I finish the bathroom tasks, relying on routine to execute the most basic activities, and turn off all the switches before going back downstairs. With the fan off, I can now hear Aaron talking. Either someone is here, or he is on the phone. Either way, more information must be incoming. I hurry to get back downstairs.
“Okay, yeah, I’ll tell her.” He pauses, listening. “No, nothing here. It’s quiet.”
He’s pacing around by the fireplace and wanders closer to the couch. I sit on its edge, watching him. He looks at his watch.
“About two hours? Okay, that’s doable. Yeah, we’ll get on it.”
I want to know what he knows. He remains on the phone for only a minute or two. Feels like hours.
“What do you know?” I ask again the moment he pulls the phone away from his ear. One of these times he will have an answer.
He waits to answer until he is sitting next to me. This cannot be good. I grab the loose pillow on the couch for support. I practically choke it.
“Who was that?” Probably not the governor.
“That was Mr. Waterson.”
“And you need to slow down.” He knows I am hurrying him for information. Why won’t he just tell me?
“It’s bad news, isn’t it? You’ve heard news about Daniel?”
“No, we still don’t know anything, and we may not for a while. You need to take a deep breath and slow down.”
“I can’t. I need to know what’s happening. Tell me.”
“Okay, here’s what’s happening. But deep breath first.” He waits for me.
“Yes, take a deep breath. No, take two. Then I’ll tell you what we are going to do.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Breathe. Take a breath.”
I do. I take a few. I’m terrified of what he is going to tell me, and maybe I don’t want to hear what he’s going to say. I opt for a lot of breaths.
“Good. Here’s the plan. You talked to Mrs. Waterfield this morning, yes?”
“What is happening?” Just blurt it out!
“Breathe. We are going to get through today, but we are going to do it slowly and steadily. Got it?”
“Then breathe.” I do. But I want to know.
“I’m breathing. Tell me.”
“Okay, Mrs. Waterfield talked to you this morning and afterwards, she and Mr. Waterfield agreed you should come to Cheyenne.”
I start to stand up, “Okay, I can get…”
“No, Nat, breathe.”
I relax a little. I sit. I breathe.
“I am going to drive you to Buffalo. Mrs. Waterfield is on her way north. She’s going to meet us, then turn around and get you to Cheyenne.”
“Why Cheyenne? Why are we going there?”
“I’m not going there. You’re going there.”
“I can’t go there. I have to work tomorrow.”
“Like hell you are.”
That stops me. That is not like Aaron.
“Nat, if Daniel is okay, they are working on getting him flown direct to Cheyenne. You’ll want to be there when he arrives.”
That wave of relief people describe must feel like this. I’ve heard people describe it, but I always found relief to feel more like the feeling you have when you finish throwing up. You feel better, but it’s a low notch on a rock-bottom scale.
“We don’t know. If something has happened, they think they can get you transported through F.E. Warren.”
“Like what happened? What do you know?”
“Again, we don’t know anything, we are just trying to be prepared for all contingencies.”
“When will we know?”
“Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. It all depends on what information is available and what makes its way back to us.”
“Can we call someone? Who can we call?”
“Mr. Waterfield must have some pretty serious connections. He’s got the governor’s office handling most of the calls, so you just need to breathe and let others take care of getting information for you.”
I’m desperate to know something. Anything. When I have more common sense about me, I’ll have to find out more about the governor.
“I promise you – lots of people are on it and will let us know as soon as possible.”
He grabs my hand and squeezes it. He doesn’t really know any new information. He’s just making up shit to make me breathe, and not panic. Although, my body would like to panic.
“Okay, so let’s get you upstairs and get a bag packed so we can get on the road to Buffalo. Do you have a suitcase I can grab for you?”
“Daniel has the good ones with him.” Gawd, Daniel, where are you?
“Well, it doesn’t need to be fancy. Show me where you keep them, and I’ll grab one.”
I get up and he follows me to the storage room. I flip on the light and yesterday’s mess stares at me, reminding me that my life is completely inverted. I step around the pile to get to the far shelving.
“Not to judge, but what happened here?”
The Forest Service office is by no means neat, but he knows me well enough to know this is not my normal organizational style.
“I fell down a rabbit hole.”
“Did you at least stop for tea with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare?”
“Yeah, I think I’m related to both of them.”
NEXT: Wellness Check – Part 63