Dixon remained seated.
“Well? Are you coming?” She glanced his way.
His shoulders slumped as he slowly exhaled. “I’m coming,” he finally said, “but not because I want to get this over with, or because you’re some kind of burden to me.”
“I suppose it’s just your good nature, your intent to be . . . charming, that motivates you. Is that it? Well, never mind,” she spat as she turned away again.
“Stop right there.”
Startled, she halted in her tracks, then slowly turned to face him.
“Let’s get something straight here. I’m not going with you to prove to you that I am anything other than what I am. I am not going with you out of some sense of duty, or of guilt. I’m not going with you because no one else would have accompanied you. I’m going because . . . because you’re—”
“Because I’m what?” she interrupted, her voice hard.
He shook his head. He wasn’t even sure what he’d been about to say. That he was with her because she was his love, his wife, his . . . life? He closed his eyes. Then, “I’ll do whatever I can to help you,” he said, “but there’s little I can accomplish if you insist on blaming me for your predicament—for something I can do nothing about.”
She looked down. “Good advice,” she responded snippily upon turning her gaze back, clearly choking on a sneer, her fists clenched.
“I know. It was yours.”
She scowled. “What are you talking about?”
“Those were the very words you threw at me once when I tried to blame you for something that was not your fault. You told me that you would not take on the blame or guilt that did not belong to you . . . that I was wrongfully punishing you.” He hesitated. “You were right to, and justified in, setting me straight.”
Slowly, her eyes softened and her fists unclenched. She rubbed her head, sighing deeply. “Dear Creovita,” she whispered, “it seems I’m forever apologizing.”
“Yes. I’m . . . sorry. I’m frustrated and I guess a little—”
Tears welled in her eyes. “Yes. Frightened.”
He longed to go to her, to hold her, to tell her that all would be well, but he dared not.
The sound of a hawk from afar caught her attention. She looked toward the source, then turned back and shuffled her foot in the sand. “I’m sorry,” she said again, her eyes flickering his way.
“It’s all right.”
“No, it isn’t, really. I’d like to think that it’s not like me, but . . . the truth is that . . . I don’t know.”
“Well, if it’s any consolation,” he stepped toward her, “it’s not.”
She shuffled her foot again. “It’s getting late.”
“I’m thinking maybe it would be better to wait until morning.”
“Yes,” he agreed again.
“We’re all right then?” Her eyes met his.
He smiled. “We’re good.”
They both stood, looking at one another, neither speaking.
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