by Tony Noland
With both hands, he yanked her inside and slammed the door, hard. When he turned around, he saw her lying across the bed, on top of the floral print comforter that was probably older than she was.
He asked her name, who she was, where she'd come from. She didn't answer.
Voice more frantic than commanding, he told her to get up, get off the bed. She did. After a moment, he told her to get out of her wet clothes. She didn't.
A heavy boom of thunder rolled across the sky, muffled to a softly thudding echo by the falling snow. It was coming down blizzard-thick, obscuring the lights out on the highway to dull orange glints, only barely and intermittently visible. He looked at her and told her again to go take off her clothes, or she would surely catch pneumonia. She looked back with an expression that was hollow, her dull eyes showing little recognition or understanding.
From double-wound scarf to thick leather boots, she was covered in snow. Where her hair pushed out from under her hood, it was encased in a mass of ice, melting and dripping onto her face in the warmth of the room. The tip of her nose was waxy-white; the florid red of her cheeks was rising and spreading like a slow poison across her skin. She lifted a hand to her face and covered a deep yawn that cracked the skin of her badly chapped lips. The motion seemed to make her swoon and she sank back down onto the bed, eyes closing.
He grabbed her and forced her to stand, shaking her, yelling in her face about hypothermia and going to sleep and never waking up and the need to get out of her wet clothes. Didn't she know they were trapped with no phone and the power could go out any minute? There was no help to be had, not until the storm was over. She blinked twice, slowly. Again, he asked her name, asked her where she'd come from, did she have a room here, why she was out in the parking lot in this storm.
She yawned and sagged into his arms.
The weight was more than he expected and he staggered backwards, dropping her. She slipped sideways and hit the bedframe, her forehead clunking off the edge of the metal with a wet, tearing sound. He grabbed at her shoulder, shouting at her to wake up. Her glazed eyes rolling up at him, full of hope and despair. She was an outcast from a race of angels, all tears and blood and ice water, running down the flushed skin of her smooth, perfect, newly-marred face.
He eased her head to the floor and ran to the bathroom. Arms full of thin hotel towels, he tore at her clothes, pushing at the heavy, wet canvas and nylon. Stripped to her skin, she was naked and blue-white in the spreading pool of her own blood and meltwater. She offered nothing, neither assistance nor resistance, as he dried her, bandaged her and put her in the bed.
As he kicked off his boots, he prayed that, whoever she was, the warmth of his own body would be enough.
n.b. This story came about through the intersection of three separate story prompts:
The Six Words challenged of Easily Mused: thunder, softly, poison, boots, highway, ice
This week's Three Word Wednesday (for which I already wrote a limerick): dull, race, yawn
John Wiswell's writing challenge of September 14
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