She rested her head against my shoulder. “Yet you always want one more moment.”
“You’ll have them again. When you’re reunited.”
Mother drew in a deep breath. “For a thousand years.”
We all gathered at the Barneses’ estate after the funeral. After I had Mother settled with Quinn in their formal parlor, I went outside to breathe fresh air into my lungs. Without greeting any of the mourners who gathered in various places in the grassy yard, I walked blindly toward the barn. I passed by the guest cottage. We’d moved our belongings in the day before, but it in no way felt like home. Mother and I had not slept much. Not only were we without Father, but the rooms smelled strange. Even the night noises were different.
Without a plan of where to go, I walked toward the barn. My black dress and hat absorbed the heat from the afternoon sun, making me overly warm. I plucked the pins from my hat and tossed it onto a short bush. I’d get it later. Now I needed to feel the sun on my face. A breeze moved the fine hairs that had escaped from my bun.
Alexander was out by the horse pasture, draped over the fence. I turned to head back to the house, not wanting him to see me there. Regardless, he must have heard me because he straightened and turned toward me.
“Louisa? Does your mother need me?”
“No, I needed a break from everything.”
I went to stand beside him. The day was startlingly gorgeous with the green meadow and blue sky. Two of the horses were in the pasture, happily eating grass. I rested my hands on the top of the rough board of the fence and leaned against it for support.
“You’ve lost your hat?” Alexander asked.
“Tossed it. Too hot.”
He returned his gaze toward the meadow. “Your father would have loved this day.”
“Yes, he loved summer,” I said. “The other seasons too. He was like that—always finding the good. Even in me.”
“He thought you hung the moon.”
“He loved me when he didn’t have to.”
“We had a lot of good times together,” Alexander said. “He was a good friend to me. I’ll miss him.”
The breeze came in a sudden gust, ruffling my hair and causing Alexander’s tie to swing in my direction.
“I was just standing here thinking how sorry I am that I didn’t know what was going on at the church,” Alexander said. “I wish I’d known. The strain of all that couldn’t have been good for his heart.”
I realized Alexander felt regretful and perhaps guilty. “This was in no way your doing. Anyway, I don’t think it would have made any difference. Dr. Neal said his heart was weak. He’d told us months and months ago.”
“Your father didn’t tell me that, either.”
“He was proud. Even though he knew it was a sin,” I said, smiling.
“There wasn’t a more decent man on earth. Or a better friend.” He dipped his head and bent over the fence once more. The energy seemed to leave his body for a moment before he straightened and returned his attention to me. “I’ve lost more than one great friend in my lifetime. In the end, when I think back on the good times we shared, I’m grateful for the memories of kinship and laughter. I was just standing here thinking about that—trying to find joy but I’m sad.”
Even as fluid and quickly as time went, we always had our memories. I swallowed the lump in my throat. “He wanted me to get married. I let him down that way.”
“He wanted you to be taken care of, that’s all.”
“It seems that’s the only way for a woman. Marriage.” I paused, trying to pull myself together.
“The world isn’t always fair. For women, especially.”
I nodded but kept quiet. Alexander didn’t deserve to be the recipient of my anger at the world. We were both quiet for a moment. Birds chirped from the surrounding trees. Happy bees buzzed from flower to flower in the meadow. From the backyard came the sound of children shouting and playing. How could everything just continue like this? It was an irrational thought, but I’d expected life would stop for my grief. “Everything just keeps going, doesn’t it?”
“Despite your loss?” Alexander asked.
“I can remember thinking that exact thing when my first wife died. Fiona was a newborn, and she continued to grow and thrive even though her mother was gone. I thought about that again when Cole died.” He grimaced. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought him up.”