It was dark and he was lost. How could he have been so stupid to get in a fight with his producer? Aaron Jacobs was one of Hollywood’s top movie stars and he had fought with his producer like he was an armature. It was one more thing to add to his list of everything that had gone wrong that year. Furthermore, his cell phone had no reception, the sun had gone down, and he was lost somewhere in the plains of central Wyoming.
“What an idiot,” he thought of himself. He had been walking for what seemed like hours, but he had been lost long before that.
He came around a giant rock and saw a campfire far off in the distance. He frowned, ready to give his agent a piece of his mind for not sending out a search party sooner. He moved forward, fuming that he’d have to ask for help from a stranger. There was a person sitting by the fire, back to Aaron. A horse looked up and stared at him dumbly.
“Stupid animal,” he thought. The person turned around and he found himself looking at the fresh and round face of a woman. She stood up and stared back at him. He assessed her automatically. She wore no makeup and had a scarf tied over her hair so all he could see were blonde wisps at her hairline. She was tall and thin, lacking any curves. She wore jeans tucked into knee-high black riding boots and a black flowing shirt that for some reason reminded him of a tunic. By the looks of her, she – and her clothes – needed a good wash. She could’ve been pretty if she had on makeup and let her hair down.
“Hi,” he said. “What are you doing out here in the wild all alone?”
“I could ask you the same question,” she replied. “And I’m not alone.”
“Whatever,” he interrupted. He didn’t think of a horse as company. “Look, I’m a little turned around. I’m supposed to be shooting a movie just north of Hanna.”
The woman wrinkled her brow. “How’d you get here?”
“I told you, I’m filming a movie,” he said, annoyed with her slowness. His legs were aching.
“No, I mean how did you get here,” she pointed to the ground. “To my little encampment.”
“I walked,” he said obviously.
She huffed a laugh. “How long would you say you’ve been walking?” she asked him, the look on her face just shy of mockery. This was ridiculous. Didn’t she know who he was?
“I don’t know! I don’t have a watch. When I started the sun was up, now it’s down.” She smiled at his exasperation. “Get that look off your face,” he snapped.
“No,” she continued to smile and went right on talking. “Hanna’s about twenty miles from here. If you’re from the movie set I saw this morning, you’ve been walking for several hours. It took me two to ride from there.”
His mouth dropped open. He’d been walking for more than two hours. The woman sighed.
“Why don’t you stay here for the night, ok? The wolves come out to hunt at night.”
“What?” he was appalled. “Am I supposed to sleep on the ground?”
“It won’t kill you,” she laughed. He stood there gaping. “Haven’t you even been camping?”
“When I was a kid.”
“How old are you?” she asked. The way she looked at him made him think she could see straight to his soul. He didn’t like that.
“Twenty-six,” he answered, wishing she would look away but she didn’t.
“So am I. If I can do it, you can do it. Or will you be outdone by a girl?”
She hit his Achilles heel, his pride. He sat down by the fire and glared at her. She just smiled and went over to her saddlebags. He threw a few pebbles into the fire, hating the smoky smell. She came back to him holding out a canteen of water, an apple, and a package of crackers. He looked disdainfully at them but took them anyway, his stomach winning over his pride for the food. He paid no attention to her as she sat down across the fire from him and read a book.
What a mess. He was lost with a strange and ugly woman who clearly had no idea who he was. That irritated him. He was one of the biggest names in Hollywood; he had been for years. He was accustomed to woman falling at his feel and asking for his autograph. She looked at him like a sorry lost child, like a charity case.
“Please,” he thought. “She’s the charity case. Even a few beers wouldn’t help her look better.” He shook his head and ate the bruised apple. Wolves. A likely story. She just wanted an excuse to keep him there so she could tell the press, “One Night in the Wild With Aaron Jacobs.”
“Oh well,” he sighed, stretching out on the hard ground. “I’ve been caught in worse.” There were rocks and sticks in his back, bugs crawling on his clothes, and smoke from the fire choking him. “Nightmare after nightmare,” he thought. “Nicole dumps me. I didn’t get the movie I wanted so now I’m in Wyoming instead of the Caribbean. My car gets totaled. Some punk breaks into my house. Now this.”
It was only June and he wondered what else could go wrong that year.
Anna had never seen anyone fall asleep so fast.
“Very funny, God,” she prayed. “I’m in the middle of nowhere trying to stay away from people, especially guys, and here You send me Aaron Jacobs.” She looked up at the brilliant black and purple cosmos expanding above her. She would never get used to this. No matter how many nights she spent under the stars, it would never stop taking her breath away and leaving her in awe. She took in as much as she could of the massive sky and let the sweet smell of the fire fill her nose. She closed her eyes and listened. The fire crackled. The wind whistled ever so gently, echoing off the rock walls a hundred yards away from her. Bats chirped and crickets sang softly. Somewhere a wolf howled in the darkness. She knew her rifle was just a few feet from her so she wasn’t worried. She kept her eyes shut, listening to God’s symphony. The sound of her horse’s heavy breaths plodded through the air like his footsteps. She heard him swish his tail back and forth, swatting at a few fluttering moths. Then she heard the shallow breaths of her unexpected guest.
“What am I supposed to do with him, God? I know this isn’t an accident that he came here tonight. You brought him to me. What for? What does he need?”
“I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.” Psalm 145:5.
Anna smiled at the challenge. God was going to use her to help Aaron become a shining light. God was going to use her to help Aaron see the beauty and joy of an abundant life in God. God was pouring out His love and beauty to her so that it would overflow into other lives. And Aaron Jacobs was her first mission.
“Don’t you dare let me fall in love with him, God. I don’t want another scar on my heart.”
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” Genesis 28:15.
Anna spread the wood out in the fire pit and rolled out her thin sleeping pad. She would have offered it to Aaron if he hadn't fallen asleep so quickly. She took her extra jacket and wadded it up. She gently lifted Aaron's head and placed the makeshift pillow beneath him. She laid a blanket over him, knowing the night would be cold.
She went back to her bed on the other side of the fire. She pulled off her boots and stretched out under her own blanket of stars.
"Count the stars...if indeed they can be counted. This is how much I love you..."