“Lost in the Woods”
by Kelly F. Barr
Many people find peace in the silence of falling snow, but peace was far from Cassie’s mind as she stood in the woods shivering. She wrapped her arms around her middle and rubbed her upper arms, trying to stay warm; trying to focus on something other than the thought that she was lost.
She desperately tried to read the compass she carried. She’d never been good at woodland survival skills. Which way would get her back to civilization—back to her car? This is what anger did to her. Whenever she got extremely angry, she ran away from whomever or whatever she believed was causing her anger, but this time she’d driven to the woods on the edge of town, parked her car, and fled with nothing but a sweater and a compass she couldn’t read.
“Come on, Cassie. You ran into the woods heading north, so you need to head south to get back to your car.”
She looked up and halted. She blinked. A man in a tuxedo stood a couple yards from her. He couldn’t be real, could he?
The saddest cerulean eyes Cassie had ever seen looked at her above a narrow nose, and a small attempt at a smile revealed deep dimples. He looked harmless—attractive and inviting—the words flitted through her mind.
She took a step backward, her eyes never leaving the stranger.
“Please, don’t go. I won’t hurt you. I’m not a madman or anything, although I suppose it is rather odd to find a man wearing a tuxedo in the middle of the woods in a snowstorm.”
“I can explain … I think. You see…” He looked at his watch, then back at her. “I was supposed to get married two hours ago, but my bride never showed up. Seems she had a change of mind or heart or something. As I stood at the front of the church, everyone looking at me with pity in their eyes and the whispers of ‘poor man, what’s he going to do now’, I couldn’t breathe. The initial shock sent a stab of pain to my heart. After a few minutes, the pain became an unbearable ache. I had to run. I couldn’t stay with those pitying stares one more minute. So I ran back the aisle, out the church door, down the steps, across the parking lot. And I just kept running. I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t care. I just had to escape. When I finally stopped, I was standing right here where you found me. I don’t know where I am or how to get out of here. I’m not even sure I want to.” He hung his head.
Pain radiated from him and created an ache in Cassie’s heart. Her anger disappeared as she shared this man’s pain. She stepped up beside him and touched his arm. “I’m so sorry for what happened to you.”
When he raised his eyes to hers, they brimmed with tears.
“Can you find your way with a compass?” She held her compass out to him.
He reached to take it from her hand. “Are you lost too?”
“Then it would seem you were meant to find me. I was an Eagle Scout. I can certainly use this compass to get us out of these woods.” He smiled, took her hand, and began walking back in the direction Cassie had come from, but on more of a diagonal.
“I’m Cassie Reynolds, and my intense anger is what brought me into these woods today.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “I’m Blake Johnson. Seems like intense emotions have taken their toll on both of us today.”
After walking for about an hour, Cassie breathed a sigh of relief when they stepped out of the woods, and she saw her red Honda CR-V waiting for her. She turned to face Blake, who still held her hand in his. “Can I give you a ride?”
After a long pause, Blake shrugged his shoulders. “I suppose so, but I’m not ready to go back to my apartment yet. I’m sure my parents and brother are either sitting there waiting for me or calling nonstop. I’m sure they’re worried about me, but I’m not ready to deal with that yet.”
“We could go get some coffee … if you want.”
He nodded and they climbed into her CR-V.
After two hours of light conversation punctuated by periods of uncomfortable silence and three cups of coffee, Cassie drove Blake to the nicest apartment complex in town.
His eyes met hers. “Thanks.”
After a brief pause, Blake slid from her car, and she drove away wondering if she’d ever see him again.