As everyone began to lift the bodies gently down into their graves, Ethan headed back across the field, through the falling snow toward Kate.
He helped her lower Harold into his grave.
Then they took up their shovels, and, along with everyone else, began to fill in the dirt.
She walked with Hassler through the forest south of town, snowflakes drifting down between the pines. Adam had shaved his beard and cut his hair, but the smooth skin only underscored the gaunt, drawn quality of his face. He looked emaciated. Like a refugee of a starving world. She couldn’t get past how surreal it felt to be physically close to him again. Before she’d given him up for dead, she’d made it a habit of imagining their reunion. None of those fantasies had been anything like the real thing.
“Are you sleeping all right?” Theresa asked.
“It’s funny. You don’t know how many nights out in the wild I dreamed of sleeping in a bed again. All the pillows, the covers, the warmth, the safety. Being able to reach out in the dark to a bedside table and wrap my hand around a cool glass of water. But since I’ve been back, I’ve barely slept. Guess I got used to sleeping in a bivy sack, tied into a tree thirty feet off the ground. How about you?”
“It’s difficult,” she said.
“I keep dreaming that things went another way. That those abbies got into the jail cell.”
“He’s okay. I can tell he’s trying to wrap his head around what happened. A lot of his classmates didn’t make it.”
“He saw things no kid should ever have to see.”
“He’s twelve now. Can you believe it?”
“He looks so much like you, Theresa. I’ve wanted to see more of him, to just talk to him, but it didn’t feel right. Not yet.”
“That’s probably best,” she said.
“He was going to stay with Kate for a while after the burial.”
“Some things never change, huh?”
“She lost her husband. She doesn’t really have anyone else.” Theresa sighed. “I told Ethan.”
“Told him . . .”
“I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t just go on keeping it from him.”
“How’d he take it?”
“You know Ethan. How do you think?”
“But he understands what the situation was, right? That you and I were trapped here. That we thought he was dead.”
“I explained everything.”
“So does he not believe you?”
“I don’t know if it’s that so much as he’s just trying to come to terms with the idea that, well, you know.”
“That I was f**king his wife.”
So quiet in the woods.
“It was good, right?” Hassler asked. “When it was just you, me, and Ben. I made you happy, didn’t I?”
“You have no idea what I’d do for you, Theresa.”
She looked up into his eyes.
He stared at her with such love.
An energy in the air, Theresa could sense that this moment carried more heft than she realized. Her heart had once been wide open to this man, and if she let him keep looking at her like this, like she was the only thing that existed in his world—
He moved in.
At first, she drew back.
Then she let him.
Then she kissed back.
He walked her slowly back against a pine tree, and as he pressed into her she ran her fingers through his hair.
As he kissed her neck, she tilted her head back and looked up into snowflakes that fell and melted on her face, and then he was unzipping her jacket, his fingers making quick work of the buttons on her shirt underneath, and she found herself reaching for his.
“What?” he asked, breathless. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m still married.”
“That didn’t stop him.” There was a part of her that wanted him to talk her into it. To keep pushing. To not stop. “Remember how he made you feel? What was it you said to me, Theresa? Your love for him always burned at a hotter temperature.”
“I’ve seen him change in the last month. I’ve seen glimmers of—”
“Glimmers? Is that all you felt from me? Glimmers?”
She shook her head.
“I love you with everything I have. Nothing held back. No bets hedged. All in. Every second of every day.”
Off in the distance, a scream ripped through the forest.
High-pitched. Delicate. Bloodcurdling.
Hassler staggered back from her, and she could see the intensity hardening across his brow.
“I don’t think it’s inside the fence,” he said.
“Let’s get out of here anyway,” she said.
She buttoned up, zipped up.
They started back toward town.
Her body was humming and her head was spinning.
They reached the road and walked down the double yellow line.
Buildings appeared in the distance.
In silence, they headed into Wayward Pines.
She felt reckless but she went on with him.
At the intersection of Sixth and Main, Hassler said, “Can we go see it together?”
They walked down the sidewalk of their neighborhood.
No one out.
The houses empty and dark.
Everything looked cold and gray and void of life.
“Doesn’t smell like us in here anymore,” he said as they stood at the foot of the stairs in what had once been their yellow Victorian.
He moved into the kitchen, through the dining room, and back out into the hallway.
“I can’t imagine how difficult this is for you, Theresa.”
“You have no idea.”
Hassler emerged out of the shadow of the hall, and when he reached her he went down on one knee.
“I think this is how it’s done, right?” he asked.
“What are you doing, Adam?”
He took her hand.
His were rough, not the hands she remembered. They’d become wiry and hard as steel, and there was dirt from beyond the fence embedded so deep underneath his fingernails she couldn’t imagine it ever washing away.
“Be with me, Theresa, whatever that means in this new world we’re living in.”
Tears dripped off her chin onto the floor.
Her voice trembled.