1. State of affairs

23-year-old Colby Redwood paced his office. His 'office' was a room that he made phone calls or worked by. It was the back of his house…or rather…log cabin. The time was exactly 8:45. He'd had the phone call at half past, on the dot. He could hear the clock ticking loudly in the corner of the diminutive room. The room was small enough to make the ticking like an avalanche, however, he wasn't sure if it was the sound or the worrying that had caused his headache. His desk was nigh on empty. No pictures hung on the wall. He could hear a hailstorm at its height outside.

Redwood had done something illegal. He'd borrowed a lot of money from some untrustworthy businessmen and now...now he couldn't pay all of it back in double, as they demanded. It hadn't been of need either. It had mostly gone to pay for the basics while he tried to find a nice stable well-paid job, true. His current cheap part time job made him look like a collage student. He'd squandered some of the loan money on alcohol. He could feel his mouth getting dry in memory.

'25%' 'Twenty five percent already paid, they'd said. Seventy five percent still left to pay…

Alcohol never lasted long…' he thought to himself bitterly.

--

Although it was 2:30 and the night wind was shaking his windows. Redwood had managed to waste absolutely hours on thinking and writing things down idly. He room he was in now was what he lazily called 'the sofa room'. It was nearly as sparse as the 'office' especially since he'd had to part with his, acclaimed, best friend and most interesting link to the outside world: the television.

He sat down on his worn out sofa to contemplate his situation again and was down to his eighth glass of wine. The phone call was running though his mind. He couldn't figure out what to do.  He combed a hand though his matted brown hair.

'I'd be able to manage…if…I was to take 3 full time jobs on top of my part time one…or maybe…'

Then suddenly a thought hit him. 'Nobody ever rings with any news…anymore' he found himself thinking. The most he got was an annual Christmas card and even that didn't have any hint that they wanted a reply back. 'Nobody ever remembers the third son who lives so far away from home it's expensive to ring…'

The sallow laugh that escaped from his own throat told him that that was probably slightly amusing. It was his own fault nobody phoned anymore. He stopped talking and obviously they'd taken a hint. He hadn't wanted them to stop calling, he'd just been too ashamed to ask for help.

Dear mum, dad and Mittens the cat. How are you? How are my siblings? (I've been far too busy of late to find out) …Oh and by the way, could you lend me two thousand pounds? That's right I've been doing deals with criminals. I sincerely believe I may die tomorrow, that's how serious this is. Oh and If I do die, the bulk of my estate can go to Mittens… and maybe you'd have enough to buy a box of catnip?

God! It was laughable. He couldn't put them though having to say 'no' in a nice way. It was best his fault…

'How the hell did it end up like this' he asked out loud. All he wanted to do was sleep but…but he couldn't sleep until he'd stopped worrying…and that…would take one hell of a lot of money.

He never did know weather it was the drink, the tiredness or common sense that had had caused him fall asleep half way though considering taking up those four full-time jobs…

As he lay on the sofa, half way in between asleep and awake he heard something. His mind said it was the wind, it did finally it came to a point where he knew it wasn't the wind, however, he couldn't say what it was. It was a moan, similar to a wild animal and then it stopped.  He told himself it was a stray cat that had wandered into the woods and that wasn't any of his business.

--

It felt like he'd been asleep a long while although it may have only been a few hours. Either way, a loud knocking at the door awakened him. He ignored it. If he stayed still and quiet enough he could pretend that he'd died or something. The knocking persisted and it was noisier now.

Aw Geez… 'If you're here about the gas, you can pay it for me. Good night!' he called sluggishly

'I won't! Come out here!' a female voice called back

'Ok, I can't pay it and you don't have to pay it either. Happy now?'

'Not really…come out here you gutted old miser!'

'No.'

'I have money for you…'

'This had better not be a joke' Redwood threatened under his breath. He was already fully dressed so he grabbed a coat and walked outside only to be greeted by a icy breathe of cold night air.

'So where's this money then?' he asked feeling the frost settle on the shoulders of his cobalt coat.

'I'll tell you when you let me in, like a gentleman…' she said matter-of-fact. All Redwood could see was that she was dressed in a thick brown coat that fell past her knees and the hood covered half of her face.

'I'll say she can't even see in that thing? Does she think I'm some kind of pervert or something, why doesn't she dress a little mor…' Redwood mentally slapped himself 'duh, it's cold'

'If I was a gentleman would I live in this shack?' he asked pointedly with annoyance.

'You might…' she started '…if you were being chased by an underground organisation that wanted you dead because you owed them money and you were on the run…' she said slowly looking at him and a small grin crossed her face.

Redwood was taken aback but he quickly recovered himself 'what a stupid idea…'

'It is, isn't it?' she agreed.

His thoughts were as bitter as the wind 'Ah…sarcasm. I have become the object of a sarcastic remark…absolutely brilliant…Bet she wouldn't treat me like this if I lived in a big house with a nice wife and 2.3 kids'

He was about to point this out when she shivered slightly 'but I want an ice-cream too…' and collapsed into his arms.

--

Redwood had seriously considered dumping a bucket of cold water on the girl, hence she would wake, and hence he could throw her out of the front door without having to deal with her. His sense of decency appeared to have not wholly forsaken him though so he gave her his place on the sofa.

'Asleep?' he asked himself. 'Sure seems like it…'

There was a tiny kitchen joining to the 'sofa room'. He leaned back onto one of the cupboards there and promptly poured himself more wine 'I'm sure this isn't healthy... In fact I'm gonna run out of this if I'm not careful…'

He drained the glass and signed 'what to do? What to do?'

'well…she was outside' mused Redwood 'maybe she lost her way or something…I could call the local authorities, see if anybody went missing from a tour group. At least it's better than doing nothing…'

He reached for the phone. It then occurred to him that he was lucky to have escaped selling it for what little money the old-thing could bring. He'd phone Robby Reid, he did tours of some of the local sights. Not that the 'sights' were very interesting in themselves but you can make a pile of stones look like an ancient ruin as long as you didn't start by saying 'and to your left there is a very old pile of stones'.

He dialled the number.

'Wait…' somebody had grabbed his wrist 'wait…' she repeated.

The girl had evidently just woken up; her brown eyes were just open as if she wasn't completely aware of what she was doing. Her hood had fallen off and he saw she had reddish brown hair that barely fell past her shoulders.

'What are you doing?' Redwood grimaced, His words had sounded a great deal more annoyed than he'd intended

'Wait…' she said again but this time calmly. 'I…I lied. I can't help you and I don't have a job or home or money either. Don't sue me! Please, I really am sorry, and don't call the police'

Police? Redwood felt the strange urge to laugh. 'You thought I was going to phone the police?' he said failing to sound the least serious. He couldn't help it anymore, he laughed.

'OI! Don't laugh at me! Oiiii!!'

Redwood found the protest funny in itself. He also noticed she had rather harsh colloquial speech and this only added to the humour. 'Why not?' he asked trying to think of a way to stifle more laughing on his part.

'A gentleman shouldn't laugh at a lady!' she called haughtily obviously trying to sound superior

'…And ladies shouldn't say "Oi"' he stated calmly

'It's not healthy to think like that, you old-fashioned man' she muttered but she kept both her eyes staring directly at him

'What is your name?' he asked in a flat and bemused kind of way.

'Farista…' she replied slowly still keeping her eyes levelled.

Redwood shifted under her steely gaze 'What do you want?'

'I would like to stay here…' she said lowering her eyes to the floor

'Oh I see…and you expect me to let you stay for free?'

Farista said nothing and stared at the wooden flooring 'I…I can do housework…and I can cook'

'That's a ridiculous idea for both our sakes. There's not enough room for me to live comfortably, let alone with a lodger. Besides, you don't know me. As far as you know I'm a mad axe man.

'Woman are tidier than men and take up less space…and…I don't think you're a mad axe man' she said emphatically

'Why don't you find a nice hotel in the village?' Redwood suggested desperately trying to make it sound like a very good idea.

'No'

'What do you mean "no"?'

'No. I mean just that. I just can't'

Redwood tried not to think about the trouble she might cause. 'Persistent woman are best avoided', his brother had once said. Great, well…I can always hand her over to the police if she gets in my way. Oh God, have I always been this spiteful?

'…but you have to keep to yourself. And don't go asking questions or meddling into what I do. Got that?'

'yes?' Farista said in such a way, as one would ask a question

Abruptly a thought occurred to Redwood. What if the girl was to collapse again? What if that attracted attention of the police? What they held him responsible?

'Why did you collapse …earlier?' he said very slowly, wondering how to address the question

'I just hadn't slept for a few days…I was just tired. It won't happen again'

'a few days?' Redwood racked his brains 'um…everybody has friends and family. Why don't you stay with them…'

'not everybody' Farista replied with an edge of bitterness

'…like me' was what Redwood wanted to say but he didn't.

'Well, maybe...' thought Redwood for a moment 'it might be nice to have somebody around. It might be...just a little'

'Oi Mister, Where's the bedroom? You get the sofa!'

'…on the other hand' Redwood groaned

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A/N: Hope you enjoyed it. Please read and review. Reviews really mean a lot to me. ^--^ Thank you