In the morning I was slouched against the door, and my body was stiff from lying there for half the night. I woke when it moved behind me, pushing against me.
“Hello?” my husband called. “Something’s stopped the door!”
I staggered up to my feet and let him in.
He smiled, “The neighbors hope you feel better after yesterday.” He kissed my cheek and walked in to warm himself by the fire.
I pushed the door closed and pulled my feathered cloak closer around me.
“Did you mean to come out?” he asked, noticing my attire. “It was better you stayed after that wolf attacked you. You know better than to go near the woods at this time of year. How is your arm?” He drew me near, pushed back my sleeve and uncovered the bandage.
“It’ll heal,” I said.
He was careful, took up a bucket still full of water, and bathed my arm, then dug through my work basket for a clean cloth and re-bandaged my injury. “Good?” he asked, watching me.
He had done well. I nodded. “I’ll make a poultice for it later.”
“You can’t grind with one hand,” he said. “Tell me what to get, I’ll do it.” He got up and started to gather up dried meat, root vegetables, lard. “Did you eat yet this morning?”
I shook my head and watched, stunned, as he began to prepare a meal.
He laughed at my wonderment. “I did make my own meals before you came, you know.”
I shook my head. “Did you notice anything last night? Did you see… anything?”
“Other than some revelers making themselves sick… no. What should I have seen?”
“Nothing. Just… our children…”
He looked at me with a small sad smile. “That will come in time, I know it will.” He cleared his throat. “For now, you just worry about not being attacked by wolves anymore. I knew I should have gone out myself. I just had a feeling.”
We were always hers, my girl had said to me. Suddenly the room seemed too small and close and I drew a steadying breath to press back a wave of nausea. In the corner where we slept, our bed was against the wall in its accustomed place. On the opposite wall was a small chest where my husband kept tools, and a second work basket of mine, full of mending.
The room started to spin and I broke into a sweat and felt the bile rise in my throat. I jumped up and, frantic, threw the latch on the window, and vomited.
The cold air felt crisp and cleansing against my sweating face. I took a few deep breaths, felt my husband’s hand on my back. “Are you ill?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so.” When I turned back into the room, he pressed a mug of ale into my hand and guided me back to my chair. I sipped the cup down slowly.
“You should eat, and then rest some. This time of year…” He looked at me with concern, and then went back to cooking.
I stroked the feathers at my shoulders, then got up and went to my work basket beside my spinning wheel and loom. The pouch was there, the gold was there. Nestled in among the skeins was a small chunk of pale wood, whittled into an animal form. I pulled it out and held it up to examine.
“That’s a pretty piece of work,” my husband said behind me, setting out plates down on the table.
It fit in my palm, a perfect and beautiful owl.