A Different Blue Page 70

Just before Christmas, I wrote a couple of days off work and went on a major wood hunting expedition. I headed into Arizona, hit the corner of Southern Utah, and circled back to Vegas with a truck full of juniper, mountain mahogany and more mesquite than I could carve in a month of Sundays. The heavy rains and floods from months before had moved downed timber from higher ground, filling the washes and valleys and making it fairly easy to find what I was looking for. Unfortunately, I had to leave some of the heaviest pieces behind because, though I had perfected using levers, pulleys, and ramps, some of the pieces demanded more than one woman and her tools could accomplish. When I planned the trip, I had hoped I might be able to convince Wilson to come with me. With the Christmas holiday he would have some time off. Buy he was so obviously trying to steer clear of me that I didn't bother.

When I rolled in on Monday night, filthy and tired, sporting slivers, bruises, torn clothing and a throbbing toe, courtesy of a log that got away, I was not in the mood for any interactions with Pamela and Wilson. Unfortunately, they pulled up at the house while I was attempting to unload my truck by the basement entrance. Pamela was wearing a little white skirt with tennis shoes and a fitted sports tank, her hair pulled back into a perky ponytail. She shivered as Wilson jumped up into the back of my truck and began to help me unload. She danced in place for about two minutes, hopping from one foot to the other.

“Darcy, I'm freezing. Let's go inside, shall we?” she complained, and then smiled at Wilson when he paused to look at her.

“Go on ahead, Pam. It is too cold out here. I'll just help Blue get this in the basement.”

Pamela scowled slightly, her eyes lingering on me doubtfully. She didn't want to leave Wilson, I could tell. Women have a sense about these things. There was something going on between Wilson and me. And she knew it. I just shrugged. Not my problem.

“Really, Pammy. Head on up to my flat. I'll just be a minute. There's no reason for you to stand in the cold,” Wilson insisted.

It wasn't really very cold, although December in the desert can be surprisingly nippy. But I guess if I was wearing a tiny tennis outfit instead of jeans, work gloves, and a flannel shirt I might be cold, too. I didn't know what Pamela was worried about. My hair was a ratty nest. In fact, I was pretty sure I was sporting a few twigs. My nose was red, my cheek scratched, and I wouldn't be turning any heads, including Wilson's. Pamela must have arrived at the same conclusion, because she gave me a long look and flounced away, calling that she would just turn on the “telly” for a bit.

“Pammy?” I mocked, rolling a four foot section of a tree I'd razed down my makeshift ramp.

“When we were little, everyone called her Pammy. It slips out every now and again.”

I snorted, not having anything to say but feeling disdainful anyway.

“Why did you leave without telling anyone where you were going, Blue?” Wilson called over his shoulder as he descended the ramp, juggling an armful of juniper. He proceeded down the stairs to the basement, and I decided that meant he didn't need an answer or he didn't think he was going to get one. He loped back up seconds later and resumed talking as if he hadn't left.

“I didn't even know you were gone until yesterday morning. Then I started to worry.”

“I didn't leave without telling anyone. I just didn't tell you,” I replied shortly. “This is the last piece, but it's heavier than hell. Get on the other end, will ya?” I directed him, changing the subject. I didn't want to justify my absence. He had been the one ignoring me, not the other way around.

Wilson grabbed the end of two heavy, tangled branches I was struggling to hoist. Two separate branches had grown out of two different trees that had been growing side by side, and the branches had overlapped, wrapping around the other, the smaller branches tangling and intertwining. The branch from one tree had been damaged and was split at its base. Had it not been wrapped around the branch from the other tree it would have come down on its own. I had to climb both trees to cut each branch loose, sawing off the branch that wasn't split, and severing the few jagged connections of the one that was. It had cost me a hole in my jeans and a long scratch on my right cheek, but it would be worth it in the end.

The imagery of the fused branches was compelling and suggestive of something innate to every human heart – the need to touch, the need to connect – and I knew exactly what it would look like when I finished. When I'd first seen it, I had ached for something I had denied myself since I walked out of Mason's garage apartment a year ago. But it wasn't the physical release I yearned for. Not entirely. It was the closeness, the connection. But the thought of going back to a time when I'd slaked a physical need at the expense of an emotional one didn't appeal any longer. And so I was left with the ache and no idea how to soothe it.

Wilson and I teetered down the stairs, facing each other through scrubby branches and prickly bark. I led the way, placing my end gently on the floor by the workbench, and he followed suit, standing back and wiping his hands on his white tennis shorts. He had sap on his light blue shirt and grubby marks on his shorts where he had wiped his hands. I wondered if Pammy would want him to change. The thought made me inexplicably mournful, and I snatched up a chisel and mallet. I wanted to start removing bark and twigs and leaves immediately. Maybe I could work the ache away, focus the need and desire clawing at me into something productive, something beautiful, something that wouldn't leave me empty in the end.

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