Stormbound

By Gun Brooke

Part 1

Tiffany Ashton gripped the steering wheel harder, trying to keep the car from sliding into the ditch. The gravel road kept getting increasingly narrow, unless it was her imagination tricking her, and her small Nissan was not the best car for it. The rain hit the windshield too hard for the wipers to keep it away, and Tiffany had to slow down to a slow crawl. Squinting, she tried to make out which way the road turned as huge raindrops pummeled the windshield.

A quick glance at the clock on the dashboard told her she'd been on the road for six hours, and one hour on this godforsaken gravel road leading to nowhere for all she knew.

"I'm in so much trouble. I can't even see enough to turn around," Tiffany muttered to herself. She had a habit of talking to herself when she was under stress, and this was a prime example of that, she thought. "If I don't see a light soon, I'm going to panic."

As soon as she'd uttered the words, bright headlights appeared by the side of the road and suddenly they were right in her face, blinding her. Tiffany slammed the breaks against better judgment, and the Nissan began to skid back and forth, the wheels making a terrible noise against the gravel. Tiffany whimpered as the back of the car slid into the ditch she had tried so hard to avoid. Her whimpers turned to screams when the entire car skidded down a slope, bouncing from tree to tree, branches hitting it from all directions. The loud banging drowned out her screams as something tore at the body of the car, creating a terrible screeching sound. Suddenly rain hit Tiffany and she realized that the passenger door of her car had been ripped away.

Everything came to a halt so suddenly, Tiffany's head rebounded off the neck rest, sending it bouncing into the steering wheel. The airbag inflated, protecting her at the last moment, but the impact hurt like hell. Tiffany held on to the wheel with both hands, coughing at the dust from the airbag. Rain poured down on her, drenching her clothes, plastering them against her slight frame. Tiffany tried to ascertain if she'd broken anything, but as far as she could tell, her limbs were intact. Her chest hurt, but she thought it was probably because of the seat belt digging into her ribs and her shoulder. Moaning, she carefully touched her face, trying to judge if her nose was bleeding after slamming into the airbag.

"Hello? Are you all right?" A female voice was heard above the sound of the rain against the car.

"I'm here!" Tiffany squinted against the large drops.

"Let me help you." Fast hands reached into the car and unbuckled Tiffany's seat belt. "Are you able to move?"

"I think so. Yes." Tiffany tried to see the other woman, but it was impossible to make out any facial features in the darkness. Her rescuer was lit up from behind, probably by the headlights of their own car.

"All right, hold on to my shoulders. Do you think you can do that?"

"I'll try." Tiffany's teeth were clattering now, being completely drenched was quickly lowering her body temperature. She raised her trembling arms and hooked them around the woman's neck. She began to cry..

"I've got you. You're safe. What's your name."

"Tiffany."

"I'm Izzie."

"I'd say it's nice to meet you, but it really isn't, I mean, not like this." Tiffany knew she was blabbering, but she had to focus on something.

"Hm." Izzy didn't respond more than that. She pushed one arm under Tiffany's legs and one around her back. ""Hold on tight, now."

Tiffany tried to get her frozen fingers to cooperate, but they slipped several times until she found it was easier to grab onto Izzy's collar. "Okay. I'm good."

Izzy straightened with a muffled groan. "God, you're heavier than you look."

"I've been comfort eating," Tiffany said, apologetically.

"Really." Izzy carefully lowered Tiffany until her feet found solid ground. "Think you'll be able to stand? Whoops, guess not." Izzy caught Tiffany just as her knees buckled.

"No, no. I'm all right. Just in shock a little bit." Tiffany clung to the taller woman next to her. "My, am I every so grateful that you happened to come along."

"Hm. Let's get you into my car. I need to get you to the cabin."

"Cabin? How about a motel? Preferably one with a Jacuzzi." Tiffany could picture herself in a hot bath very vividly.

"Motel? Out here?" Izzy huffed. "My cabin is the only house for miles."

"It is?" Tiffany sighed. "I'm not ungrateful, it's not that, but I need to keep driving, really."

"You really must be in shock. I don't think you're driving anywhere in that tonight." Izzy laughed, a short chuckle that didn't seem to be a particularly happy sound. "Not in that shriveled up thing."

Tiffany looked miserably at the unrecognizable Nissan. It had been small to begin with and it was even shorter now when the hood was pressed up along a tree. She turned within the strong arms of her rescuer and tried to make up her features through the pouring rain and her tears. The hood of her jacket obscured most of her face, but Tiffany saw a full, curvy mouth which suggested that Izzy was not an older person.

"I guess I will have to accept your kind offer," Tiffany said, finally. "I'm pretty cold."

"Let me help you." The words came reluctantly, as if Izzy had come to the conclusion that she was stuck with Tiffany.

"I'm sorry we meet under such horrible circumstances," Tiffanly said, thinking an apology was called for. "I'm really grateful that I happened to meet you. The road wasn't exactly easy to drive on."

"Don't mention it." Izzy helped Tiffany up the steep slope where here Nissan had skidded down. Tiffany saw broken branches on different trees all the way to the top, and shuddered at the memory of the sound they'd made against her car.

"You all right?" Izzy shouted, the wind picking up as they reached the road.

"Yes, thank you." Tiffany saw a jeep sitting with its motor running on what was left of the grovel road in the bad storm. "Can we really drive anywhere on that?" She pointed at the state of the road.

"Sure. Get inside. I've got a blanket in there."

"Oh, great." The thought of a blanket was more than enough enticement for Tiffany to climb inside the jeep with Izzy's assistance. The wool blanket was rough against her skin, but the warmth it provided was pure bliss. Tiffany closed her eyes, only to open them when Izzy entered from the driver's side.

The dashboard light spread a faint green sheen over them, but when Izzy pushed her hood back, Tiffany could still see that Izzy had black hair, or possibly dark brown, tied back in a low ponytail. Shifting the jeep into gear, Izzy began to carefully drive down the barely visible road. The rain storm seemed to only increase in strength.

"Are we going to be all right?" Tiffany looked worriedly at the muddy ground, huddling in the blanket. "It looks pretty bad."

"We're almost at the cabin."

Tiffany noted that Izzy didn't exactly answer her question, but still took it as a good omen that they'd be at their destination soon. She wondered if she would've been able to find her this cabin on her own, if Izzy hadn't happened upon her.

"Hold on. It's a bit steep going down to the cabin."

Bracing herself against the dashboard, Tiffany fought to not slide over against Izzy as the jeep began to skid down the slope. She gasped as they came to a halt only a few feet from the cabin wall.

"Oh, my."

"You all right?" Without waiting for an answer, Izzy was already halfway out the door. She rounded the jeep and helped Tiffany out. "We need to get you inside."

"Thank you." Tiffany clung to Izzy, feeling wiry muscles underneath her coat. Soon they were inside, and Izzy placed her on a stool just inside the door. "Let me just put a little more firewood in the stove."

"Firewood?" Tiffany muttered and looked around. The cabin was lit up by what looked like old fashioned kerosene lamps. "No electricity even?"

"Here. Let's get you out of those wet clothes. I've put hot water to boil."

"All right." Thinking it might be for some hot tea, Tiffany followed Izzy out into the better lit kitchen. She was shivering so much now from the cold, wet clothes now, it was a relief to feel the warmth from the old wood burning stove. Tiffany tried to unzip her jacket, but her cold fingers trembled so bad, it was impossible. She fumbled, unwilling to ask her savior for more assistance, but eventually she had to concede defeat.

"Allow me." Izzy walked up to her, having divested herself of her jacket. The light was now directly aimed at her features. Curious, Tiffanly looked at the woman who'd practically carried her from her car. She was tall, probably five-foot-eight. With her mere five feet, Tiffany was used to being the shortest adult in the room. Craning her neck, she gazed up at Izzy, and blinked.

Across the left side of Izzy's face, reaching from behind her earlobe to the corner of her eye, was an angry red scar. It pulled at the tissues, giving her a diabolical look. Her eyes were green, and her pale complexion emphasized both that and the fresh scar. Without thinking, and true to her nature, Tiffany asked the first thing that came into her head:

"Oh, my. Does it hurt?"