I had already decided that I wasn't going to go to the graveside. I felt too awkward and had no love for the misery of standing outside in the cold. Nevertheless, when Cade asked after the service if I was going, I hesitated.
"You can ride with me, if you don't mind my truck's a little messy and smells like fish."
It was at that moment Father Cash walked up to us. Betraying nothing in face or manner of our earlier falling out, he took my hands in his. "I'm so glad you came, Judith."
"You knew I would be here."
He gave a tight little smile and turned to my companion.
"This is Cade Dermott," I said. "One of the fishermen at the pier that day."
Father Cash shook Cade's hand.
"I'm sorry for the way all this came about," Cade said, "But I feel privileged to finally meet you. You've done good work in my neighborhood."
"I'm just the hands and feet; the Lord does the work," Father Cash said. "Thank you for all that you've done. I know that can't have been an easy day for you."
"That's for sure."
Father Cash turned to me. "The cemetery is too far to walk, but I think there is room in Father Martinez's car for one more."
Before I could answer, Cade spoke up.
"I told her she can ride with me, if she likes. My pickup isn't much, but it does the job."
While I held my breath, Father Cash looked from Cade to me and back again. Then with that same polite smile and a glare of accusation in his eyes, he said to me, "Whatever you like, Judith. You have the directions?"
I told him that I did, and he turned away. I stared at his back as he headed toward the rear of the church and a little cluster of church people who were waiting for him.
"You ready go?"
I looked up into Cade's ice-blue eyes and saw only warmth. "I think so."
The cemetery was a new one outside of town, at the end of a bleak road off the main highway in and out of town. Cade's truck wasn't as messy as he had warned, nor did it smell too offensive, although there was a distinctly stale and fishy cast to the air. The heater worked, though, and I was grateful to settle in and relax in the luxury of Cade's inconsequential talk punctuated by silences that felt as comfortable as a pair of old slippers at the end of a long day.
As I watched the landscape go by, I found my thoughts drifting toward home. Like Sella, I had left a green and sunny place, trading it for this brown tundra, and just like her, I was letting it kill me. Yes, I was physically safe, but did that really count for much when I wasn't truly free? Poverty could confine as much as any coffin or jail cell, perhaps even more.
"Where are you from, originally, Judith?"
Had Cade been reading my mind again? "South," I said. Then, in the hope of distracting him from further inquiries, I added, "You?"
"You're a long way from home, and not much warmer."
Cade grinned. "That's for sure. I used to work in lobster. Tried to make a go of being independent, but I had a few setbacks."
"So you came here instead?"
"It's not as crazy as you think. I could've stayed in the northeast and worked for one of the big fishing corporations, but this place is wide open; only a couple big guys, and lots of ways to make a name for yourself."
I nodded slowly. "Make your fortune, then go back home?"
"That's the plan, unless it changes."
"I can't imagine wanting to stay here any longer than necessary."
Cade gave a little shrug. "I've seen prettier places, but life is what you make it." He waved a hand in the direction of the dun-colored landscape. "Even this has its uses, and in the right hands, I bet it could be made pretty nice, too."
This made me smile. "You're an optimist."
"No point living any other way. Seeing the gloom in everything is just a fast track to dying."
I had nothing to say to this, and returned to gazing out the window.