'Alas, she who cannot see the bars of her own cage will find it difficult beyond measure to escape.' anonymous
George had managed to use a tree branch to get himself upright. Gillian pulled up as close as she could, set the handbrake, and jumped out to help him. It took some maneuvering, but they got him into the passenger seat. He looked like he was about to faint from the pain. She made three cuts to turn the car around, and finally got it headed back up towards the road. She had no idea what they could do when they got back there, but at least they'd be closer to some kind of help. The engine cut out again on the steep rise. She pulled on the emergency brake, and turned the key in the ignition. It caught. She eased out the clutch, giving it just enough gas to take hold in first gear. They moved slowly up the grade. She knew he saw how close to panic she was.
Damn him. She'd show him she could cope. His ankle was purple, and badly swollen. He looked like he was going to throw up. If they could only get to the road maybe they could find a way to get some help. Hopefully there was a first aid kit in his car with something that would help with the pain.
"You handle this car like a pro, Gillian. Where'd you learn to drive?" She could tell he was trying to make small talk to calm her down, and to prove that though currently helpless, he was still the adult.
"I've been driving since I was twelve, actually. Apparently my mother's main goal in life was to make me self-sufficient." He winced as they hit a rut. They inched their way up the path, finally pulling into the lot. The road was still deserted except for a couple of ground squirrels. A hawk sailed in circles above them, catching the air currents and keeping an eye on the squirrels.
She parked next to George's station wagon. "Do you think there's a first aid kit in your car?"
"Look in the glove compartment." They were in luck. There was a kit, somewhat banged up, but inside there was a packet of aspirin and an instant cold pack. Still no cars on the road, though.
"I'm going to pull up so your door is close to the back seat. Think you can pivot on your good leg and get in? Then you can put your leg out straight on the seat and get the cold pack on it." She'd been shocked by her ability to make decisions, now that they were up on the road. "I'm going to drive you to emergency -- there's no cell service here and we would have to wait for an ambulance even if we could call." She had to get the hell out of there and get to someone else, anyone else, who could take responsibility, before her courage failed again.
George managed to use his good leg to support himself and swung into the back seat of the station wagon. He swallowed the aspirin. Gillian activated the cold pack and put it on his ankle. He fumbled in his pocket, finally dragging out his car keys, and handed them to her. Gravel scattered as she spun the car around and skidded out onto the road. She snapped the lights on as the sun slipped behind the mountain, leaving the sky washed in a pale gold.
"I didn't realize how late it had gotten. My wife will be wondering what happened to me."
The resaturant was deserted. Good. Kate wasn't in the mood to see anybody she knew or who might think they knew her. That happened too often when she and George went out. She'd like to just sit and look at the sea and know that Cliff was sitting attentively across the table. God, when had she gotten so self-centered? There was a part of her that had opened, a yawning black hole, that was desperate for nurture, attention, sustenance. Or was it just sex she was missing? Whatever it was, she didn't want to have to analyze it or even think about it now. It was enough to be here, in a cool, quiet place, with no responsibilities and no agenda.
They chose a table in the corner by the window in order to have a view on two sides. Before she sat down, she said "I need to find the restroom."
She passed by a tank full of exotic tropical fish, and was caught by the carefully orchestrated world, complete with underwater castle and buried treasure. The fish darted back and forth, back and forth, in a pattern that led nowhere. Did she imagine their frustration, or was that projection? She never had been able to enjoy the zoo, even as a child, or to keep a bird in a cage. That was probably why those green parrots had filled her with such joy that day -- the fantasy that they'd escaped from some demonic pet store and found their own way into the wild, wild world. She wondered just how they had set themselves free. Did they have a liberator, or was it an act of nature -- like an earthquake, flood, or fire? Or did someone simply forget to lock the cage?
[to be continued - you can find the preceding chapters of INTO THE CANYON here.]