Disclaimer – I do not own the movie or book Cold Mountain, and I'm not making any profit from this story.
A gust of icy winter wind rattled the crude, wooden door and it banged open. A girl lying alone in a corner sighed irritably at the fact that the unlatched door was free to slam the side of the Cherokee cabin as long as the wind was amused by it. What annoyed her most, however, was that while she lay on that uncomfortable bed of pine boughs, her back stuck with needles, with very limited bedding, and chill wind biting her face, a pair of reunited love-birds sat outside by a crackling fire, unaware that there were actually other human beings in existence at that moment. Yes, even Ruby Thewes could find reasons to complain.
Every now and then, wistful mutters were carried into the cabin with the wind, and when they did, Ruby would sink lower under her blanket, attempting to avoid the kind of talk she despised. Words which made a person weak. Yet she couldn't quite block their whimsical conversation out. Squirming in frustration; groaning. Finally she threw off her thin protection from the cold and ventured out of the cabin and straight into a scene romantic enough to make her snort in disgust. Currently in mid-sentence, Ada looked up sharply and Inman followed suit. With stunned and slightly embarrassed expressions, they waited for Ruby to speak first. And when she did, she didn't attempt to soften her voice.
"Number one, shut that door! It's freezin'!" She slammed the door with all her might and began to walk towards the cabin in which her father slumbered fitfully that night, while continuing to speak. "I'm in there, trying not to hear who's carrying the tray, or who's got the bag of diamonds, and if you're going to be out here all night, I'm just gonna go sleep in here with him!"
Once inside, she shut the door with exaggerated vigour, leaving two pairs of raised eyebrows and flushed cheeks. After muttering an apology to Stobrod, her father, for waking him, she flopped down on a bed adjacent to his, wincing as the pine needles stabbed her back once again, and bitterly feeling the lack of a blanket. While Stobrod's skin was aflame with fever, she knew that inside he must be even colder than she was, so it would be cruel for her to snatch his blanket.
So there she lay, teeth chattering, not even pleasant thoughts to warm her, or at least to distract her mind from the cold. She thought of going back to the other cabin to retrieve her blanket, but with a glance through a knot-hole in the wall she learned that the couple had moved into the cabin to do who knew what. Although Ruby was sure she had a pretty good idea about what they had chosen to do with their night.
It was her father's need for undisturbed sleep that kept Ruby from screaming out in her utter aggravation. So instead, she merely grunted with fists clenching and unclenching threateningly as she rolled onto her side with careful awareness of sharp pine needles, sighing heavily and staring at the abject and grey cabin wall adorned with splinters and knot-holes which welcomed streams of cold air.
Albeit she was very happy for her friend's reunion with her special man, Ruby couldn't help but taste bitterness of his return. On those long summer nights, after Ada read twenty or so pages from Homer's The Odyssey, they would plan the future. Their future at Black Cove. Ruby always swore she would never marry; working the farm would be her life goal, and she was content with that. Yet Ada always managed to bring Inman into the picture. When she did, it seemed to Ruby that it created an unbalance, alike to adding too much on one side of a painting.
"When Inman comes home to me, we will be married of course, and he will have to take your place as the man of the house. You, darling, will grow old a spinster and live in the shed."
Ruby always acknowledged the last bit as mere jest, yet the part about Inman replacing her had occasionally stung more than she expected it would. Yet at the time it never seemed a reality. It didn't feel at all possible for Inman to come home. So Ruby continued to take for granted her participation at Black Cove Farm.
But Mr. Inman had returned. After a year of pushing aside any annoyance of Ada's pining for the said gentleman, Ruby had supposed she would hate the fellow. It made the situation much worse when she discovered for herself that he was just fine. Besides a handsome face (after a shave and wash) he seemed to be nice enough and maybe even perfect for Ada. It would have been a whole lot easier had he an impediment for her to point out.
Acceptance had always been a part of her nature. As a young child, she had accepted the fact that she was unwanted by her father and that she would have to take care of her own self. When a situation, welcome or not, presented itself, Ruby would make the best out of the worst. Yet after so many aspirations about the farm, it was quite difficult to let go. She had grown so fond of the little settlement. The large white house as the entire farm's foundation, shaded by lofty trees, barren in the current season. The vegetable garden would have to be weeded and planted in a few months. Sooner than that would she have to plough the fields where corn would be sewn. When the leaves started to unfurl, the lambing season would begin, and long nights would be spent helping the ewes with birth, or making sure newborns didn't freeze.
As her mind dwelled in Black Cove, Ruby suddenly worried what was becoming of the farm currently. That Georgia boy better be keeping up with the work. I wonder if he'll remember to milk the cow, she thought briefly, but moved on to think of something else, for she knew how Ada would tease if she found out that Ruby had been thinking on Georgia. But the thought that soon it wouldn't be her job to worry about the farm caused her eyes to well up. Stop right now Ruby, she screamed in her mind's loudest voice. You have not shed one tear since you was eight years old and left alone in the mountains.
Yet somehow it was comforting to know that she could still cry. So as she squeezed her hands between her thighs to warm them, she did not attempt to dam the river of tears.