TWO NIGHTS

HE GLANCED AGAIN at his wife, and then, assured that she was still sleeping soundly, he tiptoed outside. The cool air envelopedDamascus Bowiehim, and he felt the adrenaline begin to pump through his veins in anticipation of the night ahead. Winter would arrive soon, and it was important that the job get done before the onset of snow. He fingered the thin blade resting in the folds of his thin shirt, and then he hurriedly picked up the dark fabric he had left on the porch the previous day. He pulled it over his head, for it was a cloak, and  opened the door to take one last peek inside the cabin.

The warm glow of the dying fire crackling in the fireplace

cast shadows over the small room, and made her face look dark, then light. He stared at her, his beautiful wife, her dark hair spread over the pillow, her face untroubled by sleep, unaware of the dangers he was sure to face. He sighed; she was so beautiful. She stirred, then rolled over to face where he was supposed to be. He held his breath, watching as she reached out for him, and afraid she might wake up, he crept silently towards the bed, and slid in, taking her hand in his. A contented smile settled on her face, and she sighed deeply in her sleep, her other hand wandering over her belly. He stared at the bulge that contained his child, and rubbed it carefully, wondering what it contained. She sighed again, pulling closer to him, and he knew that if he didn’t leave now, he never would.

Kissing her forehead, then her lips, one last time, he repeated his careful exit, taking one last glance  at her smiling face, and then leapt off the porch into the cool dark night, before he could have any second thoughts.

Sunrise

“Are you awake?” He groaned and rolled over; it had been a long night.

“Yeah.”

She laughed, leaned over, kissed his cheek and passed something under his nose. “Do you smell that?”

“YEAH!” He was awake in an instant, throwing back the covers and nearly knocking her over in his excitement.

“Calm DOWN, dear!” She laughed, and held the plate of steaming eggs away from him teasingly. “You do realize that this is our last bit of food?”

“What? I thought you were rationing everything!” His excitement fizzled like steam evaporating, and he settled back onto the bed.

“I did. But it’s been two weeks since we last got food. I think it’s time for you to go hunting, OK?”

Dang. There was no way he could.

“I…um” He stopped, and she looked at him quizzically.

“Is there a problem, honey? I’m only asking for a bit of meat, you know?”
He sighed. He hadn’t foreseen all of these complications. The baby was bad enough, food was just another problem he would have to deal with. He hadn’t planned things as well as he thought he had; as well as he could have. Why hadn’t he thought of this last night? Two nights ago, even. He shook his head, then got up and held her close to him, hoping she wouldn’t suspect anything. “No problem, dear. Anything for you and my Rosie”. She laughed, pulling away, relieved, and led him to the small block of wood they used as a table.

“It may not be a girl” she said, placing a fork in his hand.

“Oh, it’s a girl alright. Right you’re a girl, baby girl?” He spoke to her stomach, pushing away his troubles, and she laughed again.

He knew she wouldn’t be so happy if she had been awake just a few hours earlier, when he had arrived home.

“So, are you excited to be a daddy? I’ve always wanted to have a baby to call my own.” She kept talking to him, in her sweet, energetic way, touching her stomach whenever she felt a kick, and excitedly placing his hands on the baby too. He was distracted again though, and nodded and responded to her automatically, hoping she wouldn’t notice that his mind was elsewhere.

When he had come back, had he hidden the cloak? He had. But there was something else, he knew it, he had been exhausted; the stupid baby had kept her up the night before, a few little contractions, and he had stayed up with her… but he couldn’t go check now, she would notice…hopefully she wouldn’t go outside. Would she go outside?

“It’s a beautiful day outside!” Her cheery voice cut into his thoughts, overlapping on the word “outside” and he jumped, trying to think of something, anything, to keep her safe and inside.

“Uh.” His mind went blank.

She beckoned to him, “Come on, you lazy thing. We’ll wash the dishes later! I’m sick of being inside on a day like this!” And before he could stop her, she had opened the door. He held his breath, and she suddennly let out a squeal. He froze, heart beating almost as fast as before, when he had…

“It’s GORGEOUS OUTSIDE! COME ON!” He breathed again; she was only enjoying the weather in her crazy-happy way.

He sighed, walked out and took a deep breath.

“A storm’s a-comin'” he drawled, and she laughed and grabbed his hand, forcing him to run with her through the surrounding forest. She laughed delightedly at every bird and tree, every cloud and squirrel. It was only later, after they had eaten a meager lunch, that she found it.

“Is this…is this blood?” Her face was white, her hands shaking, as she held up a white linen cloth. “I was cleaning up the stable and on my way back…”

So he had forgotten something. Dang. He stared at it, eyes wide, mind racing.  “Yeah. I was-it’s one of my old shirts, and I was…wearing it last week and I cut myself…here.”

He opened his shirt a bit and showed her a bandage, hoping she wouldn’t notice how new it looked.

“You got hurt? Why didn’t you tell me?” She leaned forward to inspect it, but he jumped back and took her hands in his.
“Don’t worry, hon, I didn’t want you to worry so I didn’t tell you. I’m fine. Here, I forgot about it, I took it off so quickly, I didn’t want to stain it; that didn’t work though, did it? Ha ha…I’ll go wash it out.”
She didn’t say anything else, and he could only hope she believed him.

When they finally went to bed, she remembered the food situation, and insisted that he go hunt the next day.

“Winter is coming, and we will have a baby to feed in just a few weeks. I don’t think I can stand it any longer; I’m getting weak enough as it is, having to live for two people…” Her eyes were troubled, and he stroked her hair, trying to infuse her with strentgh.

“Three. You need to live for three people.” He smiled slowly, then turned over, trying to keep his body relaxed, so unlike the tense state of his mind. How was he going to pull it off?

Pregnant Woman Prostrate, Lying on the Ground

“I love you” she whispered into the silence. He looked over at her, thin and tired, with her long hair and her big green eyes, her swollen belly, and he wondered if she wondered why they were there, if she speculated about his many lame excuses. He could only wonder, he decided, because there was no way he could ever speak of the truth, not here, not now, and not to her. He noticed she was waiting for something, and, angry at himself for being such a jerk, he whispered,

“I love you too.”

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