“Tog!” Van said. “How’s my friend?” We heard Tog jump up from his sleep and I could see in my mind the two of them embracing, as they always did when Van came home. “Where are the girls?” he asked Tog.
My heart exploded, a blinding supernova blast of pain and guilt and dread and a sorrow I had never known. The back door swung open. “There you are! Tulli, hi, you’re here early.”
For the first time it dawned on me that today was Hodri, the day we have Tulli over for dinner every week.
“Is something wrong? Are you alright, Lin?” Tulli squeezed my hand tight, as if to impart strength and support, and helped me lift my heavy body to sitting, my face still buried in the wet cloth tissue. I was hiding, buying myself time while I composed myself for this loathsome moment.
“Van,” I said softly. I couldn’t bear to look at him. I wanted to hide in my tissue until my mind was clear and all the unglued pieces of myself were brought back together again. Then the right words would come and I could rationally tell him how I destroyed our life.
“Lin!” I felt Van’s body kneel behind me. He wrapped his arms around me with a gentle strength, just as he did years ago on that night we left our comfortable world and ascended to the still, peaceful heights of space. I buried my face more deeply into the tissue and shook uncontrollably. “What’s wrong, Lin? Where’s Erin?”
“Van, I’m so sorry,” I said in broken, garbled syllables.
“She needs to tell you, Van. Give her another moment.”
I realized the awkward spot Tulli was in and a small calm fell over me. “She’s gone,” I finally said.
“She’s gone, Van.”
I focused my hazy mind as best I could and drew myself into my core, into my heart. Let love speak, I told myself.
“A malmagni, Van.”
“She was taken.”
“Who took her?”
Yes, a damned bird. I clutched my stomach, searing with pain, and again I broke down in tears. “I’m so sorry, Van. I’m so sorry.”
“A malmagni took Erin?”
Tulli spoke now. “Lin told me that a malmagni came, picked Erin up and flew away.”
Van squeezed me lovingly with his arms and nuzzled his face against mine. His mouth was so close to my ear that what he said next reverberated through my whole body. “We’re going to get through this, Lin. I promise, we will. Please, don’t blame yourself, honey. If you feel you need me to forgive you, you’re already forgiven.”
Already forgiven…. Already forgiven…. The words echoed in my being as another river of tears fell upon the entwined arms of my husband and I, huddled together on this patch of groile where our sweet little Erin so often slept.