Just as Julia was about to climb the three steps onto the pier, she recalled her conversation with her dad warning her about the wooden dock needing a major renovation. He intended to make his repairs before summer. It seemed to look intact. So, despite the cautioning words from Dad, she continued her stroll toward the bench at the end of the pier. With every footstep, there was a bit of creaking, but not enough to steer her away. There they were. The little boy and the man were still rowing the rowboat which slowly passed beyond the shore in front of her. Julia couldn’t help but notice the man paddling. He was without a doubt, the nicest looking guy she had given a second look to in a long time. She faced another direction, but her eyes, hidden behind her sunglasses, wandered toward this man and the movement of his muscular shoulders as he propelled the oars in a circular motion.
Once again, the child waved to her. Just as she raised her arm to wave back, wooden timbers supporting the very edge of the pier gave way. The wooden bench which rested at the dockside edge collapsed into the water, and Julia did as well.
“Dad,” screeched the child as the man made an about face with the rowboat.
Julia swam to the neighbor’s berth which she hoped was more intact. She attempted to pull herself out of the lake by holding on to the docking pole but slipped back into the water when she suddenly felt a sharp object jab into her shin. The man anchored his boat to the dock and hopped onto the pier, the child following just behind.
“Take hold of my hand,” he said, reaching out to Julia.
She put her hand in his, and with one firm pull and the secure guidance of his other arm supportive around the small of her back, she was once again on dry surface.
“It looks like you got a pretty good gash there,” he noted.
There was a lawn chair nearby which he pulled right up to Julia so that she could sit back.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll just walk back up to the cottage and put a bandage on it,” she said, embarrassed.
The stranger seemed to ignore what she said as he removed his t-shirt in order to wrap it around her leg.
“What are you doing?” Julia asked as he was about to wrap her bloody laceration in his white shirt. “I told you I’m fine,” she added as she began to rise from her seat.
Even through her pain, she could not help but notice the strapping build of his bare chest. The gold chain and cross hanging from his neck reflected the sun to her eyes. The man gently took her arm to lead her back to a sitting position.
“Take a look at your leg. It’s bleeding so much there’s blood on the pier. Let’s get it wrapped up and get you to the hospital. You need a couple of stitches...and maybe a tetanus shot as well.”
“Dad, we’re going to the hospital again?” the boy asked.
“I don’t need stitches. Really...I’ll just get a towel and put some pressure on it. There’s nothing here that a clean bandage can’t take care of.”
She couldn’t help but wonder why she was bickering with this stranger like they were an old married couple. As she stubbornly began to stand once again, blood spurted out of the slash of her leg. Suddenly light headed, she fell back in the seat.
“Dad, that’s so gross. Look at all that blood,” the child yelled.
The man continued what he planned on doing in the first place, and wrapped his shirt around her leg.
“Are you here alone?” he asked.
“Yes, I am,” she answered with frustration, at the same time realizing she was telling this strange man that she was totally alone out in the country.
“I’ll help you back to the porch. I’m from around the bend, just three lots down. Give me a minute to get my car so we can get you to the hospital.”
“Really, um...” she began to say, then realized she didn’t know this man’s name.
“Really, I can get myself there. It’s my left leg, so I can still drive a car.”
“I don’t think so,” he said as he guided her out of her chair.
As she stepped down on her left foot, she nearly collapsed while gasping a deep breath. Her pain was obvious when she reflexively clutched his wrist. Without thinking twice, Nick swept her off of her feet as if he had known her for twenty years. She couldn’t help but feel the strength of his arms when he carried her to the porch where she sat in amazement at what this stranger had just done.