She had not heard him enter, so he moved silently and used the opportunity to fill his eyes and senses with her presence. He smiled softly at the appearance of her attire, and wondered if there was another woman in the world who would be caught dead in such a get-up.
She switched to English, and he heard her give thanks to his animals for the milk they had supplied her. He chuckled at her words, and realized his mistake as she spun on the balls of her feet to face him, her face heating in an instant.
“Karl . . .” she breathed, unbelieving for a moment that it was him, “Karl, you’re home!”
He stepped closer and nodded his head, “That I am, Emilie . . .”
An awkward silence fell between them, and while they devoured each other with their eyes, their minds spun with unasked questions.
Is she in love with another man? Was the only thing he could think of as he gazed his fill at her small perfection.
Is he happy to see me? Oh I must look a sight! She flushed again, as she imagined his disappointment in finding her in such unsightly attire.
You look wonderful, Emilie, he thought as he watched her nervously brush a stray strand of hair from her face.
Oh Karl, you look so weary and you’ve lost weight, she thought as he twisted the bridle that he held around and around in his large hands.
She shifted and reached for the milk pail at her feet, and for the first time Karl realized what she had been doing before his arrival. Anger, swift and sure, rose in his body at the realization that George was not fulfilling his promise to perform the outdoor chores.
“Where is George; why is he not doing these chores?” Karl asked sharply, as he reached to take the full pail of milk out of her hands.
She stepped back protectively, and clung to the pail handle at the same time causing the warm milk to spill over onto her boots.
“Look what you’ve done!” she accused him in the same tone he had used on her, “I am perfectly capable of carrying this pail of milk to the house,” she sniffed testily.
“Not anymore, you won’t” he warned, and grabbed for the pail again.
“Well I see your time away from home, has not improved your disposition one bit!” she barked, as she forcefully slammed the pail to the floor, causing more milk to slosh over the edge and onto the floor. “Take the pail, then . . .” she turned on her heel and fled the barn as fast as her legs could carry her.
By the time Karl made his way to the house, he had calmed his emotions considerably and after berating himself for his immature behavior, he savored his reunion with his children with renewed anticipation. He figured that Emilie had not told the children that he had arrived home, otherwise they would have been spilling out of the house by now. He was glad that she had kept his arrival a secret, as he wanted to experience that first moment of reunion fully with his children.
He turned the knob of the heavy door, and his heart skipped a beat in anticipation. He pushed the door slowly, and was instantly noticed by the small children lying on the floor in front of the blazing fire.
“Dadda!” Raymond whooped, as he sprang up from the floor and catapulted into his father’s outstretched arms. “Oh Dadda, you are finally home . . .” Raymond’s voice broke with emotion.
Anne-Marie, never far from her brother’s side, was scooped up into Karl’s other arm, and with a child held tightly in each arm he closed his eyes, and swung the excited children in a wide circle. He rained kisses on each child’s precious face, and held his children close to his heart, which felt so full he thought for sure it would burst.
Emilie watched Karl’s reunion with his children, and was instantly ashamed of her behavior towards him, just a short time ago. He was such a good man, she realized as she watched him lower the children to the floor and turn toward the Bell children who had come forward to welcome him home. It was not his fault that he wore his pride and his responsibilities like a shield; or that he worried unnecessarily about her and the children; or that he could not completely trust his family to another. No, Karl Wright was not a bad man, he merely made his own life more difficult because of the stringent expectations he placed upon himself; and she knew that deep in her heart she would not have him any other way.
“You must be tired, and hungry,” she addressed him for the first time since their encounter in the barn. “Wash up; supper is almost ready.” She said as she turned back to the kitchen to set yet another place at the already crowded table.