The Long Retreat No. 54

Sif kept to herself, sitting across the clearing from Alfhilde and Hrothgar. She’d spoken a little with all of the others about little things, and played with Jakob a little bit before the baby had gone to sleep. She wasn’t sure how she felt, besides quiet and thoughtful—raw, maybe. Unsteady. Sad, too. She had reason.

It wasn’t a crippling sadness, though, like it had been. She reflected that holding it in had been worse than letting it out. She had worried that the others would look at her and see a burden, if she let them in, but she’d been wrong. She was still getting used to the idea that people genuinely cared for her, and not for anything she brought to the table. She couldn’t remember a time she’d felt safer than when Alfhilde held her while she cried.

An image came to her. She was with Hrothgar’s family—a part of it. They all gathered cozily before a hearth, talking and laughing. She blinked, and it was gone. Shivering, she drew her bedroll tighter. Was that something she really wanted?

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