by J. A. Zollicoffer
There was a creak, then a groan, then a rumble, after that the cave was filled with a deafening roar. It seemed like an eternity before the sound died away, and when it finally did the silence that filled the cavern was just as deafening as the noise.
“Well, I hope you’re pleased with yourself. You’ve caused an avalanche.”
“Me? It was your big mouth that probably shook loose the snow,” Ernestine said, then started doing a very nasal imitation of her hiking companion. “It’s cold. I’m tired. Why are we stopping in this dank cave?”
Lois narrowed her eyes in anger, and squinted hard, trying to see in the dark. “I don’t sound like that, and if I could see you and get my hands around your…” she stopped talking when the room was suddenly illuminated.
She was startled for a moment when a soft glow was cast across Ernestine’s face. The other woman had pulled her cell phone out of her pocket, and started walking around the large room with her arm extended in the air.
“What are you doing now?” Lois asked, still irritated.
“I’m looking for a signal. The sooner we can get some help up here the sooner I can get away from you.”
Lois crossed her arms over her chest and huffed. This was some first date, she thought. I’ll kill Suzy for talking me into this. I have this friend, she’d said. You two would be perfect together, she’d promised. And like an idiot I fell for it.
She knew the moment she’d set eyes on Ernestine that this wasn’t going to be a love connection. The woman was too… mannish for her. Sure, she was tall enough, but the dark hair was cut way too short for Lois’ taste, the woman’s body was way too muscular and the clothes she wore were better suited for a young boy instead of an adult woman. What could Suzy have been thinking?
And although she’d agreed to this outing, sight unseen, she didn’t want to be rude by making an excuse and leaving. So she had tried to push down her first impression of the woman by grabbing her hiking gear and putting a pleasant smile on her face. That had lasted for the first twenty miles of the drive, then…
“Are we going to have to listen to that all the way to the mountain?”
Ernestine arched a sable brow and turned to her date. The woman hadn’t said more than five words to her since she’d picked her up at her apartment. The moment she’d looked into those green eyes she knew this was going to be a disaster. Lois had tried to mask it, but Ernestine had seen the flash of disgust in the woman’s eyes before she plastered the fake grin on her face.
Ernie had always been a sucker for a short woman with blonde hair, a curvaceous body and a feminine aura, all of which Lois had, but the obvious judgment in her eyes had turned the tall brunette off immediately. What could Suzy have been thinking setting her up with this woman?
But she was here, and she could be a good sport for a day. After all it was only going to take a few hours out of her life, then she could drop the woman off at her apartment, and be done with it. But now…
“What’s wrong with this station?”
“It’s NPR. What person under sixty listens to National Public Radio?”
Ernie mentally counted to five before answering. “If you’d rather listen to something else feel free to change the station.”
Lois reached over and started pushing buttons until she heard the shrill echo of an extreme guitar solo. She sat back in her seat with a sigh. “Now that’s more like it,” she said.
When she noticed the driver winching with each high-pitched note from the guitar Lois turned in the seat, and stared at her companion’s profile. She would be really pretty if she would allow herself to look a little more feminine.
“How old are you?” she blurted out.
Ernie’s blue eyes quickly glanced at her passenger before returning her attention to the road. “Twenty-seven. How about you?”
“Twenty-four,” Lois answered. “Why does a twenty-seven year old listen to the rest home station?”
“That’s kind of a rude thing to say. I don’t consider it a rest home station.”
Lois’ eyes narrowed. “Did you just call me rude?”
Ernie rolled her eyes. What have I gotten myself into? “Yes.”
Lois turned back around in her seat, now facing forward. “With a name like Ernestine I shouldn’t be surprised by your listening choices,” she mumbled under her breath.
“I heard that,” Ernie said. “And for your information, I was named after my great-grandmother Ernestine. A woman who marched for other people’s civil rights, fed the hungry and raised five kids that all grew up to be productive citizens. I’m proud to be her namesake. And just in case you didn’t know it, Lois isn’t exactly a name that’s popular with the Spring break crowd.”
First, Lois was shocked. She didn’t know that the driver had heard her. Then she was contrite. “I’m… um… I’m sorry about that. It was an insensitive thing to say.”
Ernie shrugged her shoulders. “No big deal. You’re not the first person to have pointed it out.” she turned a bright smile in Lois’ direction, and the woman found herself smiling back. “Imagine being in middle school with a name like Ernestine. It was pretty rough for awhile. Eventually I shortened it to Ernie. It wasn’t long before things got a whole lot better.”
Their conversation became easier after that, and Ernie thought the day might end up being a pleasant one. That was, until the hike started. Then she made the unforgivable mistake of picking Lois up and carrying her across an icy creek without the woman’s permission. Oh, boy. Things descended into a bitchfest after that.
Ernie was accused of being everything from a chauvinist pig to a control freak, so when the tall brunette spotted the opening to a cave she thought it would be the perfect opportunity to stop for lunch, and hopefully fill her date’s mouth with enough food to keep her quiet for an hour or so. But no such luck, as soon as Lois entered the stone cavern her complaints, along with the volume of her voice escalated.
“You have got to be kidding. If you think I’m gonna eat my lunch in this mold-filled Petri dish, you’d better think again!”
Ernie blew out a breath, and started unpacking the items she was going to use to prepare her lunch. She’d brought a mini gas cook stove and camping pots. She’d decided that it was too cold for sandwiches, and had packed the makings for a nice hot meal. A meal she’d planned on sharing with her date, but the shrew was so unpleasant that she could chew on her own fingers as far she was concerned.
When Lois saw what Ernie was doing her irritation kicked up another notch, and so did the volume of her voice, and before they knew what was happening they heard a creak. A few moments later they were surrounded by darkness.
“Do you have a signal yet?” Lois asked.
“If I did I’d be talking to someone.”
“You don’t have to be nasty about it.”
“So say’s the woman whose middle name is nasty.”
When the phone continued to display a roaming signal, Ernie exhaled a loud breath. “Nothing. I’ll try again later.” She used the light to see her way back to her pack, and started pulling out foodstuffs.
Lunch had gone well. Ernie ate the hot meal she’d prepared, and Lois munched on a tuna sandwich. Ernie could swear she could still smell it in the cold air. After their meal the women had retired to separate sides of the cave, and had been sitting in silence, thinking their own thoughts. Suddenly, Ernie looked up, and checked her watch. The dial read ten o’clock. “Damn,” she said out loud.
“What?” Lois asked. She was sitting with her back against the stone wall, miserable and hungry. The tuna sandwich she’d brought for herself was long gone, and her ogre of a date never offered her any of the stew she’d prepared. And she would be damned if she was going to ask.
“It’s ten o’clock at night.”
Before Lois could say anything, Ernie walked over to the cave entrance, and held the phone in the air again. “Oh, my God!”
“What?!” Lois asked as she jumped up to join the other woman.
“I’ve got a signal!”
Lois started tugging on Ernie’s sleeve, causing her arm to bounce all around. “Call for help!” she practically yelled.
“If you’ll let my arm go, I will.”
Lois’ hands dropped away like she’d just been burned.
Ernie straightened her sleeve, and dialed 911. The operator answered on the second ring. Ernie explained there situation, and after being reassured that help was on the way, she hung up and felt her body relax.
“Well, it’s just a matter of waiting now.” She headed for her pack, and knelt down beside it before pulling out a couple of blankets.
“Where did those come from?” Lois asked in an accusing tone.
God, this woman was annoying. “I brought them for us to sit on while we ate our meal, but now I think we’ll probably need them to keep us warm until the rescue team gets here.”
Lois’ eyes narrowed until her face was a scowl of thin lines, then she launched into a warning. “Before you even think about trying to seduce me, let me set you straight. I’m not falling for that, ‘We have to share our body heat to stay alive’ line, so don’t try it.”
Ernie couldn’t believe the arrogance of the woman. “Believe me, seducing you is the last thing on my mind.”
The words were said with such conviction that it bothered Lois. “And what’s wrong with me?” she asked with indignation.
Ernie felt like she was in an insane asylum. This woman was schizophrenic. She tossed one of the blankets in Lois’ direction, never seeing the cloth hit the woman dead center of her face. She found herself a spot against one of the walls, settling down to get some sleep before the rescue crew got there. She snuggled into her blanket, and closed the phone, cloaking the room in total darkness.
Lois was alone on her side of the cave. She had the blanket wrapped around her shoulders, and was curled up on her side in a tight ball, trying to harness her body heat. When she realized that this wasn’t going to work she began to chew on her bottom lip, thinking. I’m not going to be able to sleep like this, she told herself. After a few minutes of mental debate she made a decision. She got up, and silently walked in the direction she saw Ernie make her pallet. When the toe of her hiking boot hit something solid she stopped walking.
“Ouch! What the hell…?” Ernie flipped open the phone, and saw Lois standing beside her. “What do you want?”
Lois didn’t know how to say what she needed. “Um…well…it’s kinda cold over there, and…”
Ernie sighed heavily, and raised her blanket, offering her warmth to her difficult date. “Come on in.”
Lois almost jumped with glee as she crawled in beside the tall woman, and was immediately hit with a gust of warm air.
“Mmm, it’s much warmer in here.” Lois snuggled closer to the hard body beside her, and found that the large woman’s presence was very comforting. “Maybe we could do this again sometime,” she whispered as she rested her head on Ernie’s muscular shoulder.
Ernie closed the phone, and rolled her eyes in the dark. Yep, this woman is definitely a schizo. She was about to roll over on her side, and dislodge her annoying date from her shoulder when she got a whiff of her sweet smelling hair, and she smiled in the dark. Oh, what the hell, she concluded as she wrapped her arm around the shorter woman’s back. Everyone could use a little crazy in their life every once in a while.