Apathy and Vigor – Excerpt

"What are you doing here, Amalie?" Tristen asked, his hands on his hips, looking every bit the commanding figure he was rumored to be.

She knew he would ask, but she didn't think for it to be now.

"I'm not a fool," he continued. "I haven't heard from you nor seen you in almost a year, yet today you turn up on my doorstep. I can't help but wonder why."

Staring at him, she fought the urge to approach him. She wanted to hit him, hurt him as she had been by his desertion. The only thing stopping her from doing such a thing was the sorrowful look in his eyes. He looked as if he had already been hurt far more than she could ever imagine.

"If you have come here to punish me for some sin you think I have done you, I assure you, I've already suffered enough," he added.

His words irritated her. Did he think he was the only one to have lost anything? Her gaze narrowed on him. "Suffered?" she asked. "What do you know about suffering? You still have your family home. You still have your businesses. I have nothing. You took everything from me."

"I lost as much as you that night," he said. "Surely you must know that."

"You bastard! How dare you stand there and claim—"

Just then footsteps were heard behind him, heavy on the floorboards. "Fire!" they heard one of the station hands yell. "Fire!"

Tristen immediately turned his attention away from her. "What has happened, Robert?" he asked the gasping man hunched over just outside of the door.

She walked toward the two men, her gaze settling on the scared worker struggling to catch his breath.

"The hay shed is on fire," Robert exclaimed. "The flames are heading toward the house!"

Tristen left at a run, the weary worker close on his heels. Amalie followed them, as if being drawn outside by the drama of it all. Her footsteps stopped on the dirt meters from the rear door. Before her, the fire was quickly engulfing the small building, the flames licking higher and higher into the sky. Seeing Tristen talking with a group of men, she forced herself to cautiously step toward them to see what was happening.

"How the hell did this happen?" Tristen demanded of his men.

Robert promptly directed the other workers to the buckets of water. "We need to get this fire out now, or else the whole station will be little more than a pile of ashes."

Tristen grabbed at his shirt, stopping his retreat. "I want to know how this happened!" he yelled.

Robert pulled away. "Only way is if someone lit it," he explained. "There could be no other way."

Tristen let him go then. Amalie watched for a few moments until he joined his men. Fear filled her as she saw him reach for a hessian bag, and drenching it in the water barrel, he began to attack the flames as they directed themselves toward the house.

"Watch out!" Robert yelled as the creaks of the collapsing shed echoed through the night sky.

Still Tristen didn't move, instead he continued fighting against the flames, looking almost desperate in his actions.

"Tristen!" she yelled as shrapnel from the falling building flew toward him.

She watched helplessly as Robert ran toward Tristen, dragging him to safety just as the burning pieces of wood landed where he'd once stood. Quickly getting to his feet, he turned instantly to face her.

"God dammit, Amalie, it's too dangerous for you out here," he yelled at her, running toward her. Stopping in front of her, he grabbed her elbow. "I'll take you back to the house."

She pulled back from him as if he were alight. She couldn't go through this again. The last time there was a fire, she lost everything. "Get away from me!" she screamed, turning and running back toward the house. She couldn't stay there.