Story for the Day: A Healed Heart
A Healed Heart
Lochan had done everything to see to his doe’s comfort: preparing meals for her that she should have something to eat if he was too busy with work to join her, bandaging and bracing her fractured leg, allowing her to assist him with some of the daily chores if she felt able, letting her into the barn in the mornings to have her watch him feed the lambs and calves, helping her learn her footing without the assistance of a splint in the evenings, being playful with her even while at the table. He had never enjoyed his time on the range as much, and in the fifteen years since he left the farmstead in Tyfferim, never had he felt his isolation and loneliness less. He yet looked forward to visits from his brothers and sister, but the time in between them was now spent in high spirits and cheerfulness rather than in longing and in wondering whether the weather would permit them to come.
In the amber glow of the Farriage evening, Lochan stood on the porch counting the baskets of produce that Shirse had conveyed for him that morning and momentary looked up from his task to observe the hind skipping about near the high grass past the barn. She had been walking around well enough on her own for the chief of the day, and though her strides still wobbled from time to time when placing a hoof down too precipitately, he decided that it was time to remove the brace along her calf entirely. He watched her beam with delight as she began to frolic and chuckled as she became too eager to be jumping about and fell over into the high grass after tripping her own feet.
“C’mon, girl,” Lochan laughingly called out to her. “I’ll take that off you so you can get used to your own feet again.”
The hind’s ears perked and twitched. She would right herself, but her instincts compelled her to spend a few moments rolling around in the dry reeds beneath her. She tossed and twirled; she pulled on the reeds, delighting in them slipping through her fingers. She arched her back and rubbed her long curls along the shafts, and when she heard the call again, she rolled out of the grass and skittered toward the barn where Lochan stood but not before reaching back and plucking a few reeds from the ground. She played with them and chewed on their ends, her eyes all liveliness: to feel so protected and at liberty to do what she wished and revel in her inborn intuitions was an exultation that could not be expressed. She owned that in the months of her being at Lochan’s range, she had thought little of her home in the east; she had not the occasion to think of it or those she left behind with such an attentive and kindly caretaker ever beside her. She came to the door of the barn were Lochan stood and blushed when he smiled at her. Such goodness and unaffected compassion gave her a feeling of warmth and security as she had never hitherto felt, and though there might have been something more she was sensing, she would not justify it by acknowledgement. She only made an arch smile and skipped into the barn, into the corner where she had sat with him nearly every day to change the bandages on her leg.
Now being of little use, the yarrow, splints and gauge could be put away for another time and the stove in the barn could remain unlit. Once Lochan had hung the yarrow and placed the other items in the cupboard, he sat at the hind’s side and was instantly attacked with affectionate butts of the head.
“You’re lucky I got paddin’, girl,” Lochan giggled, putting her branch-like antlers away as she repeatedly ploughed them into his side. “Those might hurt someone not so soft as me. I wonder if you shed yours like the elk do.”
She was too well-employed with rubbing her features into the bend of Lochan’s arm and pressing her head against him to attend. Her playful pushes and nestles soon became a game of wrestling, Lochan gripping her horns and holding her in all directions and she attempting to break his grasp. Overpowering him, however, one so used to defend against the kicks and bites of animals, was impossible, but where force had failed, tickling would prevail. She assailed him with waggling fingers, and from where he held her, her arms were just long enough to reach his round belly.
“No, no, no, girl,” Lochan exclaimed, laughing and attempting to push her hands away while still holding to her antlers. “Don’t do that.”
The hind ignored his giggling pleas and as she wished to be free of his hold to bash him with affection accordingly, the tickling must endure. Her fingers poked and prodded, her hands joggled and waved until the barn was filled with hearty chuckles from Lochan, who released her and rolled onto his side to escape her reach, begging for mercy from the crippling prickles that assailed him.
“I’m beggin’ you,” he said in high revel, “Please, I’m dyin’ here.”
The hind would not stop; his entries only incited her to continue and to expatiate the rate at which she overcame him. She inched forward and leaned over his prone form, tickling the undersides of his arms to receive a high pitched laugh. She grinned as tears of mirth twinkled down the sides of his face. His words became indistinguishable from laughter, and when he could bear it no longer, he submitted and claimed her as the victor.
“All right,” he sighed, wiping the remaining tears from his eyes. “I give in. No more wrestlin’ for today. You got me.” Lochan quieted when he looked above him to see the hind gazing down at him with a strange expression. It seemed to him as though she were paying him regard with looks of profound fondness, not a fondness of friendship, but one of partiality and deep affection. Her smile seemed half formed as though in reverie, her head was canted to the side, her eyes were sparkling and her gaze wistful. He had little idea if these traits were indicative of the sentiment she seem desirous of portraying, but he did know that her atop him sitting in such a manner, her complexion warmed by a shaft of amber glowing light, with a soft blush of colour in her cheek, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever beheld. He wondered that he should not have perceived it before, but the circumstances of him lying on his back, of them enjoying one another so well, of her pressing her forearms and chest against him, had made him more aware of her loveliness. The pout of full lips, the slender fingers creeping up his chest, the lithe breasts hidden by a cascade of long curls molding against him all recommended her eagerness to perform the one action Lochan had considered doing numerous times but never had the occasion to try. His hands, however, would follow the governance of his heart, and while his mind was engaged with convincing him every which way how this was wrong, his sentiment overtook him and professed how every which way it was right. His hands lifted unconsciously and his fingertips grazed her sinuous skin, ignoring the fringes of hide on her lower back.
She was mindful of his touch and responded to him, inching her way closer to his features, curling her fingers around his overalls and lifting him to meet her. She paused to remark his astonished look, his deep blue eyes gaping at her with the unawareness of what to do. Here was a most fortunate find: a man who had nursed her and coveted her and secreted her without the expectation of anything in return. Such a selfless and kindhearted creature as this must be cherished, he must be adored and admired, and she would show him how he had not only mended her in form but also how he had done so in heart. She craned her neck forward, preparing to join his mouth with hers when the sudden scent of something distracted her. A dulcet and sharp aroma wafted under her nose and her eyes began to search its origin. She sniffed his overalls from his chest down to his belly, following the trail. Her eyes widened when she realized what it was, and attracted to it, her hands slid into his pockets and reached for what was within.
Lochan sat up with nervous agitation at feeling her fingers move keenly about. He thought for a moment that she might be desirous of something else, which made him elated and terrified and besieged at once, but when he recalled what he had put into his pocket before venturing into the barn, he was tranquilized and he laughed at how easily she was diverted. “Aw, you smell ‘em, eh?” he said in an abashed tenor. “All right, I’ll give ‘em to you if you sit still while I take that brace off you.” He reached into his pocket and produced a few small tomatoes that had been given him in one of his brother’s shipments. He waved them about to steal her attention and chuckled as her eyes followed his every sharp movement. He waved them over her, around himself, from side to side, and not for an instant was her awareness lost. He would torment her no longer for his innocent amusement. He held them out for her to take and without a moment’s hesitation did she snatch them from his hand.
While she was occupied, Lochan untied the bandages from her leg and removed the brace to examine her injury. He felt for any swelling or malformations around where the fracture had been, pressed the bottom of her hoof to test her flexibility, and was inclined to believe that she was now completely healed. It had been a most dreadful wound, but as it was one that brought them within one another’s company, he reckoned that since she was cured, it could not have been so terrible an injury after all. All his concern had been for her wellbeing, and now that her wellness had been assured him, he had nothing to do but be easy and enjoy the friend he had gained. Friendship, however, was slowly taking a different character; Lochan remarked the hind as she tore into her delectable treat and felt a sudden warmth and expansiveness that had never been there before, or if it had been, he had not noticed it. He felt a something like partiality begin to bloom; he recognized it and his eyes narrowed with the sensibility of looking forward to increasing his sentiment as much as her eagerness and forwardness would allow.