“Shit!” Zola’s quiet curse had everyone dashing for the tent.
“What? What? Who’s dead? What’s wrong?” Benj barreled through the zippered flap with Deck tumbling after. Yeller and Nat stood back, trying to see what was happening around the squirming bodies.
“Get the fuck out!” Zola screamed, pushing for Benj and Deck to leave. “Out! Out! Don’t come back in! Don’t!”
“Ah.” Yeller motioned for Nat to follow him away from the group.
“Why is she screaming at Benj?” Nat tugged to keep his coat hood drawn up around his ears.
“That’s her aunt flo curse voice.” Yeller pointed out a dead log, snapping limbs to tuck under his arm.
The logistics of the three women dealing with a cross country journey tumbled onto Nat’s shoulders like a load of bricks. “Oh. Yeah, no, I think I’d be screaming too.”
“Give her twenty and she’s gonna be crying. Think Deck has any ibuprofen in that pack?” Yeller twisted his head in the direction of camp.
“Probably. I’ll go see.” Nat trudged back through their footprints.
“She’ll love you forever if you just hand her the whole bottle and give her a canteen of water and pretend like you know absolutely nothing.” Yeller snapped another limb.
“Good to know.” Nat stubbed his toe on a hidden log and met the snow face first. Spitting flakes, he brushed himself off and dug out Deck’s pack from beneath the rock carne they had made to deter animals shredding the tent for food.
Bottle of meds and half full canteen in hand, Nat pushed past Deck and Benj. He unzipped part of the door and stuck a hand in with the bottle of ibuprofen. “Zola, delivery from Yeller.” One of the women snatched the bottle from his hand. He offered the canteen in the same way.
“What’s going on? Is she okay? Did something happen?” Benj pressed, worried.
Nat raised an eyebrow at his concern. “You have a sister, right?”
“Yeah, not the topic?” Benj returned the quarked eyebrow and buried his hands under his armpits.
“Zola?” Nat called through the tent.”
“What?” She sounded like she was going to take someone’s head off.
“Mind if I let poor lover boy over here in on what’s happening, or do you want me to leave him in the dark?” Nat offered. His wolf roamed at the recess of his head, cluing him in finally on new smells, ones he could have done not knowing about. Old copper, an odd bitterness.
“I will let my wolf eat you,” she bit.
“You heard the lady. Go help Yeller put a fire on.” Nat shooed Deck and Benj away from the tent.
“Why are you being the knight of the tent kingdom?” Deck grouched as he left Nat to go look for firewood.
“Because Yeller asked.” Nat balled his hands over his nose and blew hot air into them in an effort to defrost his face.
“They gone?” Sun Hee whispered through the tent wall.
“No, I’m still here. I can leave?” Nat offered.
Sun Hee popped her head through the tent flap. “Can you see if there are any other jeans in the packs? Anything at all?”
“Who do you think’d fit?” Nat tried to calculate Zola’s wide hips against his friends.
“Yeller and I share the same waist size. I just have to roll up the cuffs.” Zola confided.
“I’ll see what I can do.” Nat sifted through the snow back to the carne and tore apart the packs in search of a pair of jeans. A pair of heavy khaki cargos at the bottom of a bag looked promising.
“Finding what you need?” Yeller whispered over his shoulder.
“Zola asked for a pair of jeans, said yours are supposed to fit?” Nat held the pair up for Yeller’s inspection.
Yeller groaned. “Yeah, she can have them,” he turned to the tent “if she promises to give them back!”
“I ain’t promising nothing until this ibuprofen kicks in.” She yelled back through the tent.
Yeller pulled the zipper and shoved his pants into the cramped tent. “Ó diabhal, col ceathrar. Tá sé ngach áit. An bhfuil tú ceart go leor1?”
“No. I’m in the middle of the fucking woods bleeding like a stuck pig and cramps that’d cripple an elephant. Do I look okay to you?” Zola hissed.
“Tá tine againn. Just fanacht beagán. Seo. Tabhair dom é sin.2” Yeller demanded.
“Like hell!” Zola screeched.
“Col ceathrar3, I’m just trying to help.”
“God. Give the Irish a rest. Your folks taught it to you from a language generator on the internet. It’s not even how it’s actually said, probably. I can do it myself. Just..just…just go away so I can get out of here without all of you watching me. This is embarrassing.” Zola’s voice bordered on tears.
“There’s a creek off to the north of the woods a bit. It travels east, so you shouldn’t have too much issue finding it.” Yeller went back to the mound of packs and returned with a bar of soap.
Nat directed Deck and Benj to put together a fire while Yeller negotiated with his cousin. The fire blooming in the morning chill drew the men around it as they waited on the women to emerge. Yeller dug out a spare bag from the carne and tossed it into the tent.
Hana and Sun Hee were the first to come out. They blocked off Zola from the men who all sat around with worried expressions. Hurriedly, the three women took the bag and left into the woods.
All the men gathered up around the fire to stare at it silently. Yeller set down a couple shirts and a handful of rocks. The women’s muttering echoed loud and clear through the still air. “So, um…period?” Benj finally guessed.
Yeller laid the series of smooth stones along the edge of the fire. “Yeah. Give her the day. Needs to do a bit of washing up.”
“What are you doing with the rocks?” Deck motioned to the line-up.
“Keeping her from crying.” Yeller tossed one stone.
“Why’d you do that?” Benj stuffed his hands in his coat pockets.
“Looked like it’d pop.” Yeller tossed a heap of snow on the steaming stone, eliciting a sharp crack. Poking it with a stick, flakes fell away from the rock.
“That coulda been dangerous!” Deck pointed at the rock.
“Uh, sea4? Reason I moved it before it’d explode.” Yeller turned the other rocks over. Benj and Deck took a couple steps back.
“You okay?” Yeller pulled Nat out of his fixation on the firelight.
“Huh, yeah, why?” Nat blinked, trying to bring his eyes back to focus.
“You were just kinda…staring?” Yeller took a pair of long sticks and moved the stones into a t-shirt and wrapped them up.
“Oh. Wolf shut up for a bit, so I guess I was just spacing out. Need me to do something?” Nat crouched to pick up one of the t-shirts holding a few rocks.
“Been a while since I’ve seen you do that. I got these. It’s alright.” Yeller took the packs and walked off toward where his cousin and the other women and disappeared into the forest.
“Guess we’re sticking around for the day. Might as well get a few shelters built up then.” Deck pulled a collapsible hacksaw out of his pack.
Nat fed the fire while the other men put together several pine tree lean-tos and the women sorted out what was going on with Zola. His hand throbbed near the heat and screamed at him when he got too far away.
 Oh damn, cousin. It’s everywhere. Are you okay?
 We have a fire. Just give me a bit. Here. Give me that.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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