was at the front, back against the bar, coyly stroking a cowboy’s shirt sleeve. Matt knew the fellow.
Then Stephanie stiffened. “She’ll probably lock me out of the room. My bags are there.”
“Let’s get ‘em,” Matt suggested and nodded toward the kitchen, and the back exit.
“She has the only key.”
“I’ll get a key,” he replied.
He grasped her hand, and tilted his head toward the kitchen as he waved to the waitress. They passed through to the outside. There she was, in the place he had spoken of, and as the night wrapped around her, she felt that she was becoming one with it.
The moon edged over a distant mountain range, and hung big and yellow, close to the earth. The silver crests of sand dunes stretched like a frozen ocean all the way to the mountains, a patchwork of moonlit slopes offset by black mysterious gorges and hidden valleys.
The air, cooler than the air-conditioned café, caressed her skin and she drifted off in hopeful bliss. At that moment, only they existed and the world was theirs, and it was them. Whether that lasted a mere second or an entire life is unknowable. Only in retrospect were they aware it had happened at all, but once knowing, they longed for it to come again and last forever.
Nearby, the air stirred in a soft flapping sound. It faded and returned, drawing her attention. As she listened, she sensed that only minutes had passed. She wished they had not passed.
“The flap-flap, what was it? The flapping noise, was it a snake? Is there a snake close by?” she asked, fomenting her own distress, giving an excuse to clutch his arm.
He chuckled, his heart and senses focused on her touch.
“It sounds like a bat to me, but I didn’t see it.”
She dug her fingers into his arm.
“Ouch,” he whispered, his voice as soft as the breeze and gentle as his hand as it touched hers.
“Think of him as a mouse with wings. A little brown furry thing that is so busy catching nasty insects that he doesn’t even know we’re here.”
“He won’t get in my hair and bite me?”
“He’s too agile for that. I was in a crevice once, flat on my stomach with inches between my head and the rock. I felt the air of their wings as they passed over my head. Not one touched me.