Sleep was elusive that night. Nightmares ran rampant and Willow woke screaming. She was trapped under the branches and couldn’t move in her dream. In reality, she’d gotten tangled in her sheets. Sweating and trying to catch her breath, she sat up. A few minutes later, she tried to close her eyes only to see the men who raped her the moment she did. Her heart still pounding, she grabbed her bathrobe and headed downstairs. When she got to Jason’s door, she saw that the light was on. She knocked.
“Jason,” she called quietly.
“Yes Willow,” Jason said from his room.
“Can I come in?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
Willow opened the door and found Jason sitting up in bed reading. She came in and stood at the end of the bed. “I… um…” she started.
“Nightmares, right?” he asked.
“Yeah. Was I that loud?” she asked.
“Yes, but it’s okay. What do you need?” Jason asked.
Willow twisted the tie of her bathrobe in her hands. She knew what she wanted, but was terrified to ask. “I… um… I… Can I sleep here?” she asked finally.
“Yes. I need you to understand something though,” he said as he pulled back the covers.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“I can’t promise I won’t roll over and cuddle you in my sleep. I can’t promise that I won’t snore or drool. However, anything else that might happen is under your control,” he said.
“Huh?” Willow asked totally confused.
“Willow, I know you’ve been through hell. Intimacy is a real difficult issue for you. I can’t promise not to touch you if you sleep in my bed, but… No means no. Maybe means no and yes means maybe. If you want me for anything more than a huge teddy bear, it is up to you. Do you understand?” he asked.
Once again, Willow blinked. She honestly hadn’t thought about that, only the terrible need to be held and touched by a human being who wasn’t trying to hurt her. She nodded and then crawled into bed. She was asleep in less than five minutes.
Jason turned out the light and snuggled down under the covers. He turned his back to her and let her sleep.
Jason woke to find Willow snuggled up to his back as if she were glued. He knew he had to get up, but didn’t want to wake her. Slowly, he crept out of bed and stuffed the covers against her as if he were still there. He grabbed his clothes and dressed in the bathroom before heading downstairs. Grabbing a quick cup of coffee, he then headed out to do the chores. It was still snowing and things had to get done.
Willow woke to find that the room was lighter, but still not sunshine bright. She was confused at first until she realized that she was in Jason’s room. Her nose was buried in his pillow. As she lay there waking up, she realized that she had actually slept. No nightmares. No panic attacks. She got up and dressed in her own room. She realized that it was nearly noon. Outside was still as snowing landscape, and she was afraid to go out there on her own, even though she felt she should. Instead, she decided to cook. Stew five nights a week was getting old.
Digging through the pantry she found the fixings for spaghetti. She started the sauce and when it was simmering, she moved wood to the living room. It was just 2pm, and Willow had no idea of how long Jason would be out. After cleaning up the house, Willow made some tea. She decided that she would read and curled up with a book off of Jason’s shelves. She lost herself in the English countryside and the adventures of Emma. She had giggled when she found all of Jane Austen’s works there, and then realized that they must have belonged to Jason’s sister.
Jason stamped and shook off as much snow as he could. It hadn’t taken him much longer than yesterday, but the snow was deep and making life tough. He wondered how long Willow had slept, and if she’d given herself time to sort a few things out. He’d called Betsy again and checked to make sure he was still on the right track. Betsy had planned to come out and visit, but this snow storm put that on hold.
He hung up his outer clothes and walked into the kitchen. The scent of spaghetti sauce hit him and made his mouth water. He smiled and headed for the living room to see if Willow was there.
“Good afternoon,” he said.
“Hello Jason. I thought I heard you clumping about on the porch. I’m just finishing up my chapter and then I’ll put on the water for noodles,” said Willow.
“Take your time. I won’t die of hunger between now and the next thirty minutes. To be honest, I want to go take a nice hot shower to warm up,” Jason said and then headed towards his room.
Willow watched him go and quickly finished her chapter. She put the water on to boil and checked on the sauce. She buttered and garlicked bread for dinner and added the noodles to the water.
Jason came downstairs just as Willow was draining the noodles. He’d timed it just right, and was glad to see her stepping up to work around the house. He was just as tired of stew as she was, but he needed to push her somehow and figured boring food just might do it. It had. She’d cleaned the house, made the beds, cooked dinner and even done some laundry from what he could tell.
“That looks really good,” he said as he walked in the door.
Willow smiled. She wasn’t the world’s best cook, but she tried. Jason smiled at her as he sat down. His hair was still wet from the shower and the flannel shirt seemed to be molded to his body. “He even makes Carhartt jeans look sexy,” she thought. Then she blinked. “Where in the hell did that thought come from?” she wondered.
“I… I don’t know how good it is, but I made enough for at least two dinners,” she said apologetically. She got the bread out of the oven and put it on a plate.
“That’s okay,” said Jason as he got himself a plate. He sat his down and got her a plate. They ate while Jason filled her in on his adventures for the day.
“At least the snow has just about stopped,” he said as they started to wash the dishes.
“Good. Then what?” Willow asked. She had never lived in a place with so much snow.
“Same thing. Feed the animals, plow the yard, cook, eat and sleep,” said Jason.
“You’re serious?” she asked.
“Yes. Life on a ranch is hard work and not a lot of fun in the winter. Except when it is just too cold to do anything. Once it’s warm though, there is usually twice the work,” said Jason.
“Then what’s so good about it?” asked Willow.
“It gives you lots of time to think,” said Jason. With that, he grabbed his coffee and headed for the living room and the fire. He picked up his book and curled up on the couch. “And now to see if she got that,” he thought.
A few minutes later, Willow came out and sat next to Jason. “Can we talk for a minute?” she asked.
“Sure. What do you want to talk about?” he asked. He had an idea of what she wanted to talk about, but he’d wait for her.
“About last night,” she started.
“Yes,” Jason said.
“Um. I got really freaked out and realized that I miss being touched. I was so afraid before, but now I realize I want it,” Willow said.
“Okay. So we slept together. Did it help?” Jason asked.
Willow looked at him, the floor, and finally the fireplace. “Yes. I slept better than I have in weeks,” she said.
“So what do you want to do now?” Jason asked. It was driving him crazy, but he knew she needed to figure this out on her own.
“I… um… uh…” she stopped.
Jason waited. He sat quietly as he knew it took a lot to jump over her own shadow at this point.
“Could… would you mind… Oh hell! Can I sleep with you again tonight?” she finally said.
“Yes,” said Jason. He smiled at her and then went back to reading his book.
“Is that it? After all I struggled to ask you this you just say yes?” she said aggravated.
“Did you want me to make you beg? Turn you down? Or did you want me to gush all over you?” Jason asked.
Willow blinked. She started to talk and then stopped. She started again and stopped again.
“Willow, It’s really simple. You feel better sleeping with someone. You finally asked and I said yes. No strings attached. No drama. I don’t do drama. I had a sister that did more than enough of that for two lifetimes. All you had to do is ask. That’s all you ever have to do,” Jason said.
Willow took this all in and it dawned on her that he was right. She was the one who had to decide what was right and when it was right. That in her own way she was the one over thinking things.
“So, hypothetically speaking, if I asked you if you found me attractive, what would you say?” she asked.
Jason smiled. She was beginning to heal. “Hypothetically, I would probably answer that I do find you attractive. Especially when you smile and relax. You aren’t a ‘classic’ beauty, nor do you look like a starlet, but you are nice on the eyes,” he said. He also waited to get hit, not sure how she saw herself.
Willow took in what he said and took a breath. She had a microscopic urge to punch him and then realized that he had actually complimented her. “And if hypothetically, I asked if I’d be on your list of women to date, what would you say?” she asked.
“I’d tell you the same thing I said last night. It’s up to you. No means no, maybe means no and yes means maybe. All things are up to negotiation and it starts with you,” he said.
“Oh,” said Willow. She sat there for a few minutes and then stood up. “I… I think I’m going to go take a bath,” she said and left the room.
Jason went back to reading his book with a smile on his face.