While it didn’t help much with the remembering, past day or two remaining something of a blur in his mind, Einar’s breakfast of banana, peanut butter and milk did help a great deal with his present ability to remain awake and sitting upright, so he tried some more, struggling a bit to get it down but more or less managing the task without inhaling too much of the stuff. As Susan had predicted, the thicker texture really was easier to swallow without accidentally ending up in a choking fit
Liz sat with him feeding Will, who was then awake and wanting to be part of the action—really wished to be chasing and harassing the raven, but for the moment his hunger was winning out—and making sure Einar’s mug stayed reasonably full, replacing what he drank. She knew his arms would be needing attention, ankles, back, the various places where Bill’s “hospitality” had left its marks, but of more immediate concern seemed to be his need to have some additional hydration and a bit of the nutrition that he so badly needed if the situation was to begin turning around for him. So long as he was busy at eating and drinking, she had no intention whatsoever of disturbing him with other matters.
Einar, however, needed no help being disturbed with other matters, proving more than capable of doing the job himself. Mug not even halfway empty he rose, fighting a wave of dizziness, winning, going with as much speed as he could muster over to the nearest window and scanning the encircling dimness of the timber. Susan was beside him.
“What do you see?”
“Just checking. Don’t know how long I’ve been…seems a while since I’ve been out to check on things.”
“Things are Ok out there. Bill’s keeping an eye on them for us, remember?”
Einar looked at her strangely, did remember, running a hand over the bandages on one arm and finding himself for a moment slipping back into the strangeness that had claimed him after that night. Fought it, blinking hard and focusing on little Will. Had to stay in the present. The entire situation had already spun too far out of any semblance of control; the last thing he needed was to lose what remained of his connection to the immediate events around him.
“Bill. Yeah, fine fellow, that one. Doubt he’ll miss much, when it comes to watching the place.”
“But you’d still like to be out there making sure, wouldn’t you?”
“Sure. Never did care too much for being cooped up in a house. Always preferred half-collapsed old mine tunnels myself, if I had to be cooped up somewhere.”
“I know, I know. You’ll be back out there soon, no doubt. The more you can eat now, rest and start to get back to your usual self, the sooner you’ll be ready for all that.”
“I’m ready for it now!”
Susan quite disagreed, wished, actually, that he might still let her do the IV to help him catch up on fluids lest he end up very soon in a desperate situation once again, but saw no benefit in saying so. “Well, the world’s not ready for it, not the way the search is going. Give it a few days, see what Bud says when he comes back, and maybe then it will be time.”
Einar nodded, dizzy, sat heavily back down at the table, suddenly feeling all of his injuries, feeling immensely weary and a little desperate. Seemed he really did have no more than two or three good minutes in him just then before he had to sit down again, or risk falling. Not a particularly reassuring set of circumstances, especially when one is down in unfamiliar territory and all but surrounded by those bent on one’s capture… Up in his own territory, in the high country, it wouldn’t have been so bad. Not as long as there was plenty of food for Liz and Will, and he didn’t urgently need to go out on the trapline. A fellow could just hunker down and wait it out, under such conditions, and he’d done so more than once. But here…well, he figured he’d better be having some more of that breakfast. Had to get his strength back. And prevent too much more of it leaving him while he was living the easy life stuck in this house, too. Could imagine that happening, and then where would he be once they were able to leave and head up into the hills, again? Wouldn’t be ready for it. Had to keep working on that, be on his guard against the complacency and softness he felt sure could easily overtake a man living an existence such as this.
To which end he got up and moved to another chair, further from the stove. He was still pretty chilly, seemed to have managed to get himself into a state where he was perpetually cold, of late, but it couldn’t hurt to give himself a bit more of a challenge in that regard. Worked quickly, as he was wearing a t-shirt Susan had given him, his elkskin vest but no sweater, left him soon shivering and clearly freezing even there in the warm kitchen, as he worked to finish up his mug of banana concoction. Susan brought him the sweater he’d been wearing before.
“How about you go ahead and put this on? You’re not going to be able to heal and get stronger very fast if your body is having to put all its energy into simply producing enough heat to keep you alive. And hypothermia isn’t going to do anything good for your blood pressure, either, or your ability to stay awake...”
“Thanks. Fine like I am. Plenty warm. Wide awake.”
“You’re turning purple.”
“If I was up in the basin…would be normal, all of this. Nothing to do about it. Be good if we could apply the same standard down here.”
“You’d prefer we just leave well enough alone and let you freeze to death right here in the kitchen, then?”
“Not going to happen, but yeah. That’s it.”
“Not in my kitchen, we won’t!”
Which created somewhat of an impasse, a potential problem had Einar’s adversary been a person less calm and steady than Susan, but as it was, the dispute appeared likely to remain good-natured, if somewhat serious.