She had decided to walk. Not that she regretted it. But the five hours of walking made her wonder whether she’d come up the wrong hill. It had been so long since she’d last been here. A quiet apprehension was just beginning to set in the bottom of her stomach when something unexpected yet welcome caught her eye. That pine with the red markings… her cabin had to be around somewhere. The cabin on the hill. The cabin in the woods. The one she had dreamed up and sketched and designed and constructed on her own, three years ago, and longed to come back to ever since.
It had taken her a year to complete, she had a business to run, after all. Fortunately, it was the carpentry business, and being versed with it like she was with her signature enabled her to finish her masterpiece. She had tried to look for the owner of that particular hill, but its owner apparently did not care to be found. She found her cabin at last, after a good deal of rummaging about, for the foliage concealing her wooden abode had grown quite dense these past years. Even now, the master craftsmanship showed, and the structure stood tall, proud and exceptionally well hidden. She’d heard of the floods in this region, a year ago, but hadn’t had the time to come check. She needn’t have bothered, though, as it had obviously withstood that.
No one but her blessed self knew the existence of her solitary, spacious, two roomed home, and she looked forward to spending her month here. Taking out the keys from her rucksack, she turned the lock, dumped her few belongings onto the floor, pulled on a fresh set of clothes and flopped onto a bed. Cold, hard and just the way she liked it. The absence of flying whirls of dirt was a relief, or she’d have had to clean up first. “I think I’ll paint that part of the kitchen” she said aloud, to the blessed silence.
Startled from her reverie, she jumped to her feet.
Carefully, she stepped out and went round the back of the cabin. She caught sight of a barebacked man laying down beside a bundle of wood, at a distance. Her sharp eyes noticed a ladybug cross him over, and also his supple, athletic build. Had some one ever lived around these parts? She had never known.
“Hi! You live nearby?” She asked. The man said but one word. “Yes.” That’s it. No looking around, or scrambling to his feet, no signs of having been startled. He’d noticed her and not let on, then, she thought.
“I’m Felicity. and you?” “Hugh.” Again, just one word, and nothing else. Spoken as if it were the most natural thing to happen, the most appropriate thing to have been said.
So she sat down, on his bundle of wood, sensing a differentness, but safeness about this man. And she stared into the trees, and dreamed. An hour passed, maybe two, who knows. The squirrels courted each other, and the sun courted the trees, and the breeze courted her hair, and time stood still. An unspoken trust established itself.
“You’re here three years late.” She thought something, but said nothing. He sensed it. Another eternity of calm and cool wind passed. At long last, he got up. “I’ve lived here six years. I saw you build your shack. And disappear.” “Where did you watch me from?” a smile played on her lips. “From a better concealed one, not much higher.” He said simply. She laughed. “And how clever I had thought myself.” “As you are.” He replied.
“Where did you live before here?” She asked. “A different hill.”
“What is your trade?” She asked. “Wood work.” He replied.
“I must go.” He said, after a while. “Drop by sometime, if you can find my residence, that is.” He added, flashing a rare, enigmatic, mischievous smile. He lifted his loads and walked off, disappearing into the hill. She didn’t look, of course. That would have been cheating.
She remained motionless for a while, then turned and ran the way to her cabin and flopped onto the floor, sleeping a sound, dreamless sleep. But wait! A dream. She dreamed of a wizard commanding wood, and then it was dawn and she woke. Hunger spoke to her in volumes, but she set herself a task first. From five in the morning, to eight, she searched the hillock till she found his place, that too when she stumbled over an unnaturally placed stone and put her hands out to the green, climber covered wall of the hill, only to find it concealed an entrance into a cave.
“At last.” called out the wizard’s voice. That same, natural, husky voice. That same, grave and mischievous voice. He tossed her an apple as she had begun to inspect the innards of his home. She held out her hand and deftly caught it, and continued with her inspection. Bereft of all furnishings but one- books. well read, well preserved.
“Where are your carvings?”
“I sell them.”
“You keep none?”
“I find them ugly.”
“They let you chop wood here?” She wondered again of the owner of the hill.
“These ten hills belong to me.”
“Then why live like this?”
“For the same reason you built your shack a certain way.”
She finished her apple and disposed of it. He began to sing something she’d never heard before. Before long, she’d begun to sing too, joining in and improvising every now and then. He swept her up in his arms and put her down again. And so they danced. No awkwardness. No questions. Neither noticed a missed beat, a false step. Trust danced them along and it was perfect.
Joy flooded her being as she moved. At last, out of breath, she stopped, then laughed as she hadn’t in a long time. He sat down on the floor, and looked at her, and smiled. But it wasn’t mischievous this time. It was a smile of utter devotion, loyalty and admiration. Something pure, something nameless.
There was no need to look for something to speak of. The conversation flowed like the wind through the trees as they bared all before each other. When had morning turned to night, they didn’t realize. And of course, the most natural sight in the world; His fingers in her hair, her head in his lap, his back against the wall, her arm on his chest, they stared at the stars, they stared at each other, they dreamed strange dreams and they wept. They spoke and they spoke till the slept.