“Golde, the first time I met you was on our wedding day” ~Tevye, The Fiddler on the Roof
She was glaring at him, and he avoided her eyes. He noticed her wrist still bleeding a little into the back of the little boy’s shirt.
“Come on…let’s get that cleaned up.” He was still dazed, but he had a feeling that that would pass and he would be feeling extremely self-conscious soon. He headed toward the cabin, glancing over his shoulder to make sure she was following, which she did after a second. He wasn’t sure what he would find in the cabin, but moving from that fateful circle seemed to be the first thing to do.
He got to the cabin and tested the door. It didn’t have a handle but swung easily inward. The room felt small and smelled sort of musty and earthy. He moved forward, and bumped his thighs into something. He felt, and found a table. He leaned on it and moved it, it wasn’t too rickety. Good. He turned over his shoulder and saw Trista dimly outlined in the doorway.
“Well, we have a table.”
He felt his way around, finding shelves with some packages. His hand found some waxy, tapered rods. Candles. He took one and hurried back out into the field. Finding the dying fire, he blew aside some ashes and coaxed a flame onto his candle. The bright light and his small success buoyed him, and he returned to the house with his precious flame sheltered behind a cupped hand. With Trista, he stood in the house and turned around, looking. There was a fireplace in one wall, shelves with packages and tools on all the walls. There were a couple stools under the table, and in one wall; another doorway. Trista entered it, and he followed with the light. He held it up over her shoulder. There was a bed, just big enough for a couple people, and beside the bed a low trundle bed. There were some old looking blankets on them, but at least there was bedding. Trista pulled down the covers of the bigger bed and laid the child, their son, in it and covered him up. He did not wake. She stood watching him for a moment, her arms drooped. Her wrist seemed to have stopped bleeding, but he still knew the blood should be cleaned away. He spied a bucket near the door of the room.
“Trista?” She looked up.
“I’m guessing that there is water somewhere nearby.”
She nodded. “I heard water off…” she paused and turned, orienting herself. “…that way,” she pointed toward the east. “while we were waiting for you.”
“Thanks.” Gaelin reached across the bed to hand her the candle, then picked up the bucket and made his way out of the cabin.
He found the stream after walking east for a few minutes. There wasn’t any sort of trail that he could see, and going down hill was sometimes tricky in the deceptive, gray light. Returning to the cabin with the bucket, he found her in the cabin with a cloth set out on the table, as well as a small pot and what appeared to be oatmeal. She had brushed the dead leaves out of the fireplace onto the floor, and was building a fire in it, using the candle carefully. She pointedly ignored his entrance, concentrating on her work. As Gaelin watched her, he saw that though she was careful with the fire, she didn’t act afraid of the small flames. Her movements were gentle and precise, feeding the fire with small twigs, then building a log cabin frame of larger branches that she had apparently gathered while he was gone.
When the fire lit the room with a warm glow, Trista sat back on her heels, then rose and came to sit at the table with Gaelin. He dipped the cloth in the bucket and offered it to her. After wiping the dried blood off her own wrist, she handed it back and he cleaned his own and inspected it in the light of the fire. The dark red line on his wrist widened and shone as it bled slowly.
“I’m still bleeding a little, what about you?”
“Yeah, me too.” She left off tossing the dead leaves into the fire and retrieved a second cloth from a shelf. “We don’t have very many of these.” She warned, but she used a knife and her fingers to carefully tear two strips from it.
“My name is Gaelin Windsor.” He said as he began winding his strip firmly across the cut and around his wrist. “I’m seventeen. How old are you?”
“I’m seventeen too, and I guess my name is Trista Windsor.”
“What is your maiden name? Where are you from?”
She didn’t answer; she was using her teeth and one hand to try to knot her bandage. He glanced down at his own untied bandaged and wondered if he could do that too. He began working on it while he waited for her to answer. After a minute, he began to concentrate on the task, but the tips of the bandage proved a little two short for him to tie without two hands.
“Here, let me do that.” Gaelin glanced up around his hand that was nearly pressed against his face. I probably look like an idiot. he thought to himself ruefully, and he extended his wrist over the table to her with some embarrassment that one end of the cloth strip was wet with his saliva. She didn’t seem to mind though; she treated the ends the same and soon had them knotted. She seemed pretty unflappable about things like fire and dirt, for a girl.
“My name used to be Trista Mackey.”
“Would you prefer that I call you that if I ever need to?”
She stared at him. “We are married.” She stumbled a bit over saying that, but continued bravely. “Didn’t you feel the power of that bond? My name is Windsor and we are bound to this land and to each…” Her voice caught and she turned quickly to the fire and began feeding the dead leaves from the floor into it again, one by one. Perhaps it was hard to tell in the uncertain dawn and firelight, but Gaelin thought he saw a flush rise from her neck to her cheeks. He thought about that bed in the other room, then shoved the thought away.
“I have been raised to know the power of the magics of the moon, and of the bond of fire, blood, and water. I guess your family is also like this.” She nodded assent. “But I didn’t know what was going to happen tonight.” She glanced up at him. “I didn’t choose this.”
“Do you wish this hadn’t happened?”
Of course don’t want this! But then, am I really in such a bad place? Yes. I’m married, without being given a choice, to a girl I never met before an hour ago. I’m in an isolated place and need to live on limited resources. We have to take care of a child. I can’t go back to my old life. But, what was my old life anyway? Still, I wish that if I had to play the Swiss Family Windsor, I could play it with someone I knew. I wanted a choice, and I sort of hoped that a woman would choose to marry me because she liked me.
Gaelin looked at Trista. Her eyes were shadowed by the fire and looked rather haunted. “I’m sorry that you got dragged into whatever this is. The main reason I wish I wasn’t here was because I didn’t have a choice, because you didn’t have a choice, and because that kid sleeping in there is not ours, so he belonged to someone else, and who knows who that is? But listen, we are where we are. I can’t really change that right now. I’ll…try to be a good…partner…and take care of you and Dion.
Gaelin turned and looked through the door of the bedroom at Dion, still sleeping in the bed.
“You can have the bed.” he told her. She looked up from the fire again. “I’ll kip on the floor, ok? Honestly, I could sleep anywhere right now.”
She nodded a little stiffly. “Thanks.” She gave the fire one more poke, then rose and headed into the bedroom. Gaelin watched her pull the blanket off the trundle bed. It turned out to be a decent sized blanket tucked around that little mattress. He took it and lay down across the doorway of the bedroom. It felt like the right place to be, even though there was little but dirt beneath him. Trista carefully climbed into the bed with the little boy. Then after a moment came those familiar words, spoken hesitantly, as if they did not like to be used in this other-worldly situation.
“Good night, Gaelin”
“Good night, Trista”
The grey dawn brightened quickly but the red sun found the two teens and the child fast asleep. Weary from the long night, Gaelin slept deep and dreamlessly until the sun was high, but continued to doze until a sudden, queer feeling brought him to full alert in a split second.