The two sat on the porch swing in front of Anders’s home. Everything, it seemed, was in full bloom across the Honellaken Valley. Just across the road, the forest of mostly maple trees swayed gently, reminding Freida of wind blowing through a ripe wheat field, with the canopy of leaves gently waving to and fro. The breeze itself was very pleasant, because it brought cooled air down from Ruar’s Ridge. Normally, Frieda loved to listen to the gentle rustling of the maple leaves. She’d sniff their slightly waxy, honeyed scent and think of sipping tea, along with a winter breakfast of pancakes.
But recent events made enjoying such moments impossible. Anders’s right knee bobbed up and down like a manic sewing machine needle. His right hand was balled up in a fist and bounced rhythmically off the top of his knee. Freida thought the combination looked like a bobbing, upside-down exclamation point. To Anders, the rustling in the trees was like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Freida, despite her own gnawing worry for Paign, was overcome with pity for Anders. She reached out and wrapped her slender, long fingers around Anders’s right hand. His leg immediately stopped moving, and his fist rested on his knee.
“It was three days ago…no, four. That’s right,” Anders said with difficulty, his voice strained.
“Yes, it was four days ago. We’d been arguing. You know, like the other times.”
“I was afraid of that,” Freida murmured. “About—”
“Yes!” Anders interrupted her, his eyes fiery.
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