Einar did not understand the way Liz was behaving, wanting to talk far more than he had expected she would at such a time but he figured he didn’t need to understand, really. Just needed to go along with it, keep seeing that she got plenty to drink and now and then some food, if she wanted it. Which she did, liking the stewed berries and consuming a good portion of them before she had to stop. Though he had wanted to save the remainder of the meal for Liz’s use later in the day--thinking it would likely prove more appealing to her than meat broth or stew, encouraging her to keep taking in some nutrients to help maintain her energy--she insisted so firmly that he eat some that he saw himself having little choice, and enjoyed a few bites of the mixture as she finished hers. Still a good bit left, which pleased Einar, as he would have needed to make more had it been finished, and he preferred to put his energy into maintaining the fire, continuing to prepare the place for the birth and listening to the weather--still; the wind had not returned and he expected that the snow must continue to taper off--just then. Was taking all the energy he had, just to do that much. And to watch Liz, trying to sense her needs and take care of them before she had to ask--and answer her questions. Couldn’t believe the number of questions she seemed to have, that day. Figured her mind would have been otherwise occupied, but there’s simply no figuring some things… Speaking of which--shook his head, scrubbed hands across his face, working to bring himself back to the present--she apparently had another one.
“Your old life, down in the valley--what do you most miss about it? I miss my books. Had shelves and shelves of books back home, though I’d only been able to bring a few when I first moved out here, and I’ll admit that there are times when I really wish I could have some of them, again. It would be nice to sit by the fire and read sometimes, on these long winter evenings…”
“Thought you wanted to talk about names for the little critter.”
“I’m getting to that. And don’t call him a critter. He’s your son.”
“Well I call myself a critter…”
“Don’t call yourself that, either. You’re my son’s father.”
Einar shrugged, nodded, figuring it best not to argue, under the circumstances. Half civilized old mountain critter like me would have a mighty rough time winning such an argument, anyway. Even if this was the time and place to pursue it… “Yeah, I can see why you’d miss having books around. Got to say there are times when I do, too, because down there in my little cabin…well, I had more bookshelves than other furniture, for sure--aside from the workbenches where I did all my reloading and gun builds and such, and I do sometimes regret having to leave behind all my firearms, both for the practical purposes they’d serve out here and because I just liked some of them so doggone well--and thought it a shame to have to lose my library, but you know, I adapt pretty quickly to being a wild critter…uh…creature, every time I’m out here, and after a while I just don’t think about it anymore, the things I’ve left behind. Seems to work better that way.”
“Sounds like a good idea, this ‘not thinking about the things you’ve left behind.’ Since you’re so good at doing it when it comes to material possessions and comforts and the life you’ve left behind, which I see that you are, since I can never once really remember seeing you fret or mourn over not having any of those things, and I respect you so much for that…well, don’t you think maybe you could try applying the same concept to some other things--or times, or places--you’ve left behind.”
He knew what she meant, didn’t like the way the conversation was headed. “Aw Lizzie, let’s not…”
“Not now, it’s not. Not right now, when the focus ought to be on…”
“It’s more important now than ever. He’ll need his father. All of you, every part of you. You’re doing so much, trying so hard to be here but half the time…no use denying it, I can see it in your eyes…you’re anywhere but here, Einar. And I know you’re only eating right now because I keep after you to do it, can see that you’d prefer to go back to the way you were doing things before--starving for days on end and then wandering off into the cold for a few hours because in some way it made things a little better for you--and if you keep doing that…well, I think we both know what the eventual consequence will be, only this time I’ll be too busy with the baby to do anything about it or to remind you to try and do something, which means I’ll end up losing you just when the little one and I need you most. You don’t want that. I can see it. But this thing’s still got hold of you, and I was just thinking that if you could let go of some of that stuff go the way you’ve done with your cabin and possessions and everything…”
Einar was on his feet, pacing as Liz had been doing earlier, back and forth from water barrel to bed, suddenly feeling far too confined in the small space of the cabin, trapped, barely able to breathe. “It’s not the same.”
“I know it’s not. But you could try.”
She could see that she’d pushed him too far, might have felt badly about it at any other time but that afternoon, labor beginning to intensify and the baby--she could only hope--coming in a matter of hours, she had been in no mood to put things too gently. Couldn’t afford to do so. Had wanted to get the thing said, give him something to think about before both their lives changed forever and their entire focus had to be put on the new life that was coming to join them, and she wasn’t sorry for having said it. Felt a lot better, actually, a bit of the tension that had been making it difficult for her to let go and give her full attention to the birthing process as she knew she needed to do eased, gone, and she was glad. Felt as though she could now entirely give herself to the events of the day, let nature proceed as it needed to do, and indeed the process did shortly thereafter begin to take on a new urgency, contractions coming a bit closer together and the conversation she was still carrying on with Einar--poor guy couldn’t sit still either, not after what she’d said to him, and she didn’t blame him for pacing with her--temporarily suspended during each, only to resume after. Einar was trying, but he was pretty quiet, leaving her for the moment to do most of the talking, which suited her just fine. Seemed to be helping, somehow.
“About what to name him, now. Assuming it’s really a ‘him,’ and we’re not both mistaken… Well, we’ve been calling him ‘Snorri’ for so long it would almost seem strange now not use that name in some way, don’t you think?”
That jolted Einar out of his silence, set him, for some inexplicable reason, to laughing hysterically and then Liz was laughing too, clinging to him for balance--his balance as well as hers--as she went on walking, walking, both of them laughing until the tears came, at which point she grabbed up the rabbitstick, shook it threateningly in Einar’s direction. “Quit it! I was serious…”