FICTION

Some Only Hold the Light

MAUD MERRITT September 15 1942
FICTION

Some Only Hold the Light

MAUD MERRITT September 15 1942

Some Only Hold the Light

Would she be beating against that wall all her life? Edie asked. Out of the storm came a call giving the answer

MAUD MERRITT

TONIGHT Edie loved the storm outside—the wind blowing a gale and banging all the shutters on the north side of the house; the rain washing down the windowpanes and turning the driveway into a swift little brook. She couldn’t even worry about her garden and what this was doing to her bulbs. She wouldn’t even think about them, nor the perennials that were probably right now clogging the gutter. For this was her birthday and Tim was free to spend the whole long blessed evening with her.

“Go on and blow,” Edie waved to the blustering elements. “See if we care.” She brought her left hand up to the table and let the bracelet Tim had just given her sparkle in the silver candlelight. It was much too extravagant a gift for a young doctor, even for so successful a young doctor as Tim.

“Like it?” he asked, tickled that she did.

“No,” Edie flung him a kiss and wriggled her wrist again. “I think it’s a horrid little bit of useless junk.”

The perfume from the yellow roses Aunt Dee had telegraphed filled the room. The twenty-two candles on the green and white frosting of her birthday cake winked and flickered.

Edie took a long breath. “Shall I blow them out now?”

“Not,” Tim said, “until you’ve made a wish.” “Oh, of course.” She let the breath out again. For a second her blue eyes wavered from his grey ones. A shadow brushed the laughter on her lips, a shadow which she ignored hastily by saying: “I’ll never get over how smart I was to be born on the one day in the week you don’t have office hours.” “Going to tell me your wish?” Tim grinned across the table.

It was the same grin that had done ridiculous things to her heart when she first saw him, the grin and his half gangling gait and bright red hair. They could still do ridiculous things.

“If you tell—” she shook her head—“it won’t come true.”

Tim moved the bowl of roses to one side for a better view. “So there is a wish!”

“Oh, everybody has something, I guess,” Edie said evasively.

“Not me,” he denied heartily. “I have everything.”

A fresh gust rattled the doorknob. Under the yellow chiffon that had been one of her trousseau dresses, Edie shivered a little.

“If I tell”, she asked, sipping her coffee slowly, “will you make it come true?”

Tim lit a cigarette and regarded her with a quizzical eyebrow. “ ‘He didn’t say yes, and he didn’t say no.’ Shoot, darling.”

There was a wish. A very vital wish. And she didn’t have everything, everything she wanted. Far from it. But was this the time or place to go into it? Still, this was her birthday.

“Oh, it’s just—” She paused, started again. This time her words tumbled over each other. “Do you ever stop to think, Tim, that we’ve been married

eleven months and I know no more of what goes on behind that”— The slim braceleted hand indicated the wall that separated his offices from this part of the house —“than I did the day you brought me here?”

“Which is,” he said complacently, “exactly as it should be.”

“Oh, no,” Edie breathed. “Oh, no, it isn’t.”

“God forbid that I should drag other people’s worries over here! ‘Darling,’” he mimicked,v “ ‘Mrs. Brown has a headache and Bill Jones mashed his toe.’ ”

The blue of Edie’s eyes darkened. It had come the moment when she couldn’t be put off again by flippancy or impatience.

“I’d at least be a doctor’s wife.”

“Which is exactly what I want to forget when we’re together.”

“Only you don’t forget.” She must say these things now. She must say them if it took all the courage she had. “You can’t forget. You ask me the same questions three or four times and don’t listen to my answers. And the questions I ask you, you often don’t answer at all. Not because you’re rude, but because your mind is still over there.” She nodded toward the wall.

“Only my subconscious mind,” he admitted sheepishly.

“Oh, the questions don’t matter. Not really. It isn’t that.” Edie clasped the hard arms of her chair. “But there’s such a big part of your life in which I don’t share. Tim dearest, can’t you see I’d be happier if you talked things over with me sometimes?”

“No, I can’t.” He moved the roses back into the centre of the table. “I can’t see that at all. If I need anyone to talk things over with, there’s Amy. That’s what an office nurse is for.” The eyebrow quirked again. “Good old Amy !”

Good old Amy! He was, Edie knew, switching the conversation deliberately. Amy had been a big surprise to Edie, and Tim still thought it hilariously funny.

For good old Amy had turned out to be younger than Tim, with Irish eyes and a rose petal skin. Amy’s white cap didn’t look like a nurse’s cap, but like little white wings against the golden halo of her hair. And she was in love with Tim, even though Tim wasn’t aware of it.

EDIE wasn’t jealous of Amy. She really felt sorry for Amy. And Tim had certainly been lucky to get her. For Amy was a graduate nurse who’d taken an office position only because her strength wasn’t quite up to regular practice. No, she wasn’t jealous of Amy. Besides, Amy had been with Tim for four years. There’d been nothing to keep him from marrying her, if he’d wanted to. And since he hadn’t wanted to, it would be quite silly of her to be jealous of Amy.

“Is it because you think I won’t understand?” she persisted. They must finish this, finish it before she blew out the candles.

“It’s because I don’t want you to understand,” Tim said, impatiently. “Look, darling. Your work is here. Mine is over there. Let’s be satisfied to keep it that way.”

“But what is my work?” She could feel the pulse in her throat bobbing up and down. Was she going to be beaten again? Was this going to end now just where it had started?

Tim laughed uproariously. “To love me. That’s your big job, sweet. Y our full-time job. To love me and keep the home fires burning. Come on. Let’s drink a toast.” He filled two glasses at the buffet and brought them back to the table.

“Here’s to the swellest day in the year. Here’s to you and me and the long, peaceful evening we’re going to have by the fire together—”

The office telephone was ringing. With a grimace Tim put down his glass and went to answer it. Through the open door Edie could hear him. “Yes . . . yes . . . yes ...” The receiver dropped back in its cradle, clicked again as he called a number. But this time she heard only the rumble of his voice, nothing he said. Tim didn’t mean she should hear.

As he came back through the hall she searched his face as she’d done so many times these past eleven months. It was the face of Doctor Cotton. It was no longer Tim’s.

“Too bad, darling,” he said absently, “to break up the party.”

“But not tonight,” Edie cried despairingly. “You don’t have to go out tonight. Look how it’s storming. You promised me tonight, this one night.” “Sorry.” His body, she knew, might still be here, but his mind was already on the way. “If it’s important to reach me, I’ll be at the Fains’.”

The Fains lived out on the Itidge Road in a big old house that had belonged to Ina Fain's mother. They’d had Edie and Tim out there for dinner on Christmas Day.

Edie had been sitting on the floor, building blocks with little Bobbie Fain, when she heard Tim say: “If you don’t have that appendix out soon, young lady, we’ll have an emergency on our hands.”

Ina Fain laughed. “I promise. Before next Christmas.”

Evidently the appendix hadn’t waited until Christmas, but Edie didn’t say this out loud.

“Is that appendix pretty bad?” she’d asked on their way home on Christmas Day.

Tim reached over and pinched her ear. “Little pitchers. You and me, we don’t discuss appendices, Ina Fain’s or anybody’s.”

“Take me with you,” Edie pleaded now. “It’s

four miles to the Fains’. I won’t mind waiting. We’d have the ride together and it would be sort of fun in the rain.” Besides, there might be some little thing she could do to help. If she went, he might be able to get away sooner.

But Tim said, “There isn’t room. I’m taking Amy.”

“Oh; then, of course, you don’t want me.” She felt suddenly all tight inside.

“Edie!” Small fires smoldered in Tim’s eyes.

“But I’m so useless, so utterly useless.”

He bent down and kissed her. “Never to me. I’ll think of you all warm and snug here, something darned nice to come back to.”

Edie followed him into the hall. “Be careful not to skid.”

“I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He had to slam the door hard to latch it against the strong wind.

Edie sat down at the table again and stared at the yellow roses, at Tim’s vacant place where an ice-cream lily was melting into a green and white and yellow pond. Then she lifted the birthday cake with its still gaily fluttering candles over to the buffet. Perhaps it wouldn’t be too late to cut it when Tim got back.

Passionately she made her wish. It was her right to share more of his life. He must see that it was her right. Edie shut her eyes and with a long, deep breath blew out the twenty-two candles.

AFTER she’d cleared the ■ table of the rest of its birthday finery she went into the living room and touched a match to the fire laid in the grate. From one corner of the divan she watched orangetipped flames curl around the logs and up the chimney. She was alone, all alone, and this was her birthday, the first birthday she could remember that she hadn’t had a party.

Aunt Dee had warned her it would be like this, but Edie hadn’t believed her.

“I’m not saying Tim isn’t a good sort,” Aunt Dee had argued. “I’m saying you’re not the wife for him. I’ve brought you up to expect attention from your young men. A doctor’s wife, and miles from home! I warn you it isn’t the life you’re made for.”

“Then I’ll make myself over,” Edie had declared, starry-eyed. “And I won’t be lonely—not with so many ways I can help Tim.”

Later, standing on the flying field, watching his plane soar toward her through the cloudless sky, it had seemed almost prophetic—his coming for her this way. He would lift her with him above the trivial things that had so far filled her days. Together they would serve and heal and comfort.

The plane taxied across the firm ground. A minute later she was in Tim’s arms, held achingly close, while he said huskily:

“Golly! Do you know I almost missed it? These women who have their babies at the last second and then give us twins!”

She’d thought he was fooling about missing his plane, but she’d come to wonder since if he really would have, the last plane that could possibly get him there in time for their wedding.

The first time they were separated was the morning in Bermuda, on their honeymoon, when she had gone to have her hair done and get a manicure. When she had returned Tim hadn’t been there, but he’d left a note for her on the dresser.

“Thought I’d run over to the hospital and see if the doctors here can teach me anything.”

had ordered lunch to be served at a table for two near the water; she had ordered iced wine. But it was six hours before he had come back, so she had had to eat without him. When he did come he never noticed her new hair-do nor the soft bright sweater she’d bought yesterday and was wearing

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for the first time. He was still Tim, the surgeon.

"Got myself into it,” he apologized, “and couldn’t get out. You didn’t fuss, did you?”

"Heavens, no!” Edie had cried. This was the sort of thing that made him the good doctor he was. Watching his lean, brown hands as he put on a fresh collar and changed his tie, she had told herself emotionally:

He holds life and death in those hands. I must always remember that.

( I must never demand too much for myself, want too much.

She remembered it when, driving down the main street in Tim’s and her town, Edie had looked eagerly around her at the shops, at the houses with white picket fences.

"Who lives there?” she’d asked. "And there? And there?”

Tim had told her.

"Your patients, dearest?”

Sometimes they were, and sometimes they weren’t. Those that were j sent a thrill through and through her. ; They would he her patients, too.

"Tell me about them,” she had said. “Tell me what’s been the matter with them.”

"Tell you?” Tim had echoed in surprise. "Oh, I see. Don’t worry, darling, there are quite separate entrances to your side of the house and mine.”

"But I want to know, dearest. Really, I do.”

Tim had laughed. "You only think you do.”

IT WAS just a little later when she had met Amy. Amy had been a shock, but no more of a shock than something that had happened that same afternoon.

A police car, bringing in an accident case, had stopped by mistake at the house entrance. Edie, desiring above everything else to he of service, had led them through the dining room and knocked on the office door, the three short knocks of the signal Tim had given her. She ; had let the officer pass her with the screaming child and was about to follow when Tim had pushed her back.

"No, darling.”

"But, Tim, surely I can help.” "Amy’s here. Thanks, darling.”

. The door had all but slammed in her : face. At least, Edie had thought j staring at it, at least I could have held ! her. She mightn’t be so frightened I if I held her. After a while the . ambulance had come and Amy had ■ gone with the child to the hospital,

; but she had been stili terribly frightened. She wouldn’t have been, Edie thought, if I’d held her.

"What do other doctors’ wives do?’ Edie had asked Tim one night after a week during which she’d scarcely seen him.

"First,” Tim had said, "they look nice for their husbands, then they join clubs, dig and scratch in their gardens.”

Edie had gone to the next meeting of the Women’s Club, but she hadn’t ■

found it to be much help. There’d been a long talk and she couldn’t sit still, so nothing more had come of that.

But the garden was better. She grew to love her garden and find a deep satisfaction in the work she did in it. All summer and fall she’d had fiovers from it for Tim’s office. They were the only thing that linked her side of the house with his. They were her share in the comfort of sick souls, if r.ot sick bodies. She took a great (led of care with the arrangement of them, and loved it.

Then she had reached home one day and could scarcely believe her eyes. Tim, with Amy beside him, was planting bulbs along the front walk. Planting her bulbs in her garden! A great sense of indignity had mounted and mounted within 1er.

This was her side of the house.

’I im had brought Amy over to her side, into her garden.

“How doth the busy little bees . . .” Wiping his mouth on his coat sleeve he came to greet her. “It was such a grand day Amy and I thought we’d get a bit of fresh air and still improve the shining hours.”

Amy had vanished hastily through the office door.

“Did you invite her to dinner?” Edie had asked. She wasn’t jealous of Amy. She wouldn’t let herself be jealous of Amy.

Tim had swept her with him up the porch steps. “What for?”

“I don’t know,” Edie had shrugged coolly.

“Neither do I,” Tim had grinned. “Anyway, she doesn’t want to stay. She’s too tired.”

He had helped Edie off with her coat, hung it up in the closet for her.

I couldn’t possibly take Amy’s place, she had thought. But Amy could easily, very easily slip into mine. That was something else to remember.

Tim had promised to go with her to visit Aunt Dee. Edie had been counting on it a great deal. Once away from here, she could talk to him. Once away from here with a perspective of distance she could make Tim see how impossible it was for her to he contented with doors closed and a wall between them. His side. Her side. But at the last minute he couldn’t get away. Too many of the other doctors were out of town. So he had bought her a blue roadster, just for her own use.

“It’s gorgeous,” Edie had thanked him, her arms around his neck. But where would she go in it without him? Ingrate! she had told herself fiercely, trying to remember that proverb about a serpent’s tooth . . .

DIE jumped up from the divan, JLJ dropped another log on the fire and crept hack to her corner again. Was the wind really higher now, or did she only imagine that it was? She wasn’t afraid. She just didn’t like these had storms when Tim had to he out in them. She could imagine such dreadful things—Tim’s car blown off the road; Tim crushed by a falling tree.

She went over to the window and looked out. The branches of trees bowed down to touch the ground.

’he rain in long, silver harp strings

made a singing sound against the roof.

“ ‘Guard the sailors tossing on the deep blue sea.’ ” Aunt Dee always said it on a night like this. If Aunt Dee could see her now, would she say, too: “I told you so?”

Through the tumult of the storm she heard a telephone bell. It was hers, the one on her side of the house. Had something happened to Tim? Had some of her dread imaginings come true? She ran all the way into the hall to answer it, her heart pounding.

But it was Tim’s voice she heard: “Edie, look, dear. And please listen carefully. On the floor of the lefthand closet in my office there’s a brown hag. On the shelf you’ll find another, a smaller one. I want them both. Get a taxi and have them brought out here to the Fains’. Tell the driver if ever he stepped on it, to do it now. Yes? Wait a minute. Amy wants a couple of uniforms from the other closet. Understand? That’s the girl.”

Edie reached for the telephone book, ran her eye down the taxis listed in the back.

Bensons—she dialed the number. Presently a girl’s voice answered. All their cars were out. Emergency? Well, of course, if it was an emergency, she’d try to get someone. But she’d better not wait. She’d better try someone else first.

Edie’s forefinger found the second name—Garry’s Garage. Mrs. Garry answered. Mr. Garry had just got in. He’d been soaked to the skin getting his car out of a ditch. He was in the bathtub now and hadn’t had any dinner. But, of course, if it was an emergency and she couldn’t get anybody else . . .

Edie dropped the book. It swung hack and forth on the cord. Back and forth. Well, why not take the hags out herself? This was wasting time, precious time. It wasn’t right to waste so much time. Tim couldn’t be angry when there was such a good reason for her coming. He couldn’t he angry, even though when he gave orders, he wanted them followed to the letter. After all, the intelligent thing was to take them out herself.

She changed to a tweed suit and saddle oxfords. She found Amy’s uniforms and Tim’s bags. The gale, driving across the open lawn, nearly tore her from the porch steps. The dragging weight of the heavy hags seemed to he all that held her down.

Thought of Tim, waiting there, made her grip the bags tighter. Here in her hands, perhaps, were life and death.

The rain was no longer harp strings, hut a blinding torrent. After she reached the garage and the lull of sheltering walls, her courage wavered. It was a wild night. Maybe she shouldn’t attempt it. Suppose she should slide into a ditch; suppose there were trees down, wires.

Life and death ! A moment later she was hacking her car down the drive. A maple bough lashed at the shimmering blue hood. She could feel, though she couldn’t see, the long, deep gash it made. She started the windshield wiper and it moaned against the glass with the effort to keep it clear.

She’d gone a half mile when a low

dark mound appeared in the road ahead of her. Edie’s foot involuntarily pressed hard on the brake pedal. The car skidded, swayed, and righted itself again. The mound was only a sheet of roofing paper, but the skid was real.

Since she couldn’t watch the passing landscape, she tried to judge her distances by the speedometer. But she missed the road to the Fains’, a right turn hidden by trees, and had to come back and find it. A great pine limb blocked her way and she fought the wind again to drag it away from her front wheels.

Her heels sank deep in the muddy shoulders of the road and she scraped them off on the running board. As the car door slammed after her, another branch crashed to the ground. This one, Edie noted with a tightening of the throat, landed on the exact spot where she’d just been standing. But it hadn’t touched her. She wasn’t hurt. She could go on.

And now at last through the curtain of mist in front of her, she saw what must be the Fain house, every light blazing on all three stories.

Edie parked her car and struggled across the lawn and up the broad wooden steps of the porch. With stiff, cold fingers she tried the front door. But it was locked and she had to ring the bell.

It was Amy who answered—an Amy with a drawn, white face whose little cap tottered on the edge of a dishevelled gold halo.

“Oh, Mrs. Cotton,” she gasped. “Why did you come? This is awful. Doctor will be so distressed.”

“I couldn’t get a taxi,” Edie panted.

“You should have insisted,” Amy said. “They have to come if you insist.”

“Where’s Tim?” Not that she expected to see him. She only wanted to know where he was.

“Upstairs. But it would be much better if you left now without his knowing you were here.” Amy’s voice shook with emotion. “He has so much to trouble him without— without—”

“There must be something I can do to help,” Edie said, “now that I’m here.”

“Please.” Amy was firm. “You can help most by going away. Doctor Cotton has all the responsibility he can stand right this minute. No one here but an old aunt of Mr. Fain’s and Bobbie.”

“Mr. Fain?” Edie asked.

Amy shook her head. “We caught him just before he left his office. He was going to ride over with the ambulance, but the Beaver River bridge is out and there’s no way to get Mrs. Fain to the hospital. That’s why we have to operate here. Suppose Doctor should telephone again and not be able to reach you? Please, Mrs. Cotton!”

OVER the railing at the top of the stairs Edie saw Tim’s bright head shining in the hall light.

“Amy,” he whispered, “can’t you hurry? Do you have to stand there talking to a taxi driver?” He leaned out a little farther and, when he recognized Edie, dropped down the j full flight of stairs.

I “Edie! Tell me what you’re doing

here!” His voice frightened her; it was like something bound very tight and about to snap. The grip of his hand on her shoulder made her wince.

“I brought the bags, and the uniforms. I’m going back now.”

“In this tempest? The devil you are!” There followed a blur of things she tried not to hear.

If he couldn’t trust her to follow instructions, he’d never ask her to do anything again. Suppose she’d been stuck somewhere with those bags? Suppose she’d skidded into a tree? A swell bit of trouble she’d have made!

Her own anger rose to meet his. ‘T told you I couldn’t get a taxi. Don’t you believe me? And certainly there must be something I can do to help, under the circumstances.”

“You can go in the library and shut the door. And keep it shut.” Tim turned from her, went back up the stairs carrying the bags, with Amy close behind him.

Edie leaned against the newel post and watched them go. Then she sank down on the bottom step. She wasn’t going in the library and shut the door. That, at least, she wasn’t going to do. She looked down at her hands, turned them over, palms up. There must be a use for them. She put her head back against the railing. Well, if Tim did need her, he wouldn’t have to go far to find her.

The sounds overhead mingled, separated, mingled again. Running water, running footsteps, running words in whispers, and around them and through them the penetrating odor of disinfectants. Then, suddenly, blackness everywhere. All the lights had gone out.

On the top floor a little voice cried out: ‘‘Mummy. Mummy.”

Bobbie. An older voice answered hysterically: ‘‘Sh! Sh! Mummy’s

sick.”

Mr. Fain’s aunt, probably. Edie took off her beret and her raincoat and shook the water from them. There was something she could do. She could go to Bobbie and comfort him.

She heard the scratch of a match and candle light flickered through the open door at the head of the stairs. In the room Ina Fain moaned: ‘‘Do something, Doctor Cotton. Please do something.”

Together Tim and Amy stood in the hall.

‘‘It’s no use,” Tim said, with the despair of defeat. ‘‘Everything is against us. We can’t operate in the dark. Nothing to see with but candles and your flashlight and mine. It’s curtains this time. And we can only stand by and watch them fall.” ‘‘Mummy, Mummy,” Bobbie cried again.

On her knees part way up the stairs, Edie whispered:

‘T could hold the flashlights, Tim.” ‘‘And faint away in the middle of it? Thanks, no. That would be worse than not trying at all.”

He’s forgotten, she thought, about the library. She crept up five more steps. “I won’t faint. I’ve never fainted in my life.”

‘‘You’ve never seen an operation in your life, either.”

‘‘There has to be a first time for everything, Tim.” She was closer to him now. She could see the grim

line of his cheek bones, the tight line of his mouth. ‘‘My hands are steady, Tim. See?” She held them out. ‘‘I’m certain I can do it.”

‘‘No!” He spoke sharply. Nevertheless she sensed a weakening in that very sharpness.

‘‘You’ll always blame yourself, Tim.” Edie’s hand covered his on the top stair railing. ‘‘You’ll never forgive yourself if—if—”

‘‘Please, Doctor Cotton.” Amy touched his shoulder. ‘‘Mrs. Cotton doesn’t understand these things.”

‘T know she doesn’t,” Tim said hoarsely, ‘‘but just the same, just the same, Amy, it’s the chance I’m going to take. Make a mask for Mrs. Cotton out of a towel. Give her one of your uniforms. I’ve extra gloves in my bag.”

Upstairs Bobbie screamed. ‘‘It’s dark, Mummy. It’s dark.”

And Ina Fain gathered her strength to call back. ‘‘Don’t be frightened, darling. It will soon be light again.”

I? DIE could never remember ^ clearly a great deal of what happened after that. The smell of ether, that had always made her sick before, seemed to make her strong now. She heard the deep, hard breathing under the cone, and watched fascinated the quick response of Amy’s skilled hands to Tim’s unspoken commands.

When Edie’s arms began to quiver, she braced them against her firm hips. But all the time, all the time she kept both beams of light fastened unwaveringly on Ina Fain’s white skin.

Now Tim was all ready to—Edie shut her eyes. Then she opened them again. Better to see than imagine what she was seeing. There were seven candles around the room; all burning fast. There were twenty-two candles on her birthday cake when she’d made her wish. And here was her wish come true.

She fixed her eyes on Tim’s hands and kept them there. ‘‘I’m a doctor’s wife,” she said over and over to the reeling room. When the ache in her arms bore down upon her, she conquered it by saying under her breath: ‘‘Life and death. Life and death.” And then—it was over. Amy began at once to pick things up, but Edie’s fingers still clung numbly to the flashlights. She couldn’t open them.

‘‘All right?” Tim asked, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

‘‘All right,” Edie smiled up at him. His eyes, she saw, were shining. His whole face glowing. He was going to say something. Intuitively she knew what it was and shrank from hearing him say it. No, not that! She wasn’t swell, a brick, a good girl.

She slipped away from him out into the hall, and ran into Amy, coming from the bathroom with a white tray. Oh, she must tell Amy how wonderful she’d been. She wanted very much to tell Amy that. But her throat was closed tight and the words wouldn’t come. She could only touch Amy’s hand on the white tray. But Amy understood, for Amy smiled.

The rain had stopped, and the wind was quieter, too. Across the waning half moon dark clouds still scudded. Climbing over twisted

branches, uprooted shrubs, Edie reached her blue roadster.

It was dark inside but she didn’t mind the dark now. For she felt now as she’d felt that day at the flying field when Tim’s plane had winged its way toward her and she’d been lifted up to meet him. It was the first time since then.

The car door opened, and Tim stood by the running board.

“You’d better wait. I don’t like your driving back alone.”

“I’ll be careful, Tim. I’m not afraid.” She wanted to get home before he did. She wanted to have a warm fire and coffee perking, and a knife to cut the cake. She wanted him to find her waiting for him in their house, their house, where he could forget all this.

Tim cleared his throat. “I don’t know just how to tell you, Edie, about tonight. What it meant to all of us.”

“I only held the light,” she interrupted breathlessly. He mustn’t thank her, any more than he would thank himself.

Tim’s hand found hers where it rested on the wheel, closed over it.

“Blessed are those,” he said huskily, “who only hold the light.”