s the science part out of the way. Let’s get this Zamboni on the ice.
DOUBLE DOUBLE TROUBLE
A Short Story by Anne Azel, Liz Bugg, Lois Cloarec Hart, Benny Lawrence and Natalie Meisner
So apparently, if you were trying to escape from a remote cabin, it was a bad idea to do it at night, during a blizzard. Another life lesson learned.
For roughly the sixteen millionth time, Harper broke through a snow crust and sunk into the white stuff knee-deep. This time, though, she lost her footing, toppled sideways, and almost brained herself against the trunk of a jack pine which someone must have planted in that exact spot just to mess with her.
Viv dropped to her knees and pawed at Harper’s face with snow-crusted mitts. “Jesus, love, you’re bleeding.”
“You don’t say! I thought the red stuff was happiness juice. God, I hate snow. Hate snow, hate trees, hate nature. Someday I’m going to pave Canada coast to coast and install an endless chain of strip malls with central heating…wait. Are your boobs vibrating or is that your phone?”
Viv looked down at her trembling torso, raised an eyebrow, and began to dig down through five layers of wool and polar fleece.
“Hang on one very long minute,” Harper said. “If you have cell reception out here, why are we slogging through a goddamn snowpocalypse to get away from psycho-bitch? Can’t we call the cops?”
Viv actually looked annoyed at this- which was a first for her, so far as Harper could remember. “You know I can’t,” Viv said. “Don’t ask again.”
She was holding the phone now, gingerly, like something explosive. Slumped in the snow, Harper couldn’t see the call display. Didn’t matter. She knew who was calling.
It was probably useless, but Harper said anyway, “You don’t have to talk to her.”
Viv stared at the phone. Her face was calm, but she was white around the lips. “I think we have to go back.”
Phrase to use: “Broken promise”
Viv turned her back against the wind and flipped the phone open. “Hello.”
The voice on the other end was soft, low and controlled. “You shouldn’t have left. You broke your promise. It’s bad to break a promise. Come back now. I’ll forgive you.”
“No? What do you really know about Harper? A city Indian. Your life is in her hands. Can you trust her? I think not. Come home, Viv. I’ll take care of you. This is where you belong.”
Harper saw Viv stiffen with fear. “What is she saying to you?”
Viv’s teeth were chattering. “She said I can’t trust you and to come home.”
“Screw that!” Harper snatched the phone from Viv’s hand and heaved it into the swirling snow.
Viv’s mouth opened in disbelief. She swatted at Harper with her mitted hand. “Harper! Damn! That’s going to cost me big bucks. My photos!”
“She’s playing mind games with you and she could track us. What else did she say?”
“She said you were a city Indian and that my life is in your hands. She said I don’t know anything about you and I don’t.”
Harper shrugged. “I am a city Indian. You know all about me. I hate snow. I walk into trees and I throw away cell phones. But the best thing you know about me is that I love you. Trust me.”
She waited for Viv to fight her demons. Then Viv stepped into her embrace.
“I shouldn’t have brought us out into this.” Viv sobbed. “And I hate you for throwing away my cell phone. My photos.”
“We had to leave and you don’t hate me. You love me. Besides, I have more skills than that bitch gives me credit for. Once I found my way home when the streetcar drivers were on strike. And I’ve been known to track a pound of hamburger down in the grocery store without even looking at the aisle signs.”
Viv giggled into Harper’s jacket. “My hero.”
Harper pulled back and settled the knapsack on her back to a better angle. They had food, matches, candles and a sleeping bag. They could survive if they could make it to shelter. “Come on. We need to keep moving.” Harper started to wade through the deep snow once again, breaking the trail for Viv to follow.
“You were right to decide to leave when we did. The storm and darkness is covering our trail.”
Viv turned around in surprise. Their tracks were blown over. Her cell phone was gone too. Again that soft, controlled voice came to her. What do you really know about Harper?
She shivered in fear and then hurried to catch up to Harper’s retreating figure. Suddenly, she stopped. She’d seen something out the corner of her eye. A shadow against white snow where there shouldn’t have been one. “Harper, there’s something out there.”
Phrase to use: Bitches, Yeti and Sasquatch, Oh no!
Harper kept slogging through the snow, one laboured step after another. She had heard Viv, but she had no intention of reacting to her call. Even though Viv rarely got annoyed, Harper knew all too well that her beloved had a penchant for drama if it meant getting her own way. Blowing things out of proportion in a nice warm apartment in the middle of the city was one thing; doing in the middle of nowhere during a snow storm when your toes and fingers were turning blue was quite another. Now, on top of everything else, Harper’s head was starting to ache, thanks to the stupid pine tree. The one thing she didn’t need was a woman, gorgeous as she might be, seeing boogeymen behind every bush.
“Harper!” This time Viv’s voice was tinged with real fear.
A moment later, Harper was at her side. “What?”
“Over there,” she said, pointing in the direction of a granite outcropping on the other side of a small clearing.
“I don’t see anything,” said Harper, her customary skepticism creeping back.
“Well of course you don’t. Not now!” Viv almost screamed. “If you’d come when I first called you, maybe you would have seen what I did.”
Harper took a deep breath, and counted to ten. So this was how it was going to be. Well, she might be from the city, but she was not going to let this woman, or this situation get the better of her. Placing her hands on Viv’s shoulders, she looked into what was visible of Viv’s eyes in the darkness.
“What did you see?” she asked.
“I don’t know. A shadow. Someone. Something. We’re being watched, or followed,” Viv’s words tumbled out.
“I’m not saying that you imagined it,” Harper replied, choosing her words with great care, “but maybe it was a trick of the light, or the snow.”
Viv’s shoulders began to relax under the grip of Harper’s thermal gloves.
“Last time I heard, the Yeti and Sasquatch had become snowbirds. Something we should have done.” Harper felt satisfied that her attempt at lightening the situation had worked, but in her own mind she was far from convinced that Viv had just been spooked.
“I think that’s what I like best about you, Harper. No matter what, you can always manage to make me smile. And right now that’s quite an accomplishment, considering that my face is an ice sculpture.”
“Let’s see if I can thaw it out a bit for you, my lady.” She pulled Viv toward her, and was about to move in for a kiss when a shriek came from behind the rocks.
“Oh no!” Viv stiffened. “That voice!”
Phrase to use: maple syrup lover
Lois Cloarec Hart:
The wind picked up the words and whirled them away. The cackle that came next seemed to explode from behind every shadow. If she’d been behind the rock, she’d moved.
They spun, trying frantically to pinpoint her whereabouts.
Harper tried desperately to remember if she’d seen any weapons in the cabin. She was quite sure there weren’t any, but then she hadn’t seen everything.
One door had been closed and blocked by a huge sofa. She hadn’t asked what was in there and no explanation had been offered.
Harper grabbed Viv’s hand and plunged forward, her need to flee that voice overwhelming good sense.
Laughter rang out from behind and then to their left as they struggled through the drifts.
“I’m never leaving the city again. I’m never leaving the city again. I’m never leaving the city again.” She was wasting precious breath, but fear overwhelmed the last bit of rationality Harper possessed.
Why on earth had she agreed to accompany Viv on this fool’s errand? She’d known it wouldn’t end well, but she was desperate to shatter the last hold that evil witch maintained over her beloved. Viv had such a blind spot about Phoebe.
Only two days ago they’d playfully argued over breakfast whether to accept Phoebe’s invitation for a winter weekend in the woods.
Harper dumped her usual quart of syrup over a stack of pancakes.
Viv wrapped warm arms around her neck and nibbled at her ear.“You know, if you loved me half as much as you loved syrup, you’d come with me.”
Harper licked one sticky finger and tapped Viv’s nose. “Well, when you put it like that, how can I refuse? All right. You wore me down. You can count this maple syrup lover in. Let’s go see your crazy ex and find out what this mysterious document is all about. Who knows? Maybe her grandma died and left you something in her will. You always said old Haddie loved you more than her flesh and blood.”
And now they were fleeing for their lives.
The weekend had started well. It was all perfectly civil as Phoebe welcomed them warmly to her little piece of paradise. The food was fantastic, the booze flowed copiously, and the ambience was heightened by the gently falling snow. They’d slept like babies the first night.
But the second day the clouds descended, the storm picked up, and Phoebe’s mood darkened. Several times Harper had caught their hostess staring at them, with malicious glee in her eyes.
It had shaken her badly enough that at mid-afternoon she’d gone out to their Jeep for a private place to think. It wasn’t turning out the way she’d hoped. Maybe it was time to cut the weekend short and head for home. But when she turned on the Jeep to warm it up while they packed, it wouldn’t turn over.
There was no sound, not a click, not a rumble.
Harper hit the dash in frustration, then noticed Phoebe watching her from the kitchen window.
And the day began its slide from bad to terrifying.
Phrase to use: Behind the door
What did this woman want? Why were they out here, two dirt roads past nowhere, staying with a woman who clearly wanted her dead? Did she have rocks in her head? Would there ever be an end to the rhetorical questions that she endlessly-
She was brought up short by an arm closing around her neck.
Okay, this is it. This is how I go, Harper thought for an instant, before she realized that if Psycho Ex was in the kitchen, then she couldn’t simultaneously be choking her from the back seat. What if she had an evil twin? Make that an evil-er twin. Diabolical. Wouldn’t put it past her. But the arm wasn’t choking at all. No, it wasn’t choking- it was tightening, but in fact, it was quite pleasant, it was caressing, it was…
“Hey Beautiful. Thought we might sneak away for a little bit. Have a little quality time.”
Viv was speaking right against her neck so that the words didn’t really register as sound waves- they entered her skin directly as vibration. Her hand slid down the neck of Harper’s parka. She flipped herself nimbly over the seat into the front of the Jeep and began kissing Harper with the pent up desire of days of playing it cool.
“Wait. We can’t.”
“Babe, loosen up, let’s rock this jeep.” Viv hoisted herself onto Harper, letting her weight fall down strategically and nibbled her ear.
“Do you think it’s wise to anger Phoebe any further?” Harper asked.
“Don’t worry about Phoebs, she’s so behind the door.”
“No, she’s at the kitchen sink with a butcher knife, look!”
“There’s no one. You’re imagining things.”
“Why did you say she’s behind the door?”
“ Oblivious to the situation at hand? Lacking the full meaning or implication of events? Don’t you ever read the urban dictionary? She thinks you’re straight. And my old college chum.”
Phrase to use: Riot and extravagance
“Viv, wait. Wait. Viv!”
Harper did a sort of squirming-rolling-over-crawling type thing, and escaped into the passenger’s side seat before Viv had a chance to recite any other Internet memes at her.
“Okay, what was that?” she asked, fumbling to make sure that her fly buttons were still intact. (They were. Mostly. Viv’s hands had been busy.) “Actually, no, better question…what is all of this? Why did you even want to come here?”
Viv stared, unblinking. “We’ve spent time with your exes.”
“Not the crazy ones! Remember how Marguerite invited us to, like, six parties, and every time I told her that the cat was sick?”
“Just because you have a hang-up over your exes, it doesn’t mean I-”
“Viv. Oh. My. God. Phoebe kept your passport under her pillow. That’s not a thing you get a hang up about, that’s a thing that should make you run away screaming. But here we are, in a riot of social extravagance-”
“You said you were having fun!”
“I was, until she started to give me the psycho eyes! She is fucking nuts, Viv, and she wants to eat my skin! I like my skin where it is! And now the Jeep isn’t working, and I bet you anything she messed with it, and car sabotage is only adorable when it’s done by singing Austrian nuns! And now you’re trying to jump my bones? Really? Really?”
Harper could have gone on for quite a while, but when she paused for breath, she realized her mistake. Viv had slumped in the driver’s seat, gaze fixed on a smear on the glass.
“I’m not scared,” Viv said. “There’s nothing here for me to be scared of.”
She said it mechanically, and with a sick twist, Harper realized which of them she was trying to convince.
Phrase to Use: My old room
Harper took a deep breath. What the hell was going on here? Who was crazy and who wasn’t? How much did she really know about Viv? Or Phoebe? An icy ball of dread formed in her gut as suspicions exploded in her mind. She needed answers and she needed them right away.
“My mom was Cree and like me she spent most of her life in the city. She knew nothing about her people.”
“So?” Viv sounded bored.
“So, I learned about my mother’s people from my dad who was an anthropologist. Things are never what they seem to be are they, Viv? Is Phoebe really your ex?”
Viv turned and looked at Harper. “What are you getting at?” The eyes were cold and without any fear at all. If Harper had any doubts, they had disappeared now.
Harper’s fist came up and smashed into Viv’s jaw and Viv crumbled against her. “Sorry, luv, but I don’t think I can trust you.” She gave Viv’s forehead a kiss good bye, tied her hands to the steering wheel with the cord from her parka and then got out in the snow again with a heavy flashlight in her hand.
The answer to what was going on was in that back room and Harper was going in there if she had to go over the top of Phoebe.
She waded through the snow to the cabin and opened the door. Phoebe was still at the sink, humming softly to herself.
“Hey, Phoebe. I left, Viv in the jeep. She’s sort of tied up at the moment. That gives us some time. Would you like some time with me, Phoebe? Harper moved slowly closer, step by step, waiting her opportunity.
Phoebe’s eyes got big in surprise and then narrowed. “What’s Viv doing?” The voice was soft, creepy but not afraid.
“Don’t worry about, Viv. She’s okay. I want to see in that backroom, Phoebe. Take me there.”
Phoebe looked angry. “Not yet. Not without Viv.”
Harper strode across the room and pulled the couch away from the door. Phoebe jumped at her with a scream of rage. “That’s my old room!”
Harper threw her off and opened the door wide to look in. “Holy shit!” she whispered.
Phrase to Use: A room of photos.
She blinked, and tried to focus.
A wolf howled somewhere too close for comfort, but it snapped Harper’s mind like an elastic band.
The temperature was dropping, and as she continued to drag Viv through the deepening snowbanks, she realized that her brain had been playing tricks on her. It must be the head injury mixing fact with fantasy.
Harper knew that before they’d set off into the forest the Jeep wouldn’t start. She had disagreed with Viv, but she was sure she hadn’t hit her.
The rest of the events were as incoherent as the swirling snow. Somehow they had ended up out here with survival gear. Someone, possibly Phoebe, might be following them. And something about Viv didn’t feel right.
Harper stopped. The only sound was the wind. The only shadows were those of the trees. They could spare a minute.
The moon fought its way through the tangled branches to light Viv’s face as she spoke. “What’s wrong?”
Harper examined it before asking, “Why are we here?”
“You know why.”
“No, Viv. I don’t. I’m confused. Maybe I have concussion, or…”
Viv reached up and took Harper’s face in her mittens. “Oh, my god, Harp!”
“I’m okay. I just need answers. Why did we leave the cabin?”
“You really don’t remember, do you Harper?” Viv’s lips began to curl into a smile, but she quickly stifled it. “You dared Phoebe to show you the closed room. So she did.”
“Just like that?”
“There was something about photos.” Harper struggled to remember.
“We should get going.” Viv circled Harper, and started to follow the trail she’d begun to open.
“Wait!” Harper grabbed Viv’s arm. “That’s why we’re out here, isn’t it?”
“Okay. Yes. I don’t know why we can’t talk about this later, but since you must know …”
“The walls were covered with photos of women. Candid shots. Like surveillance. And newspaper clippings. The women – all missing.”
“Oh my god!” Harper gasped.
“On one wall … no clippings … just photos of me, with you.”
“Oh, Viv!” The words barely sounded. “So we left!”
“I wanted to run right then, but you told me to pack what we needed while you watched Phoebe. She seemed harmless – just kept laughing. She didn’t even try to stop us.”
Viv’s explanation made sense to Harper. There were still gaps, but there wasn’t time to fill them now. The lone wolf had recruited his mates to form a chorus.
Phrase to use: Going in a circle
Lois Cloarec Hart
Harper hated the muzziness in her brain. Thoughts slipped in and out with a swiftness that left no lasting impression. She followed Viv, head down, trying simply to stay on her lover’s heels. The wolves could still be heard, but they didn’t seem to be approaching for the moment.
Maybe they’re stalking us. Waiting for us to wear down and be defenceless. “Who are we kidding? We’re already completely, absolutely, unfriggin’deniably defenceless.”
Viv glanced over her shoulder. “Did you say something?”
They’d arrived at a frozen creek and Viv stopped, waiting for Harper to catch up.
Harper hunkered down, staring at the icy ribbon. “Do we even know where we’re going?”
“We trying to get to the highway. You said we could flag someone down for help.”
“I think we’re going in a circle. If it’s the same one, this creek runs behind Phoebe’s cabin. If we were going east, we shouldn’t be seeing it now.”
Viv shrugged. “I don’t know. Creeks can twist and turn, can’t they? Maybe it’s not even the same one.”
Harper grunted and rose to her feet. “Still, something feels wrong about this.” Something had felt wrong ever since they rose that morning. Her instincts were hammering at her, but her head hurt too badly to make sense of their message.
Viv tested the ice with her foot. It held. “C’mon, we’d better keep going.”
Harper swayed. “I’m not sure I can.”
Viv studied her for a long moment. “I don’t think we have a choice, love. Whatever lies ahead has to be safer than what lies behind.”
“And Phoebe. God, I’m so sorry I got you into this.”
Harper sank down into a very soft snowbank. “Why did you?”
Viv shook her head. “I don’t know. I spent so many years ignoring the warning signals that once I was away from her, I convinced myself I had imagined them.”
One memory planted itself solidly in Harper’s mind. “Did you notice anything about those photos?”
“Other than they were ripped from every crime show I’ve ever watched, no.”
Harper fought to focus the images in her mind. “Every one of those women looked like you.”
“Every one of those photos in that room was of a woman who could’ve been your twin.” Harper’s heart raced as the implications sank in. She surged to her feet, adrenaline pushing the need to rest aside. “Jesus, Viv. If Phoebe is responsible for all those women going missing, I think they were just surrogates. You’re the one that got away. It’s you she’s fixated on.”
“How very perceptive, you are, dear Harper.”
Terror flashed over Viv’s face as she looked past Harper at the source of the soft, taunting words.
Phrase to use: Wild toboggan ride
Phoebe stepped out into the light. She was holding something in her hand and the ease of her stance told the other women that she felt she had the situation and them totally under her control. The moonlight glinting off the snow and the frost covered trees played over her angular features. Phoebe’s mouth was open in a panting half smile of delight. The kind you might see in a wolf as she comes upon a floundering caribou with a broken leg.
That wide confident stance. That outfit. Thought Harper. No wonder Viv couldn’t shake this ice queen. How can she look so well put together while she’s out in the Canadian Boreal forest trying to kill her ex and… well me.
That last thought was sobering. It brought Harper back to the present moment. Her vision was slightly blurry but she blinked and shook her head to clear it. There was something in Phoebe’s hand.
What’s that? Asked Harper.
“Standard police issue taser. Everyone on the force carries one.”
Harper wheeled to face Viv who was, herself looking a little confused.
“A cop? Why did you never tell me your ex was a cop?”
“I-I’m sorry it. Never came up.” Viv was staggering now, slurring her words and had sunken down on one knee.
“Royal Canadian Mounted Police, if you please.” Phoebe was really enjoying herself now. “You’re probably feeling a little woozy in the head, there by now old girl?” Laughed Phoebe. “Devil’s breath will do that to you. “
“I never believed in the devil… until I met you.” Spat Harper. She scanned the area for a weapon of opportunity. There was only one way to fully cleanse their lives of this she devil. And if that was how it was going to be… Well. Harper might be a city Indian, but she had enough of the country in her to know when enough was enough. Her eyes flicked over the frozen landscape looking for something, anything poking through the crusted and frozen landscape.
No, you wouldn’t have tasted the scopolamine in the drinks the first night you got here. Or in the kale smoothies I served you for lunch. You wouldn’t taste it but by now it’s ripping through your gray matter, knocking out your short term memory and most of your free will.” Phoebe leveled the taser at Harper’s heart. “But I brought this along just in case.”
Phrase to use: gorgeous and ambidextrous
Kale smoothies. The woman really was a fiend.
Harper sucked in freezing air, tensed, and lashed out with a wild haymaker. Her fist connected with Phoebe’s face- at least she thought so- but Phoebe’s head dissolved on impact into a swam of golden hummingbirds, which sang a brief snatch from Handel’s Messiah before re-forming into Phoebe a few metres away.
It was, Harper thought blearily, maybe just possible that she was hallucinating a tiny little bit. She staggered towards Viv, stepping around a lava pool and over a miniature sabre-toothed tiger.
It wasn’t safe to blink, she found; time had become shifting and unsteady, passing in quick spurts and slow valleys instead of ticking by at a steady pace. One second, Viv was kneeling alone in the snow, blinking at her hands with owl-eyed confusion. The next second, Phoebe was stooping beside her, caressing her cheek.
Once again, Harper struck out with a shaking fist; this time, the force of it swung her around and took her to the ground. She rolled clear of a patch of tiny shouting purple people, and retched.
“That wasn’t bad, for a punch with your left,” Phoebe said. The words oozed across the icy air; that hateful, oily tone. “Gorgeous and ambidextrous. You have your good points, Harper my love.”
Harper squinted up. Viv was on her feet now- Phoebe was holding onto her by the back of her jacket. Sweat-beads were prickling Viv’s face, in spite of the cold. Her pupils were huge; black wells, with something screaming at the bottom.
“I told you that I couldn’t go to the police,” Viv whispered.
“Now that’s just silly.” Phoebe brushed snowflakes away from Viv’s hair, from her jacket, and her hand ended up around Viv’s neck, feather-light. “You can always go to the police. You can always come home.”
Harper tried to think. Goldfish swam across her eyes. Think! She couldn’t allow herself to be the unwitting accomplice in Viv’s murder. In the distance, a wolf howled and others yapped in response. Something leapt for her throat. She cried out in terror and fell, rolling in agony in the snow. Then awareness returned and she realized that it was her own mitted hand that was holding her neck.
Phoebe was laughing, pulling Viv past Harper back towards the cabin. “Are the wolves getting you, Harper? Are they sinking their big teeth into you? Not yet, but they’ll find you. They always do.”
“Phoebe, for God sake, you can’t leave her out here!” Viv sobbed.
“Shut up! Move!” Phoebe dragged Viv back along their trail.
Harper fought back the paranoid fear and darkness. Do the unexpected. Do the unexpected, her mind commanded. With a sudden scream of rage, she launched herself at Phoebe’s retreating form. Wolves smelt blood. Harper was going to give them blood.
She tackled the wolf to the ground and fought to get the taser from its paw. Nothing her senses were telling her made sense. She just had to cling to her simple plan. “Unexpected. Blood. Wolves. Unexpected. Blood. Wolves!” Harper yelled over and over.
Unexpected. She brought her head up and slammed it into Phoebe’s nose. Blood squirted out, fireworks across a white sky. The paw holding the taser loosened for a split second and Harper tore it free. Heaving it for all her might into the darkness.
Then a dark form leaped forward. Wolf! She couldn’t let go of the firecracker. She tucked her head and neck in to her jacket against the bite and screamed in fear.
“Harper! Let me tie her arms with my scarf. Harper it’s me, Viv.” The voice seemed to come down a long, dark tunnel.
Not a wolf, Viv. “Viv, we need to get back to the cabin. The blood. The wolves will come.”
Phrase: The depth of snow, the height of pines
Somehow the two women managed to stagger away from Phoebe, who was sprawled and moaning, her blood turning the snow around her black. As they neared the cabin, Harper spoke. “Does Phoebe have a car?”
“What?” Viv asked, still dazed.
“A car, a truck, anything that can get us out of here?” She blinked, trying to stop the world from spinning.
“I don’t know. She must have something. There’s a shed out back,” said Viv.
Holding each other up, they circled behind the cabin to a small log structure with big double doors. They weren’t locked, but the women had to shift the snow that had piled up against them. When they finally freed the entrance and looked inside, a choir of angels began to sing, as a stream of moonlight illuminated their salvation. There sat the most beautiful, dilapidated old snowmobile in the Great White North.
If they hadn’t been so wobbly they might have been jumping for joy. As it was they just looked at each other and grinned.
A scream pierced their nirvana, and then from somewhere on the other side of the cabin came the ominous message, “You’ll pay for this, you bitches! Both of you! You’ll pay!”
Phrase to use: Lights in the distance.
Lois Cloarec Hart
Viv climbed on the snowmobile and started it up. “Hurry, Harper. Get on.”
Harper had one leg lifted to straddle the machine when she saw a hockey stick leaning against the wall. It was a feeble weapon, but it made her feel a little less helpless. She grabbed the stick as the machine roared to life.
She jumped behind Viv, holding the stick out like a lance.
Viv gunned the snowmobile and it leapt forward, straight at Phoebe, who was charging them like a madwoman.
“Hold on,” Viv screamed, as she cranked the machine hard to the left.
Harper squeezed Viv with one arm, while bracing herself for impact with the other. The blunt end of the hockey stick hit Phoebe square in the midsection and she flew several feet in the air.
Harper looked back, her vision blurred by the wind as Viv pushed the snowmobile hard down the drifted-in road.
Phoebe was a crumpled heap and Harper saw no movement. She was apprehensive for an instant, then she recalled the photos on the wall and stopped worrying. It was her against them, and they weren’t going to be taken down by a psycho with her own personal killing grounds.
Harper probably should’ve discarded the hockey stick, but she buried her face against Viv’s back and clung to the make-shift weapon.
Harper’s senses were still questionable, and she had no concept of time. It might’ve been ten minutes; it might’ve been an hour before Viv spoke. But her wind-tossed words were the most welcome Harper had heard since this terrifying weekend began.
“I see some lights in the distance, love. I think it’s that ice-fishing inn we saw on the way up. I’m going to stop there and see if we can get some help.”
A profound wave of relief swept over Harper. Was the end of the nightmare truly in sight? She half-considered finally tossing the hockey stick aside, then reconsidered. She was going to frame the damn thing and put it over their mantel. And the next time Viv wanted to venture anywhere into the Great Outdoors, she would simply point at their trophy and raise one eloquent eyebrow.
Harper laughed, shaking from equal amounts hysteria and cold.
Viv reached back to squeeze her thigh. “Hang in there, love. We’re going to make it. I swear we’re going to make it.”
As they pulled up to the fishing inn, yellow light spilled out of the windows over new-fallen snow. It was so cheerful, so welcoming—Harper had never seen anything more beautiful. A tear rolled from her eye and promptly froze, but she didn’t care. Warmth, food, medical attention, and most importantly, a phone, were only moments away. They’d be back in their own bed by morning.
Harper scowled. “And if there’s any justice at all, Phoebe will see the sunrise from a jail cell.”
Phrase to use: No more exes
Harper’s eyes flew open. Her hand shot, as if by reflex, over to the other side of the bed to find Viv. The angles of her face were even more beautiful in the throes of sleep, she thought. Viv was nestled in the fresh fragrant cotton of her pillow; surrounded by the folds of a luxurious down comforter. Harper slipped her arm around Viv’s waist and spooned her closer. She had to be sure she was really there.
Yes, there she was. Her form that fit so perfectly against her. In sleep Viv arched her back and nestled backward into Harper. They really had escaped what seemed like certain death. The first responders who picked them up had been so sweet. Not only had they saved her and Viv’s asses, arriving within minutes of the phone call with blankets, water, and most importantly a ride back to town. On the way they had tried out the newly minted lexicon from their now mandated sensitivity training. These things took longer to make their way to small towns, but once they were embraced, they were embraced wholeheartedly.
“Your partner has only sustained a flesh wound.” Said one as he cleaned the cut on Harper’s jaw.
“You and your wife have had quite a fright this evening,” said another, “we’ll have you home soon.” Harper and Viv didn’t have the heart or even the energy to tell these life-saving young men that they weren’t married.
Maybe it was the near death experience. Maybe it was overcoming adversity in the heart of the Canadian wilderness. Or maybe it was just some deeper knowledge that came from a places Harper didn’t truly understand. She woke her lover with a kiss. Viv rolled toward her sleepily… a hint of a frown scampered across her features as she struggled to put the events of the night before together. It hit Harper with a certainty that she felt to her fingertips, to her toes.
“Will you marry me?” she asked Viv.
“What? Now? Are you… Yes!” Several emotions duked it out on Viv’s face until joy won out.
“Just promise me one thing, okay?” Harper was serious for a moment.
“No more exes!”
The women locked lips in that kind of kiss. The kind you feel in every fibre of your being. The kind you actually pick up the pen and write home about. The kind of kiss that would give them twinkly eyes when they sat across from one another on the porch swing in front of their future house thirty years from now. The kind of kiss that should never be interrupted by anything…
THE HARSH RINGING OF THE LAST SICKLY GREEN ROTARY DIAL PHONE ON EARTH…