My father found me still in bed. My sister-in-law had let him in. When I heard them talking in the hall outside the bedroom I made a mental note to make sure I re-hid the hide-a-key somewhere they wouldn’t find it.
“Anna?” The knock on my door was barely a formality, and it opened immediately after. He grunted and came to the bed, sitting down beside me. I didn’t respond. Being found in the fetal position clutching Eric’s old gym shirt to my nose made bland reassurances as to my mental health impossible. Maybe if I hadn’t been ignoring their calls and refusing to leave the house I could have called it a temporary setback, but not like this.
“He wouldn’t have wanted you to give up like this, Anna,” my father said, not looking at me directly. “I know it’s hard, but you have to move on. At least go through the motions of living again.”
I closed my eyes. If anyone else had come, I might have shouted at them about things they could never understand. But I couldn’t say that to my father.
“I was lucky,” he said. “I had you, still, to keep me going. Whether I wanted to or not, I had to keep food on the table and pay the bills. Laura says Eric went to a lot of trouble to be sure you’d be taken care of properly, if anything ever happened to him, and you’ve got a long life in front of you, still. Seems like a right shame to make all his efforts a waste.”
I wiped the tears off my cheeks. Trust Laura to tell him. Eric’s sister had also been his lawyer, and as a result she’d known more about his will than I had. It also meant she knew exactly how much money I had. I’d been told it was enough that I’d never have to work again if I didn’t want to.
“Maybe it would’ve been better if he hadn’t taken quite such good care of you,” my father mumbled. “It would’ve given you something to do, if you’d had to work for food.”
I snorted. Laura wouldn’t have let me starve, even if he’d had the heart to do it, and knowing my father, I had my doubts about that too.
“Why don’t you go back to school or something?” he asked me. “Study all that mythology and religion that you’ve been reading about. Your mother always wanted to do that, you know. She was going to wait until you started school, then start taking classes…”
I didn’t have to wonder why he trailed off. He’d never liked talking about Mom. His weight shifted on the mattress and I felt him rise.
“Think about it, Anna. If not for your own sake, for his, and if not for his memory, then out of pity for your old man. It breaks my heart to see you this way, you know? So much like…” he cleared his throat. “Just think about it.”
I watched him leave, heard the murmur of his voice through the door as he talked to Laura. And then he was gone, and so was she.
But the things he’d said? They didn’t have the courtesy to go with him.
Thirty-one and a half.
I started with a class on Medieval literature. By the end of it, I could hear the name Erik the Red without my stomach twisting into a tight knot of anguish. Baby steps.
Somehow, I even made friends. With people who weren’t my in-laws. But I still spent most of my time with Laura and her husband. They’d had a baby girl named Katie a few months before the accident. She had Eric’s laugh. I liked to imagine it meant she had a little piece of him inside her, so he’d never be gone completely. So part of him still lived on.
And we had thought we were so smart, waiting to have children until we were ready.
Waiting should be a dirty verb. From now on, I was going to live all-in.
Iceland was a research project for my PhD. I’d put off the trip as long as I could, and then some. I’d fought against learning Old Norse, concentrating on German instead, and avoided all the classes on Norse myth for as long as they let me get away with it. But now I was in Iceland, staring at land so beautiful and broken it made my heart ache.
In a wild panic, I’d made Laura promise to come visit me before I left, terrified of what waited for me there. She had found the whole thing funny, but of course she didn’t know about Donar. She didn’t know that I’d spent my entire marriage having conversations with a voice that called itself a Norse god, and Iceland – well, the only place more likely to hold those old gods was arctic Norway.
I should have picked a different field of study.
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