A Cold Walk in the Woods (Ink Well Prompt #85)

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Prompt Theme: I can't believe you said that!

Ioana walked slowly along the forest path, while Alin walked further ahead. She looked up, admiring the tall bare trees; their branches topped with fluffy snow. The sky was coated with gray clouds.

"I meant to ask..." Alin turned around briefly; then kept walking forward; looking straight ahead as he spoke,"Did you get the guest bedroom ready for Darius? He'll be here tomorrow evening."

Ioana kept looking up. "Wait, Darius is coming tomorrow? I thought he --" she didn’t see the large tree root sticking up out of the ground in the snow. She tripped, but caught herself at a brisk speed.

Alin heard the commotion and turned around. "Watch where you're going, dear," he said, emotionless, with slight disdain in his voice.

Ioana looked down as she adjusted the long dress beneath her cloak. It wasn’t ideal for hunting, but at this point, they were lost and hungry. The snow had dulled their senses and their afternoon meander through the forest had become a disoriented inconvenience now leading into the evening. She knew it wasn’t a good idea to venture too far out while it was snowing, but she dare not say it now.

They came to a fork in the path. Both paths were covered in smooth snow with no footprints. Their last path had been taken at Alin’s assertion, which had led them further astray. One path led straight and then curved right around what looked to be a body of water in the distance. The other veered slightly left and then turned a sharp left in the distance. Both had unknown destinations as they disappeared into the trees and snow.

Ioana started to speak as she held her finger up and pointed to the path on the right. “Th---.”

“That town,” Alin interrupted while pointing left, “Um…” he looked down as he tried to remember, shaking his left finger. “I can’t think of the name. But, I know that this path leads to um…” He kept pointing as he pursed his lips while thinking to himself.

“You want to hunt humans?” Ioana looked surprised. “That’s going to take forever. Let’s just get home.”

Alin disregarded what she said. “It’s the place with that fountain right in the middle of the village area.” He looked up as though trying to remember, then looked down “Ugh, I can’t remember the name.”

Ioana didn’t care about the fountain. “I know the place you’re talking about.” She nodded. “It’s completely out of the way. We have too much to do before Darius' arrival. Let’s just get home.”

“Wh--” he started to contradict her, but she cut him off.

“It’s quicker this way… and there’s a body of water over there, which probably means more deer.” She said this sternly while pointing right.

“We can still go this way." Alin kept insisting on going left. "I remember the way home from the town. You just have to go through the forest around the mountain. It just takes a little bit longer.”

“It takes a lot longer. I remember taking that way, years ago, and then heading north to visit your mother’s grave. Remember?” Ioana said.

Alin’s amber eyes lost their strict piercing gaze and softened at the mention of his mother. “You’re right, I’m sorry,” he said. He pointed to the right. “Let’s go this way and try to find some deer on the way home.”

Ioana looked up in quiet shock as she tried to interpret his sudden compliance. For over two hundred years she’d been united to him, and never heard those words come out of his mouth. You’re right, I’m sorry. It was as though a small fragment of the once mortal man was still buried beneath his callous demeanor. The mention of his mother conjured a warmth that gleamed through his ice-cold countenance. His cadaverous hand lightly touched Ioana’s back as it guided her down the right path, making sure his long nails didn’t scratch her. They walked in comfortable silence as they made their way around the lake to go hunting.

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