The thump of the cab door is muted in the post-snow air, and then they hear the crunch of boots on the gravel out front, two pairs, to judge from the doubled meter, growing closer as they come around to the kitchen. A knock at the door that causes something to coil and uncoil in her gut.
A man and a woman, enforcer and protector. He is beaming, broad face, bulked-up trunk packed into a heavy canvas chore coat of the same type as our own man wears, though cleaner, not so shiny at the stress points. It is zipped up to the neck. A watch cap perches high on his forehead, a spray of sandy hair visible beneath the hem. She is smiling too, less demonstrative, black shell that seems to absorb all incident light, simultaneously indicating and concealing the contours of her trunk and arms. No hat, hair in a loose chignon. Young, but again, these days it’s impossible to say. He speaks first.
Sorry to disturb you folks on this lovely morning.
Without being prompted the older man steps aside, gesturing for the pair to come in. This they do, nodding their appreciation, stamping their shoes and asking if they should remove them before entering.
Oh, but. Seems to be the rule of the house, pointing to his own boots, lined up at the edge of the mat. We try always to be respectful, you know?
Soon they are inside in their sockfeet, declining the offer of coffee or tea — One dose first thing, a second mid-afternoon if I need it, any more than that and— she says, miming a tremor of overcaffeination, looking around, fists in the handwarmer pockets of their jackets, taking in the counter, the fireplace, the corner with the table and the window seat, running their eyes along the join where wall meets ceiling as if they were architects come to discuss a gut rehab — That wall loadbearing? We’ll take the whole thing out, open up the space, invite the light in — nodding warmly at the girl, who stands, neither moving toward them nor appearing to flinch. At length the enforcer speaks.
Got one of ours this morning, I see. Really appreciate you looking after her and we apologize for the inconvenience.
Sometimes, the woman continues, they— What’s the expression? turning to her colleague.
Flip a breaker.
Flip a breaker, need to give themselves space.