18 September, 2012

18 September 2012

When Liz--alone, as Will had remained sleeping--sat down without a word on the log beside Einar, he was left even more confused as to the source of her apparent displeasure, did not even notice when she nodded in response to a brief shake of Juni’s head, yes, I was asking him questions, but not the sort you didn’t want me to ask…I don’t think.  The matter settled for the moment and both Einar and Juni spared a meeting with Liz’s rabbit stick, she began preparing breakfast, determined this time to do it in Einar’s full view and without any help from their guest, so he would have no reason whatsoever to claim its potential contamination and get out of eating.  He wanted to keep his word to her, she could see, was trying dreadfully hard to do so but the events of that past day and evening had been too much, and he’d simply had to take a step back from the whole thing.  She knew he could not afford another night like the last one, must have some good meals that day if things were to go any better for him.

Einar was preoccupied with no such concerns, his entire attention being consumed with the matter of the cabin, their supplies and how they were to manage Juni’s presence while preparing their exit from the place.  Clearly she had to be taken up there with them to the cabin if they were to be sure she wasn’t walking out to where she could potentially betray their presence, and though he hated the fact that an outsider would thus get such a close look at their dwelling and gain insight into their lives over the past year, but couldn’t see any way to help it.  They would, he supposed, have to protect Bud and Susan by claiming to have been down near town and raided someone’s cabin, should she start asking questions about the otherwise-unexplainable clothing and other gear in their possession.  Pots, pans and rain jackets could be explained by saying he’d cached them over the years and subsequently visited those caches to re-supply, but what possible reason could a single hermit living way up in the hills have had for caching baby clothes and diapers?  Not a plausible story in the least, and he supposed they would have to stick with cabin-raiding as the source of these items.  Perhaps the matter would never come up, but he had to assume it would, curious and questioning as their uninvited guest tended to be, and knew he’d better be sure and have a private discussion with Liz before heading up to the cabin, so they could get their stories straight.  First, though, events being unpredictable and the future uncertain, he wanted to speak with Juni, do some questioning himself and find out what she might know about the course of the search.

The time was not right for questions, Juni busy eating and Liz, for some reason which he could not understand, appearing to work her hardest to keep her from any communication with him, and thinking her motivation might revolve around making sure he got his breakfast finished without interruption, he hurried as well as possible to finish it in a timely manner.  Easier said than done, needful of food though he was, as ever since first standing up that morning he had been increasingly troubled by a most uncomfortable swelling in his feet, lower legs and now even a bit in his abdomen, which quite put him out of the mood for eating anything at all.  Not a good development.  Figured they’d better be getting up the hill pretty soon, if they intended to do it that day at all.  Having intended only to be going out for a short day’s trip in search of the fallen elk they had not carried along any of the cedar berries with whose tea Liz had been attempting to minimize the excess water that inevitably accumulated in his feet and legs as he started eating a bit more normally, and without that tea he was finding himself, as the day went on, barely able to fit in his boots.  The discomfort he could handle, but out of concern for the continued existence of his already somewhat frostbite-damaged toes and foot, he wanted very much to be out of those boots before too many more hours.  Had to talk to Liz then, and without delay.  Juni had finished her meal and was off gathering firewood, and the time seemed as good as any was likely to be.

“Ready to have company at the cabin?”

“I guess we have to, don’t we?”

“Don’t really see any way around it, if we’re to start getting things ready.”

“The nights will be easier up there.  It’s pretty cold still.”

“Gonna be crowded.”

“Not as crowded as when Bud and Susan…”

He silenced her with a quick motion of his hand.  “Better not say those names.  Got to protect them, and we’re gonna have enough trouble as it is explaining some of the things we’ve got in there, stuff we didn’t make here in the timber.  Need to get straight what we’re going to say, in case she asks about it.  I went down and raided some cabins, understand?  Down near town.  Don’t need to provide any details, and if she asks you about it, you can just refer her to me because you didn’t go along.  It was when you were close to giving birth.”

“But you didn’t do any such…”

“I know, and wouldn’t.  That’d be a terrible security risk, just to get ahold of some warm clothes and such.  Hope she’ll buy it though, because we can’t mention you-know-who.”

Liz nodded, unable to think of a better idea and willing to go along with the fabrication in the interest of protecting their friends, and in the interest of getting Einar moving towards the cabin, as well.  She had hated the thought of seeing him try to endure another night out in the open, the three of them trying to share the single too-small rabbit fur blanket and he likely insisting on patrolling the area half the night, when they could instead be back at the warm cabin with all their bear hides and a pot of soup simmering away on the stove…  All of which, she reluctantly reminded herself, they were about to have to walk away from, anyway, so she had better be getting used to the idea of doing without, once again.  Hoped they could at least save most of the hides, cache them somewhere and return for them at some point, even if they must be carried one at a time out of the area and to wherever they ended up settling, next…  Perhaps it ought not have surprised her how attached she had become to their little home, site of so much hardship, sweat and sorrow, but a place of joy as well, shelter that had given them many warm nights, birthplace of their first child, but she knew there would be other places, another home waiting for them out there in the vastness of the timbered wilderness; Einar, to whom the entire high, wild place was home, would find them a spot just as he had found this one, and in the meantime, they had a lot of work to do, preparations to make and a hill to climb.

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