Well, it can't be a story about Cali without her doing something stupid. So, last chapter she did something stupid. This chapter she gets to pay for it. Chapter Sixteen
Cali returned to her window, chilled as she expected. Two hours or more had passed. Sneaking back had seemed more difficult than sneaking out. Her shutters appeared untouched. She slid the stick aside and perched on the seal. She slipped her shoes off before spinning around and sliding gently to the floor.
She had prepared for this, most of it. She hung her cloths on a peg by the window. She could claim that the shutter had blown open, and not been noticed before her clothing was soaked. The shoes were scraped of mud, rinsed in rainwater running from the roof and, deposited onto a cloth under her clothing. She hung her bra and panties in the closet. They would dry quickly enough.
She grabbed her towel and climbed into bed. The towel would be wrapped around her wet head for a while. Cali just needed to get warm. She had a shiver that started in her bones. The back pack was cold and wet but, it was staying under the covers where it was at. Slowly the internal shuddering subsided and she was able to remove a handgun and load it, before she fell asleep.
Sometime later, Cali awoke. Her head was still wet. Her hair was not. The rain continued outside. The clock said that it was 2, in the morning, she presumed. She was still cold, and yet she was hot as well. At least the back pack had warmed to her body. She could feel the hard metal surface of the handgun pressed against her hip. She reached down and slid it away a few inches.
Her cover seemed heavy when she moved. But, it was warm, so she didn’t care. There was a glass of water on the table by the bed. When had she gotten that? No matter, she was thirsty so she drank it, and fell asleep.
A crash of thunder that shook the shutters woke her again. The clock said it was 4. There was a strange taste in her mouth. Her head felt heavy but, it wasn’t wet. Her body felt stiff, and exhausted. It was a chore reaching for the glass of water by the bed. She managed it, and drank it all down, again. How can I have drank the same glass of water twice? The thought ran through her head so fast she didn’t have time to latch onto it. It didn’t matter. She was tired, so she slept.
She awoke again, she remembered, two more times. Each time she was thirsty, so very thirsty. And each time she had drank a glass of water, and fallen back asleep. No more than an hour had passed between. But then she woke up, and the clock said that it was just after 1, how could that be? The discrepancy brought her up. She tried to stretch. Her muscles protested. Her t-shirt was damp. Her hair was dry, and he scalp was wet.
She looked down. Her head felt too heavy for her neck. She felt like a newborn kitten with no control. The gun still sat next to her hip. The backpack had been slid up next to her head. It was dry. She turned to look around the room. The peg by the shutters was empty. There were no shoes on the floor. There was a full glass of water on the table, next to the clock that read just after1, in the afternoon. Cali ran a hand down her shirt. I never put a shirt on before going to bed. What the hell?
That odd taste was in her mouth again. She shook her head and reached for the gun. It was heavy, but she was determined. The floor was cold, and she wobbled like a newborn foal. She made it all the way to the door but, instead of stealthily opening it and peering down the hallway, Cali barely managed to remain standing when she pulled it open onto her toe. The gap under the door was just high enough to scrape over the top of her toes. It felt like she had just fileted her big toe. The sudden stop and the intense pain made her topple backwards against the wall. She dropped the gun. It sounded like thunder when it hit the floor. Cali didn’t care. Her toe was on fire and suddenly she had no strength left. If she was in trouble, then she would remain so. She could do nothing to help herself.
She was sliding down the wall. The world had begun to spin. Someone was coming, she could hear footsteps. Somewhere deep in her mind she categorized the footfalls. They belonged to someone light, determined, confident, concerned or in a hurry, probably female… somehow the last category comforted Cali. That alone caused her wonder. It wasn’t Connie or Bobbie… Cali looked up to see Nonna. Her familiar face was furrowed in concern.
“Come now child. What are you doing out of bed?” Her eyes caught the gun as Cali’s unresponsive foot shoved it across the floor. “Are we doing that again?” With surprising strength the old woman pulled Cali to her feet. “Do I need to help you to the bathroom or can we just put you back into the bed?”
The question penetrated the fog that had fallen on Cali’s mind. Once she realized that she was in no danger her mind had released its tenuous grip on reality and was floating in a sea of mist and mud. She forced her mind to do a function check. “Bathroom” It sounded slurred even to her own ears.
Nonna turned her in the doorway and helped her to the bathroom. She talked to Cali the entire time. None of her words were actually getting through to the thinking part of Cali’s mind but, it was good to hear a familiar, friendly voice. She hated needing help in the bathroom. Having never received any help as a child, accepting it now was difficult. But, she had little choice. She couldn’t even sit on the toilet without weaving. She did manage to wipe her own tail before Nonna helped her pull up her panties.
They made their way back to the bedroom, and Cali was deposited back into her bed.
Once there her mind began to pick up on other things. It seemed that she was capable of concentrating on only one thing at a time. Before she could ask, Nonna gave her back the gun. She stuffed it under the covers. “My chest hurts.”
“I imagine it does. You have pneumonia.” Nonna lifted her head and put a glass to her lips. It smelled like the taste in her mouth. Cali drank.
“What is it?” She asked when she had drank nearly all of the glass.
“A tea that will help you sleep and breathe and heal.” She put the glass back on the table by the bed.
Cali looked at the glass with wonder. There was only one glass. There had never been a glass of water. Just that off colored tea. Even on the pillow her head felt like it was wobbling. Slowly she turned to look at Nonna. The woman was seated on the bed. She looked like she was waiting. “How long?”
“Since you came back from your little late night jaunt?” Cali’s forehead furrowed. “A little over two days.” Nonna got up and pulled the blanket up near Cali’s feet. “I’ll get something for your toe. You managed to pull the toenail up.” She left the room.
Cali leaned up and looked at her toe. It had bled pretty good. But it didn’t hurt much, not in comparison to her chest. She took the glass and finished the tea. Nonna came back in with a hand full of medical supplies and another glass of tea.
“You knew?” Cali tried to make her mind focus.
“That you wandered out? Not until I found you the next morning. The wet clothes and the back pack gave you away. Even had you managed to not get sick, I don’t know how you would have explained the back pack.” She was busily tending to Cali’s toe while she spoke. “I don’t know who you went out to see, I can guess.”
Panic rose like bile in Cali’s throat. “Don’t speak…” She glanced at the table where the phone sat.
“Don’t worry. They think that you’re off with Nickola and forgot your phone. I shut the damn thing off and pulled out the battery days ago.” Cali must have looked surprised. “It’s my house, I’ll be damned if that ass is going to bug it or my guests!” She finished her bandage. “Okay, there you go. Now try to stay in bed. You are quite the handful when you’re sick.Your demons are many and they love to plague you when you can’t keep them under wraps.”
“I know” Cali felt ashamed. “I’m sorry”
“Don’t be sorry child. Just get well.” She sat back on the edge of the bed. “I sent Nickola away. He doesn’t know about you being sick, or your little jaunt. I figured you had a reason to keep it secret from him. You don’t trust him, and I don’t blame you. He did something that… well it would shake anyone’s trust. He wants to make it right. I hope that counts for something.”
“It does.” Cali readjusted how she was laying. It didn’t help she hurt everywhere. “It’s best he doesn’t know all of my plans. Ben can smell liars. But, if Nickola doesn’t know, he can’t lie. It can help keep him alive.”
Nonna smiled. “Even after he betrayed you, you would still try to save him?”
Cali nodded. It was a weak gesture. “If I can. He was forced into it. But, I have to get moving…” She was suddenly possessed with an urgent need to do something. Time was wasting. Nonna put her hand on Cali’s shoulder and seemed to exert no effort whatsoever keeping the younger woman flat on her back in the bed.
“You’re not going anywhere, until you are well.” Cali squirmed until she ran out of energy and just gave up. “Your lady called. She is concerned. I told her you would call her when you could hold the phone on your own. She calls regularly, and asked me to tell you that she would… oh let me think, how did she put it… she would see to your business with Angela until you were well. She was concerned that you would try to implement your plan when you could not even walk straight. Apparently she knows you well.” Her eyebrow raised.
Cali ignored the sarcasm. “But, Ben will move, even if I don’t. The game has begun. I can’t just opt out or waste time. The timer has started.” It was a reference to chess. In a chess match each player hits a timer after each move. Their opponent has only the time allotted on the clock in which to make their move. Cali’s timer was ticking.
Nonna wasn’t quite sure what game Cali was referencing. It really didn’t matter the inference was clear. “Relax, the rain continues. Ben will not make his move until you leave this house. That much was made clear. He is waiting for Nickola to deliver you to him, away from here. We have already said that we are not going to the city until after the rain.”
Nonna’s explanation sounded wrong. “But, Nickola is not here and I’m supposed to be with him. Isn’t Ben expecting me already?”
Nonna laughed. It was a free sound. “The rain is causing flooding in a nearby town. I sent Nickola to help. He is knee deep in mud and cow shit.” She patted Cali’s hand. “Relax and heal. When you are well enough, I will let you call Connie. Until then, let those that love you deal with this mess.” She got up to leave. “Oh, Connie had another message this one was from Angela, a woman named Bobbie and herself, they say that next time you want to go running around in the rain, wear a damn rain coat and proper boots.” She took the empty glass and medical supplies when she left.
Cali could hear Connie, Bobbie and Angela all saying those words to her. ‘Wear a damn rain coat, and proper boots.’ There was no doubt in her mind that Nonna had been in contact with Connie. Despite the tightness in her chest, she felt a weight lift. Sleep came like a warm blanket.
I'm off to Virginia City again tomorrow. Who knows what kind of exciting things I will find. I will be taking my camera again. I'm hoping that I will have some nice pics to upload for you all.
Live well and be good to each other.