Chapter Nine

The first thing that floated through Nora’s head as she entered the Council House (late) was well, this is going to be fun isn’t it? Jacques sported a lovely black eye, Zena was even more sullen than usual and pointedly ignoring looking anywhere near Atkin, whose face was scratched and cut and had a swollen lip. Sheen had her arms folded and was likewise ignoring Jacques. No, not fun, Nora revised her thought, scratch that. It’s going to be a complete disaster. She took her seat.

Jacques cleared his throat. “Should we talk about yesterday?”

“What else?” Sheen said, staring at the ceiling.

“Are you going to press the button?” Nora asked.

“No. We don’t need the protocality. We need to talk.”

“All we do is talk,” Zena grumped, “and then we act all surprised when no one else is ready for what we want to happen. They aren’t in on these meetings.”

Jacques stood up. “Fine. We’ll leave yesterday alone. Move on to something else.”

“Still don’t tape it,” Sheen said.

“Why not?”

“Because we have to go into these things united. We work things out here as ourselves.”

“We did vote on it…” he said meekly.

“Yeah, and what happened when trouble started? Zena didn’t side with Fawn but turned away. Nora tried to reason with her…friend. Atkin grabbed a sign and stood with the protestors and got trampled. I…you know. The point is, we scattered.

“I have a proposal to make,” Nora said. They all turned to look at her. “How about we forget about the religion crap and focus on the other problems, just use them to nudge the religion along. We should have a school.”

Zena blinked. “I’m sorry, what? A school?”

“We learned from the census that half of the people left are school-age. I personally have to leave my sister at home every day. Why not make a school?”

“With all the extra lumber lying around?” Atkin scoffed.

“How about here? Or in the trade. An inter-racial school might not get that many people to come at first. And we can order more.”

“From the country in the middle of a war?”

“It’s worth a try.” Nora was getting pretty defensive.

“It’s actually a solid idea,” Zena said.

“Really?” that was Sheen, finally looking away from the ceiling or the table. “Who would teach it?”

“There’s got to be some fifteen to seventeens who’ve had education. I know history pretty well myself.”

“Usomian or…” Atkin trailed off as she glared. “Um, sure. Yes. It’s a…solid idea.”

“We could teach a few classes on the different religions,” Sheen offered. “And I’m a fair mathematician. And it doesn’t take that much to teach some little kids the alphabet.”

“People are so bored lately I’m sure we could find some teachers,” Nora said eagerly, thrilled that her idea wasn’t being shot down.

“Can we vote preliminarily?” Jacques asked rather timidly, “just to see if we want to develop it more?”

***

“So, your first proposal passed,” Sheen said later, “pretty impressive.”

“Not really. It’s all in the timing.”

“Oh? Please enlighten me.”

Nora laughed at Sheen’s mock in

interest. “Well, everyone was so angry about the wedding that they’d do anything to move on. Just a bit of persuasion and then—“

“Don’t get too cocky.” They were sitting in Nora’s tree, the one she and Cragg often frequented. It was her favorite spot, and normally she wouldn’t have shown it to someone who was still just barely a trusted friend, but she was still angry at Cragg for his stance at the wedding and so she didn’t care who she showed it to.

“So Atkin joined the protestors, huh?” Sheen asked.

“Yeah. I saw most of it. After you jumped that guy—which I need to talk to you about, by the way—he tried to stop some of the fighting and just wound up in one himself. Zena got him out of it—“

“She was fighting too?”

“Mostly just breaking things up, or trying. Anyway, she pulled his apart and he just looked at her and went to join the protestors.”

“Well, I never really thought he was on board with it anyway. And you saw the way she looked at Fawn, right?”

Nora nodded. “Those two will tear the Council apart if they’re not watched.”

“Hey, isn’t that what I said that one day?”

“I was paraphrasing.”

“Actually I think they would be going out if they were from the same area. That being the key condition.”

“REALLY? You think so?”

“Don’t you?”

“Not at all. Although speaking of it…why’d you jump that guy?”

“Because he was a jerk.”

“Well yeah, but I mean specifically.”

Sheen thought about it seriously for a second until she saw Nora’s grin. “Stop it. There’s nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing. And you’re really one to talk, girl who rushed to argue with a certain protestor.”

“And you would have done the same. Don’t you feel like explaining to your friends when they’re wrong, arguing with them?”

“I’ve never thought about it. Like I’ve actually never thought about it.”

Nora was going to respong, but got distracted by the figure walking up. She dropped to the ground and went up to Cragg. “Can I help you?”

“I was coming to talk to you, but I suppose…” he glanced at Sheen in the tree, who looked away, “this isn’t a good time.”

“It’s fine.” Nora waited.

“I’m sorry if I offended you, Nora, but I am sticking to my beliefs.”

“That’s fine. Great. I don’t care what you think anymore.”

“Anymore? You used to?”

“Don’t play that game. Of course I did! But I’m on the Council now. I have responsibilities, and I don’t need your support to make decisions. You have your opinions, I have mine.”

“We’re still friends, right?”

“Of course we’re still friends! What else would we be?” without an answer, she turned away and made toward the tree, and after a minute Cragg left. Nora looked for Sheen, thinking she had just gotten down, but true to her stereotype, Sheen had slipped away.

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