December 25th, 2010
There's a shriek of laughter as little Karl (When Lou told his old friend, miraculously still alive despite his alcohol consumption, that there was a child named after him, he cried.) is swooped up and spun around by his older sister Greta that makes Lou look over at his grandchildren with a fond smile, his attention previously on a book Gus, his son-in-law and current pillow to Molly, Lou's daughter, who was fast asleep for half an hour already, had given him. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He'd partially gotten it as a joke, one that began between them years back when he and Molly were first dating, after a travelling therapist told him, in front of Lou at the diner, that all he had to do to get over the stress of his job was find his 'center'. After the therapist left, they both acknowledged that they meant well, but finding his center wouldn't help him deal with Malvo or the fact that just months previous he'd shot his girlfriend ("Well, hopefully fiance." Gus had told him that day, being who he was he wanted to ask permission. Yes, he was sure, he hadn't been this sure since Greta's mother. Lou smiled and said of course, although it really was Molly who ran the show of her life. Gus agreed.) in the spleen. But he was finding it interesting, and soon found himself a hundred pages in before he realized it.
"I'm gonna get you!" Gretta called out, Karl having wriggled out of her grasp and was running around the room laughing, dark brunette hair flopping on his head.
"She sure is a lot like Molly for not being her biological kid." He never told Molly that he heard her sometimes, as a voice inside his head, as a presence nearby. Betsy smiled broadly and scooted closer to him on the couch. "Course, the Solversons breed and attract strong willed women." The glint in her eyes, so like what he remembered, was bright.
"Yeah, we do. That's how we like it as well." His response was in his head. Greta, Karl, and Gus didn't need to know he sometimes talked to his dead wife.
"Although," Betsy began again " sometimes I wondered..."
"If my sister had waited...if you could have actually chosen..." He looked at her, surprised and a bit hurt.
"I wouldn't have traded this, what we had, what that brought, for anything." He looked over at his daughter, asleep and content by her husband, and wondered at how the universe could work so well sometimes. "We would have made our way to each other eventually. Even if she had waited. You and I are written in the stars young lady." Betsy laughed.
"Oh dontcha start with that stars and alien stuff Mr. Solverson. My dad talked about it enough as it was after that one case."
"We know what we saw." Lou huffed, which made her laugh again.
"I know, I know. I heard about it for another year remember?" Lou nodded but fell quiet. November 1980 was one of the toughest years of his life. "Oh Lou." Betsy sighed. " I wasn't in any pain."
"It was quiet, in my sleep."
"I'm sorry you had to raise her alone." Betsy said, looking over across the room at her daughter. "I wish... I mean I made sure Karl would make sure you would feed her more than beef jerky." Lou laughed.
"He told me. He stayed with us for a month after...after you passed. Sobered up and actually did his duties as a friend and godfather."
"Damn right." Betsy sniffed.
"Your father helped a lot too." Lou added. They sat in silence, watching Greta and Karl who had settled down in an oversized seat and read a book.
"Oh gosh Lou," Betsy started "it's Christmas, lighten up. Be happy. You have a wonderful life here. A great family. Two grandkids, a wonderful son in law, and a daughter who is the chief of police for goodness sake. You are doing well."
"I know." Lou acquiesced. "It would just be better with you here."
"Well that's too bad." Betsy replied. "And don't you be rushin' to join me either. You better be at least 100 before you go Lou Solverson or so help me..."
"Alright, alright. Threat received, processed, and understood."
"Now go be with the family. Gus looks like he's about to drop off himself. It's chilly in the room even with the fire. Go grab that fleece blanket from the closet and put it on 'em yeah?" Lou nodded. "And Greta and Karl are growing kids. You got those garlic rolls in the pantry and the cheese. The parents are nodding off, maybe you could even sneak them some more cake." Lou laughed again and got up, smiling fondly at the sight before him.
The ships in the sea had been coming home to dock, and while one went to another shore, everyone was safe.