He moved a few feet to her side, away from the wafting smoke, and sat. A memory came to mind of a night shortly after the twins were born when he’d accompanied Mara to find a safe place for them. He could never have imagined back then that the two of them would have ended up together for all these years. That night, as they’d sat near a campfire very like this one, Mara informed him that she didn’t want him to travel with her any longer. She’d rightly ascertained that he’d blamed her—unfairly—for Rowena’s death, and she refused to deal with him in light of it. He’d been wrong to blame her. For some time thereafter, he believed his charge’s death was his own fault. But over time, he’d come to appreciate the truth: the blame for what had happened to Rowena belonged to others. Fortunately, he and Mara got past their early difficulties. He chuckled involuntarily at the bittersweet memories.
“What?” she asked.
Still smiling, he shook his head. “Nothing. Just thinking.”
She watched him. “Me too.”
His eyes flashed up. “Oh? You’re thinking, huh? About anything in particular?”
She picked up a stick, then turned the potatoes. Sparks flew up, up, up into the cool air. She glanced from one to the other of the two half moons in the sky and then turned back. She added more sticks to the flames. Then, “I was just thinking,” she said, “that I don’t really know— That is, I can’t remember . . . I mean, I . . .”
She faced him full on, blinking repeatedly as though in doing so, she might clear up her missing memory. “You told me that I took a fall and hit my head.”
“And that’s why I don’t remember some things.”
“Right again.” He turned the cooking meat.
“But . . . what was I doing there in the first place?”
He opened his mouth as though to speak, then closed it. He tilted his head. “It’s a long story,” he then said.
“I’ve got time.”
“Right.” He tapped a rhythm with his hand to his thigh. She hadn’t asked him anything until now, and he couldn’t leave her questions entirely unanswered. But how much could he tell her without frightening her?
“Well, you lived there . . . at the compound.”
“Hmmmm.” She hesitated. “For how long?”
Mara had lost nearly two decades. What could he say? He didn’t want to confuse her unnecessarily, but she finally seemed ready to talk and he certainly hoped something might trigger her memory. “For some time,” he finally responded, noncommittally.
“Who were all those people there?”
“Like I told you before, they were your friends. They are your friends. A sort of family, really.”
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