When you open the doors to adventure, the Universe can't help but to reward you
Swimming back from the waterfall, I realised that this was the most adventure I had experienced in years. I barely did anything for fun anymore. I used to paint but even that stopped when I was overwhelmed by uni work and life became so busy throughout my twenties. From my internship to the career ladder, maintaining friendships and starting new relationships; there was never time. I thought about how I used to sing and dance around the house just because I felt good, when did that last happen? I pulled my frozen body out of the water and sat for a moment on the moss covered rock. The air was freezing, but I didn't have a towel on this impromptu skinny dip so I needed to dry off a little before redressing.
I decided to make a commitment to myself right then and there. "With the forest as my witness I swear to myself that I will find my joy again. I will find my joy and I will live it." I put my hand to my heart, feeling its deep beat attempting to circulate my frozen blood, and inhaled as slowly and deeply as my nose would allow, releasing fully through my mouth. I was feeling more calm, inspired and in love than I could remember ever feeling. I batted my eyes open and
"Aaaaaargh.... What the..." I grabbed my clothes in attempt to shield my naked body from the man in front of me.
'It's okay, it's okay.... I'm sorry.... Please, don't be scared" he soothed in a tone that somehow conveyed he was not about to murder me. A wry smile crossed his face as his gaze trailed to my bra that had now fallen at his feet. I could feel my cheeks flush even pinker as his gaze met with mine "I heard screaming...I work nearby and so I came to investigate". He was trying hard to but couldn't quite hide his teasing smile at my predicament.
"I need to put these on" I gestured to the pile of clothes I had clutched in front of me. Flustered and flooded with embarrassment at being caught both talking to myself and naked in front of this stranger, I realised my tone was a little harsher than intended.
"Oh. Yes of course. I'm sorry." He flashed me his dazzling smile before turning his back to me. "I promise not to peak." he reassured. "I'm Mark by the way, Mark Jacob."
I tried to dress as quickly as my numb fingers and limbs would allow. My mind was racing but the recurring thought that I couldn't avoid was that this man was ridiculously good looking. He had the kind of hair that belonged on Orlando Bloom in that pirate movie. What was he doing here?
"And you are...?" his smile poured through his words as he spoke.
"Sorry. Jane. My name is Jane."
"Nice to meet you, Jane." he paused "Your seriously brave taking a dip in there today! You must be absolutely freezing, that pool is barely 2ºC at this time of year. If you like, my house is less than a 10 minute walk from here... I've got a wood fire going and you are welcome to come warm up if you want to. I can make us both a coffee while you tell the story of how you came to be naked on my land" he teased.
"Oh, I didn't realise this was private land. I'm sorry! My car is back that way. I could hear the sound of the waterfall and I just came to explore. When I found this pool.... I couldn't help but go in"
"You must be frozen, Jane. Really come back with me and warm up. In all honesty this is the most excitement I've had in months. What with all this Covid stuff this past year, I've hardly seen anyone. You are the first new soul I've encountered in a long time and I don't think I'm quite ready to say goodbye to the beautiful naked stranger I just discovered." His voice had such a beautifully soothing quality to it. There was a gentleness about his presence that I immediately trusted.
I laughed quietly in response to what was the nicest compliment I had received in a long time. "Sure, that sounds great. Yeah that water is freezing and my car is about an hours walk through those bushes. Coffee and fire sound like a dream right now! Promise you aren't going to lock me in your basement and keep me prisoner?"
He had the most beautiful laugh "I promise I won't chain you up in my basement Jane. My barn, however..."
"Very funny" I replied as I quickly straightened my clothes that were clinging to my damp body. "Okay. I'm dressed. You can turn around"
He turned to face me and I couldn't help but drink him in. He was about a foot taller than me, with the most intense hazel eyes I had ever seen out with the mirror. He stepped towards me and I felt my heart miss an entire beat. I watched in confusion as his hand reached up to my face, his thumb delicately brushing my cheek. Was he about to kiss me?
"Is that blood on your cheek?" he asked.
"Oh. Oh yeah it could be." I replied, feeling surprised by the disappointment running through my body. "I fell into some thorns before" gesturing to my wounded left hand, which he immediately took in his.
"You know they say that when we injure the left side of our body it's because we have blocks to receiving love" he smiled wryly, his eyes piercing through every layer of pretence I may have. I could feel his soul deeply connect with mine every time our eyes met. It made me shy in a way I had never before felt in my 33 years on this earth. I sensed that he knew this also.
"Is that so?" I said smiling, breaking the intensity between us by looking to the forest for signs of where he had emerged from. "Hmm. Perhaps there is some truth in that. Don't we all have blocks to love?"
"Maybe" he replied as he gestured for us to begin walking towards a beautiful twisted willow tree. I followed in silence for 5 minutes or so as we weaved through the thicket of the forest. He kept running his fingers through his shoulder length silk hair. Every single time he did, my own fingers could feel the softness of it. Had I ever met a man with such beautiful hair? I scanned my memories of ex's past, struggling somewhat to actually recall each. I couldn't remember any having nice hair. Ross perhaps. Did Ross have hair? I really couldn't remember. Everything before this moment right now seemed irrelevant and blurry in my mind.
Before long we came to a clearing in the trees and I saw what could possibly be the most magnificent tree house that was ever built. This was a grown-ups playground heaven. There were rope bridges between the trees, a tyre swing suspended at least 20ft in the air and a slide to the ground. It was built between three majestic trees in the form of a wooden fairytale castle.
"Wow" escaped my lips. I smiled ear to ear as I ran closer to get a better look. I could hear Mark's soft laughter behind me. "I feel like Gretel right now discovering the candy house in the woods".
"Except there's no witch here" winked Mark. My god he was beautiful. I had butterflies in my stomach every time I even glanced at him. I drank in the scenery before me, it was utterly idyllic and so hidden from view. I couldn't even see a road to the property.
"Is there no road here? How do you get supplies in and out?" I asked, turning back to this dazzling man. Mark gestured to the quad bikes beside the old barn.
"There's a track to the main road through the forest. It's about a mile or so that way."
"Wow! That sounds so much fun.... Quad biking to reach your car. I love it. This whole place is incredible, Mark. Do you stay here alone?" I tried to add as nonchalantly as possible, but even I could hear my pitch rise.
Mark laughed "Yes I stay alone. I used to have more friends visit prior to Covid but everyone is too scared to leave their bubbles. So it's just me and my projects, like the tree house you're admiring. Come, come get yourself warmed up" he insisted, putting his arm around me and guiding me to the barn. I hadn't even realised I was shivering until I felt the warmth of his arm around me. "I'm currently renovating this old barn. It was half rotten but I didn't want to tear it down. It's steeped in history and I thought it more fitting to keep it on the land. Funny thing is, it would be cheaper and easier to rip it down and build from scratch. But as I say, I'm a hopeless romantic for its history. Apparently it once belonged to an old man who was a renowned apothecary. He used the barn to create potions and medicines for the clansmen hundreds of years ago. It was mended throughout the centuries in honour of him, but fell into disrepair a long time back. Once I heard the story of him there was no way I could tear it down. There's magic inside."
"Wow. That's a beautiful backstory. I mean, this whole place feels pretty magical. I'm not surprised it was once habited by a wizard."
Laughing, Mark replied "Wizard. I like that. I do have what is said to be his original cast iron fire bowl. When I began renovating most of this roof had caved in. Upon clearing it, I found this buried underneath. It's truly a work of art." Mark pulled back the door and allowed me to step inside first. I went instantly to the lit fire, removing my jacket to let it warm my skin as quickly as possible.
"Ahh that feels so good!" I exclaimed, feeling my whole body begin to thaw.
Mark smiled "So, Jane. How about I make us coffee while you tell me how you came to be skinny dipping in my pool?!"
"Hmm.... Okay, how about the short version? I was on my way to work when I realised that I didn't want to go into a place where I'm constantly bullied by a boss whom I despise. I drove out of the city... somehow ended up on a track road... heard the waterfall.... climbed through some bushes for around an hour...and, well, here I am!"
"Here you are indeed." He smiled "What do you do for work?"
"I'm a journalist." I said apologetically.
"What would you like to do for work?"
I paused, taken aback by this question. "I love writing. It's why I got into journalism. But I want to write stories that inspire people. Stories that excite and bring joy to people's lives. Not what I'm currently writing about."
"Current affairs" I said, rolling my eyes. "The kind of stories that make people not want to get out of bed in the morning." Mark laughed as he handed me coffee. His hands cupping mine as he placed the warm glass into my frozen hands. His eyes glistened with the the kind of smile that could come only from a person’s whole heart. The electricity between us in this moment was undeniable.
"So are you ready to begin the next chapter of your life, Jane?" he whispered, as he brought his thumb to delicately trace my lips.
I closed my eyes, inviting the softness of his lips to mine. My yes was barely audible, but it was one spoken from my entire being.
TO BE CONTINUED