The next morning was bright and sunny, though there was still snow on the ground. "Join me for a walk?" Terry asked Marshall.
"I'll need Wadsworth."
"Hey, can't go for a walk and not take the furry buddy."
Marshall found Eden in the parlor with Amalie. "Terry and I are going for a walk. Just wanted to give you a head's up."
Eden looked past Marshall to where Terry was standing, his face generally impassive but his eyes bright with meaning. Eden
understood. It was like him asking her to walk with him last evening. She smiled. "Have a good time, both of you." Wadsworth
made a slight noise and she laughed, "Ok, all three of you."
Marshall chuckled. "He speaks English, you know. Doesn't like to be left out."
"I'd never leave Waddy out," Eden added. "He's our firstborn son after all."
Marshall patted the big dog's shoulder, smiled, and turned to get the harness. When Wadsworth was fully geared and coats and
gloves donned, the two men headed out the kitchen door. "Where's a good place to walk?" Terry asked. "Eden and I went down
to the end of the dock yesterday."
"Off to the right there's a lane that runs along the lakeshore."
So they crossed the back yard, the small parking lot and turned down along the lane, which hadn't been plowed as it was just a
small side road and not the main one that circled the lake.
"You been down this way before?" Terry asked.
"By sleigh," Marshall replied, giving no indication of the deeper meaning connected with that.
Terry was aware of the Christmas night accident the year before. Both Ryan and Eden had spoken with him about it. The snow was only
about three inches deep on the lane and so walking wasn't hard.
"You'll describe for me?" Marshall suggested.
"Lake's about fifteen feet to our right. Kinda scrubby between the lane and the shore."
"Is there ice?"
"Yeah, about five or six feet out into the lake, there's a thin layer. Nothing that would support a man. To our left are a lot of small
pines with larger ones behind them. Looks like there's a fair amount of woods beyond.
"Pines, yes," Marshall whispered.
"You ok with coming down here?" Terry asked.
"Yeah, I do. Just over a year now, eh?"
"I shouldn't have agreed to come to the inn for Christmas. It's too hard for Eden."
"How hard is it for you, Marshall?"
"Not so bad. I love the scents, the familiarity of the place, the people here."
"What, other than Eden's memories, makes it hard for you?"
"Seeing." Marshall paused, tipping his head up into the sunlight. Despite the coolness of the day, he felt the warmth of it on his
cheeks. "What is the sun, Terry, besides being heat?"
"The sun? You know it's a..."
"I know what it is, how it was formed, why it's hot, but what is it for you when you look at it?"
"Well, you usually can't look right at it, not unless it's just rising or setting. It's so bright it would burn your eyes."
"Bright. Interesting word. I'd always applied that to stars, too, but..."
"But not anymore?"
"My concept of stars has taken rathermuch of a beating."
"I remember in Tuscany by the pool, you asked me about them."
"The punctures, yes. I have a hard time applying the word 'bright' to those. They were very small and not warm at all."
"If you were close to one, it would be warm, and very bright. It's the distance, that's all."
"Little suns, yes." He reached up his right hand, placing it on his cheek. "Warm. The sun is able to do that. That's what
I know of the sun, Terry. How is warm related to bright? What...is...bright?"
"That's a tough one, Marshall. Not all bright things generate heat, but a lot of them do."
"Light bulbs get hot," Marshall offered. "Fires."
"Do you know what flames are?"
"I've never actually put my hand in a fire. Not to say I haven't been tempted. I've been that curious about it."
Terry thought a moment. "You've run your hand along a feather, right? You know the general shape of them."
"I've smelled a burning feather. Not good."
"Yes, not good. But we're just talking feather shape here for the moment."
"Feather shape. Got it."
"Well, a single flame is shaped very much like a feather, only instead of being a static shape like that, it moves, waves,
Marshall paused again. "That's really helpful, Terry. No one's ever made that clear for me before. So in a fireplace,
then, there are a lot of feather-flames, all dancing together?"
"That's pretty much it."
"That means a lot to me. I've always loved sitting close to a fireplace but never had any idea what was really going
on in one."
"So then the sun is this enormous ball," Terry continued, "with feather-flames leaping off its surface, and even though
it's as far away as it is, it's so hot that we feel it here."
Marshall's hand went back to his cheek. "We feel it here." He'd taken off his glove earlier and the heat from his
cheek absorbed into his palm.
"And some things are so hot you can't touch them without getting burned. The bright of the sun is like that. It's so
bright you can't touch it with your eyes or they'll get burned."
They walked further down the lane, Terry describing as they went. "There's a large dead tree on the right now. It's
fallen so part of it's in the lake. There's ice all around that part and snow on the tree itself."
Marshall had heard about the snag. It was by it on the lane that the sleigh had tipped over. "It was here," he said
"Yes, Ryan said it happened on the lane by the snag."
"You ready to go back to the inn?"
"Not yet." He turned Wadsworth to the left, walking toward the landward edge of the lane, then he dropped the harness.
"I had Eden drive me here...after." He reached his hands out, crossing the berm, finding the small pines. "There are
big ones just beyond, right?"
"Yes, some very tall ones, in fact."
"And you know that without touching them even though you've never been here before."
Terry was silent, waiting on Marshall.
Again Marshall tipped up his face. "I was up by them, the big ones. I knew they were there even though I wasn't touching them."
His fingers were running over the tips of the needles on the smaller pines. "I know these are here and I know they're pines
because my hands are on them and I can smell them. But the ones up there...the high ones...I knew they were there, too. Only
I didn't know they were pines. I didn't know what they were."
He turned toward Terry. "I had no way to recognize them as pines." He closed his eyes. "I had no idea, none, that everything
would be so...different...that I wouldn't know what anything was."
"From what I've read," Terry said, "the ability to do that comes with a baby's experience of a seeing world."
"A seeing world. Not my world. Not my world at all." He snapped off a small pine bough. "It made me feel like an alien,
Terry, an alien in a world I'd always believed I was part of."
Terry had no experience comparable. "I imagine it would," he ventured quietly.
Marshall came back to the lane, still holding the piece of pine. "I conceive of pine like this, the soft prickles of the needles, the
way they move under my hand, the scent of them, even the stickiness of sap on my skin. But to see them. No, they were alien.
I was alien. How could I know pine by touch and scent but completely fail to know them by sight?" He dropped the small
branch into the snow. "It makes me feel...incompetent. It takes away from me all my assurances."
"Not as much. At first it nearly consumed me, more than I think Eden realized. Sight, understanding sight, had never been
so important before that, then suddenly it was everything. I couldn't write Morgan in my book any more. How could I
write a sighted man when I didn't know what sight was? But then Eden suggested she write him and I write the blind
young woman." He smiled a little. "That worked well for us and gradually, as time passed, this place, these trees, became
"Now I'm here again but it's more than that. It's that little Luke, even though he is now blind, he knows what pines look
like. He'll never see one again, only touch them and smell them, but still he will always know what seeing a pine...is."
"And he can't grasp why you don't? That's the trigger, right?"
"That's it. It's not real for him that I've never seen anything, that I was born this way. It's so different from his experience
of blindness and he wants to talk about it."
"So you need time again?"
"I think so. I thought I was doing better with it than I evidently am. I know Eden's aware of my struggle with it and that's
just another thing that adds to her stress in being here." He smiled in Terry's direction. "She's glad you're here. I think
she has this gut feeling that I'll be all right if you're around. You saved my life there in the Yucatan and then it was you
who first said I needed to see a hepatologist. I believe she'd be quite happy if you lived with us."
Terry chuckled. "I did enjoy my time at your house while I was recuperating. The furry fellow here makes a great running
"You're on your way back to London?"
"Thursday. I have things I need to tend to in my office there. Amalie can pretty much paint her romance novel
covers wherever she is."
"I was wondering...in the spring...if you two could come to Pittsburgh for a visit?"
"Might be possible. I'll have to see what's going on with my schedule then."
"I've got some pretty amazing computers. You're more than welcome to use them, you know."
"Just might happen," Terry grinned. "Now how about some hot tea?" He stamped his feet. "My toes froze a while back."
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