He could walk now without too much pain. It seemed like his whole skeleton was aching, like his bones were clotted up with knots of pain flaring from his joints. He gritted his teeth against the pain but refused to stop walking. All the inactivity of the past few weeks had begun to make him feel tense and grumpy so he'd decided to go for a walk.
It was dark and early morning but there was a half moon. His enhanced senses lit the country around him in a ghostly daylight.
He stopped when he caught the scent of the dog. He whistled at the animal and was a little surprised to hear the sound. He hadn't said a single word in weeks and it almost startled him. From behind a large tree, the dog trotted forward. He looked at Logan with a grave, expectant look but would come no closer.
"You want to come on a walk, buddy?" Logan said, unexpectedly. His throat felt a little creaky but apparently it still worked. The dog didn't move but it wagged its tail at the friendly tone in Logan's voice. For a moment, the dog and Logan looked at each other. The dog whined softly and shuffled his big feet. Then Logan began to walk away. After he'd gone only a few feet forward, he heard the dog trot along behind him, careful to maintain a comfortable distance.
"You're gonna walk with me but not walk with me, is that it, buddy? Fair enough."
Logan wished suddenly that he had a cigar. He'd almost forgotten about cigars. He would have liked to hang out on the porch of the boathouse with this dog, enjoying a good cigar. Now that he could walk better, those women wouldn't have to come out here and bring him food. He hated that they did that. He wasn't some goddamn invalid.
Things were beginning to look more familiar. One night he'd even walked over to the mansion. He'd watched it for a while. It looked warm inside although it was dark and all of them were surely sleeping. A light came on in the big room with the large window and he'd seen a good-looking kid walk through the room. He had longish hair and he looked sleepy. Logan felt a faint and inexplicable sense of irritation at the sight of him. He had no idea why but he didn't like the guy walking around in there at night. He was just probably after a midnight snack but for some reason the sight annoyed him. He began to feel the tension swell within him again. He felt like he was supposed to remember but he just couldn't.
Tonight, though, he was content to just walk with the dog. The pain in his legs was considerable but maybe that was a good thing. The pain reminded him that he was still alive.
The next morning, Logan stepped onto the front porch before the sun had risen to find the dog curled asleep in front of the door. He stepped over the sleeping dog and sat down on the old rocking chair. It creaked when he sat down on it but it held him. Now that he weighed relatively little, he was in no danger of breaking chairs. He'd broken a few before, he remembered suddenly, and often got teased for it.
"All dese chairs are scared dat you're going to sit in dem," he seemed to remember someone saying. He felt slightly irritated again. He shrugged the unwanted memory off and reached down and gently stroked the big dog. The dog didn't stir. Logan felt happy that he'd finally gotten to pet the big guy.
He caught a scent on the wind. It was a female person but not one of the ones that normally came. They usually didn't come this early either. The sun was just beginning to rise. He started to get up out of his chair, a little annoyed that his early morning had been interrupted when he saw her. The woman was walking towards the little boathouse with a large covered dish in her hand. She was not very tall and slightly built. The wind ruffled the wedge of dark hair that just brushed her shoulders. Logan was already on his feet but he'd risen too fast and now there were sharp pains shooting through his legs.
"Good morning, Logan," she said. He could hardly hear her. The pain was coming fast and hard. He squinted at her and gripped the chair for support but it rocked backward and he lost his balance. He wobbled for a second and then managed to regain his balance.
"You nearly made me fall over, damn you," he said.
"No, I didn't. You didn't have to jump to your feet like that."
"Who the hell are you? I haven't seen you before."
"I'm an old friend. I didn't think you would remember. Why don't you sit down?"
Logan scowled at her and settled himself into the chair. There was no point in trying to escape. He cursed himself quietly. The woman walked onto the porch and through the half-open door without a word. Logan heard her place the dish on the little table in the kitchenette then she walked back to the door and stood there.
"You look the same. Not a day older," she said.
"I don't want to talk."
"Hmmm. There's a surprise. You look very uncomfortable. Why don't you relax?"
"Why don't you get the hell back to that house and leave me alone?"
"It's no use, Logan. You can't scare me. I'm not afraid of you."
He didn't respond. She was telling the truth; he couldn't smell any fear on her. He felt tired suddenly. The woman was tiring him. He didn't want to hear her talk.
"They don't know what you'll do but I know."
"Lady, are you nuts? I said I don't want to talk to you. I don't know who you are. Just go back with those other girls and start a sewing circle or throw a Tupperware party or something and leave me the hell alone."
She laughed shortly. "That's sounds more like your old style. I think you're getting better."
"Who's this," she said, pointing at the dog watching her warily.
"That's a dog, what does it look like?"
"I think he's protective of you. He's scared of me. Is this a stray?"
Logan didn't respond. He was hoping that she'd just go back now. The dog growled at her low in his throat and Logan smiled.
"That dog is just like you," she observed. "I'm going back for some things but I'll be back soon so don't get too comfortable."
"You're doing what?"
"You heard me," she said over her shoulder as she turned and began walking back towards the mansion.
"Don't come back. If you do--I won't be here."
"Yes, you will. You won't get very far."
Logan had taxed his muscles the night before and now he was paying for it. He knew that he could probably only make it to the palette on the floor before collapsing. His only alternative was to stay in the chair, which made him a sitting duck for whatever nosy woman turned up. He leaned over and pulled his pant leg up. The underside of his leg was turning purple. He must have pulled his hamstring. The muscles were knitting themselves together but they were still delicate and he'd set them back for a day or two, possibly more. He cursed himself and decided to take a nap right where he was.
When he woke up, he was startled by the sound of someone in the little house. He realized groggily that it had to be the terrible woman from before.
"Hey, is that you again? Get out of my house."
"Yes, it's me again." She walked through the door and smiled at him. "You were sound asleep. I practically had to step over your tongue on the way to the kitchen."
"Very funny. Now get out," he said, waving his arm at her impatiently.
"Jesus, how old are you?"
"I'm even older than you are. And I know you can't get out of that chair. You've worn yourself out, as usual, and now you're just going to have to let someone help you. You have no choice."
"Do those other broads know you're over here bugging me?"
"Yes, they tried to talk me out of it."
"Why didn't you listen? Don't you know that I once stabbed that kid in the chest?" He was just remembering that incident now. It was the kid with the long brown hair with the streaks in it, the one that looked really sad. She didn't always have those streaks though--they came later.
"The stove works. I got Remy to take me to the store and I bought enough food to hold us for a while." She walked over until she stood within arm's reach of him. "Let me see that leg."
"Stop being a big baby and let me see that leg. I've seen your legs before," She bent down before he could answer and peeled back his pant leg. "Well, you've torn those muscles again. Way to go, Logan. I hope you're pleased with yourself."
"Where did the dog go?"
Logan perked up and looked around. He whistled for the dog but he was nowhere to be found.
"Thanks, lady, you scared my dog away."
"He'll be back. You two looked pretty comfortable."
She walked back into the house and he heard her dragging one of the kitchen table chairs across the hardwood floor. She dragged it over to the other side of the porch and sat down. She settled herself in the chair and opened her book. About ten minutes passed with neither of them saying anything. And then an hour and then another--still she had not spoken.
He looked at her closely for the first time. She was attractive, he thought. She had good hair, a little wild. It curled softly around her face. She was fair and slight, not exactly beautiful but she did have nice eyes. They were large with long lashes. She appeared to be thoroughly absorbed in her book; she wasn't pretending to read.
Another hour passed with neither of them speaking. She was still reading her book and she'd hardly moved at all. Late in the afternoon, she rose from her chair and asked him if he was hungry. He didn't respond. She ignored his silence and spent another hour or so in the kitchen, banging things around. She walked out finally and set a plate on his lap. It looked to be a burrito of some sort. Logan picked up his fork and poked at it. She walked back into the house and emerged a moment later with a large stainless steel bowl full of something that smelled terrible.
"You want to whistle for that dog, again, Logan. Oh, wait, I forgot the water bowl," she walked back into the house and came out again with a bowl of water. "Where's the best place for this?"
"Put it over by the steps," Logan said, munching on a mouthful of burrito. "Is this a bean burrito? Where's the meat?"
"I don't eat meat. Besides, when did you become so picky? You'll eat just about anything."
"Great. I've got a vegetarian chick cooking for me. Just what I need."
When he was done, he set the plate down on the floor and left it there. Mina rose after she'd finished and carried the plate into the house. When she came out again, she tossed a cigar into his lap.
"Need a light?"
She lit the cigar for him. He settled back into his chair and puffed contentedly. They resumed their mutual silence. It was growing too dark to read so Mina put her book down and simply sat. She didn't turn to look at him. He didn't look at her. Logan began to feel fidgety. He'd been sitting all damn day and he was beginning to feel restless. For whatever reason, it was hardest in the mornings and during the full flush of noon. Once the day waned and began to cool, he began to feel less as if he saw everything through a mist of pain and resentment.
"What were you reading?" he said, finally.
"I've heard of it, I think. Isn't that some kind of girly book or something, some big love story?"
"Yes, it's a love story of sorts."
"You always this quiet?"
"Well, I like quiet. Quiet is good."
They didn't speak again for a long time. It grew completely dark. Mina's eyes began to close and her head fell forward once before she jerked it back up again.
"Why don't you head on back now and get some sleep?"
"I'm sleeping here."
"Because there's room for me."
"You're a really weird woman, you know that?"
"You've told me that before, about five years ago, as a matter of fact. At least you're talking even if you're only insulting me. Jean and Ororo told me that you haven't spoken to anyone in a good while."
Logan looked at her for a moment. She stood up and yawned and stretched herself. He watched how the front of her white shirt stretched against her. She was slight but nicely put together.
"Well, good night, Logan." She got up and he heard her walk toward the little bedroom and then he heard her close the door behind her.
Another day passed in much the same way. Logan hardly spoke to her and she didn't seem to notice or care. She spent a large part of the day reading or puttering around in the kitchen, humming to herself, while he sat on the porch, being grumpy. The dog appeared again and took to sitting at Logan's feet. He still wouldn't let Mina touch him but he'd stopped growling at her whenever she came near him.
"What are you reading now?" Logan said one particularly clear night.
"I'm reading The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe."
"Well, why don't you read some of it to me. You're starting to bore me."
Mina flipped to the beginning of the story and began again. Logan appeared to be listening. When she'd finished, he didn't say anything right away.
"That's the weirdest shit I've ever heard," Logan said finally, blowing a puff of smoke into the air. "What's with this Poe guy? Was he nuts?"
"He was a strange person. I don't think anyone really knows exactly what he was like aside from the obvious fact that he was very troubled."
"What's your name anyway? You've been living here for days and you haven't told me your name. Who in the hell are you?"
"You haven't asked. My name is Mina."
"Mina," he said, rolling the name over his tongue.
"You seem to be feeling better. You actually strung a few sentences together a minute ago. I'm proud of you."
Logan grunted noncommittally. She picked up her book again.
"For a woman, you don't talk much. You sure are boring."
"I thought you weren't interested in talking."
Mina smiled and, opening her book, began to read again. He smoked his cigar in silence. He felt a little edgy, like she was going to launch into some sort of appallingly intimate conversation at any minute but she just sat quietly. He shifted in his chair and sighed heavily.
"What weirdness are you reading now?" Logan said, finally.
"I think I've heard of it. Not sure, though."
"It's well known."
He flicked the ash from his cigar off the porch.
"You can read a little more if you want to."
She smiled again and began to read. When she'd finished the poem she turned to The Masque of the Red Death and read it too.
"What the hell was that?" Logan said when she'd finished.
"It's a story about a nasty prince and a bunch of people partying while. . . "
"I know that, for Chrissake. Who would deliberately think up stuff like that and then write it down?"
"Well, Edgar Allan Poe, of course."
Logan just shook his head.
"Why would bring a book like that here? You're supposed to be nursing me or whatever and you bring the world's weirdest shit ever to read to me."
"Charles didn't have much to choose from, I'm afraid. It was this or an abundance of volumes on human genetics, the psychology of violent mob behavior, and a few inexplicable self-help books, the pop psychology kind. I don't know where they came from but I suspect that they belong to Scott. Not too terribly interesting."
Logan just grunted. Mina eventually returned to her book. He'd begun to suspect that she was planning on sitting with him forever, tending to him quietly and impersonally. He thought of them suddenly, growing old together on the porch, saying little to each other. She appeared to be perfectly content to just sit with him and make him food and speak if spoken to but mostly spend a large part of her time sitting in silence.
"He also had a volume of Shakespeare. You used to like that once. Do you remember it?"
"Nope. I don't remember."
"I see. Too bad."
"You a fan of his?"
"Somewhat. He was a pretty dark sort of person. And his women tended to be either weak and spineless or bloodthirsty harpies. There wasn't much of a middle ground."
"It's painful, not to remember. Sometimes forgetfulness is a blessing but other times it can be a burden that's impossible to carry. I guess I've learned that lesson a time or two."
"Where did that come from? You best secure that shit. I don't want to hear you preach, Mina."
"It just popped into my head. I'm not ordinarily given to preachiness," she said. "You said my name."
"Nothing really. I'm just surprised, that's all."
"How long you planning on being out here anyway? Don't you have something better to do?"
"Why? I don't need you."
"Of course you don't. God forbid you should be dependent on someone. You're such a pain in the ass when you're sick. Except you never get sick, do you? So I guess you're just a pain in the ass in general."
"You know you talking like you know me is really weird. I don't like it. You're a stranger to me. As far as I'm concerned I don't know you from Adam."
"Would you prefer that I just stop talking altogether?"
"All right then. Have it your way," she said, picking up her book again. Eventually, she rose without a word and returned to her little room.
* * *
Two days passed and Mina had not spoken to him at all. She spoke occasionally to the dog but that was all. The dog was still suspicious of her and watched her a lot. He wanted to make sure that she wouldn't suddenly and inexplicably attack Logan. He would even watch her when she was just sitting in the rocking chair, reading or staring out over the water.
Though he tried to hide it, Logan watched her too. He would slide a glance over at her in the evenings when they sat together on the porch. It didn't seem to bother her, all the silence. Logan had the feeling that she was playing some sort of game with him, though exactly what her intentions could be puzzled him. He didn't mistake her silence for resignation. He had the feeling that she was merely being patient.
The pain in his body was beginning to subside. He'd managed to walk from his chair to his palette on the floor the night before without too much trouble. The restlessness still gripped him and made him feel frustrated but he began to believe that the pain would end soon. He started to feel the need for some conversation but she didn't seem to notice or care. She went on reading her book or staring ahead of her, absorbed in her thoughts.
Sitting together one evening, Logan shifted himself in his chair and groaned audibly. Then he cleared his throat and looked over at her. Her head was bent over her book, a thick sheet of hair hid her face from him.
The dog suddenly perked his ears and sat up. He cocked his head and whined a little before launching himself into the trees, barking excitedly.
"He must have heard that squirrel," Logan mused, throwing a quick glance at Mina.
She lifted her head and peered after the dog. Then she bent her head over her book again.
"He'll be back, I'm sure. He won't get any squirrels tonight. He can't climb trees but I'm sure he'll try. That dog has got a lot of determination," Logan said.
Mina turned a page and settled herself again into her chair. She rolled her head around to stretch the tight muscles, sat up and arched her back before sighing deeply and falling back into her chair.
"Is your neck all tight? You've been sitting still so long that I'm not surprised. That chair ain't too comfortable. You should get up and stretch a little. All this sitting can't be good for you."
She didn't respond. Logan stole another glance at her.
"I wonder where the dog wandered off to. It's beginning to snow and it's going to be cold tonight. Maybe I should get up and call for him."
She didn't respond again. She waited another twenty minutes before saying anything.
"You've grown attached to that dog, haven't you?"
"I like anything that doesn't talk."
"Logan, patron saint of all things that don't talk. That leaves a lot of things for you to champion. I think that's an excellent strategy."
Logan smiled and shifted in his chair to get a better look at her.
"You're not an easy woman to annoy and I'm usually pretty good at it. What makes you so different?"
"I know you too well."
"There you go again."
"Well, you asked."
"So what vegetarian delicacy are you going to serve up tomorrow? I'm about to break down and eat the dog food I'm so sick of vegetables and fruit."
"I thought I would scrape some bark off the trees and stir-fry it for you, sprinkle it with some twigs maybe for some texture. How would you like that?"
"So how well did we know each other anyway?" Logan asked, smiling again.
"Pretty well once."
"Do you mean did we know each other in the Biblical sense? I imagine so."
"You imagine so? You mean you don't remember? I'm hurt."
"You're trying to shock me or embarrass me, aren't you? It won't work."
"Just trying to get to know you a little better since I'm apparently stuck with you."
"Hmmm. We were close once. Let's just leave it at that."
The snow was falling delicately. It drifted around the little porch aimlessly, settling onto their clothes and into her hair. She shivered and pulled her collar tighter around her neck. Logan pulled himself to his feet with a groan and walked slowly through the door. He emerged a moment later with a blanket in his hands. He walked up beside her and draped the blanket around her. He bent down and pulled a corner of the blanket up around her face, tucking it gently around her shoulders.
"Thank you, Logan."
"You're welcome," he said, returning to his chair.
* * *
Jean and Ororo were sitting in the kitchen when Mina walked in early the next morning.
"Good morning, Mina. We were just talking about you," Jean said.
"Were you really?"
"And Logan, of course. We were wondering how he's doing."
"He seems to be feeling better. His new campaign is to annoy me, I think, until I get fed up and decide to leave. He seems to have abandoned the Ignore Me Until I Leave approach."
"Oh, well, then he is definitely feeling better," Ororo said.
"Glad to hear it," Jean said.
Mina walked over to one of the drawers and began to rifle through it in search of the serving spoon she'd come for. Jean noticed that Mina was wearing a watch. The watch struck her as odd, a woman who had previously had no concept of the passing of time was wearing a watch.
"So he's accepted that you're his designated little helper?" Jean asked.
"Apparently. He doesn't have much choice after all. I didn't give him much choice and the situation being what it is--he couldn't just get up and walk off. I'm sure he would have tried if he'd been able."
She retrieved the serving spoon and sat down at the kitchen table.
"He seems to be past the worst of it. I'd like to think that I've helped in some way but it's hard to tell. He still doesn't remember anything or he claims not to."
"I thought maybe he didn't remember," Jean said. "I couldn't sense any recognition in him at all. It's like he's just shut down completely."
"I suspect that he just doesn't want to remember. It's an act of pure rebellion against himself. He's always been his own worst enemy. However, I think that this whole solitude kick of his is healthy in a weird sort of way. He needed all his energy just to heal himself and that left him without any energy to remember. You know how a wolf will chew off his own leg to be free of a trap? Well, Logan just shut down a part of his mind so that he would be in a position to free himself of the pain."
"That makes sense," Ororo said.
"The pain will subside and he will begin to remember, I think," she said, sighing and looking at her watch. "He is beginning to want it. I hope he does it soon. I'm running out of time. I have to get back."
Jean and Ororo watched her. Neither asked the question on both their minds.
"I will explain later, girls, I promise. Right now, I have to go make Logan his breakfast. I've made vegetarian chili for lunch. I'm sure he'll have a lot of complaints about it," she said, smiling to herself and rising from the table.
"You know," Jean said as they watched Mina walk through the living room and disappear around a corner, "I was feeling a little angry with Logan but now I'm not. The thought of him eating vegetarian chili is just so perfect."
"I agree," Ororo said.
* * *
"Where's my dog?" Logan said, peering out the little window of the boathouse. The snow was fairly deep and the dog had not come back from his pursuit of the squirrel. "I kind of miss the little bugger."
"He probably just wanted a little alone time, like you," Mina said. She was busy trying to get a fire going in the fireplace. "He'll come back." She began to rub her hands together vigorously. It was cold inside the boathouse.
"Are you cold, darlin'?"
"Why don't you come sit with me here on the couch?" Logan said with a grin.
"Have you embarked upon a new campaign? Now you're going to play horny frat boy with me?"
"Nah, I just thought I could warm you up a little bit. Apparently, I've done it before."
Mina scowled at him but she walked over to the couch and sat next to him. She tucked her feet under her, keeping a good distance.
"Why don't you come a little closer?"
"I can feel your body heat from this distance, thank you."
"Don't your friends up at the house miss you?"
"They are more like acquaintances, I'm afraid. I don't know any of them very well. Remy is friendly, of course. The others are busy with their various projects. I wasn't here very long before. Only a month or so and it's been five years."
"Remy's that kid with the hair that hangs in his face, right? He annoys me."
"I don't know. I just remember that he annoys me."
"He's nice. He's really funny."
"So you've gotten friendly with him then? How exactly did you manage that? You're over here with me all the time--doesn't leave you much time to chat with obnoxious losers."
"Logan, are you jealous?"
"Hmmm. I'm not convinced."
Mina sipped on her cup of coffee. Logan went on looking at her. The firelight made her look particularly attractive, giving her fair skin a ruddy look that she didn't normally possess.
"So why did you come here to live with me if you've got a life somewhere else?"
"That's a long story. I don't think this is a good time--."
"I'm just curious. Most of what you say doesn't make any sense and I'm confused. You were only here for a short time before; we knew each other and now magically you're back. It couldn't be because one of the others phoned you because you're not very close with them and haven't seen them in five years and yet here you are."
"Here I am and soon I will have to go back."
"Where? Go back where?"
She didn't answer, just looked into the fire for a moment.
"You're feeling better, aren't you? Soon you won't need me at all. You'll remember everything and you'll have your life back as well as your will to live it."
"Maybe. Maybe not as soon as you think," Logan said, quietly. "I might decide to change a few things. Start with a blank slate."
"I hope not. They need you. A lot of people need you."
"Not you, apparently, if you're leaving soon."
"Logan, that is an explanation that will have to come later. It's too lengthy to go into right now."
"You're angry with me. I'm sorry."
"I'm not angry. You don't want to tell me--I don't care."
They didn't speak for a long stretch. Logan groaned and rubbed his thighs.
"Just tell me one thing, Mina. Why did you come out here for me?"
Mina took a deep breath. She closed her book and set it beside her, turning to face him.
"I came because you helped me once. You helped me to remember. You're helping me right now, although you don't know it. I felt like I should do the same for you, any way I could, although I don't seem to be helping much."
"Well, it's nice to know I did something for you once."
"I wonder sometimes if I should have come at all. It's not good to interfere," she said, running her hands through her hair. "I may have done more damage than good."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Oh, never mind," she said, rising from the couch. "I'm going to bed."
Logan watched her as she walked toward the little bedroom. He sat there for a minute and then rose and followed her. He leaned on the doorframe for support and stood there, watching her as she pulled her shirt over her head.
"The dog still hasn't come back," he said.
"Jesus, you startled me. I didn't hear you get up."
"Yes, you are," Mina said. Mindful of her state of undress, she reached for her shirt and started to pull it back over her head. She hesitated, letting it fall to the floor instead and turned around to face him. She was wearing only her white bra and jeans. She looked unreal in the moonlight. It cast her in an unearthly bluish light, making her look ghostly and insubstantial.
"That necklace from your boyfriend? Or from your husband?"
"It's from you. You gave it to me for Christmas about five years ago."
"I did," he said walking over to her and taking the cold silver into his hands, he bent down to read the inscription.
"What are those little sticks engraved on it?"
"Rosemary. It's a line from Hamlet, from Ophelia's mad scene."
"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance," he read. "I gave you this? That's a weird line."
"It was singularly appropriate at the time."
"You just let me walk in here and see you half-undressed. You're shameless, you know."
"It seemed natural enough."
Logan didn't move towards her, and she didn't step away or move to clothe herself. He was searching her face and she looked back at him expectantly.
"You're a weird one, you know, but I'm beginning to see what I liked about you. I can't explain it but I can see it. There's something about you. I feel like an idiot. I think that--I think what it is---," he said. He took a deep breath and reaching for her, took hold of her arms. "I don't know what it is because you're weird and you read weird books and I can't figure you out but I like what I see. Can't help it. You came and you were nice and strange and there's something about you. The past few days have been the first in a while that I didn't feel cramped and angry and confused, uncomfortable in my own skin, like I was looking at everything through a warped piece of glass or something. And you--you're so clear and together. You seem so steady and certain and, well, just right somehow." He said, stepping closer to her and pressing his lips to her forehead.
"That's good. I mean--I'm glad," she said, taking a step back from him and rubbing her arms. She looked down at her feet. Her hair fell into her face and he couldn't read her expression. Logan could see that she was breathing rapidly.
"I made you uncomfortable. I'm sorry."
"No. No, you didn't. That's what I wanted to hear. I'm glad that you want to remember. I only wish that I wanted to."
"What do you mean?"
Mina shook her head and reached for her shirt.
"Let's go look for the dog, shall we?" she said. "I'm beginning to worry about him too."
* * *
The snow was falling heavily when Mina and Logan stepped outside the little boathouse. Logan would have kicked himself if that were humanly possible for him. He'd opened his big mouth and now he'd freaked her out. There wasn't any way for him to really say what he was feeling, how he felt just looking at her. He didn't quite understand what he was feeling himself.
"Why don't you call for him? He's your dog."
"Why don't you?"
"He doesn't like me, remember. He tries to bite me. I doubt he'd come to me."
"Isn't that your particular talent? Taming wild things?"
"Are you making some sort of unsubtle analogy? I've never tamed anything in my life, except myself, I suppose."
He watched her walking through the snow. She had a particular sort of grace about her. He'd noticed it before, watching her putter around in the kitchen or rocking herself in her chair. He had to follow a little ways behind her. He couldn't quite keep up yet and she was moving with confidence.
"Call to him, Logan. I want him to come back."
"Here boy. C'mon you little stinker, where are ya?"
There was no response, only the snow moved around them.
"Maybe he found a good woman to look after him for a while. If that's the case, then he won't be coming back anytime soon. I wouldn't either."
"It's so cold out here. I don't like the idea of him out here alone all night."
"I don't either but I guess he's always managed. He's probably afraid that you were going to serve him some vegetarian dog chow or something."
Mina ignored him. She was walking ahead at a brisk pace, peering ahead into the darkness between the tall trees. The moon overhead was full and again it made her look unearthly, almost luminous.
"Minnie, do you like it here?"
He could see by the tilt of her head that she was smiling to herself.
"You're the only one who calls me that."
"Would you rather I called you something else, darlin'?"
"No, I like it when you use goofy endearments. It's so you."
"Well, I guess that's good."
"Yes, I like it here. Of course, I do. You're here, aren't you?"
"Hard to tell sometimes."
"No, it's not."
"Hard to tell because you're so set on leaving."
"No, I'm not," she ran her gloved hands through her hair and sighed. "Can we talk about this later?"
She turned and walked up to him.
"I don't think he wants to come back tonight. Maybe we should just let him be."
"Maybe," Logan said, taking her gloved hands into his. "Look up there. It's a full moon."
"Yes, it is."
Logan felt happy when she didn't withdraw her hands from his. The snow was caught in her hair. He reached out and fingered a curl, letting it wind around his finger. From somewhere, the dog began to howl, a long mournful wail to the moon. Logan breathed in the smell of the virgin snow as it mingled with the scent of the woman standing before him. He looked up again at the moon and then back to her face.
"There he is," Mina said.
"Your hair-- it used to be longer didn't it?"
"Yes, I cut it a few years back. It always tangled so easily. I like it better this way, don't---," she said, suddenly stopping and inhaling sharply.
Logan was remembering a time when he'd stood like this before, hearing the howling of a dog in the distance, beneath a full moon, standing before a cold and distant representation of the woman who stood before him now in flesh and blood.
"I guess I got my answer."
"You came back. There's my answer."
"What are you talking about?"
"You know what I'm talking about."
She took a step back from him and smiled sadly into his face.
"It was for the best, Logan. Believe me, it had to be that way. I can see that now."
"I can't. Seems like I remember it really sucked."
"I guess you would see it that way. I owe you an explanation, don't I?"
"Yep. Let's hear it."
"I knew you would remember. I knew you would."
* * *
"There are physicists who theorize that there are countless universes in the flow of time, splitting off from the one we're in now, in a thousand different directions. Well, I can vouch for that particular theory, I think."
They were back inside the boathouse now. Mina was seated on the floor in front of the fire, sitting beside Logan's knees. He sat on the couch. It was too uncomfortable for him to sit on the floor. "I just landed into the past, or maybe I just landed in another universe, another time when we must have known each other. I woke up and I was in a bed and I was very sick. I was in a convent in France. The year was 1944, I think. None of the sisters seemed to know what was wrong with me. I got better and eventually I helped to tend to the others. The place was filled with soldiers, refugees from the war, from the camps, and more came everyday. The sisters seemed to think that I was in shock or an amnesiac and I didn't try to dissuade them because I didn't know what I was or what I was doing either. They were very kind to me and they were kind to you when you came.
You annoyed the hell out of them, I think. You practically turned that whole place upside down. Imagine an enormous place like that, filled with women going about their saintly business and then you show up," she smiled to herself, remembering. "Right away you did everything you weren't supposed to do. You smoked inside the convent walls, you cursed at everyone and played poker with the few people that didn't have enough sense not to play with you. At first, the sisters were elated that you recovered so quickly from wounds that should have been fatal. They thought you were some kind of miracle worker but after a while then they began to wonder if you weren't possessed of a demon."
Logan smiled ruefully.
"You stayed for weeks even though you had healed in the first few days and eventually the sisters began to wonder if you were ever going to leave. I think the final straw came when you began to pursue me. Then they told you that you had to leave. I bet they were enormously relieved when you agreed to go without a fuss. They weren't so happy when I told them that I was going with you but they were helpless, of course. I was helpless too. They were nice girls but staying there had become suffocating and being with you was--well--it was what being with you is always like. I think right away I saw that you were rootless and adrift, just like me, and that brought us together and kept us together, in the beginning.
We wandered all over, to London, Madrid, and Rome. You didn't like London. You said the British were too damned uptight so we didn't stay there long. In Rome, one night, you told me you were leaving for a while. You said you had some unfinished business to take care of and you didn't know how long you were going to be gone. We had a terrible fight there, in our hotel room. I wanted you to tell me what was going on but you told me that you couldn't and that I wouldn't understand anyway. There were all these shady deals in your background that you never wanted to talk about. I still don't know all of it, even now. You left anyway. You said that you'd come back and you told me to stay there and wait for you. I don't know how long you were gone because before long I forgot that you'd ever been there. You later told me that you'd gone to our room when you'd returned and some stranger had answered the door. God only knows what you must have thought. You looked all over that city for me until eventually you saw me in a little café overlooking the Mediterranean. You came charging up to me and scared the living daylights out of me and everyone else, ranting and raving and cursing me when I didn't have a clue who you were. Eventually, you calmed down enough for me to explain the whole problem. We must have been there for hours. I can still see your face when I told you the truth, about my past and how little I knew of it. I told you all of it, all that I hadn't told you before and later I realized how much I had begun to rely on you. You are so of the moment, aren't you? You live almost exclusively in the present, something I desperately needed and wanted. After that, you hardly ever left my side. You watched me nearly every minute of the day. We were always together. If I went shopping--you were there. If I went to the bathroom--you would wait outside the door to make sure that I would come back intact and entirely present. You feared every minute that I would just disappear completely.
"It was funny. I had lived with not knowing and not remembering for so long that it didn't scare me very much anymore. It didn't scare me until I lived with you because finally I'd found somewhere that I wanted to stay, possibly forever. It was good, at first, despite everything, it was still a happy life."
She paused and looked into the fire.
"And?" Logan said.
"And then it wasn't a happy life anymore. You grew restless. It was unbearable for you finally, having to watch over me with such vigilance. We became snappish and irritable with each other. You would brood alone and not speak to me for days. I never asked you to stay forever but somewhere along the line you began to chafe under the responsibility that living with me entailed. I didn't blame you then and I don't blame you now. It was a role that you'd assigned yourself and I'd assigned you that role too and those were impossible shoes to fill. I'd always told myself that I would be prepared for your absence. I reminded myself of it nearly every day. I thought I would stay a step ahead of you and keep an eye on the door too, to prepare for the inevitable."
"I left one night after we'd had another terrible fight. You were drunk and you finally just collapsed with exhaustion and frustration and hopelessness. I remember how you looked, passed out on the bed. I remember how you looked because I looked at you for a long time. I thought it would be the last time I would have the chance. I packed my bag then and left without saying goodbye. I knew it was the only way. I couldn't--I wouldn't live my whole life asking the impossible of you."
"So that was it? That was all? You left and I didn't see you again until somehow you wound up here?"
She sighed and shifted herself, looking up into his face. "No, that wasn't all. I guess a long time passed before I saw you again. I hadn't left Italy. I'd been working at a library in a university when I met Giovanni. He was a professor of history there and we became friendly. I noticed that he had a strange way of knowing things about me. It wasn't long before I asked him outright if he was a telepath and, of course, he was. One night, we talked until very early in the morning and I told him the whole story, about my problem with time and remembering. He was sympathetic and offered to help me with the whole mess. He was a lot like Charles. At least, Charles reminds me of him. I was hesitant to embark upon another adventure with a telepath. I'd had a bad experience with one before but that is another story. Anyway, eventually, he wore me down about it. I can see now that he just genuinely wanted to help me and didn't have any ulterior motives at all.
Our work together was long and arduous and horrifying. I'm like you. I hate having someone in my head. It feels like you're being violated. To make an already long story short, I'll tell you this--as horrific as it was for me--it set me free. We worked through the trauma of my childhood and adulthood and all the rest of it. He had a theory that my particular gifts existed on a cellular level deeper than I had ever guessed. I do not age apparently, at least, not like others do. That's why I've been alive so damned long, even longer than you, Logan. When we were done with all that therapy or whatever you want to call it--I could remember everything as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. Not only could I remember everything but I began to see things that hadn't yet happened.
I remember the first time I had a vision. It was something totally mundane and pointless. There was a young student who spent a lot of time at the library. He was constantly checking out books and returning them late and sometimes damaged. I was working one day and I saw him walk into the library with a charred book in his hands, the pages fluttered behind him, freed of their binding. I went downstairs and looked for him and the burned book, very annoyed, but he wasn't there. I asked the others and they told me that they hadn't seen him all day. An hour later, he came in with the destroyed book in his hands and he slapped some money on the counter to pay for it just like he always did.
At first, I thought it was a wonderful gift. If I needed to be somewhere in an hour and I was running late--I always knew which roads to take and which to avoid so that I would not be waylaid. I welcomed it, at first.
One night, I awoke in a panic. I'd seen Giovanni lying on the side of the road, bleeding from a wound to his chest. I called him and told him what I had seen and begged him not to go out the next day. He told me that he wouldn't go out at all and he didn't, not the next day and not the day after that. I called him every day, every afternoon. One day, he didn't answer the phone. The night before he'd ventured outside for some reason and he'd been stabbed to death by some kids who'd robbed him of his wallet, stabbed him in the chest, and left him there for dead.
I'd never really thanked him. Oh, I'd thanked him a thousand times but I'd never been able to repay his kindness to me. I'd told him not to go outside the day after I'd had the vision and I guess we both thought that we'd averted disaster. I didn't know that his death would occur days after.
I thought about Giovanni and I thought about you. You had been so kind and I'd never really thanked you either, not like I'd wanted to, not deliberately. I'd always thought that finding you would be not only impossible but unbearably painful. I was sure that you had no desire to see me again, ever. Leaving you was the hardest thing I'd ever done but it had been mitigated somewhat by the knowledge that eventually I would forget you. You, of course, didn't have that security. I'd always told myself that leaving was the best thing for both of us and perhaps I was right. Looking back, I can't help thinking that it had been easier for me.
As it turned out, you found me. You'd been all over the continent, boozing it up and raising hell. You showed up at my door one day, stinking drunk. You'd been following me around Rome for weeks you said. Seeing you there put the fear of God into me. I'd never seen you like that before, uncontrollably angry. It took me hours to get you to calm down. You cornered me in that room and growled at me and cursed me. Eventually, you calmed down and we talked all through that night and into the next day. I told you everything that had happened, how I seemed to have healed myself, how happy I was that I had my memory for the first time. You stayed with me there in that room all night and you stayed for many, many days afterwards. After that, you didn't leave again and neither did I. I never thought about leaving again. And that brings us, more or less, to the present time. At least, it's the present for me."
"That's some story, darlin'," Logan said finally, running a hand through his hair. "I don't know quite how to take it."
"I know the feeling."
"So we still live together somewhere in a past that I don't remember and now you're here in the present, sitting with me, talking a lot of crazy shit."
"Not exactly. That's not exactly it, I'm afraid."
"I don't live with you in your past."
"I'm not sure that it happened the same way in your past, the memories that you're carrying around with you somewhere inside your head--they are a different story."
"Then what was all that shit you just laid on me a minute ago?"
"Those things happened to the same me and a different you. The life I live with you is in another world, another timeline altogether. The happiness that I know with you there is not any that we've shared in the life that you're living now."
Logan grabbed her face gently and turned her around.
"You're telling me that there is another time out there where I live with you and sleep with you and wake up every morning to you but here I've never done those things? Is that what you're saying?"
"When I went back, when I left here, I went to another timeline altogether and I lived a different life. I didn't realize that for a long time, of course. It takes a while for several centuries of living to catch up with you."
"You mean--you don't remember any of what happened to you here in this time? None of it? None of what happened to us before?"
"No, I remember some of it. I've got more memories than one person should be expected to have and most of them I would rather forget. It used to be a pleasure sifting through all of them. Once, I almost enjoyed it, claiming what had been lost to me for so long. I remember living with you as the best of them--both times that I lived with you. They would be the best memories for me no matter what time I found myself in."
Logan didn't respond for a long time. He reached down and took hold of her hand.
"How can you be so accepting of all this stuff, darlin'?"
"It's not like I have a choice, you know."
"I guess not."
"I want you to tell me the rest of it. I've waited a long time to hear it. I think you owe me that."
"Maybe, but some other time. I've talked enough tonight. It's worn me out."
"Well, you've ensured that I'm not going to get any sleep tonight. I'm still wrestling with the notion that there is another me out there somewhere."
"Scary, isn't it?"
"Yeah, a little. I think I'll just try and forget about it."
"That is probably for the best."
"So, that's why you have to leave, huh? You have another life out there somewhere in some other weird timeline?"
"Yes, it's been a good life, for the most part."
"For the most part?"
"Well, you know these things can be hard. They're always hard."
"Yeah, I can see that."
"Are you ready now to make your triumphant return to the big house? You seem to have fully recovered."
"I don't know. I was enjoying just hanging out here with you. It's cozy."
"Yes, it's been nice."
"Just nice? That's all? I'm the love of your life and all I get is a nice?"
"You can be a big pain in the ass, you know, no matter what timeline you're in."
"Sorry about that."
"No, you're not. That's just all part of your charm, isn't it?"
"Yep, darlin', you got it. All part of my charm."
"I'm tired, Logan. I'm going to turn in for the night," she said, rising and placing a hand briefly on his shoulder. She smiled at him and then turned towards her bedroom.
Logan sat on the couch for another hour or two. He was turning the events of the past week or so over in his mind. He smiled to himself, thinking about how she'd just shown up one day and assumed command of the wreck he'd become. She had steered him home, in the gentle way she had of doing nothing and doing everything all at the same time. It would be nice, he thought, to come home to her, to know that there was a place where she stayed and waited for him. He shook his head. It was too weird to think of that. He couldn't even imagine it.
"I've laid quite a lot of baggage on you this evening, haven't I?" Mina said from the doorway. She was wearing a tank top and a pair of drawstring sweatpants.
"Yeah, darlin', you have. I'm still trying to sort through all of it."
"I can't sleep."
"Neither can I."
"I'm sorry. That's my fault. I should have waited a while before telling you all of it."
"No, I wanted to know. I'm glad you told me. At least, I think I am. It's just kinda weird to think about," he said, taking a long look at her. "I stopped thinking about you after a while. You've been gone for five years and you were only here for a little while in the first place. Eventually, I just stopped thinking about you. I couldn't remember any of it anyway, any of the stuff from before. It was easier that way."
"I wouldn't have wanted you to feel bad five years ago and I don't want you to feel bad now. I wasn't an easy person to love then."
"You have always been an easy person to love, darlin.'"
Logan noticed her eyes filling, just a glimmer at the edges.
"Somehow you always know the right thing to say."
"Sometimes I say the wrong thing."
"But there are always the moments that you come shining through. There are more of those moments than you give yourself credit for. You are always too hard on yourself."
"So why are you still leaving?"
"I have to."
Logan studied her face.
"There's something you're not telling me."
"I've told you everything that I care to. Not everything I do is your business."
"You're being a pain, darlin'."
"I've talked enough tonight, Logan. I'm going to bed now."
"Yeah. Good night."
He watched her turn away. She closed the door behind her. He didn't sleep that night. He sat there for a long time, until the sun came up.
* * *
Rogue had cried when Logan walked through the door. Ororo and Jean hugged him, Xavier welcomed him back, and even Scott shook his hand and mumbled some sort of awkward greeting. Remy hollered a hello from behind a newspaper and then immediately went back to his reading.
Rogue had wanted to throw a party for him but Jean and Mina gently talked her out of it. Logan would have been horrified at any festivities. Ultimately, they decided to make an elaborate dinner for Logan and not tell him that it was in his honor. Everyone agreed to the idea in secret. Then the ladies set about planning what dishes to make, how to decorate without being obvious, what to wear and so on. The entire project soon ballooned all out of proportion to the resources at hand and Ororo and Jean set off for the grocery store.
Mina was struggling with a centerpiece of Ororo's orchids when Logan wandered into the dining room.
"What are you doing, darlin'?"
"Just passing the time. I'm not very good at this sort of thing. These flowers just want to spread out everywhere and I'm tempted to let them."
"Why are you doing that silly shit anyway?"
"Well, the girls asked me to and I was feeling pretty useless. It seems all my usefulness has used itself up."
"You could hang out and just be lazy like the Cajun. So what's planned for my big dinner tonight? I hope you're not going to be head chef."
"You're not supposed to know about that, Logan."
"It's hard not to hear a bunch of feminine twittering, ya know. I have sensitive hearing."
"You'll have to act very nonchalant and discreetly touched or they will be disappointed."
"Don't worry. I'll never let on."
Later, Xavier rolled into the dining room just as Jean was busying herself lighting the many candles on the table. He had decided to acknowledge the occasion by wearing a casual suit and slacks. Scott strolled in behind him dressed similarly. They looked like they were going to church. Remy followed later wearing a t-shirt and a pair of holey jeans.
"Smells great. What you girls got cooking in dere?"
"Steak, potatoes, vegetables, and Rogue's strawberry shortcake. She says it's her signature dish or something," Jean replied.
"I'm going to move out to de boathouse next so dat I can get a big dinner like dis when I come back."
"You can't sit there, Remy, that's Logan's spot," Jean said. Remy got up and moved to the adjacent chair. "You can't sit there either. That's Mina's chair."
Remy reached for a green bean and Jean slapped his hand.
Everyone was already seated at the table when Mina and Logan walked in. She was wearing a dark red dress she'd borrowed from Jean. Logan looked like he always did. He pulled out Mina's chair and sat down next to her. The dog padded into the room and stood at the doorway, wagging his tail excitedly and sniffing the air. Everyone looked at him, a little surprised.
"Hey dere. Come here, boy," Remy said. The dog trotted over to Remy, wagging his tail, and sniffed vigorously at the edge of the table. Logan looked annoyed. Jean bent down to scratch his furry head but he growled at her and she pulled her hand back.
"Jeez, that dog is just like you, Logan," she said.
The conversation around the table that night was lively, eventually. They all seemed to instinctively avoid discussing anything of any real importance and opted for discussing only topics of no real depth or breadth in deference to Logan's ordeal. This proved more of a challenge than any of them were prepared for and the first twenty minutes were spent with everyone chewing in a sort of awkward silence and smiling at each other. They were more accustomed to discussing dire political developments and the like. Jean grew disheartened at the lack of real conversation and began to wish that Remy would break the ice with one of his outrageous stories about New Orleans but he was happily consuming his food.
"Damn, we're a bunch of flamin' geeks aren't we?" Logan said, finally. "We got all dressed up so that we could sit here like a bunch of wallflowers."
"We didn't all go to the same charm school that you went to, Logan. We're a bit rusty on brilliance and wit," Scott said. "Jean, will you pass me a potato, honey?"
Logan punctured a potato with one claw and expertly tossed it onto Scott's plate.
"Somehow I don't think Emily Post would approve."
"Who cares?" Logan said, chewing on a green bean.
Jean and Mina exchanged a glance and smiled at each other. For a brief moment, all seemed right with the world.
Eventually, everyone started to chat casually and comfortably about little everyday things. Ororo discussed her difficulty in finding a shampoo that didn't strip her white hair and make it look flyaway, prompting Xavier to share his theory about how human mutation was affected by commercial shampoo products. He suggested that Ororo find a natural shampoo. No one asked how he would have known about shampoo in the first place. Remy told a story about a fight he'd gotten into once with an alligator that no one really believed. Logan leaned back in his chair, lit a cigar, and topped it with a story about a monumental bar fight he'd had in Japan with a pair of Sumo wrestlers. No one really believed that story either.
What most of them would remember about that night was a pleasant and comfortable feeling of happiness and of home. They seemed to have agreed to a conspiracy of pretending to be normal, if only for one night, without having actually spoken of it at all, and once the initial awkwardness wore off, the conversation flowed naturally and easily, long into the night.
What Logan would remember was how Mina looked beside him in the soft light, smiling to herself. He looked over at her often during that night, just to catch her smile or to follow the rise and fall of her laugh. She had a small, tinkling laugh, more like a giggle, and the sound of it pleased him. Underneath the table, he'd reached for her hand and he'd held it for a long time.
"You headed back to our little house, darlin'?" Logan said later, as Mina rose from the couch. They were all sitting in the den, watching Remy do impressions. He was performing his repertoire of zoo animal impressions amidst a lot of laughter and a great deal of heckling from Logan.
"Yes, it's late and I'm tired."
"Hold on a minute and I'll tag along. I'm not quite ready to sleep in this house with these geeks. They're too damned noisy."
"You don't have to do that on my account. I know you're not tired. Why don't you stay here with the others?"
"Nah, they're starting to bore me. Get your coat, darlin', it's still really cold out there."
He helped her into her coat and they stepped outside into the snow. Logan was smoking his cigar and he took her elbow as they walked down the steps.
"What are you thinking about, darlin? You're quiet tonight."
"I'm thinking about how much I liked it when I was here before. I wonder what would have happened if I'd never left."
"I've wondered a few times myself."
"I guess I'll never know. It's weird. I'm sorry that I left and not sorry at the same time."
"I'm sorry that you left, darlin'."
"Yes, I know."
The dog loped ahead of them in the snow. He picked up a stray branch and flung it away before launching himself at it and growling dramatically. He was feeling happy and he wanted to play with sticks.
"I guess a full stomach will do wonders for anyone's outlook," Logan mused.
"Yep, even mine and even on your cooking."
They walked through the door and Logan immediately started a fire. He was hoping that Mina wouldn't just head straight for bed. He wanted her to sit with him for a while but she walked straight to her room. Logan rubbed his hands together in front of the fire. She emerged a minute later wearing a pink fluffy terrycloth robe. Logan took in her outfit. She noticed his attention and spun around for him.
"Sexy, isn't it?"
"I'm trying to hold myself back."
"Didn't want to give you any ideas, you know."
"You've succeeded. Come sit here with me," he patted the place next to him on the couch. "Fire's nice."
Mina sat down beside him and curled her feet underneath her. She looked tired, he noticed. It was a special kind of tired. He'd seldom felt it himself but he'd noticed it often on others. The kind of tired that had nothing to do with the day or the week or month that had preceded it but came from within. It was impossible to say how he knew it. There was something behind her eyes and something in the way she carried herself.
They didn't speak for a while. Her attention seemed to have drifted away, to wherever her thoughts carried her.
"I guess I get to see you like that a lot," Logan said, admiring the triangle of skin that was visible between the folds of her robe. "And lots of other ways."
"You're making me blush. How weird."
"Just an observation."
She sighed and shifted herself, resting her head on his shoulder.
"Do we do this in your other life?"
"What? Sit on the couch? Sure, whenever you're around."
"Are you happy in that other life? Do I make you happy there?"
"Yes, you do. It's hard, you know. It's always hard but we are happy quite a bit."
"I could make you happy in this one, too. Maybe even happier."
She sat up and drew the folds of her robe around her.
"That is something that we will never know, I'm afraid."
Logan looked away from her. The fire began to die down but Logan didn't rise from his chair to stir it. She could hear his hard deliberate breathing.
"I wish you hadn't come back, darlin'. Not if it was only so that you could leave again."
"I had to. I am in your debt. I will always be in your debt. Always."
"You keep saying that. Whatever you owe me in another life isn't me in this life so you don't owe this me a damned thing," he said and then he paused. "Jesus, how did this all get so screwed up? It doesn't make any sense. I don't even know what I'm saying."
"But I do owe you, Logan. I wouldn't have my other life if I hadn't left this one. And, besides, you don't know everything. You don't know what happened in the past that we shared. I do. You've done more for me than anyone else ever has. You've done more for me than I've been able to do for myself."
"I don't know about that, darlin'. You seem to be a pretty capable woman. You've lasted this long with a guy like me--takes quite a woman for that."
"There will be other women for you. I have seen it and many other things besides. I wouldn't want to interfere with that. Hopefully, I haven't. I took a chance coming here. It's not good to meddle with these kinds of things."
"I hate the way you talk like you know things that I don't know yet. It bugs me."
"It bothers me more than you can imagine. It's intolerable."
Logan didn't seem to hear her last words. "You know what else bothers me? You have the memories, or some of them, at least, that I don't. You remember all this stuff from before that I've lost. I hate that I only get a little bit of you here and there and then you're gone again."
"You will remember someday. I know you will."
"There you go again."
"I'm sorry. I'm trying to ease your mind a little. I guess that's impossible."
Logan sighed and put his arms around her, drawing her close.
"You say you owe me, darlin.' Sure seems like I owe you."
"If you only knew, Logan. If you only knew all the things that you've done for me. All the little things--they add up, you know."
"Yeah--I guess they do. Wish I had the opportunity to do more of them things."
Mina's head dropped to her chest. Logan could smell the salt of her tears. He leaned over and pressed his forehead against her hair, his other hand gently turning her face to meet his own. Then he kissed her, long and deep.
Later, curled together in her bed, they did not want to sleep. They talked occasionally, the silences that stretched between them comfortable and short. Logan remembered when she'd been there before, how he'd felt just walking around the grounds with her. He'd felt an inexplicable and unfamiliar feeling, something that must have been what most people referred to as happiness. He laughed, a low rumble in his throat.
"What's so funny?"
"Me. I feel kinda goofy."
"Goofy? What a way you have with words. You sure know how to sweep a woman off her feet, don't you?"
"I got you off your feet, darlin', and flat on your back to boot."
"Oh what sweet poetry, the things you say to me."
"Seems to be working for me. If it ain't broke--don't fix it." He slapped her playfully on the behind. She yelped and kicked at him with her leg.
Logan could see the snow falling through the window. The bed was tiny and his arm was pinned beneath Mina's head, one hand playing with the hair at her neck. He didn't want to move so he let her lie that way even though his arm was falling asleep. He had a feeling this was their last night together so he traced the arc of the moon's descent toward morning with sadness
"Just because you stick feathers up your butt-- it doesn't make you a chicken," he said aloud, remembering a line he'd heard in a movie once.
"What? What the hell did you say?"
"And a leopard can't change his spots."
"God, you're weird. What nonsense are you babbling now?"
"I'm having trouble believing that you live with me in domestic bliss, darlin'. I know myself too well. I'm not the domestic type of guy, never have been. There's a lot you're not telling me."
He heard her sigh.
"Well, I never said we made a happy little home together. I said I was happy and you are too, when you come home. I'm the homebody. You're not."
"That's what I was thinking. That's got to be hard on you, sometimes."
"Logan, after all this time, I've grown accustomed to it. Besides, I need my alone time just like you."
"Those things you see, darlin', they creep me out now and I'm sure they still do--in your other life. I'm willing to bet that they creep you out too."
"Yes, they do."
"You can't hide it from me. I can see that it weighs on you. You didn't have that look in your eyes when you were here before."
"I wasn't like this. I didn't have to see anything that I didn't want to see. I would just forget it eventually anyway."
"Why go back? We could use you here, darlin'. You'd be welcome. You know that. You could set up shop right here at the clubhouse. These guys will let anyone join. Case in point--right here," he said, thumping himself on the chest.
"I'm sure you're right about that but that isn't in the cards for me."
"Then what is? Just more of the same. You could make more of a difference here. Why go back to being Suzie Homemaker? Sounds pretty boring to me."
"No, not more of the same. It will be entirely different soon after I go back. I will have another kind of life, one that I look forward to."
She didn't say anything more and Logan turned to look at her.
"You gonna explain that, darlin'?"
"I have an appointment with a man there, a doctor of sorts, though he's not recognized by any official institution. He knows a way to free me. He has some sort of operation, some kind of genetic restructuring or something. I don't understand all of it but he will change me."
"Change you how? You don't need any changing.'"
"Some things are bound to happen. No amount of human effort or desire can change them. They will just be, forever unchangeable. Other things can be changed, meddled with, but those are the small things," she said, a different tone in her voice. "I can see them happening. Some of them are terrible things, things that will forever break your heart. The temptation to try is so strong but even stronger is the knowing that you will inevitably fail. It's terrible, living like that. I'm so tired of it."
"So what happens after you do this crazy shit?"
"I will be just a normal woman."
"No, I mean what will happen to you. Haven't you had any visions about yourself? You have those, right?"
"Yes, I have them. I know what will happen."
"That settles it. You're not going back."
"Yes, I am. You can't stop me, Logan. It's what I want."
"What about me? Have you thought of that?
"Of course I have. You don't like it but that's how it is. It's my decision. I will still have a lot of time left, a lot of time with you."
He didn't speak again for a long time. She didn't either.
"I hate it. I hate this whole mess," he said, finally. "I was hoping you would come back and visit sometime, then I could try and talk you out of all this leaving nonsense. Guess that won't be happening, huh?"
"No, it won't. I'm sorry, Logan."
"Why did you come back, then? Why start something that you didn't intend to finish?" he said, softly, a tone in his voice that she recognized.
"I came back to say goodbye, of course, and to help you with your particular problem. It seems I have only made things worse. Maybe I should have stayed where I was. I was selfish in coming here."
"Nah, you weren't selfish. I'm glad you did. I guess I'm grateful for whatever time I got with you. I'll have to be." He pulled her close to him, her head resting on his shoulder.
"I'm grateful too, Logan."
All his life, what he remembered of it, his happiest moments, seemed laced with just the same sort of dull regret, a swift dark current that flowed towards the unknown expanse of the future, seemingly always out of reach, too strong for his grip, too strong even for his will. Lying there, he thought that it must be like that for everyone, at one time or another. You just had to grab for what you could get and be grateful for whatever the present held for you because that might be all you were going to get. It seemed like a simple thought to him. It would have occurred to him before if he'd previously had any sort of present to be thankful for. Now, what did he have? His thoughts wandered toward the mansion and his friends there, the pleasant and simple evening they'd just spent together, and he felt grateful in a solid rush. He decided to feel grateful, too, for the woman lying beside him, despite everything.
* * *
The sun was bright when she left. That morning, Logan had watched her dress herself quietly. She had turned to him once and had smiled a smile that didn't touch her eyes. He'd winked at her and she had laughed.
He followed her out into the woods, not really knowing where she was taking him. When they could no longer see the boathouse, she stopped.
"I guess I can't put this off any longer," she said. "I'm going to miss our little house."
"Yeah, me too."
He put his hands in his pockets and kept his eyes on the ground. He shuffled his feet.
"What's going to happen to you, darlin'? Do you know? Have you seen it?"
"I will grow old and die."
Logan looked into her face for a long moment.
"I wonder how long it's gonna take," he said.
"That, thankfully, is something I don't know exactly."
"No, I mean how long it's gonna take before I stop missing you."
He reached for her hand and held it. He pulled his gaze from the ground and forced himself to look at her. Neither of them spoke. They just stood and looked at each other. Then he nodded his head and stretched his neck up towards the sky, blinking back the bright sunlight.
"What's so funny?"
"Goddammit all to hell-- I can't help it. I can't help but feel happy. I must be going crazy or somethin'. I just feel so damn happy that you came back, even if it was only for a minute."
"I'm so glad, Logan. I'm so glad."
He took her face between his hands and kissed her. As he drew back, he silently mouthed a thank you. She whispered her thank you too.
Then Logan watched her walk away from him into the trees. The shadows were playing along the ground. They flickered over her retreating figure. He watched until she grew very small and he watched even after he couldn't see her anymore, after she'd vanished.
The dog's ears perked up. He whined softly and started to follow her but Logan grabbed his collar and held him back.
"No, buddy, she's got to go and we've got to let her," he said, stroking the big dog's fur. Logan stared at the empty place underneath the trees where she'd been just a moment before. He felt the sting of tears in his eyes but he blinked them back.
"Come on, little guy. We need to get back. There's things we've got to do," he said, standing up and heading back toward the mansion through the trees. He wasn't going back to the boathouse. He wouldn't go there again for a long time.
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