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Wilder

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The sun was a sleepy eye on the horizon, a lid of darkness shuddering down almost unintentionally.

She draped her elbows on her knees, up to her neck in the grass, looking out on the beech trees where the light was centered.

If she had to be in that house for one more minute she was going to throw something. She found herself in that mood often, which was usually remedied by a walk, but the sun was setting and Almanzo hadn’t come back yet and dinner was supposed to be on the table when he did.

In a fit of frustration that wouldn’t cease until she got fresh air, she threw together a quick meal, wolfing down her portion as she went, nearly burning the potatoes when she stepped outside for a moment to feel the breeze on her face.

She knew it wasn’t exactly proper to leave a covered plate of food on the table for your husband to find waiting for him alone when he got home. However some days she was just overtaken with restlessness and couldn’t sit another minute inside. She had her Pa’s wandering spirit.

Still, his awaiting reaction to her actions was what made her temper even more foul. She didn’t want to be cross with him, because he hadn’t done anything but work a bit later than she’d anticipated, but the suggestion that he might be cross with her when he got home made her blood boil.

Shep was buried in the tall grass a few yards away, writhing occasionally on his back to scratch himself.

Sometimes she just got like this. It wasn’t his fault. She just needed to be outside. So she settled herself in the view of the sunset behind the house, and stared out into the horizon like she was going to make a break for it.

He found her out there when the light was both dimmed and at its worst, angled directly into her eyeline.

She started when he walked up behind her, fiddling with an apron string.

“I left a plate out for you.”

He settled down next to her in the grass.

“I know. Did you already eat?”

“Yes.”

She chewed her thumbnail, still watching the grasses dance like great orange fire. Her head was cowed slightly. She could see what he would say next like it was written out on a page in front of her. What kind of wife just left a plate growing cold on the kitchen table for her husband? He’d say it lightheartedly, of course, but the sting would still be there because she was that kind of wife and she just needed to be outside at that moment and the question would be asked again and again; less lovingly with each turn. Instead of saying the words she was waiting for, he soundlessly got up and walked back to the house.

Her gut churned with guilt. Foul mood or not, she needn’t take it out on Almanzo. He’d been hard at work in the fields when she’d been confined to the house with work not at all grueling, just irritating.

She wanted to pull herself away from the sunset, to apologize, but that didn’t feel right either. She wasn’t sure what to do. They didn’t quarrel much, and she wasn’t even sure if this was worth quarreling about.

She heard him come back and braced herself for the words.

He sat back down next to her, plate in his lap, and took a bite of potatoes.

“It’s beautiful out here,” he said quietly, “look at those clouds.”

She tilted her head back then, seeing that they were all kinds of pink and gold, surfaces rough and swirling.

She let out a low whistle in agreement.

The hazy orange light was hypnotic. She felt so much calmer, enjoying it with him.

Finally, she could look at him, and it felt good to do so.

“Is the food cold?” she asked sheepishly.

He paused from chewing for barely a second.

“Only a little.”

She rested her brow on her knees, laughing roughly.

“I’m sorry. I thought you were going to be back sooner.”

“I was late,” he agreed, manfully continuing through his portions.

She swiped a finger through the mashed potatoes and licked it clean. They were inedible.

She burst out laughing. How he could eat them without cringing was incredible.

“I’m sorry,” she said again, laughing, and he laughed too.

“I’m sorry I kept you waiting. I’m glad you found something good to occupy your time.”

Laura looked again around the scene before them. The land that was theirs. It was probably why it felt so good to sit back and observe. This was theirs. She knew in her heart he couldn’t be cross, instead he was proud she loved to be out on the property so much.

She leaned her head on his shoulder. Her braid got tangled somewhere between their necks. He tugged it gently out of the way, pressing a kiss to her brow.

All felt right again.