Disclaimers, or lack of them: See Part 1
My thanks as always to my beta reader, Barbara Davies. Her work can be found on her page, Barbara Davies.
Jo had never before encountered such weather. As she picked her way carefully through the almost deserted streets of Leicester, her attention was repeatedly drawn to the hunched figure beside her.
Rocky was fighting against the effects of the sleeping pill that Susan had given her, almost desperate to stay awake, fearful that sleep would only return her to the horror she has so recently escaped.
Jo reached across when the blonde head slumped against the window for the umpteenth time. "Go to sleep," she said, smoothing her hand against a denim-covered thigh.
Rocky captured the hand, but Jo had to pull it away quickly when the need to shift down a gear presented itself.
"Sorry," Jo said. "The weather's getting worse."
"Can we stop?" Rocky's voice was strained, and she shifted uncomfortably in the seat.
"If you want," said Jo, and steered into the small car park of a darkened `Little Chef`, which had obviously closed early for lack of customers. The wheels briefly skidded on the slight incline but then caught, and Jo eased the car behind a large sign, hiding them from the street.
She turned to the smaller woman who quickly undid her seatbelt and crawled across the gap between them.
Jo found herself with an armful of sobbing blonde. "Hey," she whispered into soft hair. "It's okay, we're okay."
"I was so scared," Rocky sobbed into Jo's chest.
"I know, shhh." Jo held on tight, letting Rocky know she was there, and that they were both safe.
"I can't believe you came for me."
Jo slipped a hand beneath the leather jacket and rubbed a trembling back. "Tell me what happened."
Rocky was quiet for long moments and Jo thought she wasn't going to answer. "I don't know how he found us." Her voice was muffled by the sweatshirt Jo was wearing. "He waited until you left, then rang the bell.... I thought it was you." She was quiet for a while, her hands tangling in Jo's shirt. "He said he'd hurt you. I had to go."
Jo closed her eyes, realising what Rocky had sacrificed for her. "How did you know to take my jacket?"
Rocky pulled away from her, wiping at the tears that dampened her cheeks. "I just took it because I wanted something of yours." She lay her head on Jo's chest, and relaxed into her lover when she felt the long arms enfold her again. "I didn't know the cell phone was in there until I put my hands in the pockets when I was walking across to the loo."
Jo tightened her hold. "I'm glad you found it."
"Yeah, me too." Rocky's voice was husky. "Can we get out of here now?"
Jo looked through the windscreen at the worsening weather. "I think we'd better. I'm going to stop to try and get some fuel, then we'll find the motorway and get as far as we can." She gently pushed the blonde across to the passenger seat, and waited while Rocky refastened her seatbelt. "If we have to we'll find a hotel." Jo eased the Mercedes back onto the road, which was nearly deserted.
"What do we do then?" Rocky switched her attention from the passing houses to her lover. "He knows where you live."
"We go to the police."
"Do you think they'll do anything?"
"They have to if you make a complaint."
Rocky looked down at her hands, which were folded in her lap. "They won't believe me."
Jo looked across at her, sensing an attitude of defeat about the blonde. "Susan is going to help us. We'll be fine."
Rocky nodded slightly, not entirely convinced.
Jo managed to find the motorway in what was possibly close to blizzard conditions. Theirs was one of a few vehicles trying to find their way using the three-lane road, which looked more like a toboggan run than a motorway.
"This is scary," said Rocky, leaning forward in her seat, one hand on the dashboard.
"I know, but we'll get as far as the next exit and then get off." Jo peered into the gloom, following the track made some time earlier by a snowplough, which had cleared the middle lane.
The further she went the more confident she became, and she increased her speed slightly.
"Jo," the blonde said, her nervousness clear. "Let's stop; this is crazy."
"It's okay, there's nothing else about. Look," she said glancing at the illuminated clock on the dial. "It's well past midnight. No-one in their right mind is out in this." She shot a wicked grin at her companion, who, despite her nervousness couldn't help but smile back. "I want to get as far as I can."
"That's great, just let's get there a little slower." Rocky winced as the wheels of the Merc hit the snow bank on their left.
"Ye of little faith," Jo chuckled trying to lighten the mood, and increased the speed.
"Don't worry." Jo looked across at the blonde, who was peering beyond the bonnet of the car. The snow was getting lighter, the flakes smaller now, swirling around in the beam of the headlights.
"Shit!" The blonde threw herself back into her seat.
Jo's eyes tore themselves from Rocky just in time to see the abandoned car in their path. She braked and swerved but was only propelled off one snow bank into the other. The car skidded into the parked vehicle, coming to rest half on its right side, wedged between the bank and the bumper of the abandoned car.
Rocky was first aware of a pain across her chest where the seatbelt had held her against the seat during the collision. "Bloody hell, Jo! Watch that last corner," she joked weakly, turning her head slowly towards her lover.
It was dark in the Merc, just the quiet sound of the radio breaking the silence. The engine was dead but the ignition still on, causing the headlights to illuminate the now light snow.
"Jo?" Rocky reached across and down to where her lover lay unmoving. "Hey, Jo." She nudged the brunette's shoulder, beginning to panic when there was no reaction. "Come on, we need to get out of here."
Rocky managed to unbuckle her seatbelt, bracing her arm against Jo's seat so as not to fall onto the obviously injured woman. She managed to get her foot against the driver's door and eased herself down, the steering wheel digging painfully into her back. The deflated air bag hung limply across it. She could see the snow bank packed against the window on which Jo's head was resting. The glass of the windscreen was cracked but not shattered; the driver's window was intact. But the canvas roof of the car was torn and buckled out of shape.
Rocky reached down with a trembling hand and pulled back the hair that obscured her lover's face.
"Oh God," she breathed as she found hair sticking to Jo's face. The sticky substance she immediately realised was blood. Her lover was bleeding from a cut, which must have been inflicted when her head hit the window beside her. She couldn't see the wound, but it was bleeding profusely, congealing beneath her head on the glass. She reached behind her with her right hand, opening the glove compartment. Its contents spilled out, but she managed to grab the small box of tissues Jo kept in there. "Jo?" she asked as she tried to mop away the blood from the side of the slack face. "We have to go. It's getting cold here; we need to get out of here."
Jo could hear her lover, but she sounded far away. Besides she was much too tired to wake up and answer her. But the voice was insistent. And she found she couldn't resist the pleading sound of the blonde's voice. She decided she'd just go and see what it was that was scaring the blonde, then she'd go back to sleep.
Rocky watched as the blue eyes fluttered open then quickly closed again. Jo groaned and her face tightened, and Rocky ran gentle fingertips across a tense cheek. "Careful, take it slowly," said Rocky relieved when Jo's eyes seemed to focus on her and track her as she leaned back for more tissues.
"What...?" Jo tried to talk, but a stabbing pain in her head cut short the sentence.
"Sssh, just lie still for a moment. Then we need to try to get out of here."
Jo tried to lift her head from its sticky place against the window, but gave up quickly. "You go," she mumbled. "Go find help."
"Not without you." She leaned down and managed to undo the buckle of Jo's seatbelt. "I want you to try to pull yourself up."
"No," Jo slumped back, pulling herself out of Rocky's grasp.
"Come on, Sweetheart." Rocky pulled again at her shoulders. "We need to get out of here; we'll freeze to death. The engine's dead, and the roof is bust."
Jo managed to open her eyes again. "Can't see you very well."
Rocky bit her bottom lip. "There's a lot of blood; it's getting everywhere." She leaned in close, switching on the interior light in the car. Jo appeared to be having trouble focusing and blinked glazed blue eyes rapidly. "We're going to have to climb out of my door."
"Why? What's going on?" Jo looked around, then reached for the door handle. "The door's broke?"
The blonde smiled down at her lover. "Jo, the car's broke." She leaned down and gave the groggy woman a peck on the lips. "Now, I'm going to climb out, then I'm going to reach down for you. But I won't be able to pull you out on my own - you're going to have to help me."
"I can do that." Jo sounded annoyed now. Why was Rocky treating her like a kid?
Rocky sighed and turned in the tight space, then reached up and opened the passenger door, which was now above her. She pushed the heavy door up, but it wouldn't stay and kept slamming shut again. Wedging her back against the door she pushed again, and then reached down for Jo.
"Jo," she said. There was no reaction from the woman, and Rocky nudged her shoulder with her foot. "Jo, come on, we need to go."
The dark head turned in her direction, the side of Jo's face painted in crimson. Rocky almost sobbed in relief when Jo reached out a shaky hand to her, and put her free arm below her to lever herself away from the door she lay against. Then the tall woman managed to untangle long legs and use them to get herself out of the awkward position she'd woken up in.
Rocky held the door open with her back, and pulled her lover up. She was relieved that the snow appeared to be stopping, only a few flakes being blown about in the slight breeze. The sky was clearing and a full moon cast the deserted motorway in an eerie blue light.
Jo pulled herself up, her feet slipping slightly in the blood she'd left on the window below her. Using her arms, she pulled herself up and out of the car, falling to the ground which wasn't too far below because of the angle the car had settled at.
Rocky managed to manoeuvre herself out from beneath the bulky door and quickly scrambled to her lover's side.
"Hey, well done," she said, cupping Jo's face. She still had a wad of the tissues from the box in her hand. In the moonlight she parted dark, blood-slicked hair and looked for the wound. She found it, a gash about an inch long, just above her hairline, which still pumped blood that flowed down the side of Jo's face and along her neck. She placed the wad of tissues against the wound and took Jo's hand. "Can you hold that?"
Jo nodded and lifted her hand slowly to hold the makeshift dressing. "Just wait a mo. I'm going to try to see where we are."
"Okay," Jo said quietly.
Rocky squeezed her shoulder, and then left quickly, scrambling up the embankment.
Beyond the ridge was a flat field, and beyond that she could just make out the dark shape of some sort of building. The moon shone brightly on the newly laid snow, and it looked like a simple two or three hundred-yard trek to the house.
She slid back down the embankment to find Jo patiently waiting, still holding the padding to her head. It was by now soaked through with blood. "There's a house over there."
Jo nodded slightly, wincing as the movement caused her pain. "Okay, go get help then. I'll wait here." The feeling of exhaustion was overwhelming, and to her groggy mind it was the best option for her to wait while her lover got help.
"Oh no. You're coming with me." Rocky bent down and caught Jo's free arm. "Come on."
Jo allowed herself to be pulled to her feet, and swayed slightly as Rocky pulled her arm over her shoulders and then started pulling them up the embankment.
Jo stumbled frequently, and struggled through the thigh-high snow. She suddenly pulled away from Rocky and threw up painfully.
The blonde put an arm around her lover's waist, holding her as her body heaved.
"Jesus," Jo rasped, trying to get her breath.
"You okay?" asked Rocky as she wiped Jo's face with her sleeve.
"Can't see a bloody thing."
Rocky peered into blue eyes turned violet in the moonlight, and noticed a glassy look to them. One eye seemed to react quicker than the other, and she surmised the taller woman might have a concussion.
"Let's keep moving. It's not far now." Rocky looked ahead to the house. She could see no lights on, and prayed that the occupants had just gone to bed and weren't away. But she resolved she would find a way in. That was their only hope for survival. She couldn't feel her feet, and she could feel the cold tightening about her chest like a steel band. Both of their jeans were getting soaked, and she knew from her time on the streets that it would be very easy for them to freeze to death in a very short time.
It was only another twenty yards or so, but the snow had banked, and she found it increasingly difficult to pull herself and her lover through the deepening snow. Luckily for them, the snow had stopped falling completely, the moon shone bright, with just a few silvery lined clouds making a slow trek across an otherwise clear sky.
It was quiet, until the silence was broken by the sound of a barking dog. This seemed to strengthen her resolve and she pulled Jo's arm tighter around her shoulders and hauled them both through the snow.
The house was part of a small farm. The main farmhouse stood a little way away from a large barn and a number of smaller buildings.
Jo was flagging and becoming heavy, and by the time Rocky reached the door of the farmhouse she could no longer hold her lover up. She allowed Jo to slide to the ground and lifted an incredibly heavy arm to knock on the door.
The barking became louder and she heard muffled noises behind the heavy wooden door.
The door slowly opened, and she was faced with a growling but rather small dog. She followed the leash, which she found was held by a woman. In one hand was the leash, in the other what appeared to be an ancient oil lamp.
"Good grief, Jasper," said the woman, tugging back on the leash. The dog stopped barking immediately. She was dressed in a tweed skirt, the thickest green cardigan Rocky had ever seen with a roll neck sweater beneath, and green wellingtons. A vision of English aristocracy in all its eccentric wonder.
"Please," was all Rocky could manage.
The woman looked from her down to the other woman who was slumped at the shorter girl's feet.
"We crashed our car." Rocky crouched down to try to lift Jo to her feet. "My friend is injured and we're both freezing."
"Well, get her in here," said the woman without further ado. "Can't have travellers popping their clogs on my door mat." She pushed the door open further, and the heat immediately flushed Rocky's cheeks as it left the house.
She managed to get Jo to her feet, but she was just about incoherent, and they stumbled into what appeared to be the kitchen.
"Bloody power's out." The woman pulled a chair out from beneath a pine table and gestured for Rocky to sit Jo in it. "Lucky I have the Aga - keeps it nice and warm in here."
Rocky eased her friend into the chair and then held her when she appeared to be about to slump to the floor.
Behind her the woman was filling a kettle at the sink, then she placed it on the hot plate on the Aga.
"Jo." Rocky crouched in front of her lover who appeared to be slipping into unconsciousness. "We need an ambulance; can I use your phone?" she asked without taking her eyes from Jo's pale face.
"Phone's down as well, I'm afraid. Snow on the lines, brought them down apparently." She left again for a moment and returned with a cloth and some slightly warm water she'd drawn from the tap. "If she's taken a bump on the noggin, she should be awake for a while after."
Rocky nodded, and started to gently try to wake Jo. "Hey there," she said quietly. "Jo, open your eyes for me." There was no reaction, and Rocky turned to the woman. "She won't wake up."
The woman pushed Rocky out of the way, and pushed back on Jo's shoulders, sitting her up straighter. "Come on, girl. You're not doing yourself any good like this." She gave Jo a slap on the face, causing the blonde beside her to wince. Another slap and the blue and somewhat glazed eyes opened. "Hello, dear. I'm Joscelyn, but everyone calls me Joss."
"Joss," Jo repeated, trying to focus on the woman and place her in the events of the past few hours. Her eyes tracked to the left, settling on the fuzzy form of her lover.
Joss gently turned Jo's face back towards her. "That's right, dear. And who might you be?"
"Jo." The injured woman blinked rapidly, obviously having trouble seeing what was only a few feet from her.
Rocky knelt beside Joss and wrung the cloth out in the water, then used it to start washing the blood from Jo's face. Jo seemed to relax at the familiar touch of her lover, but winced when someone examined the wound on her head.
"This cut isn't too large. Not bleeding much now. I've seen worse on a hockey pitch; bloody Bunty Adams caught me on the ear in 1958 - never been the same since." She chuckled at her own joke and left the two women alone for a moment while she rifled through a drawer. She brought a bottle of antiseptic and couple of clean towels over to them and pressed one on the wound, which had all but stopped bleeding. "How did she do this?" she asked as she poured a drop of antiseptic on the towel and pressed it to the wound.
Again Rocky winced when she saw her lover's face contort with the pain. "I think she must have hit the car window when we collided with the snow bank."
"What make of car was it?" Joss peered at the wound, giving Jo a brief smile as she changed the dirty towel for a clean one.
"Um, Mercedes." Rocky was now undoing Jo's soaking footwear, pulling them off along with the socks.
"No wonder. Bloody German car. Wouldn't have happened in a Jag." She bent to see into Jo's face. "You hear me, girl? British car next time."
Jo nodded mutely, wondering who this person was and where in the hell they were.
"Rocky?" She reached out a hand, relieved to feel it enfolded by her lover's smaller ones.
"Rocky?" Joss repeated. "Good grief, girl. Who on earth gave you a name like that?"
"It's a nickname," said Rocky, vigorously rubbing Jo's frozen feet. "My name is Michelle."
"Ah, much more civilised."
The dog started barking, jumping up at the door.
"Jasper, stop that!" Joss walked across the kitchen, peering through the drawn curtains to see outside. "Looks like we've got another visitor." She turned back to them. "Good job I put the kettle on."
Rocky got up stiffly from her place at Jo's feet. "There's someone out there?"
"Looks like it, dear." She stood aside and let Rocky peer out into the night.
The full moon highlighted everything beyond the farmyard, even giving the figure struggling along the same tracks they had made only twenty minutes or so before a long shadow. And there was no mistaking the figure.
Rocky's chin slumped to her chest, and she turned away from the window. Then she rushed across to Jo, kneeling at her feet. "I have to pop back to the car," she said cupping a still-chilled cheek. "I want you to stay here and keep warm." She leaned forward, her hand going behind Jo's head and tangling in dark hair. Her lips found her lover's and she kissed her long and softly. "I love you, Jo."
Jo looked confused, and her mouth opened and shut without any words forming.
"You shouldn't be going out there, dear," said Joss, suddenly realising the nature of the two girls' relationship.
"Joss, please listen to me. That man is coming here to get me. But I'm scared of what he'll do to her." She looked across at Jo, who was trying focus on them. "So I'm going to try to get out there and lead him away. I've got a cell phone here." She took the phone from her jacket pocket. "I think Jo's got a charger in the car. Hopefully I can get a message out."
Joss was about to protest but Rocky had already opened the door, closing it quickly after her.
The cold hit her hard as she stepped into the farmyard. The night was so still she could already hear his laboured breathing as he struggled through the snow. She knew he'd see her immediately in the moonlight, so she ducked down behind a long wall. There was about fifty yards between her and a small clump of trees, and she decided she would make for them.
As she broke clear of the wall, she saw his head turn in her direction. It was hard pushing through the snow, but she fixed her attention on the trees and only half heard the sound of her uncle as he changed direction and attempted to cut her off.
"Michelle!" he called, falling headlong into the snow.
She kept going, glancing back to see him pick himself up and continue towards her. Her chest was hurting, dragging in the frigid air which then plumed into the still night as she exhaled. She fell, her bare hands sinking into the snow, her knees hitting something hard buried beneath the whiteness. She ignored the pain in her legs and dragged herself to her feet again.
He was close behind her now. She passed the first tree, and was inside the small wooded area. The snow wasn't so thick on the ground here, and she managed to pick up speed. The trees were closely bunched together, and she ran blindly, hearing him curse as his wider frame had more difficulty negotiating his way.
She suddenly felt something slam into her back just as she cleared the trees. There was a sharp slope and they both tumbled down it, sliding through the snow and onto a relatively hard surface. He had landed a few feet beyond her, and she lay for a moment, staring up at the clear sky, breathing hard. She looked to her left to see him sitting very still, looking at her.
"Why did you run from me, Michelle?"
She sat up then stood on shaky legs. "I can't go back with you, Ron. You need to leave me alone."
"I don't understand." He stood and started to walk towards her, but was stopped by a loud cracking sound.
They had fallen onto a frozen lake. He was a good fifteen feet further out than Rocky, and had immediately realised their predicament.
"I can't let you go, Michelle." He said, sliding his foot carefully across the ice.
"Go back home, Ron. Please. Go back; you have a home and a wife waiting for you."
"I couldn't make Susan understand," he said, sliding another foot nearer. "She wouldn't listen."
Rocky backed away, reaching the bank and safety. "Is she alright?"
"She wouldn't listen, Michelle. I tried to make her understand; she couldn't see what we mean to each other. But it's alright now. She won't come between us again."
Rocky felt sick, her chest tightened, and she felt the sting of tears. She turned and started to scrabble back up the bank.
She heard the crack and a splash, and turned to see a hole in the ice where Ron had been. There was no sign of him.
The suddenly he appeared, just his head and shoulders. He clawed feebly at the ice, trying to get a grip, but being pulled back down into the icy depths by his sodden overcoat.
"Help me," he gasped.
Rocky was trembling as she watched the man fight for his life. She took a step back.
"Please!" he cried, hanging onto the edge of the ice.
She looked around for anything that she could throw to him. Some rope, or a long branch. There was nothing that she could see.
She took off the jacket, feeling the cold assault her bare arms, having only a tee shirt on beneath.
She held onto one jacket sleeve and threw the other towards him. He grasped for it, but it didn't reach him. She edged onto the ice, crawling on it, feeling it through her jeans and against the palms of her hands.
It gave way, and she found herself up to her thighs in freezing water. Again she threw the jacket towards him, and this time he managed to get a grip on it. She wound the leather sleeve around her hand and pulled back, watching as the man she hated pulled himself from the ice.
He got his knee onto the edge and was pulling himself up when it collapsed under him once more. He went backwards; the force of his weight disappearing beneath the ice again pulled the sleeve from Rocky's frozen hands.
She waited for him to reappear.
Rocky managed to turn and pull herself out of the water. Then she looked back at the hole in the ice, black and still in the moonlight.
She started to shake, and suddenly was aware of the awful pain in her legs and hands. She knew she was freezing, and she knew she had to get back to the farmhouse. But her body betrayed her. She crawled on hands and knees up the small slope, collapsing at the top.
She looked around, trying to get her bearings, but nothing looked familiar. She was tired now, and wanted nothing more than to just sit for a while and get her breath. The adrenaline rush had gone, and there was nothing but exhaustion left in its wake.
She curled into a ball, and her last thoughts as she drifted off were of her lover.
Back to the Academy