Liz--frustrated at Einar’s apparent inability to recognize the seriousness of the situation, even with it clearly spelled out to his face--wouldn’t give him an answer right away about the trapping run, said she had to think about it so Einar just went ahead with his preparations, figuring he’d soon be making the trip, one way or another. Normally, somewhat lost in his own little world as he tended to be and not particularly good at reading the expressions and intentions of others, Einar might have remained quite oblivious to the sort of silence that had settled over the place, but something was so obviously wrong that not even he could help but notice. A shadow had come over everything, come between them, and when he glanced up in search of Liz, she was sitting on the bed with her face to the wall, crying. He might have gone to her, asked what was wrong, but he already knew, though in general terms and certainly not with the clarity possessed by Liz in looking at the matter.
Einar went outside, stood there staring up at the sky, angry, not understanding, but he knew he wasn’t angry at her, his dear, good Lizzie, the mother of his son and the one living person he had come to admire above all others. Not really. Was simply furious at himself for having caused her such hurt. His own occasional misery was a thing accepted if not actively embraced--sometimes a bit of both, he would have to admit; it was, he might even argue, the only thing that had kept him going at times, meeting that challenge on a daily basis--but to see her like that, and to know he was the direct cause of it… Gritting his teeth he hit his head against the nearest spruce with as much force as he could muster, again and again until the blood ran down into his eyes and he all but lost consciousness, stood there for another minute raging at himself and his inability to figure things out, to do what apparently needed to be done and in that moment found himself wanting very badly not to exist at all, thought occurring to him that perhaps the best thing for all involved might be to find some way to make that happen, and without further delay, but almost immediately he was sorry for thinking that, too.
Wrong. All wrong. On his knees in the snow, then, and at first the words wouldn’t come, soul all in a turmoil as he reached out to the only One Who had any ability to aid him, forgive him, forgive me, I’ve done wrong by them, am doing wrong and I don’t know how to fix it. Can’t fix it. Can’t find my way. Rough thing for an old pathfinder like me to admit, but I’m lost here, completely lost and got nowhere to turn. Should have come to You a lot sooner with this one instead of muddling my way forward being so sure I was right, could make it right, but I can’t do it and I’m here now and I need Your direction, Lord.
Silence. He sat there for a time in the silence, waiting, and then it was time to move. Went in and sat down beside her, reached out a hand for her knee but pulled it back; he had no right, hung his head.
“Forgive me, Liz. I’ve been letting that dim, dark old jungle get its claws into me lately, getting lost in my own…lostness and neglecting my duty to the two of you, and it isn’t right, and I’m sorry.”
She grabbed him, tears in her eyes but a smile radiant on her face, shining. “I’ve been waiting for you! I knew you would come back.”
His own tears wanted to come at that--grace, gift entirely undeserved, and he could hardly comprehend its existence--but he swallowed them, shrugged. Was not finished.
“Yeah, I been keeping you away, keeping myself as separate as I could, and at first it was because I was afraid to let you get in here too close, afraid of what you’d think of me if you knew what I really was, what I’d done, and not done, all those years ago, figured you’d be ashamed of me if you really knew and I couldn’t face that… Pride, I know, and I was wrong for seeing things that way. And then even after I trusted you more and didn’t care anymore about your knowing all that, well, I was afraid because I didn’t want it to hurt you, all the hurt I got here inside of me but I see it’s been finding its way out and doing so anyway, and that was never what I wanted, Lizzie. Not for you, and not for this little guy here…”
She laid the baby on the bed then and held him, arms crossed on his chest and chin resting on his shoulder, Einar wanting very badly to pull himself free and seek refuge in the timber outside, lose himself to the biting, scouring cold of the wind but instead allowing her to get her arms around him, sitting with head bowed, silent.
“It’s a difficult thing. Oh, I can’t even imagine how difficult it’s been for you to carry this all these years and to have to be reminded of it now in the way you have been by the circumstances, by being on the run like this and you’re an incredibly strong person for having been able to do that, but Einar, we’re walking the path together now through life, we’ve got this child who depends on us both, and I want to help you carry this load, if it’s got to be carried. I want to walk with you, beside you, rather than have you running away from me all the time, pushing me away. Will you at least let me do that?”
“Don’t know if I can let you do that. It’s mine to carry, not yours.”
“Why must you carry it like this? Maybe it’s time to set it down. Some part of it, at least? It’ll never go away, I know, will always be a part of you and maybe that’s the way it ought to be, but right now it’s crushing you, and I can’t stand to see you disappearing under its weight like this. There has to be some other way.”
“Don’t know any other way.”
“I know you don’t. But let’s look for one. Let me read those papers with you. Please. I think that might be the start of our finding a way through this.”
Reluctant, terrified, trapped and wanting to run…but he took a breath, set it all aside and allowed his eyes to meet hers. Maybe she was correct, and regardless, she had a right to know what was in there, if that was what she wanted. He would do it.