Though he kept steadily working away at it, Einar’s ice melting project took much of the remainder of the day, keeping him busy heating rocks, fishing out old, cold ones and hurrying outside to retrieve more ice and snow to add to the slowly filling barrel, but by the time he’d used up most of the ice he’d knocked down from the rock wall, the barrel was well over halfway full. A good project for him as well as providing them with enough water for a number of days, Einar glad to have something to hold his focus and keep him from drifting back towards the half-conscious daze which seemed to be working so hard to get hold of him, still. The wind, bitter and persistent whenever he ventured out for another load of ice or snow to add to the barrel, provided him some relief from the ongoing struggle, left him fully awake after each encounter and had it not been for Liz’s presence he might have taken leave of the cabin altogether, found a suitable rock and sat facing into the scouring, cleansing fury of that wind until… But Liz was there, and so was the baby, and they were counting on him to finish filling the water barrel, among other things, so each time after spending a few minutes allowing the storm to sweep over him and return every sense to its full awareness, he turned and went back in, hide full of ice chunks and chips slung over his shoulder.
Liz was quiet that day, watching him, working on the mukluks and on the parka she’d started for him and wondering what he might be thinking, but not especially wishing to interrupt the gentle, productive rhythm of the day by prodding. At least he was, for the most part, resting and eating--though not as much as she might have liked of either, but she knew not to expect too much at first--and that was all she had asked. It was a good start. As was her work on the winter clothes they so badly needed, more than a start, really, with Einar’s parka coming along quite nicely as she worked to sew its hood into place and add a few finishing touches here and there, an extra ruff of rabbit fur around each cuff to help keep snow out of the mittens he would--hopefully--be wearing and bits of the same just inside the collar area. The garment was finished, or nearly so, and seeing that Einar appeared to have slowed somewhat the frantic pace of his heating and exchanging rocks in the barrel--appeared, in fact, not to be far at all from sleep where he crouched against the wall, watching vapor rise from the latest batch of melting ice and dissipate into the cool air of the cabin--she rose and went to him.
“Do you have just a minute? I’d like you to see something.”
Einar was on his feet in an instant, glancing from Liz to the door and back again, sure that he must have missed something in his drowsy, dazed state, some danger-sound from outside, and he spoke in a whisper, wondering how he could possibly have been followed in that storm and after the passing of a night and a day, but expecting such to be the case. “What is it?”
“Oh, nothing like that. Just wanted to show you what I’ve been working on. Here. It’s almost done. Come sit on the bed, and we’ll see how it fits you.”
All the fight going out of him at the realization that there was no immediate threat and with it the sudden surge of strength that had been keeping him on his feet Einar sank willingly down onto the edge of the bed, shaking his head at the predicament they’d have found themselves in should the threat have been real. It had always greatly bothered him, the fact that the cabin really had only one way in and out--unless one wanted to crawl up the chimney, and it was terribly narrow, even for a half starved tunnel rat and experienced caver like himself; Liz would never make it, and he’d probably get stuck halfway up and roasted alive while he waited for the enemy to get themselves organized and make their assault on the place--and though he’d many times meant to remedy the situation, something or other had always seemed to come up and delay the project. No more. Got to be the top priority now. What’s the sense in having all these caches if we end up trapped in the cabin like so many rats just because I never bothered putting in a back door? Not that they wouldn’t probably have the place thoroughly surrounded by that time anyway, but it can never hurt to have a second exit or two… Liz was saying something and he glanced up, trying to erase the look of consternation that surely must be lining his face after all that quick pondering, but it was too late; she’d seen.
“What are you thinking? Something’s the matter…”
What was he supposed to say? I’m thinking about how you and little Snorri are gonna end up trapped in this place and burned alive when the federal raid comes, because I haven’t added a back door? No, not a particularly good thing to say to the soon-to-be expecting mother of his child, even if it had been exactly what was going through his mind, so he kept that bit to himself, shrugged and glanced at the back wall. “Just thinking it’s way past time I cut us another way out of here, in case the front door ever isn’t a good option. Meant to do it a long time ago. I’ll get started in the morning.”
“Oh! I thought maybe you didn’t like the parka. Yes, I know we need another way out. I’ll help you, but how about we wait until the storm stops, at least, or we’ll end up with this place drifted three feet high with blowing snow inside before we get the door finished and put back over the hole, which I know you’d probably like just fine since your idea of a comfortable bed is to strip down and curl up in a snow drift for the night, but I have other ideas about that!”
A hint of a mischievous grin from Einar, yeah, I’ve noticed that about you… “Parka?”
“Yes, parka! Yours. You made mine and then stopped, so I thought I’d better be getting busy on yours if I didn’t want you to freeze this winter, which I really don’t. I’m pretty sure it’s the right size, but let’s give it a try.”
Inspecting the finished garment of rabbit fur-lined deer and bighorn sheep with some degree of wonderment--Liz had done most of the work while he was either away or so preoccupied with other things that he hadn’t noticed what she was doing--admiring the fine, even stitching with which she’d attached the sleeves and hood piece and running his hand over the marten fur ruff around the hood. “This is some real fine work you’ve done here! The one I made for you and the little one’ll do the job, keep you both warm and out of the weather, but you’re the better tailor by far, around here!”
“Well then, put it on! Won't do you any good unless you put it on…”
Which he did, settling back into the well fitted warmth of the fur-lined coat and beginning to look truly relaxed for the first time that day as it began trapping what little warmth his body was able to generate, keeping it close to him and making him realize just how very cold he had become during the course of his work that day. “Yep, it fits, alright. Fits real well. This is gonna serve me real well this winter when I’m out on the trapline.”
“I’m glad you like it! It’d probably serve you pretty well in here, too, if you’d let yourself wear it. Keep you from freezing all day long like you do right now, but if you’ll just wear it when you venture away from the cabin, I’ll be happy. It doesn’t have a pouch under the hood like mine does, but I think there may still be enough room in there for you to carry the baby, if you need to. You don’t take up too much room yourself, and it looks to me like if we just tie a strap of some sort around the outside just a few inches under your arms, that should make a space big enough for the baby to ride.”
“Does look that way. Here, let’s try it out. We both need to be able to carry the little critter, and it’d be good to know ahead of time.” At which Einar sorted through the wood stack beside the stove until he found a log of roughly the right length and weight--though of course not the correct texture or composure, but close enough to give them some idea of how the coat might work--cradling it in his arms in a way that nearly brought tears to Liz’s eyes--she quickly blinked them away, didn’t want him to see--before handing it to her for testing in the coat.
“You’ve held a baby before, I can see it.”
Einar nodded, looked away. “Yeah…”
She slipped the aspen log into the space beneath the hood of his coat, wrapping a wide strip of deer hide beneath it and tying it just below his sternum. “You’re going to be a great father, you know...”