2nd look inside ( Trapped in the Valley of Tears)

Cat opened her eyes. Apart from the count­less bruis­es and her torn jack­et, she had to admit to her­self that she had been damn lucky. Her head alone throbbed and pound­ed as if it had been worked on with a jack­ham­mer. Care­ful­ly, she tried to sit up, but even this small move­ment made her dizzy.

Damn! She must have got­ten a con­cus­sion. That was what was miss­ing now! If she real­ly had a con­cus­sion, that meant she would have to stay in bed for sev­er­al days. She cer­tain­ly would­n’t be able to fin­ish the damn work this way, and that meant she could for­get about her Masters.

“You fuck­ing son of a bitch, I nev­er would have met you!” she snapped.

“What a day!” she heard the deep voice of a man who seemed to come straight from the waterfall.

“First Fiona and now anoth­er poi­son and bile spew­ing woman! At this time of year, females have far too much leisure! They’d bet­ter get down to the real­ly impor­tant things, like hav­ing chil­dren. That would def­i­nite­ly take away their enthu­si­asm for such pos­tur­ing and talk.”

“Is some­one there?“

Cat tried to turn her head in the direc­tion the voice had come from, demon­stra­tive­ly ignor­ing the dizzi­ness for the moment.

“Did Gwen­ny send you?”

 In the bil­low­ing mists, she could make out the out­line of a man. A man in full High­land cos­tume! Plaid, shirt, bon­net and every­thing else that went with it. He looked like he was about to go to a mas­quer­ade cos­tume par­ty, and maybe he was, because after all, she her­self had orig­i­nal­ly want­ed to go to a par­ty. The stranger squat­ted on one of the rocks, star­ing at the water­fall and mut­ter­ing unin­tel­li­gi­ble things to himself.

“Hey, you! Did Gwen­ny send you?” she repeat­ed her question.

But the per­son addressed did not respond.

“Hel­lo! I mean you! You there by the water­fall in the green-blue-red plaid.”

At the men­tion of the col­ors of his tar­tan, the man raised his head and looked in her direction.

Was that aston­ish­ment show­ing on his face? Or was she sim­ply too befud­dled from the fall to prop­er­ly inter­pret his expression?

The young man now rose and moved hes­i­tant­ly in her direc­tion. The clos­er he came, the more clear­ly she could rec­og­nize him.

He was tall! Real­ly tall! About six feet, if she were to guess. In addi­tion extreme­ly mus­cu­lar, but not fat! Prob­a­bly an amaz­ing­ly devel­oped six-pack was hid­den under his wide shirt! A real nature boy evenly!

 Her gaze wan­dered fur­ther upwards. Pitch-black hair, which was tied in a braid at the nape of the neck, framed an even face. But the most fas­ci­nat­ing thing about him were his dark blue eyes, which sparkled like lit­tle blue stars even in the white soup of the fog.

“Wow!” she gasped, “I need to go to the coun­try more often, at least there the men still look like real guys!”

“Are you talk­ing to me?”

The young man had final­ly reached her and regard­ed her appraisingly.

“Who else should I be talk­ing to? Do you see any­one else?“

The stranger looked around, shook his head and then mut­tered, “That can’t be” under his breath.

“What can’t be?“

The young man ignored her ques­tion and just stared at her in com­plete bewilderment.

“I must say, you are act­ing extreme­ly strange!” she then remarked. “I don’t under­stand why you won’t help me and just stare at me like I’m a dog with two heads!”

His gaze became a shade more pierc­ing, which slow­ly drove Cat to white heat. The more he stared, the angri­er she became. Even her headache was tem­porar­i­ly forgotten.

“Why did you even both­er com­ing here if you have no inten­tion of help­ing me? You might as well have gone to your damn par­ty!” she pressed out with a snort as she slow­ly straight­ened up. “I’m used to a lot from men, but this takes the cake! I’ve nev­er expe­ri­enced any­thing like this!”

“Are you done with your litany now?”

An amused twin­kle entered the stranger’s eyes. “A fury is noth­ing against you!”

“Furie? You’re com­par­ing me to a fury? Would­n’t you be pissed if you fell and the one per­son who could help you just stood there gawk­ing at you like a mon­stros­i­ty from a cham­ber of hor­rors? And how do you talk any­way? Are you one of those role-play­ers who, once they get their cos­tume on, are com­plete­ly absorbed in their role?”

The young man raised one of his eye­brows questioningly.

“Role­play? Cos­tume? And, what the hell does “a mon­stros­i­ty from a cham­ber of hor­rors” mean?”

“Enough of this shit! I think it’s good that you’re total­ly into your role, your cos­tume real­ly is the bomb, but in my sit­u­a­tion you’re not exact­ly up for games!”

“Games? Your situation?“

Was he men­tal­ly retard­ed? After all, it was obvi­ous what was going on with her.

“I slid down the slope and hit my head on one of the rocks.”

“Oh, that’s why! I thought you’d sim­ply enjoy insult­ing unsus­pect­ing strangers!“

His amused tone of voice broke the camel’s back.

“What is it now? Are you going to help me or not? Appar­ent­ly Gwen­ny did­n’t send you, after all! So while you’re here, you might as well at least make your­self useful!”

Again he glared at her.

“For cry­ing out loud! Give me your hand so I can final­ly get up!” The stranger remained stand­ing stiffly in front of her, mak­ing not the slight­est effort to com­ply with her request. “What a stub­born goat! I think I’ll think twice about ‘going to the coun­try more often’!”

“No!“

“What, no?”

“No, I did not come to help you!”

 Son of a bitch!, the thought fol­lowed his state­ment with­out her input. Were there real­ly only self­ish jerks left on this earth?

“I could have guessed that! What’s the mat­ter, are you afraid I might soil your expen­sive costume?”

“It’s not that!” she heard him say soft­ly in response. “I can’t!”

“What do you mean, you can’t! Are you kid­ding me? You’re stand­ing here in front of me, so you might as well help me! What’s the prob­lem there?”

“Cat? Cat? Can you hear me?” Gwenny’s voice echoed down to her before her head appeared above the slope.

“Are you all right? Or did you break some­thing? Don’t move! I’ve brought help with me! They’re com­ing down to you now!”

“Except for my head, every­thing seems OK. If this guy here was­n’t so unpleas­ant, I’d be back upstairs by now!” she yelled to Gwenny.

“What guy?” the girl yelled back.

“I’m not being unpleas­ant! I’m just unable to help you, so to speak!”

“Who asked you?”, Cat snapped at him in response. “After all, you could­n’t get your mouth open ear­li­er. You can get out of here! I don’t need your help anymore!”

“Who are you talk­ing to”, Gwen­do­line looked down at her in irritation.

“With the guy here!

“What guy?”

“The one stand­ing right next to me, star­ing at me like I have two heads!

“Cat, there’s nobody there!”

“Gwen­ny, are you kid­ding me? You can’t miss that guy”

“Caitri­ona Camp­bell, appar­ent­ly you did bang your pret­ty skull a lit­tle more than you’re try­ing to fool me into believ­ing. You’re hal­lu­ci­nat­ing, my dear!”

“Damn it, Gwen­ny, I’m not hal­lu­ci­nat­ing! You must bee seen him too! He …!”

“You are a Camp­bell? That explains a lot! Actu­al­ly I should have noticed it much ear­li­er,” the stranger rude­ly inter­rupt­ed her in response.

“What do you mean?“

“You have unmis­tak­able traits of your clan! Your men are smug cretins and your women …”

“That’s the last straw! Do I have to be insult­ed by you as well? You …! You …!”

“If I were you, I would­n’t say what you think! You might be sorry!”

“Are you threat­en­ing me? What do you think you’re doing? You …?”

“Not at all! It’s just … All the Camp­bell women I’ve known have been man-hat­ing furies!”

“I’m not a man-hating …”

“You’re not?” he inter­rupt­ed her again. “May I remind you of your say­ing? I believe you men­tioned a fuck­ing son of a bitch.” Cat’s words died on her lips.

“You heard it?” she final­ly brought out in anguish. “That was …”

“I don’t think your son of a bitch can be any worse than the sons of bitch­es in your clan, to whom I owe my situation.”

“Cat, stop argu­ing with your imag­i­nary stranger. It’s get­ting embarrassing!”

“Cat, will you stop argu­ing with your imag­i­nary stranger? It’s get­ting embarrassing!”

“Gwen­ny, I would, but this guy is dri­ving me up the wall. He insults me non-stop! Would you keep qui­et about it? I …”

“I’m not insult­ing you, I’m just show­ing you things from my point of view!” Now it was the young man who glared angri­ly at her. “Who was to blame for the mas­sacre? If this cursed mas­sacre had nev­er tak­en place, I would not be stand­ing before you now. Mor­gane would not have had me in her clutch­es, and I could have spent my exis­tence peace­ful­ly by the side of my clan. But thanks to your treach­ery, noth­ing of the sort has hap­pened. No, quite the oppo­site! Morgane’s game has gone so far that you of all peo­ple can see me! After all these years, anoth­er Camp­bell. Vile Camp­bells! Deceit­ful bitch! To hell with you!” With those words, he van­ished into thin air before her eyes.

Cat stared at the now emp­ty space. How was such a thing pos­si­ble? He had to have dis­ap­peared into the increas­ing­ly dense fog. There was no oth­er explanation