Willow woke up hearing a moan. She sat up and realized that Jason was sitting on the floor next to the door. He had his jeans half on and tangled.
“What are you doing?” she asked getting up out of the bed.
“Trying to go feed the animals,” he said. Jason tried to move and groaned again.
“The only animal you’re feeding is yourself. You’re getting back in that bed or I’ll call Betsy and she can yell at you. I’ll check the animals and you will stay in bed!” she said, hands on hips.
Jason looked up at Willow. His head hurt like a bull had kicked him and yet he wanted to smile at her if it wouldn’t hurt so bad. She was showing some backbone at last.
“Well, I might. Can’t tell if you’ll be able to do it,” he said knowing he was pushing her buttons.
“Jason, You get up off of that floor and back into bed now!” she said pulling his jeans back off of his legs.
Jason winced. “I’ll need your help up,” he said.
“Well why didn’t you say so?” Willow said. She dropped his jeans on the floor and started helping him up. It was a bit of a struggle as Jason wasn’t as steady on his legs as he’d like. They got him standing and then into bed. Willow propped him up on the pillows and tucked the covers in around him.
“I’ll be right back with some tea,” she said as she got dressed.
Jason waited until he heard her on the stairs before he smiled. He had thought he could tough it through going out to the animals. He was wrong. He was glad though that she hadn’t run from him when he growled. He closed his eyes while he waited for her to return with the tea.
Willow made tea in record time. She brought up a piece of the pie she had made for last night’s dinner too. When she walked into the room, he was snoring. She put the tea down next to him and quietly left the room.
Once she was downstairs, she got dressed for outside. Carhartts overalls and coat, a hat and gloves. She shoveled a path down the stairs and out to the barn. No way she could run the tractor or even the bobcat, so she just used the shovel. Once in the barn, she dealt with the horses and the goats. She found nearly a dozen eggs and fed the chickens. Then she walked back to the house to put the eggs on the porch.
Willow walked back out to the barn and found the smaller snowmobile. It took twenty minutes to wrangle a bale on the back sled. The second wasn’t as hard and soon she had three bales on the sled. She started up the snowmobile and headed for the sheds Jason had fed at the day before. The snowmobile was hard to control, but not as difficult as she thought. Jason had shown her how to drive it earlier in the week. She took her time and didn’t do anything stupid. If she had an accident, there would be no one to save her.
Three hours later, Willow walked into the kitchen. She had stripped off all the wet clothing and stuffed it in the dryer like Jason did. She put the eggs in the fridge and started to make herself some lunch. While it was heating up, she went up to check on Jason. He was sitting up reading.
“Hi,” she said. She smiled seeing that the plate and cup were empty.
“Howdy. You’ve been outside,” he said matter of fact.
“Yes. I fed the animals. All of them,” Willow said proudly.
“All of them?” he asked.
“Even the cattle out at the sheds,” she said.
“Okay, where’s the real Willow?” he asked with a slight frown on his face.
She laughed. “It’s hard work, so you better get well real fast,” she said.
“I plan on it,” he said. “Any chance of some lunch?”
“Oh!” Willow said as she dashed out of the room and down to the kitchen. She got there just as the smell of scorched soup hit her nose. She stirred it and then poured it into two bowls. She grabbed the crackers and then put the pan into soak. Then Willow headed upstairs.
Jason ate his soup slowly. He had muscle aches in places he didn’t think could hurt. It even hurt to chew the crackers. Granted, so had the pie, but he’d been so hungry he hadn’t cared.
“Here’s the pain pills,” she said.
Jason took the meds and slowly took them after handing her his dishes. Then he lay back down. “What you planning to do with the rest of your afternoon?” he asked.
“Keep an eye on you, read my book and maybe do some laundry. I haven’t done any since last year,” she said as straight faced as she could.
“Wha? Oh! Damn. Happy New Year Willow,” he said. “What day is it?”
“January 3rd,” she said.
“Oh. I guess I messed up my New Year’s date didn’t I,” he said softly. They’d planned to have a little movie night after he’d brought the wood inside.
“It’s okay. We can do it another night,” she said.
“I think I’ll nap now if you don’t mind,” he said as he felt his eyes getting heavy.
“Okay,” Willow said and headed off to wash clothes.
Three days later, Doc and Betsy came up to check on Jason. Betsy and Willow were out in the barn while Doc talked to Jason. He’d checked the stitches and changed the bandage.
“Doc, can I have a shower?” Jason asked. He’d wanted one earlier, but Willow had put her foot down when he could barely navigate from the bed to the shower.
“Sure,” said Doc. “How’s things going?” he asked nodding his head towards Willows books on the other nightstand.
“Slow. Okay but slow. I know this sounds all kinds of wrong, but hurting my head actually has made her step up and be more assertive,” said Jason.
“Hmm. That’s interesting. Just keep an eye on her though,” said Doc. He had dealt with enough rape victims to know how thin the line could be between reality and disaster.
“I am. She’s got to be the one who makes the moves. It won’t be me,” said Jason.
“Okay. You’re a good man,” said Doc and said his goodbyes. He went downstairs and found that Betsy and Willow were nowhere to be seen. He stepped outside and heard them in the barn. He headed for his truck.
Betsy heard a door slam. “That must be Doc. I’d better go,” said Betsy and gave Willow a hug. “See you soon!” she said and headed out of the barn.
Willow followed her out and waved them off. Then she went back to finish gathering eggs and feeding the barn animals. She got back in the house about an hour later and went up to see how Jason was doing. He wasn’t in bed. She looked around and finally heard the sound of water running. She opened the door just a smidge and hollered in the door. “You okay?”
“Yes. Doc said I could shower. Felt filthy. I’ll be out in a bit,” he called through the steam.
“Okay,” said Willow and she shut the door. She didn’t get five feet down the hall when she heard the thump. Willow turned, ran and went straight into the bathroom. Jason was sitting on the bathroom floor half wrapped in a towel, holding his head and making a sort of laughing moaning noise.
“You okay?” Willow said rushing to his side.
“Yeah. Slipped getting out of the tub,” he said.
“Are you hurt?” she asked.
“Only my dignity,” he said. “I think.”
“You think?” Willow asked.
“I haven’t tried to stand,” he said.
“I’ll close my eyes and you wrap up. Then I’ll help you if you need it,” she said.
“Okay,” said Jason. “What a stupid thing to do!” he yelled at himself mentally. His ass was cold and his tailbone hurt. He stood up carefully and wrapped the towel around his waist. “It’s safe to open your eyes.”
Willow opened her eyes. He wasn’t bleeding anywhere, but he was still wet. “Do you want help drying off, or should I just leave?” she asked.
“I… I could do with a little help. My head started to pound again,” he said truthfully.
Willow grabbed a second towel and started drying him off. She did his back and legs. “You can do the rest,” she said going shy. Then she darted out of the bathroom.
Jason took his time drying the rest of his body. Then he wrapped the towel around his waist and headed to the bedroom. He’d forgotten to bring clothes. Willow was nowhere to be seen, so he got dressed and back into bed.
Willow was downstairs working on dinner. Jason falling had scared her. Helping to dry him off had almost been scarier. He looked real good with his clothes off. Plus, it had been hard to ignore bits and pieces of him even though she’d tried not to look. She realized she wanted to talk to Betsy. She grabbed the portable and headed for the living room. The phone rang twice before Betsy picked up.
“Hey Betsy, it’s Willow,” she started. “No, he’s fine even though he slipped getting out of the shower. No, it’s okay. But,… um… I need to talk. Well, um. I… I think I want…” she trailed off. Willow listened as Betsy talked. They talked for nearly an hour and Willow headed back to the kitchen to check on dinner as they talked.
“Yeah, I know,” said Willow. “Uhuh,” she paused. “Thanks Betsy. I was nervous and had to talk and you’re about the only friend I have that would understand. Thanks,” said Willow as she hung up the phone. She thought about what Betsy had said as she finished up dinner. She’d made a potpie out of the chicken and when it was done, she carried a tray up with their dinner upstairs.
Jason smelled the food before he actually saw it. He’d heard Willow talking to someone earlier and it had taken him a bit of time to realize it was Betsy on the phone. Now to find out what they were talking about. Maybe. He was waiting when Willow walked into the room.
“Hungry?” she asked.
“Yes and that smells really good,” he said.
Willow smiled and gave him his food and then sat across from him at the end of the bed. Neither one said much as they ate. Willow took the tray down when they were finished and came back up with tea and pie. Once again, Willow sat opposite from him.
“Jason, I have a question for you,” she said.
“Okay,” he replied. “Ask.”
“Do… Do you find me attractive?” she asked.
“Yes. You aren’t a stunning beauty, but I like how you look,” he said.
“It isn’t just pity because I got raped?” she asked.
“No,” Jason said sitting up straighter. “Not at all. I don’t work that way.”
“Okay,” she said a little nervously. This was much harder than she thought. “Would… would you consider ever wanting to.. to..” she stopped unable to continue.
“Would I ever want to date you?” he asked hoping that was where she had planned to head with this conversation.
She nodded. Her arms had wrapped around herself and she’d drawn her knees up in almost a fetal position. Yet, her eyes remained on his face.
“Can you say the words Willow?” he asked quietly. He wanted her to hear her own words instead of just thinking them.
“Would you like to… to date me? Mmmaybe have a rrrelationship?” she asked. “Why was this so difficult?” she wondered. She was so hungry for touch, for sex even, but the thought of actually saying it scared her to death.
“Willow I would be honored to date you,” he said. “Now how do we proceed? We’ve already skipped to sleeping together,” he thought.
“Okay,” she said almost in a whisper. “Wwwhere do we start?”
Jason thought for a moment. He’d been thinking about this for weeks, and yet hadn’t come up with a decent answer yet and now he was in the hot seat. “Um… how about we hold hands and maybe cuddle for a bit. See how you feel,” he said. “And before you ask, no still means no until you change your mind.”
Willow could feel the tension in her back hiccup as it first relaxed and then tensed. She didn’t know what she wanted and yet she wanted everything, especially him. She nodded and putting her plate and cup down moved next to Jason on the bed. He very gently wrapped his arm around her. She was shivering even though she wasn’t cold. Finally, she wrapped her hand around his fingers and held it.
Slowly Jason placed his other hand on top of hers. Their embrace was a loose hug, but it was progress. They sat cuddled like that making small talk for at least an hour. Then Jason realized he had to use the bathroom. “Willow, I need to get up,” he said. He slowly unwrapped his arms from her and got out of bed.
Willow watched him head to the bathroom. “Step one,” she thought and got ready for bed. It had been a long day and dishes could wait until the morning. She was changed and in bed before Jason got back from the bathroom.
Jason noticed that she’d gotten into bed. He wasn’t sure if their ‘date’ was over, but didn’t push the subject. He got into bed and before he could turn to face the wall, Willow darted up, gave him a peck on the lips and then curled up on her side of the bed.
“Goodnight Willow,” he said softly. He smiled as he lay down to sleep.
“Night,” came the muffled voice from under the covers.
“A good beginning,” he thought as he drifted off to sleep.