Survival of the Steelest
Remington chivalrously held the handle of the office door allowing Laura to precede him through. Laura reached for the pink message slips tucked under the paper weight on the corner of Mildreds desk. Shuffling through the stack, she looked somewhat disappointed. Baxter didnt call back yet?
Not yet. But I made copies of your insurance card and that release of liability you signed. I left them on your desk.
Spurred by curiosity, Remington picked up his pace to step in front of Laura, stopping her before she could reach her office. Insurance card? Release of liability?
Thank you, Mildred, Laura said, but in a semi-sarcastic tone indicating Mildred shouldnt have said anything in Mr. Steeles presence.
I think Ill go catch up on some filing, Mildred slinked away into the adjoining room.
Why dont you show Mr. Steele the finer points of filing while youre at it? She pat him on the chest, You know, A, B, C Its really fascinating. Are you aware there are twenty-six letters in all?
He didnt take the hint and continued to follow her. Once inside, Remington closed the door and crossed his arms. He leaned against a nearby cabinet, waiting for an impatient moment before finally asking, Well?
Well what? Laura hung her purse on the coat rack in the corner.
Are you going to tell me what that was about?
Laura picked up the phone on her desk. Its nothing. I signed up to do this thing.
This thing? Could you be a bit more specific, Laura?
I just dont have all the details yet.
Can you at least give me a hint of what you are up to?
Im not up to anything. Stop being so suspicious. The phone beeped its impatient reminder for Laura to dial a number.
He stood, in the same unyielding stance repeating, Well?
Its called an Adventure Challenge. Laura placed the phone in its cradle momentarily then picked it up again.
Adventure challenge? Remington queried with noticeable uncertainty.
Its like a test of survival skills. Lauras fingers were poised over the numbers.
They drop you in the wilderness and you have to use your own abilities to find your way back. But its also a competition; pitting your wits and endurance against nature and others.
Now his uncertainty elevated to trepidation that this foolishness might include him. When you say you are you saying you as in me? or does that pronoun refer to some other non-descript participant?
No the you I was referring to is me in this case. The phone once again resounded its need for a number to be dialed. Laura put the phone back with a huff, Oh come on, I know your idea of roughing it, is cotton sheets. Thats why I didnt ask you.
The question remains, why would you ask yourself? Remington took a few steps closer.
Its a challenge, I want to know if I can hack it.
Why are you compelled to test yourself all the time? First that triathlon, now this lunacy, Whats next, skydiving? Everest?
What is so wrong with pushing yourself to achieve more? Laura lifted the phone for a third time.
Because when you push yourself Laura, you end up pushing others out of your way. Remington now stood firmly in front of Laura, daring to be pushed.
If youre so afraid that I am going to push you, then I she finally dialed a phone number, pounding each number in anger as if to accentuate each word, suggest you dont stand in my way. She sat in her chair and swiveled, turning her back to Mr. Steele. Laura switched to a much more pleasant tone when addressing the person on the other end, Calvin Baxter please.
Remington wandered into the reception area, but, not fleeing in retreat, just to regroup. The war with Laura was a continuous battle of wills. Advance, strike, defend, counterstrike, withdraw, recuperate, reorganize, attack, retreat, repeat. Ceasefire and peace talks occurred regularly, although never declared a winner, thus the conflict raged on. The phone began to ring. He could see Mildred on a step stool filing something into a top drawer. With the light on Lauras extension still lit, he picked up the call, Steele here.
Is Miss Laura Holt in?
Mrs. Holt-Steele, he corrected, in a irritated tone and volume directed at Lauras open door, is occupied at the moment, may I take a message?
Yes. This is Dan at Horizons Survival Quest. Weve had a cancellation for next weekends adventure and if she wanted to fill the spot, we could have ten full teams. Normally I would mail out the orientation packet, but if she could drop off a check and pick it up, that would give her a few extra days to familiarize herself with the program.
Remington thought that maybe Dan would be more forthcoming about information than Laura. Scavenging for a slip of paper, a grin accompanied a very upbeat, Certainly, whats your address?
Dan handed an envelop to Mr. Steele instructing, Just make the check out to Horizons. Everything Miss Holt needs to know is in the packet.
He opened his mouth. His first instinct was to correct Dan once again, that everything MRS. STEELE needs is in the packet, but Dan was not the one to blame for that. Instead he nodded graciously to Dan and made a mental note to take up the Miss/Mrs. issue with HER straight away. Remington reached into suit pocket for his check book. On the phone, you said something about teams? he asked, trying to make the question sound like innocent small talk.
Everyone is paired with a stranger. It cultivates effective communication, cooperation and teamwork. Many of the challenge requirements are designed that only two functioning as an efficient team can accomplish them. Weve found it also encourages some to develop hidden leadership abilities.
Well, my wife, He stressed the word, wife, has no hidden abilities when it comes to taking charge. Remington tore the check and handed it to him, Thats probably her forte, in fact.
Then shell do fine. . . Unless, of course, she gets paired with another just like her.
Remington smiled at the prospect of Laura butting heads with someone just as unbending as her. To be fair, he didnt always back down and a fair share of their disagreements were fueled by his own stubbornness. But still, it would be divine retribution to see Laura lose this little game by virtue of her own bossiness. Would it be possible to partner my wife with such a person?
Sorry Mr. Steele, the teams are supposed to be completely at random.
Again, Mr. Steele was attempting to gain some information without sounding like a jealous husband. So what kind of people usually participate in such a pursuit as your survival challenge?
A lot of corporate executives participate, more women that you would think, guys in their forties- you know trying to prove they still have something, and then there is John Jack Babbit. We call him Jack Rabbit though.
Whos this Jack fellow? Remington asked tucking the checkbook back into his suit pocket.
Not sure what he does. Wealthy, playboy type. Dan shrugged some indifference, My girlfriend would call him a hard body. A guy with a muscles like that, you wouldnt think he would need to spend $500 to score with some babe in the woods.
What if he doesnt get partnered with a woman? You said the pairings were at random.
He always seems to get one. Did I mention he was wealthy? Dan hinted at some possible impropriety.
Isnt there a rule about that? I mean, hasnt any women complained?
Everyone is an adult, Mr. Steele and they do sign a release.
So he just comes out here for. . .the birds and the bees? Remington checked if he understood what Dan meant by scoring.
Seems like it, he says its the most primal of all survival techniques. You know huddling together for warmth. . . Dan confirmed his fear. The wink was completely unnecessary.
On the drive back to the office, the phrase huddling together for warmth replayed in Remingtons mind. He recognized that phrase in his own failed attempts to persuade Laura in the past. It did work recently though when their picnic on that secluded beach turned unexpectedly cold.
Its not uncommon in LA for the beach to be overcast and blustery while the rest of the city enjoys a sunny and mild day. When they told Mildred they would be gone for the rest day the only thing on his agenda was to pick up some wine, a few sandwiches and to get Laura as far away as possible from phones, clients, and the pesky INS for a few hours. The inclement weather did do them the favor of chasing away any other sun-loving beachgoers. Laura declined the offer of a sandwich but heartily accepted some wine. She sat huddled on the blanket with her arms clasped around her legs pulled high against her chest. The plastic cup of wine was held by the rim with her thumb and middle finger. He could detect some shivering when she brought the wine to her lips and joked, At least we dont have to wait for the wine to chill.
Laura, maybe this wasnt such a good idea. Lets go. Remington suggested as he stood and dusted the sand from his pants.
No. Its fine. You know how I love the beach. She closed her eyes and dreamily recounted, I pretend that all my problems just get drowned by the waves and carried out to sea. Id trade a bit of physical discomfort for emotional peace any day. Inhaling the salty air, she shuddered, barely visible.
Remington couldnt help but think that he was one of those problems. Like so many times before, forces within were prodding him, Ask her, tell her, say it, do it, start it, end it. Instead, he gently tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to a small cove surrounded by rock and mounds of sand. We could go over there, it may be more out of the wind. Those inner voices scolded him, you coward.
Laura nodded. She grabbed the wine bottle leaving the blanket as Mr. Steeles responsibility. The biting wind indeed had less teeth in their new location. This time instead of spreading the blanket out, he invited Laura to huddle together. Draping the blanket around his back, he sat behind her. Then, holding the blanket by the corners, he wrapped the two of them up.
Better? he asked, holding her close to his chest.
Much. Laura agreed. How bout you?
I still vote for our six foot plush sofa and a roaring fire.
A devilish thought crossed her mind. She checked to make certain that they were truly alone then Laura turned and leaned into his body, Perhaps there is something we could do that would sway your vote.
Remington smiled and laughed to himself, remembering Laura persuasiveness on that occasion. Although Remington never regretted the sexual path his relationship with Laura took, it did detour the journey they were on. Physical intimacy was not a road that ran always parallel to the main road, moving them in the general direction they needed to go. It was an adventurous, winding, rolling, pleasurable trip, but when it led back to the main road, it left them still at the same intersection, sometimes, even miles back from where they turned off, sometimes even pointed in the wrong direction altogether. After all, if there were no such exits to take, maybe they would reach their destination sooner. Remington gazed at the envelope laying in the passenger seat. Now it seemed that Laura was taking another path altogether, and even worse, she was taking this one by herself.
Laura began to inventory her supplies spread out on the dining room table. She snapped her fingers when she remember another necessity, Oh dryer lint. . . Cant forget dryer lint. Laura reminded herself then disappeared into the laundry room.
The canteen was obvious to Remington, but Lauras need to pack dryer lint had him off the sofa to see what she was up to. Dryer lint? He repeated, wandering into the dining room.
She came back in with a handful explaining, Its a great accelerant for starting a fire.
I would think a lighter would be a great accelerant for starting a fire.
Lighters are not permitted. Laura flipped the instruction packet open to the appropriate page, See. The items in this column are forbidden. Each team is given two hundred feet of rope and first aid kit. Other than that, I am allowed to take only two pounds of provisions in my backpack and a canteen of water.
What are these? Remington picked up one of the small nutrition bars from the pile.
Proforma Energy Bars. Ounce for ounce they pack in the highest nutrition and complex carbs to provide sustenance and curb hunger.
Remington examined one more carefully, This is food? There is not one pronounceable ingredient in this, Laura.
Try one. She tore back the paper and held it to his lips.
Remington took a cautious bite. A tortured grimace was followed by an exaggerated swallow and gagging cough, Good Lord Laura, the foil wrapper must have more flavor than this.
Oh, theyre not that bad.
Rushing to the kitchen counter, Remington filled a glass with water and washed it down. Not that bad? Not that bad is what you say when something is actually very bad, but your trying to diminish its dreadfulness. Like, when youre trying to give a small child a dose of distasteful medicine or when someone is bleeding profusely and you say, oh its not that bad.
Or when someone says its only for two years, its not that bad ? Laura acerbically quoted, once again picking at the scab on a wound that she never allowed to heal.
Remington reappeared in the opening between the kitchen and dining room. Is that what all of this is about? Getting away from me?
Laura carefully annunciated as she packed her bag, No, this is about me testing my resilience, finding my limits.
Dont we do that just about everyday, Laura? What about all those cases, all those times when we were out of pocket? This time he snapped his fingers remembering, What about that time we survived the streets of LA over that pick six mess?
That was different.
How was that different?
You were there.
What difference does that make?
That was we. I need for it to be me. Not you or us, just I. . . I mean, me. Laura tied herself up in her own confusing logic. She took a breath and slowly explained, I need to know if <I> can do this, Mr. Steele. Can we just leave it at that, please?
He put up his hands defensively, mouthed, fine and left. Another strategic retreat before the battle would escalate any further.
Several hours later Remington returned. It was quiet and dark. Laura left a note on the counter that she went to bed early, planning to drive herself out to San Bernardino in the morning. Her supplies were neatly packed. Hiking boots and rain gear neatly stacked in the entry with the information packet lying on top. Remington poured himself a drink and began to read what this adventure challenge was all about.
The day starts promptly at 9:00 am with orientation and team selections. Each team will be brought to a starting point equidistant to the central lodge. Prizes will be awarded based points accumulated. Points are calculated by the time it takes to for the team to return to the lodge combined with survival points. Survival points are earned by showing use of specific survival skills. These include; providing proof of fire(ashes), edible plant samples, bones from fish or game captured and eaten. Small bags will be provided to each team. There are also yellow flags strategically placed throughout playing field. Each yellow flag has varying point value depending upon the challenge and ingenuity necessary to capture it.
Each team will be equipped with some safety measures and a radio in the event of a serious emergency.
Prior to departure, gear will be checked for contraband and weighed.
He unzipped her backpack, slipped in a small package and spoke to no one in particular, Well I hope two and a half ounces doesnt put you over the limit.
Despite the hour, Remington was getting out of bed before Laura when the alarm sounded. Eggs and English muffin for you this morning, Muffin?
God, I hate when you call me those stupid names. Laura yawned with her head still imbedded in her soft pillow.
Just a term of endearment, Sweetums.
If you meant it, it would be one thing. But I know you say them just to annoy me or put on a good show for Ms. Lynch. Laura swung her legs over the side of the bed.
Speaking of names, what about this business of you going around introducing yourself as Miss Holt all the time? And I am forever going to only be Mr. Steele to you. Its painfully obvious that serves no other purpose than to annoy me and it certainly doesnt help our show, as you put it, with Gladys Lynch.
This time it was Laura who was backing away from the confrontation, Just stay in bed, Ill just get myself some cereal.
Suit yourself, but Im not driving all the way out to San Bernardino on less than a full breakfast.
Youre driving out to San Bernardino?
Thats where this survival thing of yours is, isnt it?
You dont have to take me. Laura entered the bathroom and turned the shower valve.
I want to take you. Remington dutifully followed. At first he was unaware what he said but then smirked and began to undress himself.
Laura didnt miss the innuendo in his voice or the look in his eyes as she peeled her nightshirt off. She handed him his robe, Make me some eggs, Mr. Ste she caught herself and amended that with generous sarcasm, Make me some eggs, Sweetheart.
The drive at that hour on a Friday morning was pleasantly light. Both were quiet until Laura finally spoke about what had been swimming in her mind since he first said it almost twelve hours ago, Im not doing this to get away from you, at least, not in the sense you think. . . Really, Im not.
Are you sure? Remington glanced at her.
She smiled weakly before he returned his attention to the road. For the rest of the drive, conversation was limited to innocuous comments on the weather and passing scenery.
Remington pulled into the unpaved lot in front of the central lodge. Laura walked over to a table marked check in and dropped her backpack. She was given a plastic number, similar to the cards dispensed at a deli counter. Remington took keen interest in others mulling about. Given the attire; hiking boots, bandanas and the like, it was easy to differentiate the participants from those just saying goodbye. Two other women so far. Simple math probabilities left slim chance that Laura would be paired with one of them. The men were otherwise a non-descript lot. But, one in particular caused Steele some discomfort. This man pulled up in a rugged Jeep with mammoth tires that pulverized the gravel with a raucous crunch when he came to a stop. Tall, muscular, tanned and shirtless, he stood and stretched from the drivers side giving all a look-at-me eyeful. Gripping the roll bar and made a gymnastic dismount, he flexed and swaggered to the same check in point to stand behind Laura in line. With his sunglasses propped up, he leaned back gave her a lingering assessment, clearly entertaining primal thoughts of the two of them in the wild. No doubt, Jack Babbitt had arrived.
A protective, perhaps possessive instinct of its own surfaced in Remington. He rushed to the table to stand beside Laura. The two men eyed each other in the unspoken male behavior pattern of sizing up an opponent. If they had horns and hooves, they very well would have backed up, snorted a challenge, rose on their hind legs and slammed into each other until bloodied, to settle this. Being slightly more evolved, Remington merely slipped his arm around Laura. He slid his hand down to her hip in a subtle gesture to claim his mate.
Dan appeared on the porch of the lodge and barked through a bull horn for everyone to get their number and assemble inside in five minutes.
I guess I should go inside, Laura hesitated as if she wanted to say more, but just kissed him gently goodbye. Ill call you.
Before she could get away, Remington pulled her back into his arms. He kissed her deeply as if desperately clutching on to his only lifeline. Although she wouldnt admit it, he knew his own survival was somehow tied up in this exercise of hers. While still holding her, Remington reluctantly said his goodbye, Ill see you Sunday, try not to end up in Arizona, eh?
Jack Babbitt had every intention of trying to get Laura as a partner. She nervously flipped her numbered card against her nails, so whenever he got close enough, he wasnt sure if it was a six or a nine. To be on the safe side, he cozied up to another girl to get a good look at her, and the number she held. Yes, number seventeen would do nicely.
Numbers were called aloud to indicate the assigned teams. Laura located her partner. She subconsciously found herself comparing him to Mr. Steele. A bit older, ten years, maybe mid-forties, some graying around the temples. He wore glasses. She wondered if that was a result of aging as well and tried to imagine her Remington Steele wearing glasses. He was slightly shorter and had a more few pounds than her usual partner, but generally looked fit. She approached the gentleman with her hand extended, Hi, Im Laura. When they shook hands, she assumed he was a professional person not a laborer by his smooth skin and clean nails.
John Beckham. he graciously replied.
Before they could get much beyond introductions, the participants were ushered into helicopters and handed blindfolds to be taken to their drop off points. They were told the helicopters would not be returning to the lodge so finding their way couldnt be accomplished simply by watching their departure and trying to follow their flight back.
Both silently surveyed their surroundings for a moment. Laura climbed up on a rock for a better view. John stuffed the first aid kit in his pack and slung the rope over one shoulder and under the opposite arm. He seemed content to allow Laura to lead, Where do we start?
You wouldnt happen to know how fast a Bell 206 Ranger Helicopter travels would you? Laura watched as the chopper whirled away.
No. Why? John squinted while looking up in her direction.
We were airborne for about 20 minutes. I sat on the passenger side and could feel the sun on the right side of my face for all but the last few minutes. Which means. . . Laura hopped down from the rock and began to draw a diagram in the dirt, . . . since the morning sun is in the east, we traveled mostly north and I felt us turn into the sun just before we landed.
John nodded with some indication that he knew where she was going with this.
Laura continued. So if we knew the speed of the helicopter, we could do a little algebra and have some idea of how many miles west and south we were from the lodge.
If I would have known that math was involved, I wouldnt have signed up. There is a reason I became an attorney.
Laura pulled her small compass from her backpack before slinging it over one shoulder. She pointed, That way? asking if he was in agreement with her reasoning.
Have you done this before? John asked picking up a walking stick to follow. Laura gave him a simple no and pressed on. With each step he got more curious about his partner, Are you a park ranger or something? he guessed a few steps later.
Laura really didnt want to get into anything personal. She didnt answer at all. John hurried to walk side by side with her.
Youre a teacher, arent you? You have a very commanding persona. He quickly qualified, But I mean that in a good way. You teach math?
I think I see a yellow flag. Laura tried to steer the conversation back to the task at hand and away from any more personal inquiries. She had enough questions about her life that she was dodging in her own mind.
By late in the afternoon, they had recovered two yellow flags and Johns vegetarian interests bagged several edible plants and berries. They soon met their first formidable obstacle. The river itself was actually a good sign. Water often led to civilization, but the terrain on their side was rocky and treacherous. Crossing it seemed the best option. John hiked up to an overlooking crag and spotted a relatively narrow spot.
Slightly out of breath, he hustled back to where he left Laura, About a hundred yards up stream, looks like a possibility.
For the first time that day, Laura followed. When they got to the spot John had in mind, Laura pointed out, Were going to ruin everything if it gets wet.
This time, John asserted some leadership skills. Look, we wrap everything up in our rain gear, one of us swims across with the rope and we rig a pulley-like thing between these two trees on opposite sides. He drew in the dirt, Did you ever see those clotheslines between buildings, like in an alley on a narrow city street?
Laura knew what he had in mind, I get it. . . and we pull it across suspended over the river.
They both sat down and started taking off their shoes and socks. Laura stood and started to take off her clothes as well. Slightly embarrassed, John shielded his view and asked from behind his hand, Laura, are you sure, you should. . .
Id like to say I had this in mind when I dressed this morning, but my exercise clothes were chosen in the interest of providing warmth in layers rather than as a makeshift swimsuit.
John was relieved to see Laura in a sports bra and bicycle shorts that extended to her knee. It actually covered her body more than a swimsuit would. Now he seemed to be the one overexposed when he stripped to his underwear.
Ill go across first, Laura offered. If I slip or get pulled into the current, at least you should be able to pull me out and well know if its too strong to make this work. She waded in slowly, commenting, Oh God! This is cold. While she still had some footing, she took an assured breath and lunged into the icy water. Once on the other side. Laura shouted that he should be able to handle the slight current. She fashioned her end of the rope around the tree and tossed the rest back for him to complete the loop and tie on their backpacks. John jumped into the current while Laura pulled the gear across. She undid the knot, pulled the rope to her side and wound it back up. They both stood jittering from side to side in an attempt to get warm. Laura chattered, I think now would be a good time to see if we can get a fire started.
Yeah, John agreed reaching for his bag. I have a better chance of getting one started while its still daylight.
Laura pulled her clothes out and set her bag near his feet, Im going to take off this wet clothes. Help yourself to anything you need from my bag.
She disappeared into the brush. John likewise, discarded his wet briefs and slipped his clothes back on. When Laura returned, she had some firewood in hand. John was bent forward using his glasses as a magnifier to ignite the dryer lint. A light trail of smoke rose, when encouraged by a gentle breath, the lint sparked and burst into a small ball of flames. A few moments later, they had a fire that would rival the picturesque gas fireplace at home.
After truly working as a team and at rest by a dancing fire, Laura finally became more open to her partner. Im a private investigator.
Pardon? John wasnt sure what question she was answering.
You asked me earlier, remember, park ranger? Teacher?. . . Im a private investigator. You said you were an attorney? Laura asked, turning the focus back to him.
Civil mostly. Family law. John explained while rigging a makeshift clothesline above the fire to dry their undergarments. Boring stuff like wills, real estate, not exactly the glamour you see on LA Law. John completed his task, Viola! Now in about a half hour, we can either put them back on, or eat them.
Laura giggled at what looked like a barbeque spit roasting a tasty meal of underwear. , Although that looks absolutely delicious, I think Ill stick to what I brought. She reached into the outer pocket of her backpack and offered, You want a Proforma Bar? I have plenty. She actually pulled out a Hersheys bar. A small piece of paper was tucked between the outer wrapper and foil. She unfolded the note that only ONE person could have put there:
Laura softly laughed and threw the note into the fire.
A gift from someone? John guessed.
My husbands peculiar sense of humor.
So, youre married?
Laura shrugged, Thats not as easy of a question as you think. Laura poked at the fire, The short answer is yes, and at times, it even feels like it.
He could sense the hesitancy and insecurity in her demeanor, You want to talk about it?
Im not sure I should, legally speaking.
I am an attorney. Anything you tell me would be privileged.
Wouldnt I need to give you a check or something as a retainer?
Anything of value, even a piece of chocolate bar, could be considered good faith, John hinted.
Laura broke off a piece. Despite her vow to push Remington from her mind for the weekend, she told him a condensed version of her nineteen month marriage.
Remington could easily spend an entire Saturday afternoon in black and white movie splendor thanks to channel 16s library of classics. Using the remote, somewhere between the single digit news channel that Laura turns on every morning and his cherished favorite, a distinguished British accent describing a quite graphic scene caught his attention:
The rutting male will display almost predatory behavior in finding a suitable mate. He will stalk, virtually hunt, if you will, the most desirable female. The difference being in the hunt, often the weak or easiest easy game, will be seized. In the quest for the most favorable female however, the male will often pursue and even tussle with a strong, unwilling bitch. Prevalent theory among evolutionists is that the male chooses a stalwart defender likely to protect his offspring; natures way of ensuring the propagation of his own genes. Likewise, the female also tries to ensure hale and hearty offspring. Although she may appear to resist the male, she is testing the suitability of his genes for her offspring as well. Logically, any male who is easily chased away by her sexual resistance does not exhibit aggressive behaviors necessary for species survival.
Thoughts of a strong, unwilling Laura, being stalked in the wild in a similar manner kept Remington enthralled. He set the remote aside for a moment. Flashes of animals and insects engaged in explicit acts of intercourse continued, accompanied further narration:
Some creatures of the animal kingdom rely on what humans would term as a courtship. When a male black-tipped hang fly catches a really toothsome morsel -- say a scrumptious spider or an aphid, he may offer it up to a passing female. Like all males, his motive is transparent: he hopes she'll mate with him after he wines and dines her. Some birds offer fish to their intended sexual partners, and male human beings have also been known to offer food for sex. It is not a coincidence that aphrodisiacs and euphoric natural chemicals that exist in chocolate are offered, at least on a subconscious level in hopes to copulate. But do the mating strategies of humans and hang flies have anything else in common? Evolution preserves techniques that work, particularly those that pass genes to the next generation. And if these tactics do the job in the wild for hang flies, wolves, hamsters and elephants, who's to say they wouldnt work for Homo sapiens?
Combing with his hands through his hair, Remington inhaled deeply, watching the screen, still mesmerized by the information at hand. The narrator described in alarming detail what he himself did on more than a few occasions. If there is any validity to the extension of these theories to human sexuality and survival instincts, then Laura could very well be out there with a rutting male wanting to conquer her or a courting one, ready to offer her toothsome morsels. Deciding that television wasnt such a good idea, Remington wondered if Monroe was up to putting together a card game and reached for the phone.
By Sunday morning, John and Laura could see power lines in the distance, pointing them in the direction of the civilization. Their desire to win the game was surpassed by the bigger desire for a hot meal and restful sleep. The power lines ran parallel to the highway and from there, a good ole road map indicated they were only about three hours off course. Getting to the lodge by noon seemed like an attainable goal.
They were the first to return to the lodge. Dan added up the flag and task points and indicated that their score of 1245 was impressive. I would say the two of you have a good chance of winning.
Laura never bothered to ask or even wonder what that prize might be. Uncharacteristically, her goals for this weekend really had nothing to do with winning. What exactly would we win?
John must have read that part of the brochure and explained, Each team member gets a weekend for two at The Champagne Suites Luxury Spa. Three days, two nights of a staff catering to your every whim.
Dan excused himself, leaving Laura and John in an awkward moment.
I guess were done, John surmised.
Laura held out her hand, I want to thank you for everything.
We made a pretty good team. Your husband (he winked) is a lucky man.
I guess I should call him. Laura explained, I dont have my car. He insisted on driving me here Friday.
Id be more than happy to take you back to LA. We could even stop and have a real lunch on the way. Do you think there is a diner on the way that makes a better braised brief than me?
Sure, Laura followed him to his car. But, I prefer rotisseried racer-back bra in a river marinade.
Once home, Laura waved goodbye to John from the curb. Without her keys, she had to knock.
Laura? Remington was genuinely surprised to see her. The shared an automatic kiss. A familiar, informal, yet intimate gesture, like so many normal married couples.
My partner, John, gave me a ride back.
John? Remington repeated, a slight panic in his voice. Wavering, he inquired, He wasnt that brawny chap behind you in line with that monstrosity of a automobile was he?
No. John Beckham. Attorney, with glasses and a Camaro.
Remington hid his immeasurable relief with an observation, You look exhausted.
I am. But washing my hair and a long hot bath supercedes the need for sleep at the moment.
Laura applied a deep-conditioning treatment and wrapped her hair in a towel. With her knee bent and foot propped on the edge of the tub, she applied a creamy lather and dipped the pink plastic razor into the warm sudsy water. Her first upward stroke was interrupted by an inquiring knock against the open door.
Remington cautiously peeked in, I made you some hot tea.
Youve been in here a while, I, umm was just checking if
everything is all right.
Just enjoying a few modern conveniences. You know; hot water, soap, even my godawful cheap razor. She quoted, waving it at him with a smile.
Remington set the steaming mug of tea at the corner of the
tub. He bent down to pick up her discarded clothing. He was about
to put them in the hamper when Laura stopped him, Just the
sweatshirt, the rest I was going to throw out.
Throw out? Remington asked, surprised, because Laura rarely throws out anything.
The bruise on my bottom will heal, but my jeans have a big hole in the seat from slipping down a particularly painful hill and I dont think well ever get the smoky smell out of the undergarments we dried over the fire.
Undergarments dried over the fire? He asked with an uneasy expression.
She regretted mentioning that. Now was a good time to tell him about the prize she won. Im sure youd be more interested in hearing about the prize of a weekend at a luxurious spa.
Luxurious spa? His attitude improved remarkably returning with a glint of that boyish excitement in his dancing eyes and a million-dollar smile.
I thought you might like that part of the story. Laura shifted her position to resume shaving.
He noticed a flinch of pain in her movement. Otherwise, are you all right? He took a seat on the end of the tub near her leg. He relieved her of the razor and with meticulous precision he slowly slid the razor up her shin. With his free hand, he traced the path lightly with the tips of his fingers. Laura began to relax and lean back. He repeated his action, starting near her ankle, stroking the blade upward. Again, his nimble fingers inspected his progress. Dissatisfied with her razors effectiveness, Remington stood and tossed it in the trash. He opened the medicine cabinet and selected his classic double edge stainless razor. Twisting the release mechanism, he changed the blade and returned to the edge of the tub.
I thought your razor and my legs were forbidden to ever cross paths. Laura referenced the ongoing, his-hers-mine-yours-ours tension.
Well, you wouldnt expect an artist to do his best work using crayons, would you?
Laura leaned back and closed her eyes. The gentle, reassuring caresses of Remington attending to her, allowed her guarded thoughts to surface. You know, even though I won the competition, I still feel like I failed.
Hows that? He asked, not looking at her, focusing concentration on the care needed to properly attend to the delicate contours of her knee .
I couldnt admit it before, but part of the reason I wanted to do this was to see if I could survive without you. Laura sipped her tea and continued, Emotionally, more than physically, you know? I needed to find She took another sip, . . . to find out if I could I be apart from you.
And? Remington motioned for her to switch positions so he could do the other leg. Laura obliged by moving to the other end of the tub. He squirted some shave gel into the palm of his hand. With assiduous care, he covered the full length of her leg. Up and down. Up and down. His hands creamed over her calves and thighs far more times than was necessary to simply apply the gel.
I failed. The whole point was to try and put you out of my mind and all I did was think about trying to get back home to you.
He stopped and looked at her with bewilderment. And that makes you a failure?
Laura met his gaze with an apprehensive expression, Failure might be too strong. At the very least, it concerns me. I mean, were together now, sort of. . . but I wonder how much of that is because the INS is out there watching. . . And when they no longer have an interest. . . will you?
You know Laura, we have had more fights about this whole bloody mess of a marriage than I care to admit. But I think we <both> should admit that forcing us to stay together for a minimum of two years was the best thing that could have happened.
The INS is the <best> thing that could have happened to us? Laura incredulously asked. Since Remington was finished shaving her legs, she pulled her leg back in the water and leaned forward, grabbing the sponge.
Again, wanting to pamper her, he took the sponge from her hands. He dipped it in the warm water and pressed it to the back of her shoulders. Before that day on the boat, all we were doing was pushing each other away. All the time, what we really needed was for someone to push us together. He soaked the sponge again and applied it lower on her back, With the added disincentive of me being deported, dont you think it forced us to tough it out and work past some things?
Are you saying that all of our problems are behind us?
Laura took the sponge and wrung it out. She stood and used a handheld
sprayer to rinse her body then pulled the plug to let the water
Not likely, he smiled amiably and offered her a towel, but I assure you that the INS nor the calendar is an issue when it comes to the reason why we are together. He wrapped the towel around her torso and held her firmly, You know I happened to have read one of the pamphlets from your little excursion and it said the first rule of survival is The more you try to understand an environment and the less you try to fight it, the kinder it will be to you.
Laura considered her environment at the moment. Married, although not entirely under ideal circumstances, but, together nonetheless and comforted in the arms of a loving man, why was she always fighting this? She pulled back slightly from his tight embrace. So you think we can survive?
As long as you dont make me eat those disgusting nutrition bars.
I promise. Laura rested her head against his chest, enjoying another momentary cease fire. Remington unwrapped the towel from her head. He tossed it aside. Tangling his fingers in her damp hair, he drew her face up to his impatient lips.
(Authors note: Thanks to Sabrina and Yuliya for all their assistance on this one. Bits concerning survival techniques were taken from a variety of sources and web pages, as were some of the details of the nature show narrative. Thanks to those who unwittingly contributed to this story. I could document with proper footnotes, but this isnt a term paper.)