When Claire awoke the next morning, it was with sadness at finding the bed next to her empty again, after having already missed Sean’s presence in their bed, for over two weeks already. She sighed softly as she reached for the note he had apparently left upon his pillow sometime while she had slept.
‘Went into town, will be back tonight. Love, Sean.’ was the simple explanation upon the note, though scrawled in shakier handwriting than was usual for even him.
Before she had much longer to ponder his note though, she was forced to immediately lean down from their bed and reach for the wooden bucket she had been keeping there for most of Sean’s absence, as the morning sickness hit her once more, and viciously.
When she finally recovered from the latest nausea, she wiped away some perspiration with a small sigh. Though she had desperately missed Sean and wanted to speak to him, about many things, since his last extended bit of traveling, it was almost a relief for him not to see her so ill, without the explanation she had yet to find a moment to give him, as their time together since his return had been scarce, to say the least.
When he arrived back at their home that night, Claire had been physically feeling better, though Sean still looked just as strangely upset as he had been the night before as well, “Welcome back. Any company tonight?” she smiled her greeting as he entered the house.
Sean’s eyes immediately turned to her, his deep desire to find the truth to the shattering information Haven had given him, somehow causing him to finally find the way to unlock inside himself, that trigger he needed in order to see things the way Haven did. As he looked her way with what was almost a fear of what his new eyesight would tell him, the colors of her emotions did start to come into view for him, and there was, indeed, two sets of colors before those pale eyes of his, causing him to swallow hard at the verification he could finally make for himself, still not able to find his voice to return her greeting.
“Sean?” she asked with concern as she set aside the latest dress she had been working on and looked at him worriedly.
“It’s going to be very cold tonight. I have to go and secure the barn, and check the horses.” were the only words he managed, turning once more toward the door he had only barely entered a moment ago.
“Sean, it’s already dark.” she said, trying not to sound hurt by what almost seemed like an excuse for him to avoid her, when he had never once wanted to do anything but immediately be close to her, any other time he had ever returned from the road, before.
“I know. It has to be done before it gets any colder. We need those horses healthy and safe.” he assured, his own emotions of late somehow making his tone rougher than he had meant, though it still didn’t stop his feet from carrying him back outside just as quickly.
Claire watched the window for a long time as Sean found excuse after excuse to stay out in the cold, finding ways to continue to appear to be securing the barn, despite the quickly dropping temperature and flakes of snow outside, which didn’t even seem to slow his actions, almost as though he were desperate to stay out in the cold instead of inside the warmth of their home, or even her arms.
After he had spent nearly an hour outside, her concern for his own well being began rising to the levels of her concern for his strange new behavior towards her. She sighed heavily as she moved to find her own coat, headstrong enough, and impatient enough, to go to him if he didn’t have the sense, or somehow, the desire, to come to her, for some unknown reason.
“This would probably go quicker if you let me help with whatever it is you still think needs fixing, out here.” she interrupted his busy work out by the barn only moments later.
“Claire. Get back inside. You shouldn’t be out here in this weather.” he scolded her, though still couldn’t center his gaze on her for very long.
“And you should?” she returned smartly.
“I can handle it.” he mumbled his response.
“Sean, we always help each other. Would you just let me?” she returned, her own ability to contradict her husband’s apparent wants and voice any kind of dissent or equality, having shocked many of their, now former, friends in days past.
“Dammit, Claire for once could you just do what I tell you? Just for the sake of shocking me, if nothing else?” he asked angrily, turning quickly away from the barn, only too quickly, as a nail that jutted out from inside, caught his finger with a deep gash, causing him to flinch out of nothing but pure habit, rather than the usual sensation of pain.
“God, Sean, let me see.” she said as she quickly moved forward as his blood dripped to the snow in a red splash that immediately made her concern outweigh her anger at his last outburst.
“I’ll be fine, I promise.” he mumbled again, attempting to turn away, only to have her catch his wrist, pulling his injured hand forward for her inspection.
“Stop it. I always tend to you when you hurt yourself.” she ordered him, though allowed a smile as she moved his hand in for a closer look.
“Claire.” he attempted to continue his arguments, but feeling her warm touch in the cold night, made it that much harder for him to ever disagree with her.
“Wow, it’s not that deep after all. Amazing with all that blood.” she smiled, still not relinquishing his hand from her own grip.
“Told you I’d be fine.” he repeated in a near whisper, as he couldn’t force himself to look up at her, or pull his hand away from her, either.
“Not until I treat your injury, nonetheless.” she smiled mischievously.
“You said yourself, it’s not that deep.” he argued weakly, easily noting, and becoming distracted by, the sultry tone in her voice that he had grown more than familiar with, after twelve years of marriage.
“No, it still needs one special thing.” she told him as she moved closer, pulling his hand up towards her face. Before Sean’s muddled thoughts of the moment could inform him of her plan, she had already moved his injured finger to her lips, gently sliding her mouth over it, with what normally would have been a more than seductive suggestion on her part.
“God, Claire, no!” he exclaimed with a sudden desperation that seemed so very out of place, in relation to the whole of the situation, under normal circumstances, that was. Though, normal no longer would ever apply, to either of their lives.
She furrowed her brow as she slid her lips from his finger, watching with an even more confused expression, as what little color he even had left, seemed to drain from his features in the moonlit night, “What’s gotten into you, Sean?” she asked him, perplexed, as he stood there, seeming frozen and numb as he watched her ever so lightly lick her lips, causing the slightest cringe to pass thru him, “I’ve always kissed your pain away, haven’t I?” she told him, understandably confused by his bizarre response.
Sean was still numb as he stood there, for several moments, not able to find any words at all. What words could there have possibly been for the knowledge supplied by Haven, immediately rushing back to him? All his mind would allow him to do, was replay the sight of her so willingly, and so innocently doing the one thing that would change her life, and end their child’s, without even being aware of what she had done…thanks, mostly, to his own inability to have found one moment in which to at least try to tell her the truth of what he now was, and what that now meant, for all three of them, who were now only to be two, once more.
“We’ve never done this before. Let’s not do it now.” Claire’s voice jarred Sean from his thoughts as he blankly stared down at their evening’s meal, still having not touched a bite of it, nor having said one word since he had tried to keep his blood from her beautiful lips, only too late.
“Do what?” he asked after taking a long moment to even manage to call on any awareness of what her words had actually been.
“This. This not talking to each other. That’s not us, Sean.” she told him in a tone of voice which hardly any woman of the day would use with her husband, or any man.
“We’ve talked.” he denied, though with a lack of force, as well as an inability to even look up at her, knowing it would prove what he already knew: That now there would only be her own aura, no one else’s, before him when he looked her way. Instead, he simply continued to stare downwards, and slowly move the food around his plate, the way he had been doing for the entirety of the meal, already.
“Please Sean, we don’t lie either. You know as well as I do that something has severely changed here.” she pointed out with continued conviction, “What happened to you on this trip?” she asked more desperately than roughly, at that point.
Sean couldn’t help closing his eyes nearly painfully in response to the upset he had caused in her, as well as other, much more severe things that he had now caused as well, however indirectly, “It’s called being scared out of my mind, Claire.” he finally gave her an answer, after a more than lengthy pause to gather the courage to speak it.
“Scared of what?” she asked, her puzzlement continuing at every one of his words and actions since his return.
“I wanted to spend forever with you.” he stated softly, his quiet words seeming quite out of place in regards to her question.
“I guess that would be why you married me, then.” she stated slowly, her confusion only deepening, “And after twelve years together, now you’re scared? Isn’t that a little late for cold feet?” she had to add, if for no other reason than to cover her own fear of what he may have been getting at.
“I do still want to spend forever with you.” he told her sincerely, “Only…” he still couldn’t manage the rest of the words.
“Only what?” she asked with a deep breath, trying to force back salty tears as she awaited whatever horrible confession her true love suddenly now had for her.
“Only now, forever really does mean forever.” he began again, only to let his voice taper off again before continuing.
“Sean, I love your writing, but save the analogies for the paper…what are you talking about, really?” she pressed.
“Forever now means more than ‘til death do us part.’” he began with another heavy sigh, “And I’m not sure you’d want that with me, not now.” he finished in a whisper, swallowing hard as he finished, finally forcing his eyes up to look her way.
Claire’s confusion then found an even deeper layer than it had been wallowing in all evening. After another long moment, she finally replied, “You’re the one who's suddenly built all these walls around you, in the course of one night, as far as I can see, so pardon me, but what the hell are you talking about when you say that you think I wouldn’t want you, exactly?” she told him with increased volume, more factors than one increasing her anger at the timing of this new theory of his.
“What I mean,” he began with another heavy sigh, eyes downwards again, “is that I’m no longer the man you married. So I’m terrified that that means that I’d no longer be anything you’d want in your life, anymore, either.”
“One more carefully worded half-truth from you, and I will throw you back out into that snow after all, so you just better decide, here and now, to tell me whatever the hell you are really trying to tell me already.” she shot back at him, her own terror at the thought of losing him, easily translating to anger as her words left her lips.
Sean sighed once more, not able to blame her for her anger at his roundabout statements, but so terrified of stating the whole truth, himself, that it was that much harder for him to manage the words, “What happened to me, was that death that was supposed to end our love, and our marriage, but it didn’t. I still love you just as much as on our wedding night, and I don’t want it to end, not ever.” he told her with shaking voice, finally daring to look up at where she had now moved to her feet in anger, thru her previous demand.
Claire took another deep breath as she tried to muddle thru his latest statement, “So, again, tell me, why you’re claiming everlasting love for me in the same sentence as voicing the terror of losing me. That can’t even make sense to you, and you’re the one saying it!” she exclaimed in frustration.
“Listen closer.” he managed to state with gentleness, “I just told you that I died. Did you hear that part?” he repeated, not even able to believe that he had managed the statement once, let alone a second time.
Claire forced a bitter laugh as she turned away, with a shake of her head, “So I’m talking to your ghost then, am I?” she scoffed, “A ghost who bleeds? That’s a new one, I’ll have to say.” she added with another shake of her long dark locks.
“I’m not a ghost, Claire.” he spoke softly again, “I’m something different. I’m something that I’m afraid you could never love, not the way you loved me, before.” he told her, his voice breaking once more as he tried to be strong for her, as impossible as that even was for him, while saying those words to her at all.
“God Sean, is that what happened to you on your trip? You went insane? Is that it? The big secret?” she shot back angrily, easily beginning to believe that whatever tale he was now trying to tell her was some extravagant lie to make up for something that he honestly thought was a worse thing to tell her, somehow.
“I’m telling you the truth, Claire. I am something different now. How would you like me to prove it to you, really?” he asked, shaking his head as well, knowing this was going to be a difficult conversation to ever have, let alone after the state his child’s death had now put him into as well, a death which she was not even aware of yet, if she had even been aware of the child’s life at all, that was, as he still hadn’t heard a word of its existence from her, in what little time they’d been back at each other’s sides again, anyway.
“Fine, I’ll play along with this insanity, for a moment.” another shake of her head, “Something different like what, Sean?” she asked, obviously speaking the question as though she already knew she would not believe the answer.
“Do you think it’s a coincidence that I haven’t eaten a thing since returning, a coincidence that my skin is still ice cold though I’ve been inside for over an hour, a coincidence that you didn’t see me for even one moment today before the sun finally set, a coincidence that this cut on my finger is already completely gone, a coincidence that I have no breath, and no heartbeat, not anymore, anyway?” he swallowed again, “Is that all a coincidence, Claire? Cause I would love for it to be, but I somehow don’t think any of it is. Please, tell me I‘m wrong about any of it, if you honestly can.”