‘How long will you be gone?’ She tries to keep the anxiety from her voice but fails.
‘Until the thaw,’ he says, voice gruff.
All she sees is Patrick’s back, broad, blank as the hills that surround their cabin. He fills the tiny bedroom, heavy furs the same dun brown as the wooden walls. He doesn’t fit with the indoors, with the shutters, the rag rug she made from old dresses, the lamp with its blackened glass chimney. His world is the deep woods, the river contracted in its icy husk, the smell of hot blood and cold air.
She remembers her mother’s words, speaking through her pinched nose, her pursed lips. What will you do when he’s trapping, Sara? Knit? Darn socks all winter?
How sweetly simplistic her mother’s view of their lives was, as if the greatest hardship Sara would face through the long lonely season was to prick her finger.
Patrick turns, face clean shaven for the last time in months. ‘The Tappers are only a mile away up the valley.’
She nods. Only a mile. But what will sniff just outside the door? What will scratch the bedpost as she lies awake?