Out of the snow. Out of the smoke. Lindonna was at the inner hatch waiting for him.
He saw the look of worry. The expression of concern. And then she saw his black eye. Worry changed to anger. Disappointment. Shame. Resignation.
He couldn’t hold her eyes. He studied the floor.
“Well,” she said finally. It hung in the air between them. She waited.
Barras had nothing he could say.
“Kelvin found me on the way back from the co-op. Said you’d been sacked. When you weren’t here, I thought maybe,” she swallowed. She didn’t finish the thought. “Did you put any ice on that eye?”
Barras shook his head.
Lindonna opened the hatch and stepped into the entryway.
The larger man caught her arm as she passed. “I’m not worth the loss of your heat.”
“No you’re not,” she answered. She pushed past and opened the outer hatch, retrieving a handful of snow. She returned, shutting the hatches behind her. “Here. Put this over your eye. It’ll take the swelling down.” She shook the moisture off her hand.
“Are the kids in bed?”
“Yes. They wanted to play with you, but I told them you’d be home late.”
Barras closed his eyes and nodded. “I’ll get my things and go,” he mumbled.
Lindonna caught his arm. “What did you say?” A dangerous fire dwelled in her voice.
“I got in a fight again. I know what you said after last time.” Barras kept his voice quiet and his eyes on the floor.
Lindonna’s breath came heavy. “Oh, oh…” She shook her head. “No, Warmth of My Heart. No.” She tried to embrace him.
Barras stepped back.
“You went how long without a fight? How long? No. You’re staying. I’m not kicking you out. Not again. We need you. I don’t need some worker for a heat baron to provide for me. I need you. You, Barras Tenyer. The man I married. When you didn’t come home, I thought – I thought you –” Lindonna shook her head. She sniffed. “You put too much of yourself into your job. You always have.”
Barras wrinkled his nose. He kept his eyes on the floor.
“Barras Tenyer, you are my man. I married you. I’ve been angry at you. I’ve wanted to kill you. But this isn’t your fault. You didn’t go and take apart your ‘shovel. I don’t hold you responsible for losing your job. You’re still my man.”
Barras’s eyes flicked off the floor and back down again. “What do I tell the kids?”
“It doesn’t matter. We’ll figure it out.”
Barras wrapped his arms around his bride. He sank to his knees. She sank with him. They held each other.
Outside, the wind sang.
Read more of the world of Snow and Smoke here.
Read the previous story, Trespassing on Dying Songs, here.
Read the next story, Despising Dying Songs, here.