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Remix of Loving Bonds by [ profile] edenfalling (The second time I've been her Remixer, poor thing!)

Every day when he comes home and the house is cold and dark, the range unlit and no supper cooking, he thinks that maybe this is the end. There is dust gathering on the row of pictures on the mantel in the sitting room, and the paint in the entry is still peeling; the carefully prepared flower beds are barren under the snow and there is a room on the second floor that no one has entered for almost a year.

The end, he thinks, leaving his boots by the door, his jacket on the hook and his gloves and hat on the shelf. “Blod?”, he calls, and his voice echoes in the quiet of what was once a cozy farmhouse. “Blodwen?”

But he already knows where she will be. Despite the wind and the gathering dark she is in the garden, seated at the little iron table, a cup of tea gone cold at her elbow. He does not come back for his dinner, not any longer; for all he knows she spends the day out here.

Every evening when he sees her sitting so impossibly still, he thinks, this is the end. Today she is dead. And when she turns, finally, when she looks at him, all the cold harsh glory of the mountains she watches is in her eyes. “Blodwen,” he says to this stranger who wears his wife's face, who looks out from his wife's soft dark eyes. “Come inside, cariad, and be warm.”

She is not dead, not yet, and she has done nothing he can quantify, nothing to justify asking for help. Every time he sees her like this, John Rowlands wonders if there is not something more he should be doing. Only, what would he say? “My daughter is dead, and my wife has been mourning her for a year and more, and seems no closer to finding peace with it than she ever was.”

The truth of it is, John Rowlands does not miss the daughter he never knew, the one born too young and small and frail to live, as he misses the women he married with her kind, shy smile and capable hands.

“I am sorry, John,” says the woman he loves but no longer knows. “You'll be wanting your tea, and here's me having wasted the day.” And now her voice, her eyes, her look: all these things are she wears are his warm, pretty Blod, as before the beauty of the mountains, and their loneliness, was not.

She is not dead, his Blodwen, but he is losing her as surely as if she were dying. He follows her into the kitchen, answering the questions she asks about what he would like to eat, and the health of the sheep and the dogs and the fences, and the troubles of the neighbors. It is as if she is reciting a lesson learned by heart, but long ago, and the words no longer have meaning for her.

This is how she says hello, and good morning, and I love you, the role of Blodwen Rowlands as played by someone who knows her history but never met her. And John Rowlands watches her, and wonders what to do.

When David telephones him in the night with a wild story of a woman gone missing in the mountains, he turns before he can help himself, to check that Blodwen is still in the bed. But it is not his wife that is out in the wind and snow of the Welsh winter. Blod blinks at him, half awake, and does not shake his hand away when he touches her face. He finds, doing so, that he cannot remember the last time he touched her.

He cannot remember the last time he kissed her, but surely it was not a year ago and more. For the first time he wonders how much of the distance between them, the mountain that has separated them since wee Mari was born, and died-- how much of that is his own fault.

“John?”, Blodwen says, her hand over his. “What's so wrong?”

“It's Owen Davies' Gwen,” he says, bemused. “She went out for a walk, Owen says, and did not come home, and he cannot find her and he cannot leave little Bran in the house by himself to search properly. David is going to fetch the boy home, and then he and I will go and help Owen look, though I cannot think luck will be with us in the dark.”

“No, and I cannot think Gwen went out for an ordinary walk, in such weather,” his wife says, and for a second something shadows her face. Grief, or fear for Gwen, or only thought; once he might have known her well enough to guess. “Jen has her hands full with her own brood. Bring the child here, John, and I will look after him.”

“Of course,” he answers, climbing out of bed to dress.

“Be safe, cariad,” Blodwen says as he is leaving, and she sounds like his old familiar Blod.

The night is a long one, and the search fruitless, and in the morning the stock still must be fed and watered, the snow shoveled, and all in a wind that howls and burns and sends snow drifting over the paths, over the tracks of the woman lost. Dead, John Rowlands thinks, and he wonders how long it will take Owen to admit it, and what he would do in Owen's place. How long would he look?

He is heartsick and half frozen when he finally comes inside for the day. He peels off his gloves, his hat, his coat, his boots, and limps slowly into the kitchen. “Blod?”, he calls. If she is out in the garden today--. The kettle is on the stove, and there is soup heating in the big copper pot. “Blodwen?”

She says, from the sitting room doorway, “Tea's nearly ready, cariad.” And her smile, when she looks at him, from over the head of the baby in her arms-- her smile is her own, and real.


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February 2015

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