She leaves the cabin with nothing tucked in her apron pocket: no bread from her table, no leather pouch of water, no compass, no papers to identify her by name. The night is cool, but her skin is still hot and slick with sweat. There is nothing in the cabin that will relieve her of the heat that lives inside her.
She doesn’t walk far before she’s walking into the water, and her nightgown billows around her like a sheet on a clothesline waving in a strong wind. The creek water is black in the night, and is dotted silver and blue with the moon and stars. Her mind is not troubled by thoughts of water moccasins hiding beneath rocks, or of small biting fish, or of slick black leeches.
The sensation of the cold water swirling around her bare legs and soaking into her cotton nightgown is thrilling, and not only because it is ice cold. The creek is one that has flowed down the mountain, trickled down from a waterfall that freezes in the winter and breaks open, alive and roaring, in the spring. Her breath catches as new currents of cold gush towards her legs, but it’s the cold she’s been craving, so she sinks down to her knees in the soft silt of the creekbed. The water is up to her neck now, and she closes her eyes. Her lips are chattering and blue, and the cold water snakes between her legs.