Monday, November 7, 2011
Gypsy had always counted herself among those who loved the change of the seasons. One of the reasons she had moved to Montana was to experience Nature’s slo-mo kaleidoscope first-hand. Her birthplace in the Deep South had displayed two seasons, Too Damn Hot and Hotter Than Hell. Here in Talbot’s Peak she could play first-hand witness to the planet’s slow and stately dance of dormancy and renewal. She reveled in each shift of sunlight, every brilliant leaf, each nip of winter cold and kiss of summer heat. The world, like her dance, was constantly changing, and here she could feel a part of it.
That was before she encountered slobber snow.
She grumbled to herself while she kicked icy mush off her boots. Someone in the weather department had missed the mark again, and an unpredicted snow had greeted her when she left the grocery store. Gypsy immediately about-faced and stocked up on her favorite teas. The snow, she’d decided, was lovely to look at but treacherous to drive in, best experienced from the easy chair beside her living-room window and not from behind the wheel.
This was the wet, sleety stuff, more like chilly rain. “Coyote snow” she called it, because it tricked you with its deceptive beauty while hiding ice beneath. As someone who’d never seen a substantial snowfall until she was 28, she drove home below the speed limit with both hands locked on the wheel. Other drivers whizzed by her with no apparent concern for visibility or ice. She marveled at their daredevil attitude.
Once home in her snug little bungalow, sopping wet and cold to her Southern-bred bones, Gypsy dove into the shower, and afterwards heated water for tea. During her shower the weather had changed from its half-rain state to full, fat snowflakes that drifted serenely in the wind as if to apologize for the sloppy mess earlier. “You could have done this in the first place,” Gypsy murmured while she gazed out the window and sipped her tea.
Then she sat up, suddenly alert. Was that something moving out there?
She rubbed the condensation from the glass and peered out into the yard. Four-footed visitors, sentient and otherwise, often came to her garden. The true beasts were only looking for shelter or a meal. Who knew what the weres were after?
Bite it, she couldn’t see. She’d have to bundle up and go out there. Gypsy set her cup aside with a little mutter. Drat them, whoever they were.
Shortly, wrapped in a ski jacket and the still-sopping boots, Gypsy stuck her nose out her kitchen door and sniffed the nippy air for were. She sensed no menace from her unexpected visitor. The vibes she picked up shivered up and down her spine with joy.
But the source of such joy … Gypsy stopped dead, up to her ankles in snow. A laugh threatened to burst out of her and ruin the sight before her.
The immense white tiger romped like a kitten in the snow piling up in her yard. Gypsy watched his bounds in fascination. Surely this couldn’t be Sergei? She had never seen him in any mood other than gradations of somber. This playful side was entirely new. Perhaps the awful weather had driven him mad?
“Sergei?” she ventured. “That can’t be you.”
In response he bounced over to her, leaped up and knocked her over. She landed on her back in a hefty drift, breathless but unhurt, with a grinning – to be fair, somberly grinning – tiger on top of her. He lapped his tongue across her cheek, leaving a trail of wetness far hotter than the snow.
All at once he went human. Naked, white as the snow itself, soaking wet and soaking her as well. His blue eyes sparkled down at her. “This weather is beautiful, yes?”
“Why aren’t you freezing?”
“In this? In my homeland, this is spring. Is like being home again.” He shifted back to tiger and leaped away, tossing an invitation over his shoulder for her to come join him.
“Oh no,” Gypsy laughed. "I've had my fill of wet." Instead she scooped up a handful of snow and flung it at him. He retaliated with a sweep of his massive paw, drenching her in Montana precip. Within minutes she was soaked again, and she hadn’t even shifted.
“Look at me,” she laughingly lamented. “I’m chilled to the bone. Don’t try to tell me you’re not cold.”
Sergei turned human again. “Is not cold. In Siberia this would be, what is the phrase, swimming weather."
Gypsy shivered. “Not in a million years. Come inside before your whiskers crack off."
Once inside she got a towel and briskly rubbed him down. There certainly was a lot of him, all of it firm, wet and chilly, never mind his protestations otherwise. He purred beneath her towel-wrapped touch. “Is not necessary,” he managed finally. “I will – ”
“No, you won’t. No wet tiger fur smell in my house. Stand still and let me warm you up. In fact … ” She let the thought trail off. Handing him the towel, Gypsy shrugged out of her jacket and boots. Nor did she stop at her outerwear.
Sergei’s somber look returned. “You need not – ”
“I’m not going to stand here in soaking-wet clothing. That’s a sure way to catch cold. If you’ll give me a minute, I’ll show you how we warm each other in the Deep South.” She grinned at his consternation. “Afterwards, if you like, I’ll brew some tea.”
“Ah.” His fingers threaded tenderly through her damp red hair. “Tea is always good.”
Within moments Gypsy was as naked as Sergei. His purr roughened, and was joined by her growl. The towel slipped from her hands and puddled on the floor, forgotten by them both. Hands were so much better at heating another's skin anyway.
True to Gypsy’s promise, the tea was both warming and excellent.