“Emma?” The question mark was audible in Johannes’ voice.
Emma looked up at his face as they strolled out of the village. “What do you want to ask?” She clenched her teeth, cold and distant.
Johannes could tell she wasn’t in the best of moods, but he asked the question anyway. “Why don’t we have children?”
Emma froze and Johannes strolled on a few steps before he realised. Then he turned to face her.
“Emma?” He gave her a pleading look.
“Oh sure.” She scoffed. “We can talk about this now. Why not?” She rolled her eyes.
“We have never talked about this.” He said it softly, hoping to calm her down.
“You don’t know why?” She sighed.
More insistant now, he repeated: “Why don’t we have children?”
She started to walk again, an angry stride. “You’re asking me? You’re in this too, you know?”
He followed her. “You remember when we first met?”
Emma grumbled something as he caught up with her.
“Where did those feelings go?”
“I don’t know.” She replied curtly.
They exchanged a look. Johannes was silent but his eyes were sad.
“I don’t know…” She stopped in the grass, looking at her feet. “I don’t remember…” Her voice died away.
Johannes swallowed. “Me neither.”
Emma looked around, anywhere but at him.
He twiddled his fingers, mumbling: “It has been a long time.”
She closed her eyes for a moment. They were moist when she looked up at him. “This is comfortable, Johannes.”
He smiled a half smile and nodded. “Comfortable.”
Turning back towards the village, she raised her voice. “Perhaps.”
Johannes frowned at her.
“Perhaps you could have done something if you wanted children so badly.”
Her accusing tone stung like a blade and Johannes froze in defense, as he so often did.
Her face tensed up as she looked towards the village; the wooden buildings, the closest one was her saloon. “Perhaps I’m just so damn stubborn that I don’t want children just because those misogynistic bastards think that’s all I’m good for.”
Johannes tentatively approached her and put his hand on her shoulder.
She didn’t move. “Perhaps I just can’t love you because you are a man, just like them.”
With a gentle prod he tried to turn her towards him. She didn’t resist. He could see the tear running down her cheek now and it choked him up.
Emma lifted up a tip of her apron and dabbed at the tear with it. Johannes almost raised his hand to touch her, but he knew better.
She shook her head. “I can’t give you any more than this.”
He stared at her, not knowing what to say.
“There is nothing more.” She reached out to hold his hand in hers. “This is all I have for you.”
He nodded. “It is enough.”
They both turned towards the village, hand in hand. They looked at the saloon, the people walking in and out, their neighbours, the only place they had known for more than ten years.
“My saloon has thirty paying customers. I know them all and some of them are downright bastards who don’t respect me.” She said it matter-of-factly. “But it’s my saloon.”
“The gazette has a circulation of seventeen.” Johannes breathed out before he continued. “I have to read it out to most of the village and it’s usually no more than a page. But it’s my gazette.”
She clenched her hand around his. “This is our marriage. There is nothing more.”
Johannes smiled, fighting back the tears. “It is enough.”