The day after Christmas was much quieter than the two preceding days had been. Everyone seemed more than ready to dress comfortably and just lounge around, talking, eating leftovers. Eden, having gotten Marshall through Christmas Day night alive, let herself relax into being at the Inn. Marshall, in fact, went about the Inn all day in a navy blue sweatsuit and soft suede slippers. He knew that would say to Eden that he planned on staying inside and that, in itself, would help her relax.
Marshall sat on the couch in the parlor, listening to the crackle of the fireplace, breathing the scent of burning wood, the pine of the Christmas tree, the chocolate from the plate of brownies on the coffee table, all of it delightfully mingling. Eden came from the kitchen, bringing him cider, and sat on the couch to his right. She settled on her left hip so she could curl into him and rest her head on his shoulder, her fingers moving up and down his arm.
"Mmmmm," she sighed.
"Mmmm? I take it that's a good mmmm?"
"A very good mmmm."
"You're happy." It was a soft statement.
"I'm cuddled next to you. 'Nuf said."
"Morgan's still napping?"
He turned his head to kiss her hair. "This is nice."
"And no sleeping drugs in the orange juice this year."
"Ah, I don't remember much about the day after Christmas last year."
"You were zonked for hours...and hours."
"Hersholtz' little cocktail, yes." He kissed her hair again. "I promise I'll remember today."
"Good," she sighed. "Much better."
They sat like that for a long time then heard Elizabeth clearing her throat behind them. "I...I'm sorry to disturb you but I've got Luke here and he says..."
"I need to talk to you, Marshy."
"I think I'll, um, go help Martha with getting lunch ready," Eden said, getting up. "Here, Luke, come sit beside Marshall on the couch, sweetheart."
Elizabeth guided him there then both women left.
Marshall slid his arm around Luke's little shoulders. "What's up, Luke?"
Luke was silent for a while then made a long sighing sound.
"That bad, eh?" Marshall asked and felt the movement in Luke's shoulders as he nodded his head.
"I'm trying, Marshy, I really am."
"I know you are."
"You have some big 'but's', don't you?"
"I'm scared." Luke's voice was very low and small.
"It's all right to be scared. Really, Luke, it is."
"I don't want Mama to know...not how much I am."
"Talk to me, Luke."
"One thing I liked to do was make forts, you know, with pillows and blankets and chairs and stuff like that."
"I used to do that."
"And...and it was fun, you know, to get way down inside like it was a cave or something, but now..."
Luke sighed deeply again. "Now it's like...it's like it's all fallen in on me and...and I'm trapped there in the darkness and I can't find the way out. I feel like...like I'm stuck there, Marshy, and I want to get out and go outside and see the grass and the clouds and...and Mama's face. I want to see Mama's face so bad!"
"Ah, Luke." Marshall pulled the little boy into his lap, wrapping his arms around him, and Luke started to cry. "I'm here," Marshall whispered. "I'm right here with you, Luke, inside the cave."
"Don't you miss seeing your mama's face, Marshy?"
"Oh, Luke, I never saw my mother's face, not once. I don't even really know what seeing is."
Luke stopped crying and straightened in Marshall's arms. "I still don't understand how you don't know what it is."
An odd look briefly crossed Marshall's face, then he said, "I've never done it, Luke, never seen anything, not in the whole time since I was born."
"But everybody knows what seeing is, Marshy. You have to know."
"It doesn't work that way, Luke. You have to have done it to know what it is."
"Well, Marshy, seeing is...seeing is...it's what you do with your eyes. You look at something and you see it."
Marshall smiled. "I've never looked at anything."
Luke's little hands moved up, his fingers finding Marshall's eyes, which Marshall quickly closed. "I forget they've always been broken. I don't know what that's like."
"I'm glad you know what seeing is, Luke. That makes being in the cave different because you remember what seeing is, you understand what it's like."
"I wish you'd seen your mama's face, Marshy, even just once."
Marshall blinked a few times and not just because Luke had finally removed his fingers from his eyelids. "That would have been nice, yes."
"I wish I could tell you about seeing, Marshy. There's all these colors an' things...and movement. I could see Daddy walking into the room and knew he was there before he even made a sound. Now...I don't know when he's there, not until he says something. I don't like that."
Marshall made the barest sigh. Always he'd wondered how that worked. Driving was an especial mystery to him. How in the world did someone KNOW where the other cars were, when the road turned, when the lights were red or there was a stop sign? He shook his head slightly, this talk with Luke coming right after a time when he'd been thinking deeply about the punctures in the black a year ago. If he permitted himself to dwell on it too much, he had to acknowledge he did still have a sense of disappointment that if that were, indeed, seeing he'd experienced, that was all he'd gotten...punctures in the black. There had also been what
Eden said were the snow-laden pine branches he'd passed through, but his mind had not been able to make any sense of them, form any connection to what they were, and they had become entirely nebulous to him.
He was finding talking with Luke somewhat disquieting, taking him back to the days after last Christmas when dealing with the punctures had been so new a thing. He'd think he had it all handled, securely locked away, then the memory of the punctures was there again. In Tuscany he'd asked Terry one night by the pool to describe the stars, wanting to know if they looked at all like punctures, and Terry had said they did. But there was a lot more to sight than that. There had to be. There had to be some way to know where other cars were. Even though he and Luke were in the cave together, it was still very different for them. Luke knew how people could tell where other cars were...and he didn't. It was still a much bigger deal than he wanted it to be. The punctures had changed some dynamic in him that he didn't really want changed. For the most part, he dealt with it and it didn't affect his daily life, but here so close to where it had happened and at the anniversary of its happening, his discomfort was stirring and Luke was very innocently adding to it. He squeezed his eyes tightly closed, his lips pressed into a line, then blew out a sharp breath.
"I tell you what, Luke, let's go over to the piano and I'll teach you something easy to play."
He sat with Luke on his lap, his hands over the boy's on the keys, gently moving his fingers into Yankee Doodle Dandy. After quite a few tries, Luke got the hang of most of the melody and laughed, pleased with himself.
Elizabeth came and gathered him up for lunch but Marshall sat there a while longer at the piano, his head lowered, eyes closed. He didn't even hear Eden come up behind him until she slid her hands over his shoulders.
"You all right, darling?" she asked when he started suddenly.
"Fine. I'm fine." He turned on the bench, lifting his face for her kiss. Eden's face, her lips softly on his. What did seeing her face mean? He moved his hand up, sliding his fingers along her cheek. This was how he knew his wife.
At lunch he was quiet, not engaging in conversation, his thoughts turned inward. Eden glanced to her side a lot, concerned by his quietness. After a while she left her hand on his thigh and he covered it with his. She was puzzled by his quietness. He'd seemed all right before his talk with Luke. How could that possibly have affected him? It must have, though, because his mood was so different afterwards.
As soon as lunch was finished, she said, "I need to go nurse Morgan. Come with me, darling, ok?"
Once she was settled in the rocker in their room with Morgan to her breast and Marshall was sitting on the bed, she asked, "What happened with..." but his cell rang.
"Hello," he said, holding it to his ear.
"Terry!" Marshall smiled widely. "Merry Christmas. Where in the world are you?"
"Amalie and I are in Toronto, Marshall. Are you in Pittsburgh? We thought we might drive down."
"We're at the Morning Glory Inn, Terry, three hours closer to you. Eden and I'd love to see you two. Can you come here?"
"Ah, um, would we be welcome?"
"Welcome? I'd say you would! And there's plenty of room. When can you come?"
"Well, we're done here and we can leave any time."
"Leave now. You'll be here before dinner."
"Couldn't be more sure. I'd love for you to meet all the folks here and it would mean a lot to me to have them meet you. You'll come?"
"On my way," Terry chuckled. "Just give me the address for my GPS and I'll be knocking on your door later today."
When they'd hung up, Marshall sat there, a large smile on his face which made Eden smile to see. It hadn't worked out for Terry to come since they'd left Tuscany. She remembered the rather sad parting between the two men, aware Terry thought Marshall might die before he could see him again.
"This is great, Eden," Marshall said. "Isn't it great."
"Very great, indeed." She owed Terry Marshall's life and she'd become very fond of him herself during the time he'd stayed at their house and while in Tuscany.
"I'd better let Martha know," he said, getting up and going to the door. "Be back in a minute."
Downstairs he found Martha in the kitchen with Elizabeth, Edith, Connie and Ryan. "Guess what?" he said, his face alight.
"Looks like good news, Marsh," Ryan grinned.
"Terry's coming, Terry and Amalie. He just called from Toronto and they're driving down. Martha, is that all right? I told him he could stay here. Guess I should've cleared it with you first but I was so pleased he was coming I didn't..."
"This is the Terry who found you tied to the tree in the Yucatan, right?" she asked.
"The very Terry."
"Marshall, I'd drive to Toronto myself and pick that Terry up. Of course he's welcome. He's more than welcome."
Marshall sat at the table and told Martha and Elizabeth the story of how Terry had found Amalie trapped under the wall and saved her life. Ryan and Connie spoke up, adding bits here and there.
"I like your Terry," Martha chuckled. "I'm looking forward to having him here."
"Means a lot to me, Martha. He's just...just..."
"So very Terry," Ryan laughed.
"Yes, yes, he is," Marshall added. "And he almost gave his life saving mine. Ah, I have to get back upstairs. I told Eden I'd only be gone a minute or two."
When he'd gone, Ryan folded his arms around his mother. "This is good, Mom. I can see what this means to Marsh and I like the fellow a lot myself."
Marshall was humming under his breath as he came back into their bedroom. "Everything's fine with Martha about them coming. This is great," he said again.
Eden handed Morgan to him so she could fasten the nursing flap of her bra. "And you, little guy, he hasn't gotten to meet you yet," Marshall smiled, kissing the top of his son's head.
Eden sat down in the rocker again, watching the two males she loved best in all the world. Whatever mood her husband had been in had been lifted by the call. Thank you, Terry, she breathed silently. She wished he'd been able to be there for Christmas. Always she felt somewhat less anxious about Marshall when Terry was around.