Note: This makes extensive reference to "Baby Blues." There are also small references to "First Snow" and "Full Upright Position."
On an otherwise unremarkable fall day, Maggie waits at the Brick while Eugene makes the sandwich she ordered. Next to her, Shelly plays some obscenely complicated handclapping game with three-year-old Randi, who giggles and swings her feet against the bar where she perches. Maggie catches their joy, finds herself smiling along with them.
When they finish, wiggling their fingers at each other with a triumphant cheer, Randi turns to her, palms outstretched. "Wanna play?"
Maggie glances around, wondering if Randi could possibly mean someone else, but no, she's definitely addressing her. "Well," she says, darting a rather desperate glance at Shelly, "it's been a while since I played anything like that."
"I'll teach you!" Randi chirps. "It's easy." Admitting defeat, Maggie meekly holds up her hands. "Bears in the woods"—she slaps Maggie's hands, first high, then low, then claps her own together, Maggie following slowly—"ravens in the sky..."
A few minutes later, when she's still nowhere near getting it, Holling sets a plate in front of her. "Randi, honey, you should let Maggie eat," he says, giving the girl's shoulder a casual squeeze.
"It's okay," she's about to say, but Shelly hoists Randi up and sets her on the floor.
"How about we go on an adventure?" she asks, crouching to her daughter's height.
The interrupted game is instantly forgotten. "Where?"
"To the freezer! You can help me find the blueberries for a pie."
Randi is delighted at that. "An adventure!" she crows. "I want to go first!" She leads the way behind the bar, Shelly following with an indulgent smile on her face.
Maggie watches them go, and somewhere around the point Holling leans down to tweak one of Randi's pigtails, the realization that has maybe been building for a while finally blooms inside her.
She came to Alaska looking for adventure, and here's one staring her in the face.
The thought leads to another and another, like a string of firecrackers exploding, pop pop pop. It's not just that she wants to have this adventure. Most of all, she wants to share it with Fleischman. Something he said to her on another autumn day, about tangible expressions of extreme emotions, whispers in the back of her mind.
She doesn't taste the sandwich, too consumed with the new life that is opening in her imagination. She flies the mail to Anchorage and returns with two dentists on a hunting trip, and as the mountains pass under her, she keeps thinking, oh, no, and then yes, yes.
When she arrives back at home, she bolts up the front steps, still habitually avoiding the bottom one even though they fixed it last summer, her doing the actual carpentry while Fleischman handed her tools and held the measuring tape, then pulled out the splinter she acquired. Breathlessly, she throws the door open, and Fleischman looks up from where he's paging through the New England Journal of Medicine, settled in the chair he's always been fond of.
"I want to have a baby," she says.
"Um," he says, and to his credit he takes her statement completely in stride. "Okay." She'd expected surprise, even resistance, or at least questions—why, since when, are you sure? — and all of a sudden, she's hit with just how much he's changed since they first met.
He smiles ever so slightly and wraps his hand around her wrist, pulling her willingly into the chair with him. The magazine flutters to the floor, forgotten. Sprawled on his thighs, her arms around his shoulders, she stares at the familiar crinkles at the corners of his eyes, the ones that always betray when he's happy.
Maybe this easy acceptance isn't new or sudden at all. Maybe, improbable as it seems (he is still Fleischman, after all), some part of him has wanted this since that day in the woods, and has been silently waiting for her to reach the same conclusion.
He moves his palm up her back, slowly tracing her spine. "Right now?"
"Soon," she says, ebullient.
He nods slowly, the gravity of what he's agreeing to beginning to tint his expression. "Okay," he says again, and even though she's on the ground, holding on to him, she finds she is as scared and thrilled as she was when she took off on her first solo. When she stood on the tarmac again that day, after coming closer to missing the landing than her flight instructor would ever know, she thought that it was the bravest she would ever feel. Now she thinks there are as many braveries as there are kinds of adventure, and like an adventure, the best kind of bravery is one that's shared.