“Do you dislike me, Sondra?” he said while he stood before her.
“No, Truman, I don’t dislike you at all. I’m sure you are accustomed to women finding you attractive, and I do, too.” Sondra said.
“I find you extremely attractive, Sondra, and that’s what’s different from other times when women have found me attractive.” Truman looked directly into Sondra’s eyes through the swirling steam. “I’ve been uninterested in any specific woman for a long time. While I’ve watched you and listened to you on television, I’ve experienced a growing attraction toward you, and I had to meet you. It is an extreme pleasure for me to have you here in my home, sharing my things, even though it might be for just a short time.”
“Well, I’m very pleased to be here, Truman, but I’m uneasy being virtually naked with you here.”
“Why not relax and get all you can out of your visit,” Truman smiled. “I saw on your web site that you broke up with your boyfriend almost a year ago, and are still playing the field.”
“Just the same,” Sondra said, “I’m uncomfortable in this situation, and I believe it’s inappropriate. I don’t want to lose the interview, Truman, but this is not something I’m prepared to do.”
“I should have known a woman like you was no pushover,” Truman said in measured tones. “I apologise. I let my desires and my emotions get the better of me. It goes against my values, and signals just how smitten I am with you. I’m sorry. We’ll continue our interview tomorrow, and I’ll give you – and Maris’ camera – a proper tour of the property.” Truman left Sondra sitting alone in the steam, thinking about the unexpected events that were cropping up during this assignment. Sondra showered, dressed, and returned to the cottage.
Sondra changed into comfortable jeans and a sweater later in the afternoon, and the winter daylight was declining. Sondra was restless and she couldn’t stop her mind from racing through thoughts of Darkwater, Maris, Rainbird, and Truman. She dressed warmly and decided to go for a walk to clear her mind. Lost in thought and without consciously planning it, Sondra wandered toward the trees where she had seen Darkwater disappear into the forest. It hadn’t snowed since her arrival, and Darkwater’s footprints were clearly visible in the snow. Not really knowing what to expect, Sondra followed the trail of footprints in the snow that led into the dense forest.
It was much darker amid the tall evergreen trees, but the trail was still clearly visible in the snow. It was flattened by Darkwater’s travels back and forth, but the snow along the sides of the trail was three feet deep. Sondra had walked almost a mile. She began to worry that she had no flashlight, and darkness was rapidly descending over the forest. She smelled wood smoke as she trudged on, hoping that Darkwater’s home was close. It would be a difficult walk back to the cottage in the darkness. Finally, a light was visible through the trees and Sondra hurried on. The glow came from a small window in a large log cabin.
Sondra stood at the door a moment before she knocked. She heard the gentle strumming of a guitar playing pleasant chords. She hesitated to interrupt with a knock at the door, but realised that she really had no choice. She tapped lightly on the thick-planked door. The guitar strumming stopped, and a moment later Darkwater opened the door.