Chapter Forty-Nine

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When I opened my eyes, the room was dark. I knew I was stretched out on the couch because I could feel the edge of it under my hand, but I couldn't see even a streetlight.

I sat up and threw my legs off the coach. As I stood, a light went on across the room. The floor lamp blinded me for a minute.

"You're awake," he said. I could hear someone shuffling back across the room to the easy chair. By then I could see well enough to recognize the Swede. "I get your mother," he said.

I sat back down heavily on the couch. "I'm at your house?" I said.


"But. . . ." I couldn't remember what I was supposed to ask. I knew that something was wrong.

"I get your mother," he said again. He shuffled to the door and out of the light.

"Wait," I said. "Tell me what happened."

The Swede moved back into the light. "You don't remember?" Even in the dim light from across the room, I could see that he looked at me very closely.

I shook my head. "I get flashes."

The Swede sat down in the easy chair across the room. His face was still in the shadows. "It was a fire," he said, "in your apartment."

"Ah." The pain behind my eyes returned with the headache. All at once, I felt a weight on my chest. Tears trickled down my cheeks. Bits were coming back to me. "It's all gone, isn't it?"

"Jah," he said. "Everything."

"I blacked out after Karlson told me," I said. "What happened after that?"

The Swede didn't answer right away. "You cried," he said at last.

"In front of Karlson?"

He paused again before answering. "I think he had gone."

I shook my head even though I wasn't sure that the Swede was facing in my direction. I remembered it now. The crying far away had been me. And Karlson was front and center for the waterworks.

"Thank you, Olaf," I said.

"I get your mother," he said for the third time. I could hear him getting up from the chair. He moved into the light again. "Another blanket?" he said.

"I'm fine," I said. "Don't wake my mother. Go to bed."

"But. . . ."

I stood up so that I could see him better. He was in striped pajamas and a blue robe with tan leather slippers. His short-cropped hair was standing on end.

"I'm sure she left explicit instructions," I said, "but I'm only going to sleep some more. She doesn't have to be up for that."

He nodded and shuffled toward the door.

"And Olaf," I said. He twisted his head in my direction. "Thank you for sitting up with me."

He nodded. "I send the dog."

I knew when Olaf made it to the bedroom because Otto came tripping lightly down the hall. I could hear the name tag on his dog collar jingle against his neck. He ambled up to me and stuck his cold nose in my face. I petted him for a minute until he jumped up on the couch. He turned around three and a half times before curling up at my feet. Soon, he began to snore. I knew he was asleep when his front legs were moving as if he was running.

"That rabbit is yours," I whispered as I patted his belly.

The dog didn't leave much room on the couch for me, but I scrunched up into the space that was left with my feet under Otto. I felt warm and safe and sleepy.

In the night, I dreamed of some big job that I was supposed to do on Monday at work, but I could never remember what it was.

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