A Different Blue Page 71

“Can I leave my truck where it's at?” I asked Wilson, attacking the bark, my eyes on the branches.

“Are the keys in it?”

I patted my pockets and groaned. “Yeah. They are. Never mind. I'll go move it and lock it up.”

“I'll do it. I've seen that look before. Blue is in the zone,” Wilson commented wryly, and he turned and left without another word.

I worked frantically for several hours, stripping and snipping, sanding and shaving, until my embracing branches lay bare and naked on the concrete. My hands were raw and my back screamed when I stepped back to take a breather. I had pulled off my flannel shirt sometime in the course of the night, growing too warm from my labor and the small space heater that Wilson insisted I use, blasting in the corner. I'd twisted my hair into a sloppy braid to keep it out of my face and safe from the sander. It had grown so long that the braid kept falling over my left shoulder like a heavy vine. I was considering lopping it off when I heard a key scrape in the lock and the basement door swing open with a rush of cold air. Wilson shut the door behind him, shivering a little from the wintery blast. He wore a T-shirt and those low-slung jeans, the ones I had tried not to notice the first time he'd worn them. My keys were in his hand, and an irritated expression made a crease between his grey eyes.

“It's midnight, Blue. You've been down here working non-stop for five hours.”


“So . . . it's midnight!”

“All right, Grandma.”

The scowl between Wilson's brows deepened. He closed the distance between us, his eyes taking in my unkempt appearance.

“You were gone for three days, and I'm guessing you hardly slept the whole time you were gone, yet here you are, working like you're under a deadline or something. Your jeans are torn, you were limping earlier, and your cheek is scratched,” Wilson argued. He ran a finger down the angry welt on my cheekbone. I reached up to push his hand away, but he captured my hand and turned it over, running his fingers over my palm, straightening my fingers, noting the callouses and the scrapes I had acquired in the last few days. Goose bumps rose on my arms and tickled my neck. I shivered and pulled my hand away. I crouched beside my project and resumed sanding.

“So why didn't you tell me?”

“Hmm?” I didn't stop working.

“You said you didn't leave without telling anyone where you were going. You just didn't tell me. Why?”

“You've been avoiding me for a while, Wilson, which gave me the impression that you wouldn't be bothered by my absence.” My words were blunt, and I boldly held his gaze.

Wilson nodded, pulling his lower lip into his mouth, chewing on my accusation. But he didn't deny that he had purposely stayed away.

“I thought maybe you and I needed some distance. It's been only two months since Melody was born. Our . . . relationship . . . has been forged on some pretty intense experiences.” Wilson formed his words carefully, pausing between thoughts. I didn't like that he was so deliberate. It felt patronizing. But he continued in the same tone, speaking precisely and slowly.

“I thought maybe you needed some time and some . . . space. Without drama, without . . . me . . . or anybody else. Just space.” Wilson looked at me intently, his grey gaze sober and steady.

I laid down my tools and stood, putting space – the thing Wilson was so convinced I needed – between us. I shivered, freezing now that I had slowed my pace. The cold of the concrete floor had seeped up through the soles of my feet, and my torn jeans and thin tank top were suddenly insufficient to ward off the chill. I turned my back to Wilson and reached my hands toward the heater, trying to pull the warmth into my stiff fingers and arms.

“Do you remember that story Jimmy told me? The one about Tabuts the wise wolf and his brother Shinangwav, the coyote?” I tossed him a questioning look over my shoulder.

“The one about the people carved from sticks? The one you told me to school me on the unfair socio-economic structure throughout the world?” Wilson's mouth twisted wryly, and he walked toward me, grabbing my flannel shirt off the floor where I'd discarded it. He placed it around my shoulders, and then folded his arms around me, resting his chin on my head. His heat felt so good, so right, that I closed my eyes against it, against him and the ease which he held me, as if I were his sister or a favorite cousin. I didn't feel at all sisterly toward Wilson. And as good as his arms felt wrapped around me, there was pain in the pleasure.

“When I was a child, that story never made any sense to me. Why would people want to be alone?” The wistful tone of my voice was revealing, and Wilson's arms tightened around me. I kept my eyes closed, a sudden weariness crawling into my muscles and limbs with the heat that surrounded me.

“I thought Shinangwav was the smarter brother. He knew people would want to be in bunches. I pestered Jimmy constantly for a mother or a sister or a handful of friends. A wise wolf should know that people would rather be together.”

Wilson turned me in his arms and smoothed the tendrils of hair from my cheeks. I wanted to keep my eyes closed, fearing that if I opened them when we stood this close they would give me away. But the proximity made keeping them closed seem expectant, as if I were waiting for him to kiss my lips, so I opened them and raised them wearily to his.

“Sometimes I feel like I was one of those who was left in the sack while everyone else was falling out in groups,” I whispered.

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