Embers of Love
could ask for help.
    “Thank you. I was rather perplexed for the moment.” She smiled and settled the plate of food on her lap.
    They sat in silence for several minutes. Lizzie nibbled at her chicken while G. W. stared out at the muddy waters, lost in thought. She couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his mind. How could she possibly impose her own interests upon him? Whether Deborah liked it or not, Lizzie knew there was only one topic of conversation that would help G. W.
    “If I’m not causing you even more pain, I wonder if you might tell me about your father’s accident. Deborah tells me the anniversary of his death is coming up.”
    G. W. looked at her in surprise. For a moment, Lizzie wasn’t at all sure he would even remain at her side, much less speak. Finally, however, he exhaled a long breath.
    “Three years next month,” he said as if she’d asked for confirmation. “But it seems like just yesterday.” He started at the beginning and filled in the details that Lizzie hadn’t known.
    “The work is unpredictable,” he told her after reliving the accident in detail. “Any time you combine sharp tools, animals, and human error, you’re bound to have trouble.”
    “It sounds like logging is a very dangerous industry,” Lizzie said. “Did your father realize just how dangerous it was when he started this business?”
    G. W. gave a brief laugh. “He knew. He’d been around it in Georgia. My father and uncle had honestly planned to come here and plant cotton, but loggin’ seemed a necessary way to start.”
    “The good farmin’ ground was taken by the time they arrived. The land they were able to get was all wooded. They figured they could log the forests, get the lumber to the nearby towns, and clear their land at the same time. They were fixin’ to clear out enough of the forest to plant cotton, but it never worked out that way. The loggin’ proved to be a valuable means of gainin’ an income. Pretty soon they were buyin’ more forest land, and Vandermark Logging became a permanent operation. It was actually my father’s pride and joy. He loved the work he did.”
    “So they chose their profession, even knowing the dangers. That’s true bravery, in my mind,” Lizzie said casually. “It amazes me that a man, knowing the possibility of death lingered just around the corner, would continue to put his hand to a task.”
    “It was Pa’s way of earning a livin’ for his family. He always said he got along well with the Piney Woods. I reckon he could have done something else. He was a smart enough man.”
    “Obviously. Just as you are. Look at how successful the logging industry has proven to be. Why, I heard Deborah say that eastern investors are all over the place looking for land to buy so they can be a part of this success. Your father had great insight.”
    G. W. nodded. “I suppose you could say that. He knew the yellow pine was good wood, even though a lot of folks didn’t care for it. He had a way of doin’ the right thing, at the right time. Too bad I didn’t.”
    “Why do you say that?” Lizzie watched the play of emotions in his expression.
    “If I had been like him – knowin’ what to do at the right time – Pa might be alive today.”
    “Maybe he should have trained you better,” she suggested.
    “There’s no call to say that. Pa was a good teacher. Like I said, he was smart. He taught me and Rob real good.”
    “Well, I suppose I’m confused.” She gave him an innocent smile, hoping he wouldn’t realize the trap she’d put in place. “If your father was smart and trained you well, and if he knew all of the dangers about the business, but continued to log anyway – how can his death possibly be your fault?”
    G. W. opened his mouth to speak, then closed it. He looked at her for a moment and shook his head. “You book-learned women sure have a way of confusin’ a guy.”
    “Maybe it’s not as confusing as you think. I’m just

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