Chapter 6 – February 7B

The small needles of the cedar branch had attached to Rune’s jacket like epoxy. He tugged in frustration, loosening snow from higher branches, a spray of white powder hitting his face. But when he wiped his eyes clear, he saw the branch had partially dislodged. He tugged again, more slowly, changing directions with each motion, finally discovering that down and to his left seemed the most effective.

“Is this how it’s going to be?” The odds of anyone being within earshot of him in this dark forest, on this frigid night, were remote, his isolation freeing him to speak with loud defiance. “You WANT it to be like this?” tug tug. “This make you HAPPY!” He felt the branch loose more of its grip, tugged harder. “Think I DESERVE this?” Now only a few needles remained attached, the branch now bent sharply back towards the tree as if it were pulling away, wanting to be free of him.

A rush of angered satisfaction welled in him, but before he acted on his impulse to tug his arm violently free, an image of his parents came to his mind, looking at the tattered threading of his jacket. Hugh, what happened? His mother would understand, would use her limited domestic skills and mend the tear herself, would help him hide the damage from her father. But if the tear was too great to repair, or hide . . .

He looked down at his jacket sleeve. In the soft moonlight filtered through the overhead branches, he could see some popped seams. But no tears. He looked down at the remaining attached needles — they were in there pretty firmly, but there was only a few, he felt confident he could work them out with his fingers. Blowing air onto his bare left hand to keep it warm, he removed the remaining needles, the branch suddenly releasing and flying back, up and away into the black, swish.

Rune sighed, spun his body to the left, began walking down again, careful even more than before to stay among the deciduous trees, stay clear of the evergreens.

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