“How…how do you know?” Erna said, looking at Bjorn blankly.
“I asked the doctor.”
Memories of a late summer afternoon flashed through his mind. The following day,, after cleaning out their child’s belongings, he had visited the doctor.
In the clinic, Bjorn asked the detailed account of everything they knew about their child, from the confirmation of the pregnancy to the unfortunate miscarriage.
On that day, the doctor gave a thorough explanation, addressing every aspect, including the gender of their unborn child, though Bjorn couldn’t quite recall the details of the explanation that followed due to the overwhelming shock.
The doctor reassured him multiple time that the miscarriage was a common occurrence and not attributable to anyone’s fault. He also offered comfort by mentioning that the possibility of a healthy child being born in the future remained.
It’s nobody’s fault.
Bjorn received the confirmation he had been seeking, making the visit fulfill his intended purpose.
“Our child….it was a daughter.” Bjorn stated calmly.
Erna took a step toward Bjorn, holding her hands to her chest like she was praying. There was barely a pace between them, the snowman between them, adorned simply with a snowdrop. Bjorn could feel tears, he kept his silence and looked away. Wherever he looked, everything was pure white, covered in snow and the bright sun stung his eyes.
“Daughter or son, I didn’t know which we were having, so I went out and bought two dolls,” Bjorn said.
“A doll?” Erna said. Her welled up with tears that were redder than the frozen hue on her cheeks
“Yes, a present for our child, on the same day we lost her.”
Bjorn couldn’t help but give a little chuckle. Words that had been so hard to even imagine before, flowed as freely as silk.
“It came to me on that day, of all days, all the trouble had been resolved and I could finally understand all the things I had done wrong, to you and everyone. Well, it was just one thing after another, huh?”
“A gift for our child, you?” Erna struggled expressing the words.
“It wasn’t the kind of gift you don’t like, I picked it out personally, while the whole department store was buzzing from my presence.”
Bjorn tried to smile, but he couldn’t quite muster the strength. A sudden thirst overcame him, as if sandpaper was scraping down his throat. He felt discomfort fray his nerves, the sort that would normally have him reaching for a cigar.
“I bought a little bear, one with blue ribbons and one with pink. It was so cute and soft, it kind of reminded me of you.” Even though he knew he was talking nonsense, Bjorn couldn’t help himself.
The memories he tried to push out came in a vivid wash of warm, soft fur in his hands, the smell of cotton, the shine of its eyes and nose. Bjorn could recall the details of the clerk smiling at him, the crowds of people crammed together to get even just a glimpse of him. All the while, he was unaware that his child was dead.
“After I bought the teddy, I saw something pretty, something I genuinely thought you would like and I wanted to show you that I wanted to be a good husband and a better father. But all the while, you were in pain, alone.”
Bjorn tried to laugh it off, but he couldn’t. He had been a stupid bastard, who couldn’t turn away from pointless pursuits because he had so much he wanted to give. At this point, the curse-worthy gifts felt like the culprit of all his misfortune.
“I should have just gone home. If I had, at least you wouldn’t have been alone.”
Bjorn calmly brushed away the drops of water on his cheek and brushed his hair back neatly. Even at the loss of composure, he still stood tall and proud.
Erna couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She knew that Bjorn would never lie in such a manner, so she knew it was all how he genuinely felt. She couldn’t believe this moment.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Erna reached out to him with a trembling hand. “Why? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Bjorn breathed deep and opened his eyes. Peering through his flowing bangs, her gray eyes held a glimmer akin to a cold, sparkling snowy field.
“I was scared, Erna.” Bjorn’s voice was flat and calm. “I couldn’t find the words and I didn’t want to come up with excuses. I was scared of facing the truth and I simply wanted to ignore it, live as if nothing had happened. Miscarriages are common, ours was not a unique plight, so I thought that, in time, things would be alright and we could try again.”
His face reflected the light of the sun and looked beautiful, but slightly distorted by the sadness in his eyes.
“Isn’t it ironic, the son I claimed as my own, was born out of wedlock to another man. While my actual child, my true flesh and blood, was lost in a fit of rage by a contemptible fool.”
Bjorn looked at Erna silently for a moment. Muddled thoughts and emotions that had been smoke resurfaced in his mind, clear and vivid like freshly fallen snow.
He wanted to clear a sign that this wasn’t his fault, so that he could rid himself of the guilt and remorse.
Because of him, Erna experienced a series of terrible events that weakened her mentally and physically. Everything was so clearly his own fault, because he did not support his wife like a good husband.
None of Walter Hardy’s abuse, or the truth about Gladys were to blame for Erna’s condition. He had pushed his wife to breaking point and disregarded her needs. He had inflicted the deepest wound yet.
To think that Erna would continue to endure was selfish and foolish. Tears threatened to well up in him again. All he was required to do was hold his wife’s hand and tell her he loved her, a simple enough confession of his feelings, but in the end, he couldn’t bring himself to utter those words.
“I should have protected you, when I heard the news of your pregnancy, if I had congratulated you and assured you that I would handle everything, telling you not to worry, perhaps we could have protected our child. Or if I hadn’t held you like that on that night. Our child maybe would still be alive. Whenever I think about that, I feel like I’m going insane.”
Bjorn recalled the night he finally let go of his longing for Erna, who was terrified, unable to cry. He looked at Erna and felt an overwhelming desire to hold her close, to feel her warm body against his. He wanted to find solace in her sweet scent. Consumed by this longing for Erna, he stepped toward her.
“I know it’s all my fault.”
He had killed their daughter.
Bjorn felt like he could finally face the abyss of guilt and sadness that he had buried deep within him. In doing so, he finally understood what he needed to say to Erna.
Bjorn looked straight into Erna’s eyes and delivered a quiet apology. The two looked at each other in silence for a while, the gentle wind rustling Erna’s dress and the tail of Bjorn’s coat.
“I couldn’t ever seem to guess what I was supposed to do, so buried my feelings deep, like a coward.” Bjorn laughed again, if only to keep himself from crying.
Erna seemed to realise the words she had heard him speak last night, when she was in his arms, were not her imagination created by the blizzard.
“I’m sorry for not mourning with you, I wanted to apologise and grieve, but I was afraid to admit it was my fault. I thought I would lose you and, well, I ended up losing you anyway.” Bjorn tried to maintain his composure, but it was getting harder.
Erna laughed. She laughed until she cried, like she was a villain in some tale. He would rather hide it forever, so that she could hate him to her heart’s content, because that’s what she felt he deserved, so what the hell was she supposed to do now, with her heart scarred like so?
“I’m sure you already realise this, but your husband, Erna, is an arsehole, who wanted to believe that everything could be made alright with money and gifts. Right up until right now.”
Erna observed him and involuntarily pressed her lips together. She gripped the cloth of her skirt and stood strong in the snowfield, the snowmen standing quiet sentry. She was determined not to be affected by the toxic love of this man again.
I was busy purchasing those frustrating presents, so I couldn’t even bid her farewell as she left us.”
The wintry sunlight cast a pale glow on his tranquil face. Bjorn slowed his rapid breaths and gazed at the gleaming white baby snowman.
The baby snowman in his hand still, turned into a baby girl. With flowing brown locks and sparkling blue eyes. The ribbons on her hair fluttering like the wings of a butterfly when she jumped across her snow field. And when she looked at him, the child exclaimed excitedly, Daddy!, waving her tiny hand.
The child had the same loving smile as her mother and Bjorn knew that if he hugged the child, he would be filled with the scent of warm cookies.
Bjorn raised his free hand and dried the tears away from Erna’s face, then gently cupped her cheek.
“But I never once thought of her as nothing. She was my first child and our first precious baby. All these words and apologies may be too late, but they are still sincere.”
It was time for the pair of them to wake up from the dream, to escape the nightmare they had created together.
“So Erna…..when the snowmen melt, let our child go with them, let her finally rest. That way, like your wish, she can go to a better place.”
Bjorn looked at Erna with a soft gaze like the sunlight of the spring.
“This time, I will be there with you, to help you bid farewell.”
As he smiled, Erna’s cries erupted across the silent snowfield.