“It was forty years ago when Jen and I discovered this clearing off the trail.” Mitch hunched forward and turned to stare at the bear. “Maybe if we had just kept moving, then we wouldn’t have kept coming back…”
“I remember seeing you as a cub.” The bear stared dully out over the stream. “I was so curious then. When Mama found out I had played with you two, she nearly skinned my hide. Told me humans could never be trusted. They would always get you in the end.
“I forgot about her warning until years later, on that terrible day when I emerged from the clearing and your woman was standing over the bloody body of my cub.” The bear’s voice choked.
Mitch tried to stay calm. “I told you there was a wolf…”
“Now I know about the wolf.” The bear was sharp. “But then, what was I to think? I only saw one option available to me.”
“You couldn’t have exercised the least bit of restraint?” In spite of himself, Mitch was getting angry again. “Thought a little bit before you acted?”
The bear whipped around her head around at Mitch. “Like the restraint you showed when your woman stopped breathing? Except you couldn’t even aim straight!” She slumped back, sighing bitterly. “I almost wish you hadn’t missed that day. We wouldn’t have spent the last decade trying to kill each other.
“What do we do now, Mitch? My cub won’t come back. Your woman won’t come back. And I’m tired of fighting.”
“I don’t know if I can ever really forgive you,” Mitch sighed. “But I’m so tired of hating you. And we really aren’t so different, you and I.”
“So it’s finished?”