This is the first draft of the second chapter of Emma’s Story. Edits can and will be made, and once the entire first draft is completed, it’s the version on this page that will be used as base for tweaking and editing in the second draft.
The first chapter is available here.
This chapter’s musical accompaniment is provided by Emok. It doesn’t directly reflect the mood intended for the story, but it’s what I was listening to in the background while writing, so it may have had some subtle influence on the work. Give it a chance if you’re in the mood, but it’s in no way required listening.
Emma’s Story – Chapter 2
At the inn, on the hill, in Rastebo, the meeting continues. Volunteers raise there hands, destinations are assigned, and soon a plan has taken shape.
A young woman will drive her father’s sled to a village far away. A young man and his brother are to seek out destinations closer to home, but all three will journey together for part of the way.
At the table, in the corner, where young liars drink, a young man behaves. A woman relaxes, and her smile finds its way back into her eyes. Around them, the meeting ends. Villagers drain their cups, rise to their feet, and say their goodbyes. Mouths yawn, eyelids grow heavy. Another day draws to its end.
With a thud Burje sat down his mug and heaved a big sigh. “That worked out pretty well didn’t it? I was worried I’d have to walk real far in the snow on my own.”
“Pfft! Lazybum.” Emma stuck out her tongue at him. “You were no such thing – you knew you’d get a ride.”
“I’d never dream of it.” Smiling wide he leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. “I’ll bring hot water and sandwiches, so you don’t have to worry about food.”
“And I’ll bring a crossbow,” said Torkel. “So we don’t have to worry about the bear.”
“Ehm…” Emma frowned at him. “The bear is in Karstensborg. We’re going in a completely different direction.”
“Hey. You never know.” Torkel shrugged and sipped his cider. “It could decide to wander, or another one might show up.”
Emma started to cross her arms over her chest, but stopped herself. They shouldn’t fight. Instead, she sighed and raised a warning finger at him. “Yes, yes.” She put on her best mock serious face and glared at him. “Just don’t shoot anyone, okay?”
Torkel stared at her for a moment and then his face broke into a smile. Emma smiled back, even giggled a little, and everything was fine with the world – just like it used to be, before it all got so serious.
On the other side of the table, Stefan got to his feet. “We’ll be leaving,” he said and raised a hand to wave. “Need to get back and check on the little one.”
Emma looked over at Lisa and raised an eyebrow. “Already?”
“Yes.” Lisa got to her feet too. “I’m sure Edgren will want to be relieved so he can go home and sleep.”
“Bye guys.” Stefan wobbled a little as he wound his scarf around his neck. “Have a safe trip tomorrow.”
“We will.” Torkel puffed his chest out and sat a little straighter. “I’ll make sure of it.”
Emma sighed, but the smile didn’t leave her face. He did mean well after all.
Lisa grinned down at her. “Don’t worry Emma. You’ll be well taken care of.”
This time she did cross her arms over her chest. She hunched up her shoulders, stuck out her lower lip and pouted – trying to look as disgruntled as she possibly could. Lisa giggled, raised her hand in farewell, and then they were off. Hand in hand, she and Stefan made their way to the door and out into the night.
Torkel drained the last of his cider, smacked his lips, and leaned back in his chair with his hands pressed against his belly. “Well, I’ll have another.” He raised an eyebrow at his brother. “Burje?”
“No thanks.” He lifted his mug and weighed it in his hand to show he still had some left. “I’ve gotta go home and prepare the sandwiches for tomorrow. Gotta make sure we eat, you know.”
“Fine, fine. Be like that then.” Torkel grinned at his brother, turned around in his chair and raised his hand in the air. “Tessica! Two ciders please,” he yelled.
Emma’s shoulders slumped and the smile slipped from her face.
“What?” Torkel raised his eyebrows and frowned at her. “You don’t have to prepare anything. Burje’s bringing all the food.”
“It’s nothing.” Emma shrugged and looked over at the counter where Tessica stood, pouring their brews. “Thanks. I’ll have another cider.” A whiskey would have been nice.
“Just don’t drink too much.” Burje grinned at her. “You’ll need to be able to drive straight tomorrow.
“It’s fine!” Emma crossed her arms over her chest and huffed.
Torkel and Burje both laughed at her, and soon a smile tugged at her lips too. Those guys. She grinned and shook her head. Those guys.
“Well, I’d better get going anyway.” Burje set his mug down, put his hands on the table and pushed himself to his feet. “The sooner the better.”
“Sure, see you later.” Torkel touched his fingers to his brow to bid his brother farewell.
As Burje left, Tessica appeared beside the table, carrying two mugs and wearing a big smile.
“There we go, two ciders.” She set their drinks down on the table. “You good for everything else?
“Yes. Thanks.” Emma smiled up at her and nodded.
Torkel nodded too. “All sorted.”
At the table, in the corner, a young man and a young woman sit in silence. They do not speak. They do not look at each other.
Tomorrow they will ride a sled together through the forest. They will leave the young man’s brother in a village along the way and continue on their own. A young man and a young woman. Friends since forever. Alone, in a sled, riding through the forest.
They do not look at each other.
“So, uhm…” Torkel cleared his throat and stared down into his mug.
Emma straightened up. “Do you want me to bring you anything from Kuulis Wood?” She shot him a big smile. “They have a shop there you know. You can get almost anything.”
Torkel stroked his chine and frowned, but didn’t raise his eyes to look at her. “Nah… I’m good.”
“Okay. Good.” She sipped her cider. “Just checking.”
“But, well… I was just thinking… You know…”
“Uhm… maybe you could buy something for yourself?” He raised his head and looked at her – a stiff smile on his face. “Something pretty, like a ribbon for your hair, or some pearls to wear around your ankles?”
“Err…” Emma cleared her throat and frowned at him.
“I mean…” Torkel’s cheeks grew flushed. “You’re the prettiest thing around anyway of course.” His face grew even reader and he raised his hand to cough into his fist. “I was just thinking…” He cleared his throat and looked away, staring into the wall in the corner. “Maybe you’d like something like that? I’ll give you some coins.”
Emma planted her fists on her hips and glared at him – for real this time. “No Torkel, I was asking if you wanted me to bring something for you. I can do my own shopping. Thank you very much.”
Torkel hung his head and stared down into his cider. His lips moved as if saying something, but no words came out.
“I’m sorry.” Emma sighed. “I didn’t mean to snap.” She leaned forward and placed a hand on his arm.
“I just don’t understand you,” he mumbled.
“I don’t get it.” He heaved a big sigh and shifted in his chair. “I’m trying everything I can, and you just keep ignoring me.”
Emma’s mouth fell open and an uneasy lump formed in her stomach. “I’m not ignoring you. I’m right here. Talking to you.”
“You know what I mean.” Torkel snorted and ran a hand through his hair. “I asked you to marry me a year ago, and you still haven’t said yes or no. I just don’t understand it. What’s wrong with you?
“Wrong with me?” She frowned and sat up a little straighter, clasping her hands in her lap. There wasn’t anything wrong with her.
“I don’t get it. I’m a good catch.” Leaning forward on his elbows he started counting on his fingers. “My family’s wealthy. I’ve got a burrow of my own for us – right here in the village. We’ll never want for anything. I’m a great hunter. I’ll bring home all the fine furs and meats you could ever want.” He throw his arms wide and stared at her. “What more do you need? I’ll keep you safe.
“Torkel…” Emma took a deep breath. She looked at him where he sat. Her friend. Her best friend since as long as she could remember. Since as long as they both could remember.
Torkel crossed his arms over his chest and didn’t say a thing, just sat there, looking at her.
“You’re a great guy – and a good friend. It’s just…” She sighed and averted her eyes, looking down the table in front of her. “I don’t know…” Grabbing her mug she lifted it to her face to drink, but stopped herself and sat it down again. “I’m not sure I’m ready.”
“You’ve had a year. I’m tired of waiting.” Torkel slapped his palm against the table and raised a warning finger against her. “If you haven’t made up your mind by First Green I’ll find someone else.”
Emma gasped. He couldn’t do that. No. No way. He couldn’t.
“You heard me.” His face grim, Torkel leaned back in his chair and, once more, crossed his arms over his chest.
He’d find someone else. He’d reject her.
What would her mother say? The village? He couldn’t do that to her.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and cleared her throat. “I’m sorry Torkel. It’s difficult…”
“It’s not difficult!” His hand hit the table so hard the mugs rattled. “You say yes, or you say no. That’s all there is.”
“It’s not!” Emma slammed both fists into the table and stared at him. Her cheeks burning and her heart pumping. “I don’t need furs or meats,” she said through clenched teeth. “I don’t need you to keep me safe. That’s what the village is for. I need a husband who’s there and helps raise the kids.”
For a moment, Torkel shrank back. Then he took a swig of his cider, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He slung an elbow over the back of his char and twisted his face up into a smile. “So what? I can do that too.”
“Can you though?”
“Of course I can.” His smile wavered a little. “What do you mean?”
Letting out a long breath, she let her shoulders slump. “I know how much you love being out in the forest, or on the road with the drivers. Could you give that up to stay home with me and the children?” She traced her finger along a thin crack in the table.
“Sure.” Torkel shrugged. “Of course I could. I’ll be home and help you run the burrow too. I’ll show you. I’ll make a great burrowman. The best.” He leaned forward and placed both of his hands on top of hers.
Something fluttered in her chest. Her cheeks grew warm and she cast down her gaze. “Torkel…” Still blushing, she looked up at him and smiled. “I don’t need you to be the best. I just need you to be there.” She placed her free hand on top of his and gave a little squeeze.
“I know. I will.” He grabbed both of her hands and enfolded them into his, cradling them like something fragile and delicate. “I’ll show you.” Big, honest eyes looked at her – pleading. “Marry me and I promise you won’t regret it.”
For a moment, he sat stock still – not even breathing. Then his face turned beet red and broke up in a big foolish grin.
“I’ll think about it.” Emma giggled.
Groaning, Torkel rolled his eyes and threw his arms in the air. “Women!” Then he too laughed.
They sipped their ciders and the silence stretched out between them. The only sounds came from the fire crackling to itself, and from Tessica tidying up behind the counter. She’d probably want to close up soon.
Over on the other side of the hearth, at the old folks’ table, sat old Lennart. All alone he stared down into his cup. Perhaps he slept. It was hard to tell.
Emma cradled her mug in her hands – rocking it slightly, swirling the liquid in it around. “You’re a wild mind,” she said without looking up. “You know it.”
Torkel set down his mug and sighed. Frowning, he chewed on his lip. “Well, yes… I know… But I can change. I’ll show you…”
“You’d better start then.” Emma set down her mug and fixed him with her eyes. “What was that about the winters earlier?” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Whatever made you think that would be a good idea?”
“But it is. It’s a great idea.” He turned up his palms and splayed his hands. “The winters are natural hunters. They’d fell the bear easy.”
With a groan, she crammed her eyes shut and pinched her nose. “Torkel, they’re winters. Winter fylk.” She threw her arms wide and stared at him. “We can solve this on our own, without their help.”
“Yes, but they’d do it better. We could do it together.”
“Yeah.” He paused, and something dreamy came over him. His eyes saw scenes only he could see. “We could make a joint hunting party with them and we’d bring the bear down together. It’d be glorious.”
Emma’s mouth fell open. So much for being able to change. “You’d go hunting with the winters?”
“Of course.” Torkel beamed at her, eyes sparkling with excitement. “Everyone knows they’re born hunters. They’re probably better even than me.”
“Torkel…” Emma cleared her throat and shook her head. “I am a better shot with both bow and crossbow than you are.”
The smile froze on his face. It was true. She was. A lot. Jaw set and brow furrowed he started to say something, stopped himself, and started again. He stopped once more, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath.
“It takes more than just shooting to be a hunter,” he said through clenched teeth. “You need to–”
“That’s enough!” Emma slammed her palm into the table so hard her mug jumped. “You’re really not showing me you’ll make a great burrowman.” She planted her fists on her hips and glared at him.
Torkel glared at his mug in front of him, refusing to look at her.
Emma pushed her chair back and got to her feet. “I want to go home. Are you done?”
Next chapter is available here.