Amid the Green Corn: Part Twelve

by Cooper Young

“You shouldn’t go in there.”

Simon froze at the door of his yurt. “Why do you say that?”

“I was asked to guard the door. I assume that’s how I’m supposed to go about it.”

He turned. Hunts by Night was seated at the nearest campfire. “Even against me?” Without taking his eyes from the flames, his stepson nodded. “Why?”

“Because you can’t help her any better than anyone else can. Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow. You can sleep at my place tonight if you like. The girls are taking care of each other.”

Simon put his hands in his pockets and moved away from the door. “I don’t think you understand how things are between your mother and me.”

“If I don’t it doesn’t matter. No one can help her with this.”

“We were friends before the Bond. I knew your father, and I knew her before either of us knew him. We were very close. And that was thirty years ago.”

“I know.”

“I remember when Alastair was born.”

“I know.”

“I was supposed to be his godfather. Clive didn’t like me, though, so it went to his brother.”

“I know.”

“He didn’t know half as much about her as I did. Not about her troubles, not about anything. No offense meant, or…”

“Dad, I know,” he said. He still didn’t look up. Simon was silent, scuffing at the dirt with the toe of his boot. “If anyone, living or dead, could comfort her now, it would be you. There’s no ego in that, and you’re right to feel that way. Problem is that no one living or dead can comfort her now.”

A log fell, sending up a shower of sparks. One fell amid Night’s black curls and slowly flickered out. His elbows didn’t leave his knees. “Is it because it was Michael?”

“No.”

“Because I’ve never even met the brat.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“He and Ryan don’t get along and…”

“Doesn’t matter.” He fell silent again. “Come sit down. I hate it when you pace that way.”

“I’m not pacing.”

“You’re lurking.”

“And you’re your mother tonight.” He sat down beside him.

“She’s not herself, so I might as well be.”

“Who is she tonight, then? Mrs. Brastas?”

Night waited a long time before he answered. “I don’t know who she is tonight. Neither does she. That’s the problem. That’s why we can’t fix it. I…uh, when we lost Maxie…um, me and Ang, I mean, not Ma and me and Alastair. The second Maxie, that is…”

“You don’t have to talk about that.”

“I do if you want to understand. I…I wasn’t any help to Ang. I tried. I couldn’t be. It’s different for women. Losing a child. No matter how old we get we’re still part of them on a…I guess a visceral level. There’s much more of their identity tied up in kids. Maybe it’s something we do to them, something men make them feel. Maybe it’s just the physical toll. I don’t know.

“I thought it was different for her than it had been for Ma with her Maxie, but I realized tonight that it’s not really. It’s just different losing a first-born. It’s not that they love them more…Ma never did get over Max.”

“I know.”

“It’s just that’s where the identity switches over, with the first. They become whole new animal. A whole new person. Maiden, mother, crone. You lose that child…”

“You lose the switch.”

“That’s my theory, anyway. She’s sitting in that tent alone with him just…lost. Lost somewhere between phases of herself.  Tomorrow she’ll be back to being Ma to the rest of us. The shock’ll clear.  Tomorrow she’ll be sadder and angrier than a human really has any right to have to bear. You can help her with that. You can hold her; you can help her paint the green fields red. Tomorrow. Not tonight.”

Simon nodded, and found he had adopted Night’s position–his elbows on his knees, his hands folded with his chin resting on them. “So what do I do tonight?”

“Do you need something to do?”

“It would sure as hell help. I was supposed to be…” Simon’s throat grew tight.

“I know. Want to guard the door with me?”

“Is that working for you?”

Night shut his eyes. “Not really, no.”

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