Once they reached the place his cabin should be, he called a break. “Well. If my house was here, we’d be eating breakfast right now.”
“Damn,” she said. He couldn’t agree more.
She looked tired and pale. They should have started going toward the water. But without fire and a way to purify the water, they were just asking for trouble. Giardia or parasites or god knows what horribleness.
“Come sit a minute,” he said.
She sat down on the grass next to him. It was dry enough that they wouldn’t have to worry about their jeans getting wet. Snow was still on the high peaks around them, but it wasn’t soaking wet.
“I’m so tired. I’m so hungry,” she said.
“I’m sorry.” He put his arm around her and she leaned against him heavily. God, she’d walked miles yesterday. And now after a rough night’s sleep and this strange unknown, she was holding remarkably even.
“You smell any smoke?” he said. “Let’s see if we can find a fire.”
She sighed, then sat up straight, looking out over the expanse of valley. Before he could have spotted it, she said, “There.”
Tucked in a little canyon on the other side of the gulley they were in, a wisp of wood smoke came through.
“If we’d been downwind, we would have run right into it,” he said.
“Just glad we saw it.”
He turned to her and smiled. “You saw it.” He’d make sure she got all the credit she possibly could.
She grinned and said, “Let’s go see if they have breakfast to share. I’m gonna pass out.”
Boomer bounded up next to them, wagging his tail and making his way toward the cabin.
“Who do you think is in here?” she asked as they got a little closer.
“It should be my family, but… I don’t know.”
The cabin didn’t look modern at all. Nothing more than a little shanty to keep the elements off. Although it looked new, it didn’t look like it had much. There wasn’t a car beside it, there was a little stable. Whether there were horses in there, he didn’t know. Nor did he have any idea what their names were.
He held his hand out to her and they went up to the cabin hands clasped. He drew a deep breath and knocked on the door, then stepped back and tried to block Judy as much as he could. Everything felt so wrong, he had to do something to try and keep her safe. But they waited a moment and the door opened.
It was worse than he imagined. A man opened the door in a western outfit. The pants, the button up shirt, everything. “Yeah. What ya want?” he asked.
Stud looked to Judy and said, “We got lost and need a little help.”
The man inside looked at Judy and raised an eyebrow then said, “What can I do?”
“We just need a little food and rest and to make a plan.”
The man shrugged, then said, “Well, come on in, I guess. But leave your dog outside.”
A prickle of unease went through Stud’s belly. He didn’t like this, but what other options did they have right now? They went in and the house wasn’t tidy, but it wasn’t a terrible mess either. It would have almost been impossible to be a mess because there weren’t many belongings there.
Boomer lay down next to the door and looked in.
Two beds tucked in across from each other on one side of the small building, a small table for both eating and preparing food. A change of clothes hanging on a peg. A square cut window with oiled cloth to let the light in.
“So, where are you from?” the man asked. “…Because it’s not from around here.”
“I’m Judy Reynolds and this is Stud…”
Does Stud jump in and change his name or tell the truth?