Friday, January 29, 2016

Free Fiction: Winter By the Ocean, Part II

"Here, put this on your head. It'll keep the swelling down." Dylan handed over a kitchen towel wrapped around a handful of ice cubes. He'd found the towel in a drawer, pristine and white and Dylan hoped he wouldn't be charged extra if the blood didn't come out.

"Thanks." Saph took the towel and lifted it to his head. He touched it gingerly to the bandaged area, winced, and then settled it more comfortably. With one hand committed to the towel at his head, he leaned against the counter in the kitchen and ran his other hand across the granite tile. "Nice place. You live here?"

"Only for a little while," Dylan said. "I've rented the place for a short vacation." He gathered a wad of paper towels from the dispenser on the wall, which was one of the few things that broke the overall d├ęcor of the home. The dispenser was painted purple and green with a child's scrawl across the back of it declaring love for mommy and daddy, while the rest of the house settled somewhere between modern and homey chic. Dylan used the paper towels to sweep the remains of the first aid actions into the trash bin.

Saph had been bleeding pretty copiously, although by the time Dylan reached him, he hadn't been actively bleeding. All the blood was tacky, nearly dry, and just looking rather gruesome. Dylan looked under the sink to see what cleaning supplies the family stocked. He should probably spritz the counter down with bleach, or something.

"Vacations are good. What are you on vacation from?" Saph asked. He watched Dylan clean up. "I don't have anything, if you're worried about that. Diseases, I mean."

"Good to know," Dylan said. He ignored Saph's question. If he didn't need to think about work, all the better. That's what he was on vacation from. "But it's still a good idea to disinfect. When I leave, the family that lives here won't know that."

"I see what you mean," Saph said. "It's a nice house. They must be well off, to have a second home like this."

"I would guess so," Dylan said. He finished wiping down the counter and threw the damp paper towels in the trash behind the rest of it. He contemplated his unexpected guest for a moment. There were dark circles beneath Saph's eyes, as if he hadn't slept in days, and his skin looked washed out. Saph sported a knit cap that kept Dylan from learning the color of his hair, but the stubble on his chin was sandy colored. "Do you need anything?"

Saph picked up one foot and waggled his toes in his borrowed wool socks. "Warm and cozy, thanks to you."

"Water? Coffee?" Dylan asked.

"Nah, I'm fine." Saph turned his attention to the windows, which were enormous and allowed a generous view of the ocean. "It's warm in here and I can see the water."

"I'm going to make myself some tea," Dylan declared. He figured he'd make enough tea for two, and once it was prepared, Saph might consent to have some. The man looked like he needed a hundred cups of tea and at least twenty sandwiches, just to get that pallor off his cheeks.

He'd brought Saph inside, concerned about the bashed area on his forehead, and his bare feet on the cold, wet sand, and Saph had allowed assistance with the wound, and accepted the socks, but hadn't wanted anything else. Dylan didn't really want Saph to stay any longer than necessary, but he didn't quite feel that allowing him to leave yet was the proper thing to do. Saph's closed off body posture, pitiful thinness, and wandering gaze that returned to the ocean given half a moment made Dylan think he wasn't quite up to leaving on his own cognizance.

"If you're having some, I suppose I might," Saph said. He switched hands on the towel of ice to his head, wincing again as he changed pressure.

"You said you slipped in the surf and gave yourself a knock on the head," Dylan said. "You're not nauseous, right?"

"No. Steady as a rock." Saph chortled at his own play on words.

"Why were you out there in the cold water, anyway?" Dylan filled the kettle with tap water and put it on the stovetop to heat. Saph had admitted to how he'd been injured, but not what had lead up to it. Dylan was curious.

Saph's gaze wandered away from Dylan and he went back to looking out the windows toward the water. "Good question," he said. "Why were you here in this house to see me? What are you vacationing from?"

A pulse of annoyance tightened Dylan's chest. He hadn't been the one in need of assistance, so he didn't feel that he needed to explain anything about his situation. After a moment, Dylan said, "I'm on vacation from work."

Saph snickered, and gave a sideways glance at Dylan. "Then, so am I."

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