This story primarily features stories involving women. If it is illegal in the state, province, or country in which you live; or if you are under the age of 18, please find something else to read.
Language - Violence - Hurt/Comfort:
- There are elements of strong language, violence, physical and/or mental, as well as emotional hurt and discomfort in this story.The events portrayed in this story are fictional and any resemblance to actual events and/or people is purely coincidental.
Carolyn gazed reflectively at the waterfall trickling slowly down its worn trail and sighed heavily. Summer, a mountainside and no rain is in the forecast! She shook her head in irritation for at this time of year one could generally bet their bottom dollar that rain would spoil any vacation plans in the area, apparently not this year. What made me think this can be a genuine situation and not a figment of a bored professor’s imaginings?
“You okay Carolyn?” For at least fifty times in the last ten minutes Richard had asked her the same question and for a split second she wanted to angrily shout damn it I already told you I’m fine. This time was different - the question was in a softer tone and she felt her body responded to the pitch in a remarkably different way. “I’m good Jennifer, just checking out the terrain. What about you?”
Carolyn stared at Jennifer who was dressed in the full tramper’s regalia. She looks cute. The look suits her. Her thoughts were quietly speculative as she gazed at the woman. Jennifer is a very attractive woman. She’s always looked good whenever we’ve met. Looking down at her attire she thought, maybe in retrospect I should consider my own appearance. Yeah right, who cares anyway…I certainly don’t.
Jennifer smiled warmly as she considered the question. I am feeling great in a way that I never thought possible. She was actually on the quest that had been a lifelong dream, but it was more than that. Carolyn is nothing but a stranger to me yet somehow I feel she is as close to me as any lifetime friend. If nothing transpires from this adventure, I’ll be satisfied. Her brow creased slightly as she realized just how odd it was to feel that way. After all the years I’ve spent chasing my dream I would be satisfied with just knowing her. Weird! “I’m good. I guess I feel like this isn’t real and I’ll wake up and it will be back to life as usual. Does that make any kind of sense?”
Carolyn contemplated the question. That type of thinking doesn’t make sense to me. She knew exactly what she wanted, where she was going. As far as I’m concerned, dreams are other people’s way of making up for inadequacies in their lives. “I guess, where’s Richard ?”
Jennifer looked curiously at Carolyn. She certainly is an odd duck that marches to her own beat, but in a way so am I. She believes in my dream and me so I’ll take her on any level. “He’s gone towards the edge of the waterfall…said it was about time he had a shower.”
For the first time since Jennifer had met Carolyn, the woman actually looked amused. Previously she had seen the odd forced smile - now it was the real thing including a belly laugh.
“Oh that’s my boy, he would want a shower. Spending a night in a tent without life’s essentials would bring out that need in him.”
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Go ahead,” Carolyn cautiously said.
“Are you and Richard an item?” Jennifer heaved a sigh of relief when Carolyn surprised her by laughing.
“Is that a polite way of asking me if I’m screwing him?”
Jennifer’s eyes widened. “No…no not at all! I…I…I was… I guess I’m too inquisitive.” Horrified, Jennifer closed her eyes as she felt her face heat up. Where the hell did that come from? I can’t believe I actually asked her that question.
Carolyn felt sorry for the woman but another part was amused that Jennifer apparently thought she and Richard had a romantic relationship. Finally, as she saw the woman bow her head in obvious embarrassment, she said, “He’s a buddy nothing more. We’ve been friends since high school. I guess you could call him my best friend.”
For a moment, there was silence as Jennifer digested the statement. “Is that what you call him Carolyn?” she asked curiously.
Pondering the question carefully, Carolyn wondered what to say for she didn’t want to lie. What does Richard mean to me ? She felt her body shrug. What most people are in my life I suppose, irrelevant to how I live my life. I deal in facts not trivial emotion, people don’t have to exist for me to have a full life I have my studies. “He’s my friend, a good one. I guess you couldn’t find a better one. Does that answer your question?”
“Yes, thank you.” Jennifer turned away not wanting to face the woman. A part of her hurt at Carolyn’s admission and she didn’t know why. It is ridiculous to feel this way. “I think he has a good idea … the shower I mean.” She shrugged not knowing what else to say. “Guess I’ll go and give it a go too.” Oh, well Poppy used to say that with time everything has an answer. Perhaps during the rest of the journey I will understand. Without looking at Carolyn, she left for the waterfall and a much needed shower.
Carolyn watched as Jennifer made her way through the dense overgrowth towards the waterfall’s entrance and passed out of sight. It’s strange how people need to know how they react with one another, why? A failing of the lesser intelligent perhaps, maybe I’m missing a subtle part of being alive. She pulled at her lower lip in concentration. I’ve pondered that question before and concluded it’s irrelevant. When have I ever encountered a true emotional disturbance? She frowned and sighed heavily as she felt her eyes fill. Certainly not with my family…my parents are too busy to bother. I’m surprised they ever managed to procreate. She rubbed her eyes. “Who cares anyway? They certainly don’t.”
Her mind quickly dispensed with the morose thoughts about her life and family when she felt a gentle trickle of rain on her cheek. A smile crossed her face as she realized that the experiment that she had read about in Jennifer’s book and had apparently interpreted correctly was about to have a critical element added. How, is that for the makings of a glorious day? When they get back, we’ll have my rainbow!
+ + +
Stacey held the package that her boss had given to her a couple of days earlier wanting desperately to open it. However, Jennifer had given her specific instructions to leave it unopened unless a particular circumstance occurred. How am I supposed to know when that is? Is it a trick? She paced her small apartment with Jennifer’s words echoing in her head. “You are entrusted with a gift for some and a curse for others. Please keep it safe for me.” Beyond those cryptic words Jennifer didn’t elaborate. She swore me to secrecy. What is so important in that package?
Out of frustration, she tossed the package in the air and whispered, “Heads I open it now, tails it waits for the…time.” As the package landed on the sofa, it stared up at her with the blank paper showing. Guess I’ll have to wait. She picked up the package, opened one of her filing cabinet’s drawers and placed it inside. The doorbell rang and she smiled. Hmm that will be my date. I wonder who Rainey has set me up with this evening. She felt herself cringe. If it’s anything like the last person, I’m not going to open the door.
+ + +
Richard stood on a flat rock away from the cascading water tugging at the strings on his shorts. The waterfall had been a magnificence source for his shower and he felt refreshed and ready for whatever the day might bring. Breathing in a huge pocket of clean fresh mountain air, he felt his lungs give a high five at the action. It isn’t often they are allowed the luxury of such a feast of pure air, too many cities and loads of artificial environments in my line of work.
The gentle raindrop he initially felt had him gazing up at the sky for a moment before a torrent of rain began to fall. One thing about this area of the world is if it rains it certainly rains heavily! Tossing his wet hair that had fallen across his forehead away and laughing loudly he saw Jennifer striding towards him. “Isn’t this a great way to end a shower,” he said laughing again. “Damn this is wonderful!”
He focused on the small woman. If I didn’t already have someone in my life I’d be tempted with Carolyn.'s new friend. He smiled at Jennifer. She certainly is attractive. His mind then turned to his long time friend. Bet Carolyn is debating which angle the rainbow will appear along with all the pros and cons of where it will be and when. One thing you can always guarantee from Carolyn is her total concentration on the task . A part of him envied that aspect of her personality while the rest of him felt a deep sorrow. Unless she changes overnight, there is no chance that she will find what I have - the love of my life.
For the years that he was in love with Carolyn it hadn’t been easy. He had convinced himself that one day she would see him as her true mate in life. Even though he waited patiently he knew deep down that it would never be. Finally he admitted defeat and begun looking elsewhere. That’s when he met Brooke and he fell like a dead weight at his lover’s feet. Carolyn had been too fragile after her illness for him to explain that he was leaving for good and moving away to be with Brooke. The main reason he joined the expedition was to spend time with his friend and try to explain his situation to her. It’s probably the last time we will spend this type of time together. A pang of guilt stabbed at his heart. Carolyn will be upset that she won’t be the center of my attention anymore. A vision of Brooke came to his mind and he smiled. If she were here, Carolyn would pale into the background, no matter how hard I would try not to ignore her.
“Hi, do you think we’ll have our rainbow?” Jennifer asked.
He smiled broadly at the woman who pinned her hopes and dreams on a magical rainbow. He waved a hand towards their mutual friend. “If Caro has anything to do with it you’ll have your rainbow.”
Jennifer turned to watch the woman who was busily writing notes in a worn notebook. Carolyn’s face was full of concentration as her eyes scanned the sky – she is completely oblivious to anything or anyone else. “She is… very focused.”
Laughing at the term, Richard replied, “Yep, focused would be a good description, but I think obsessive would be closer to the truth.” He motioned for her to join him on a wide flat stone that must have been there waiting for them for hundreds, if not, thousands of years. “I think you and I should sit and watch nature as it’s meant to be and allow our friend up there to do her thing.”
“It’s a waiting game anyway isn’t it?” Jennifer said manoeuvring towards the stone and sitting down.
“Yep.” He hesitated. “With Carolyn everything is a waiting game so as long as you understand that you’ll do ok.”
Jennifer heard something in his tone that wasn’t exactly bitterness but more the indulgence of knowing someone and loving them regardless of their faults. “She told me you were good friends from high school. It’s a feat to keep contact for that long once you’ve gone your separate ways.”
“Yeah,” he said nostalgically. “Carolyn’s intelligence is way out of most people’s league. She’s what they call brilliant…maybe a genius but whatever it is there’s a lot of baggage attached.” His eyes darted to the woman on the hill. “I love her as a friend and if it came down to the wire I’d do anything for her as she would for me. What’s most important to me is that she’s happy and I hope one day she will be.”
“She’s not happy now?” Jennifer felt an affinity with the man when it came to the need to have Carolyn happy. Strange, I feel the same way about her. She smiled at the thought as her gaze slid to the woman in question. Maybe brilliant people bring that out in us lesser mortals. She studied the woman whose clothes looked like they were several sizes too big and her mousy hair that stuck out like a scarecrow around her baseball cap. Carolyn certainly is eccentric, she thought with a laugh.
Richard, staring in the direction of his friend, said softly, “Perhaps I want her to be as happy as I am.” His words seemed to echo all around them in spite of the roar of the waterfall.
Jennifer creased her eyebrows wanting to know more…so much more. She was about to ask the man what he meant when she heard…
“It’s there, look you two it’s there…my rainbow!” Carolyn shouted to her companions who were sitting close together on the rock. A part of her was upset with their closeness but her brain ignored the emotion. Hey, the only reason I’m here is that rainbow, I don’t care what they do! Focused on her mission she started her descent towards where the rainbow met the waterfall.
“She’s found my rainbow,” Jennifer barely whispered as she gazed in awe at the incredible sight of red, yellow, green, blue and a splash of purple.
Richard stretched his back muscles and grinned. “That’s my girl.” He held out his hand. “Come on its time to see if your dreams will come true.”
+ + +
Richard and Jennifer met Carolyn who stood frowning at the spot where the rainbow melted into the waterfall. The woman let out a long exaggerated sigh, held out her notebook and asked, “Jennifer, are these coordinates correct?”
Jennifer accepted the waterproof valise hanging around Carolyn ’s neck and checked their position. She looked at the map they had drawn up from the details in the book and then at their surroundings and felt helpless. Shit I can’t decipher this. “I…I’m not sure.”
“How can you not be sure? For god’s sake Jennifer, this is your life’s work!” Carolyn bit out harshly. “Read me the coordinates again.” Her eyes focused on her long time friend. “Richard what do you make of it?”
Rain, streaming down every inch of his body cascaded onto the compass he held firmly. He wiped away the rivulets of water, shielded the instrument with his free hand and read the direction. “We are on target. Shouldn’t we be beside a cave by now?”
Carolyn climbed over several outcropping’s that made the terrain difficult and peered through the shroud of rain that greeted her. “Unbelievable!” This is just great! No secret entrance! She scratched the side of her nose as she contemplated the situation. Ok, something isn’t right here…but what? Carolyn glared at the two people who had moved to her position. “Do either of you have any bright ideas?”
Jennifer, surprised and hurt at the annoyance in Carolyn’s voice, furtively she glanced away then said quietly over the roar of the falling water. “I guess it was too much to expect that we find it on the first attempt. My grandfather had numerous attempts.” She felt the sting of pain. “Then one day he never came home…I’ve always hoped…” A sense of futility filled her mind. Don’t kid yourself Jenn, this is all a manic obsession and one day you ’ll wake up and finally see that.
Carolyn was too annoyed and caught up in her attempts to figure out the problem that she didn’t hear Jennifer’s plaintive words. “Okay, no suggestions! Just give me that map!” Carolyn snatched the map out of Jennifer’s loose grip and laid it on a flat rock. She disregarded the pouring rain and threw herself down to that level to check the reference points on the map.
Great, maybe now we can all go home. Richard heard Jennifer’s words, but was so absorbed in thoughts of the possibility of going home that he didn’t comprehend their meaning. He pulled a hand over his chin stubble and grimaced at the sight of his friend in the mud. Ah well, I didn’t believe in all this fairy story stuff anyway.
Except for the patter of the rain and the roar of the waterfall the only other sounds were Carolyn’s muttered explitives. Several minutes later, she looked up with her slate grey eyes boring into both of them. Jennifer and Richard, unable to decipher Carolyn’s deep expression just shook their heads.
Carolyn stood up and thought, are they both dumb? “Do you have the book Jennifer?”
Jennifer, unable to meet the other woman’s eyes, shook her head. What a fool she must think I am. I can’t even read the map coordinates correctly and now I don’t have the book. “I left it back in my apartment. I guess I never thought…”
“Great!” Richard exclaimed gleefully. “Does this mean that we can go back?” He grinned. “I’d love to spend the rest of my vacation in decent surroundings.” When he saw the look of disapproval from Carolyn and the disappointment on Jennifer’s face he shrugged. Women, if I live to be hundred, I’ll never understand them!
“No it does not! How many times have I explained to you over the years Richard that an obstacle does not necessarily indicate defeat? There are always other options…always.” Carolyn winked at Richard to soften her harsh words as she turned to Jennifer. “I guess it doesn’t matter. How accurate do you think you were with the translation of the map references from the book and those of your grandfather’s journals?”
Jennifer bristled at the words. Is she implying that I didn’t check my work? “I triple checked all the coordinates. If it’s not here then this was all a joke by someone to mislead people like me.”
Carolyn, who looked like a wet dog as the rain sprayed all about her, shook her head before reaching out and chucking each of her companions on the arm. Although Richard snorted his disapproval, Carolyn was only interested in Jennifer ’s reactions to her question. Why is it that when people who spend most of their life looking for something and taking several knocks along the way, accepted defeat so easily at the last hurdle? Don’t they realize there is always another avenue to follow? All it takes is working the law of averages in your favour. “Are you scared?”
“Scared? Why do you say that of course not, why would I be?”
Carolyn knew was right on the button as a faint mocking expression crossed her face. “Sure you are,” she said knowingly before softening her voice. “At some stage in life we all are. This is extremely important to you and with things not going right you begin to doubt your convictions.” Her eyes held the gaze. “If you do that won’t you be doubting your grandfather as well?”
Jennifer looked at the woman shamefacedly. Carolyn is right . How can she be so accurate about my actions and not know me? Jennifer squared her shoulders, took a deep breath and with resolute features answered, “I guess after all the dead ends I’ve met I doubted this situation as well. I’ve pinned my hopes on them for so long…I’m only human after all. Do you ever get scared Carolyn ?”
Richard felt the intensity of the conversation between the two women and in an attempt to diffuse the situation intervened. “Carolyn never gets scared Jennifer. She can explain away death itself if you pushed her on it. Isn’t that right Caro?”
“Don’t be so damned stupid Richard! I’m sure there will be a time when I’m scared. I’ve just not arrived at that stage in my life yet.” For a brief moment the two shared an understanding glance - he was right. “Alright then, I think that we entered on the wrong side of the mountain range. It will take us another day and a half to retrace our steps and place ourselves at the right juncture. We haven’t any more time to waste so let’s break up camp and get going.”
Jennifer’s eyes bugged as Carolyn folded the map haphazardly. She could still hear her grandfather’s words; you never know when it might save a life, and having a crease down the middle of a critical coordinate because of poor folding is not proper housekeeping. She swallowed her irritation. At this moment, I’m saying nothing.
Richard snorted his disapproval. Damn my dream of spending tomorrow evening in a proper bed instead of lumpy ground in a sleeping bag is disappearing by the second. “Onward we go my dear leader.”
+ + +
“What if we don’t have a rainbow again?” Jennifer asked Richard quietly. They sat by the makeshift campfire at the new position that Carolyn now indicated was the place. It certainly has what looks to me like a cave behind the trickle of a waterfall. They had managed to shave off half a day by taking a shortcut, which fortunately wasn’t as hazardous as it appeared after the rainfall of the previous day.
Richard glanced up from his concentration of cleaning his walking boots of muck. Damn I have a blister and my feet feel like hell. “I think if our academic over there wills it you’ll get your rainbow.” His voice held both sarcasm and an element of faith in the woman.
“Obsession,” Jennifer remarked softly as she gazed at the small waterfall. It’s so small I can barely call it one.
“You mentioned the other day that she was obsessive I was agreeing with you. I’m not sure if it’s good for her though,” Jennifer said reflectively. “You can miss things along the way if you always live your life that way.”
Richard grinned. “Oh she wouldn’t think of it that way.” He looked towards the edge of the waterfall and saw Carolyn visually measuring the various aspects of the mountain, cave and water. “To Carolyn, it’s the only way. Sidetracking isn’t an option for her. A long time ago, I thought that maybe she would…change.” He shrugged and let out a sigh. “Anyway, she’s Carolyn with her own odd eccentricities just like the rest of us.”
“You love her don’t you? I mean more than a friend.” Jennifer laid a slim hand on his larger one. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to pry.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He eyed his friend again. “She never knew. At one point I loved her as more than a friend…or at least I thought did.” He smiled warmly as his eyes, with a far away look held a happiness that lit up his whole face.
“I’m sorry, it must be hard…”
Richard turned so that they faced each other, dropped his boot and took her hand. “Don’t be. I love someone else very much. I’m glad it never happened with Carolyn for I’ve finally found what I’m looking for.”
For the briefest of moments, Jennifer smiled brightly at the man’s words before a gruff voice interrupted them. “Do either of you do anything but sit around? There’s the tents to put up and dinner to make!”
The angry expression on Carolyn’s face and her pointed glance at their still clasped hands made Jennifer pull away guiltily. She can’t think…no way!
“I’ll make dinner…braised beef stew okay with everyone?” Jennifer got up and quickly left the two friends alone.
A bristling Carolyn stood her ground with her eyes flashing angrily at the retreating Jennifer before turning them on Richard who merely smiled warmly. “I’ll put up the tents. It’s a beautiful evening and don’t you worry I’ll have them up before the weather changes…if it does.”
Unable to suppress her anger, Carolyn responded, “Didn’t take you much time did it?”
Richard elected to ignore the comment and its implications by raising his eyebrow. “Gotta get to those tents.”
“What do you have planned…a night of seduction? It is after all such a beautiful evening.”
“Sarcasm with an element of jealousy creeping in doesn’t work with me Carolyn and you know it. Besides, what would it matter to you? Jennifer’s a lovely woman…she looks like a lady who has the time for fun in her life.”
Richard’s raucous laughter had Carolyn stomping away without a word. “What’s the matter with me today?” She muttered as she trudged towards the edge of the waterfall. “In the past I haven’t given a rat’s ass when Richard has women friends…hell I’ve even encouraged it.” Why is this situation so difficult for me? Her logical mind revolved the matter repeatedly and for once, she didn’t have an answer that made any sense. “Damn it what’s so different now?” She shook her head dismissing the only answer that kept repeating itself. No way could that be the reason for what I’m feeling, she thought as the final words she’d overheard rang in her head repeatedly. I’m glad it never happened with Carolyn, I’ve finally found what I’m looking for.
+ + +
According to Carolyn and Richard, her meal was remarkable. When she had left the two friends earlier, she was so perturbed that her energy transferred to cooking and she surpassed even her own expectations. She was certain that the sporadic tastes good from them, although exaggerated, were sincere. Carolyn even made a passing comment on how amazed she was with Jennifer’s culinary skills while camping. During the meal, her two companions still seemed to be at odds with one another - Carolyn glared constantly at the man.
The trek to the new sight should have exhausted Jennifer, but it hadn’t. She tossed and turned as her thoughts focused on the events of the past twenty-four hours and the doubt she expressed about the expedition and her grandfather’s dream. Carolyn voiced the possibility that her devotion to her grandfather’s memory and goal in life was waning. Damn her…she was spot on. She heard the steady, if somewhat heavy breathing of Carolyn. Apparently, she can sleep like a rock in any condition. Her mind flashed back to her parents telling her as gently as possible that her grandfather was dead…
“I’m sorry Jennifer. I know how you loved him.” George Finch had to bite his lip as he told his daughter that her beloved Poppy was no longer with them. He was a grown man and had trouble getting around the truth and Jennifer was only ten.
Jennifer turned bright tear-filled eyes to her dad. Surely daddy is only joking and Poppy Finch will come back…he promised! “He can’t be dead Daddy. He promised me…he did!”
George heard the tremor in her voice as she tried and finally failed to come to grips with the news. Her tears cascaded like waterfalls onto her face streaking her cheeks as she stared at him in blind faith. He pulled her close and held her in a tight yet gentle hold. Her sobs soaked his best suit jacket but that was of little consequence. “Hey there pumpkin, you know he wouldn’t want all these tears especially if it scrunches up your beautiful face. He’d be upset if he thought he was making you cry Jenny.”
For several minutes, Jennifer sobbed uncontrollably until a sense of understanding came over her and she glanced up into her father’s saddened eyes. “He’s not really dead though is he Daddy? Not really because we will always remember him won’t we?”
From the mouth of babes, George thought as he was no longer able to stop his own tears.” You’re right there pumpkin, yes you are. He’ll always be with us in all that we do.”
At fifteen, she learned that they never found her grandfather’s body. While lying on the hard, rocky ground on some mountain near a waterfall in the still of the early morning she recalled her mother’s words; he went off on one of his harebrained journeys and never came back. There was a massive search operation but the authorities failed to turn up any evidence of the man or his body. By the time she finally learned the truth her mind tumbled over several theories and the only one that made any sense brought her to the waterfall. My grandfather finally achieved his goal and found the paradise he told me stories about when I was a child. Her path had been set from that moment on - I’m going to find the place and pray my grandfather is still alive. Deep down she knew that was where he was safe and well.
Years have a way of eroding even the most focused and it had never occurred to her that she would doubt her way. But I have. Hell, it took someone who doesn’t have my personal stake in fulfilling this dream to take me literally by the hand and lead me back. I called Carolyn obsessive…if that is the case,then what am I?
She unzipped the bag, climbed out quietly and with as little movement as possible manoeuvred out of the small tent. Her eyes gazed up at the dark sky lit brightly by stars. Here in the depths of nature, everything glitters and sparkles with an intensity that is lost in the cities. A canopy of brilliant stars hung over the leaves that sparkled with dew as sounds of nocturnal creatures echoed from the undergrowth. Jennifer let out a happy sigh as she took in the marvellous sight. “It must be like heaven to spend one’s life living with so much beauty day in and day out. It is an enviable lifestyle to live with nature,” she whispered trying not to disturb the tranquility. She walked towards the small waterfall and was surprised to see that the slow trickle of earlier was now a steady flow. Looks like yesterday’s rain finally made it this far she thought as she stood at a crevice close to the lower ledge of the waterfall. She closed her eyes in peaceful repose until a voice, surprising her, broke into her silent wanderings.
“There’s no rainbow yet.”
Jennifer jumped slightly. “God you startled me,” she said smiling at Carolyn.
Carolyn moved closer and was about to say something sarcastic but changed her mind. “I didn’t mean to do that. Couldn’t you sleep?” she asked compassionately.
Jennifer laughed softly. “I think the chain gang didn’t get as far as my part of the ground. There is a network of large boulders right under my sleeping bag.”
Carolyn couldn’t help the slight smile that crossed her face at hearing the description. Jennifer has a true sense of the imagination, it’s probably why she elected to be a cartoonist. “You can change with me if that will help.”
“Thanks for the offer, but it will be sunrise shortly. I probably should think about what we'll have for breakfast.”
Carolyn nodded. “A sound plan.” For a moment her eyes darted nervously to the waterfall. She finally made up her mind as to what to do next and her gaze focused on Jennifer. “I have some notes to write if you don’t mind my company.” She raised an eyebrow. “I’ll make the coffee.”
For a moment Jennifer pulled a face and hoped Carolyn hadn’t seen it. No way is she making coffee. She felt herself shiver at the remembered taste of the woman’s coffee. I can’t imagine anything worse than having that terrible taste in the mouth all day long.
Carolyn noticed the shiver and asked, “Are you cold?”
Jennifer smiled. “No, the breeze was cooler than I expected.” She saw no need to tell the woman the truth. “Why don’t I make the first brew then when Richard gets up we’ll share the breakfast tasks.” To take any perceived sting out of her words she added, “Besides, it will give you time to do your notes.”
With a puzzled expression, Carolyn then contemplated the woman’s offer. Is something wrong with my coffee, no one has ever mentioned it? Guess she just wants something to do. “Okay, have it your way but remember I did offer.”
A companionable silence settled over them much as it did at times when they drove from her parents back to the city. It is a nice feeling. Jennifer had never really experienced that before with anyone. That’s odd…it’s as if I’ve known Carolyn all my life. I wonder how she feels.
Carolyn had a tiny smile hovering around her lips as she contemplated the notebook in her lap. This is nice I’ve never felt this happy about having someone this close to my personal space before. Weird thing is Jennifer is a virtual stranger to me but from the first moment we met it’s as if I’ve known her a lifetime. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re outdoors and out of my comfort zone...yeah that’s what it must be.
+ + +
Jennifer sipped the delicious coffee, which was only instant but after the thought of having another of Carolyn’s brews, it was like heaven. Jennifer glanced at the sky and sighed for it was clear except for the odd wispy white cloud. By the looks of things, there’ll be no rain today.
As if Carolyn was reading Jennifer’s mind she said, “It’s going to rain, best estimate is around noon.” The words floated over her two companions who glanced at each other with a slow shake of their heads.
“No way Carolyn, it’s a lovely morning virtually cloudless!” Richard expressed as he stifled a yawn while flexing his powerful back muscles.
Carolyn glared. “Richard, though we are in the backwoods, I still maintain radio contact with the outside world and they’ve forecasted rain.”
“Bet you a slap up dinner in a restaurant of my choice that they are wrong.”
With the sky as clear as it is I won’t be surprised if the weatherman is wrong. Carolyn considered the offer. Anyway, I can hope that they aren’t…all we need is a rainbow and time isn’t exactly on our side. “Yeah, yeah, yeah and I know exactly the place you’d want to take me…that swanky place where I have to dress up. Didn’t you ever wonder why I am never invited any of my parent’s embassy functions?”
Richard laughed and cuffed her gently as he eyed her warmly. “Hey, seeing you in a party frock has to be the highlight of the year… perhaps even the decade. I cannot see Reese and Chloe ever having the nerve to invite you. Can you?”
Jennifer listened to the friendly banter with a warm smile. It is good to have that kind of camaraderie with another person. I envy their rapport.
“When I was eight maybe but now? Not a chance. They’ve never been shy about telling me and anyone else that will listen that I would embarrass them. Thankfully, I don’t fit the standard box they have for a diplomat’s child.”
Jennifer noticed that although Carolyn’s features gave off a careless attitude her eyes mirrored a deeper hurt. I know exactly what hurts Carolyn for I’ve been there. My family doesn’t understand my life or me because it doesn’t match theirs. “If it doesn’t match what they have in mind it is wrong.” Her eyes mirrored Carolyn’s pain. Yep, I’ve suffered much the same at my parent’s hands. Not malicious, or even outwardly hostile, but disapproving nonetheless, particularly in my mother’s, case. Her attitude is so unyielding. She sensed the stares and looked up to see Carolyn and Richard both staring at her. Shit. She hadn’t realized she voiced her thoughts as she felt her face heat up. “I…I don’t fit my family’s box either. They wanted me to be a small town girl with no aspirations. Having this particular hmm…‘hobby’ almost gave my mother a nervous breakdown. Guess we all have to make our own choices and live with them rather than going down someone else’s path.” Her words spoken so quietly the others had to strain to hear her.
Richard gave her a long searching gaze and then a comforting smile. “Well, nature calls,” he said as he stood up and headed for a bush.
Carolyn knew all too well what Jennifer was saying. Perhaps that’s why we have a connection. We understand each other in that department. Sometimes you have to go your own way to fulfil life’s promise. “It really is going to rain Jennifer,” she said with conviction.
Carolyn’s voice whispered like the wind in Jennifer’s ears blowing away any remnants of doubt she had. “Thank you. Maybe today will be a momentous day for us all.”
Both women settled into an easy silence contemplating thoughts that they didn’t want to voice or share.
+ + +
Richard scratched his head and pulled a face as he gazed mesmerized by the rainbow that had appeared out of nowhere. “How the hell…”
“I refuse at this moment to give you a lesson in physics Richard. Right now we need to hit that waterfall and enter the cave at precisely the point marked by the rainbow’s end.” Carolyn picked up her things and with a high-spirited laugh, scrambled over the rock she had been sitting on and began the decent towards the waterfall.
Jennifer, still in awe of the rainbow’s appearance threw her rucksack and provisions over her shoulder and followed.
“Okay girls don’t wait up for me.” Richard, in a more sedate fashion, picked up the remaining items and jogged after them.
Within minutes, they were at the base of the rainbow, which refracted light in a peculiar way that shone on a part of the waterfall. When they looked closely there was a path magnified within the waterfall’s cascading rivulets.
“Let’s go find your dream Jennifer.” Carolyn didn’t wait for an answer as she waded through the stream. Then took a deep breath before plunging headlong into the waterfall.
Although Jennifer felt her limbs shake with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation she too took a deep breath and entered the waterfall. Richard watched the two women vanish from his view and for a split second wondered is this all worth it before he followed them.
The ice cold water that pummelled Carolyn’s body had her gasping when she exited the waterfall. I never did like cold showers she thought as she considered whether the expedition was worth the cost. She shook the water from her hair and shivered as freezing cold along with the cool temperature of the cave penetrated her body. Her normal curiosity that would have propelled her further into the cave in exploration was not in evidence.
Jennifer shot out of the waterfall refreshed, invigorated and feeling as though the cold water was a revival of her dreams. She closed the gap between herself and Carolyn with a huge grin on her face. “Wow wasn’t that great!”
“Jenn…ifer, it’s freeeezing. Mmmy teeth are chatttttering.” She loathed the experience. She felt like she was literally freezing her butt off and only wanted to get warm. Richard had better not get the stove wet or he’s in deep trouble.
“Oh come on now Carolyn, it was marvellous, revitalising really.” Jennifer saw the blue tinge to Carolyn’s lips and realized she was actually freezing. “Let me help you get warm,” she said compassionately as she got even closer to the woman. “You need to get those wet clothes off,” she said as she reached into her backpack and deftly withdrew a thermal blanket. With practiced expertise, she unfolded what looked like a large piece of silver cooking foil. “Here, I’ll hold this up while you take them off.”
“Oookkkay,” Carolyn stammered out as she let the clothes drop to the cave’s rock floor. This is no time for modesty. “I’m done,” she chattered out.
“Turn around.” Jennifer gently placed the blanket around the shaking woman’s shoulders. “You’ll be fine in a few minutes, these blankets are superb.”
With a muttered, “thanks,” Carolyn sank down onto the nearest large boulder.
Jennifer then reached into her bag, took out a second blanket and a towel. Leaning in she rubbed Carolyn’s head with the towel before placing the other blanket over her hair. “They say most of your body heat escapes through your head.”
Both women turned and watched as Richard crash through the waterfall and wade towards them. “Geesh that was some experience!” he said exuberantly. His eyes wandered to the two woman and gave each one a once over before settling on his friend who was obviously in distress. “You okay Caro?” His concern was immediate and genuine as he threw packs onto the ground and knelt down in front of her. Shit, I knew it wouldn’t take much for her to have a relapse. This was a stupid trip to take. Why did I ever let her talk me into letting her go? Eyes filled with warmth and anxiety begged for an answer.
“Goo..d. I’m good Rrichard.” She felt her body go from bone numbing coldness to warmth as her extremities began to thaw out. She saw the look in Richard’s eyes and knew what he was thinking. I always know. I can’t let this stop the search. “Why don’t you and Jennifer scout the area for a few minutes while I warm up?”
“Sure. If that’s what you want.” He rummaged through one of the packs and took out the camp stove. “Why don’t I get this thing going and warm up this damp cave some.” He struck a match and a fire sprung to life. “There you go. Why don’t we all take a breather and dry off?” He looked at the pile of wet clothes. “And get you something dry to wear.” He wanted Carolyn to rest as long as it took to get warm. I know her, if we go ahead she’ll not stay put for long. Once again, he questioned the wisdom of the adventure but at the same time didn’t want her to miss any part of the journey. For the first time in years, Carolyn feels energetic about something other than musty old books.
Jennifer slipped off her backpack. “I agree with Richard , Carolyn . I think we all should change our clothes no sense taking a chance on getting a cold.” She caught the woman’s gaze and smiled. “We’ll wait and go together.”
“Okay,” Carolyn said in relief. I really don’t want to stay behind. “I’m feeling warmer already. I won’t be long.” She snuggled deeper into the blankets and sighed happily. Warmth is a wonderful thing.
Once she had changed into dry clothes, Jennifer stood, gazing in fascination at the caves geographical makeup. The layers of rock, interspersed with quartz gave a glow to the interior that wasn’t obvious from the outside. “This place is amazing,” she said in wonderment.
Richard took the time to look over the cave entrance. “Do you think we should put up a marker or something in case we get lost or need to have a navigational point?” His question was ignored as each of his companions seemed to be lost in their own thoughts. Can’t do any harm, I’m going to do it anyway. He shrugged and began selecting several large flat stones that he piled close to a large rock by the water’s edge. Soon he had built a small tower that to the naked eye wasn’t anything other than a mark of Mother Nature. He wiped away the dust from his hands satisfied with his work of art. This is our guide back to the outside world - my world.
“I’m warm enough to travel,” Carolyn declared, as she stood up still wrapped in the blanket. “Once I get my clothes on we can get started.”
+ + +
“The interesting thing about caves is their deceptive length,” Carolyn said as they traversed the rock floor further and further into the mountainside.
When the incline began to steepen Jennifer wondered are we descending into the bowels of the earth. She scrunched up her face. That’s creepy. After ten minutes of a steady decline, she voiced her doubts. “Do you think we should be going down?”
“From my recollections, there wasn’t a reference to this part of the journey,” Carolyn said over her shoulder. “It merely said that you enter where the rainbow struck and follow the path. Was that your recollection too Jennifer?”
Flicking mentally through the pages she tried to find any reference to this part of the trail. “I vaguely remember an indistinct passage about entering the waterfall and appearing in the valley. I don’t remember anything more so my guess is the professor didn’t think it worth mentioning.”
“Well, I think we should maintain this course and hope for the best,” Carolyn said as she kept moving forward, her flashlight at the ready. So far, we haven’t needed it. “Anyone else notice that we can still see relatively clearly?”
Richard had been thinking along the same lines. “Yep, right with you there Caro. Must be the rock formation…I’ve never seen a place this bright though. I think on the way back we should take a sample. Who knows, it could be a viable replacement for electricity.” He grinned at the two women who gave him varying degrees of indulgent looks.
An hour later, Jennifer stopped and stared at the rock wall. The muted light of the cave in that area revealed writing on the walls. Once she pointed the beam of her flashlight her eyes widened. Primitive paintings are my guess. “What do you make of these?”
Carolyn and Richard stopped and turned to see what Jennifer was illuminating with her flashlight. Carved into the rock were drawings depicting scenes of battle.
Carolyn looked closer. “Hmm they don’t appear to be cave dweller primitive.” She flashed her own light on the wall and studied the drawings intently. “Yeah, it’s definitely medieval.” She sent a concentrated beam to a battle scene. “See that sword.” She circled it with her flashlight beam. “That’s what gives it away. I can see a ship too. Damn, I wish I had the time to stay longer and check this out.” An elusive word from her memory played on the tip of her tongue before it flashed in her mind. Viking, that’s it!
“This proves we aren’t the only people to have ventured this far inside the cave.” Jennifer said excitedly.
“But it doesn’t mean this is the right cave,” Richard interjected.
Immediately Carolyn fixed him with a look. “This is the right cave and Jennifer has every right to be excited. Those drawings prove we are on the right track.”
After another fifteen minutes, Carolyn pointed to a spot in front of her. “Look, isn’t that sunlight up ahead?”
“Yes! The cave is finally ending,” Richard said happily.
Jennifer was speechless with the realization that her dream might be at hand.
The three adventurers were only a few yards away from the mouth of the cave when they stopped dead in their tracks.
“Who goes there?” echoed ominously around them.
To be continued...
To be continued...