Chapter Six

Chapter Six

“Before we start recording,” Sheen said, “I think we should decide how exactly we’re going to conduct these meetings.”

“Do you mean the procedure?” Atkin asked.

“No. I mean the sarcasm and the bullying. It stops now.”

“Says who?” Zena said, with less meanness than curiosity.

“Me. I don’t know that much about any of you,” Sheen took a deep breath, “but I don’t think that there’s a need to be hostile because of it.”

“Maybe we aren’t trying to be hostile,” Nora pointed out, “we just don’t know how to present ourselves, Sheena.”

Sheen closed her eyes briefly, whispered a quick plea inside her head, and stood up. Slowly she spoke, trying to pass her gaze from person to person. “That’s the point. We’ve all tossed around the thought that we’re the adults now, but we aren’t just because the real adults left. We have the responsibility—which we took on willingly—to be more than angry teenagers. So the crap stops. Now.”

“Finally someone’s said it,” Atkin opinioned, “hear that, Zena?”

“I don’t think she just meant me, you idiot,” Zena growled.

“I didn’t,” Sheen cut in sharply, “we all do it. What are we so afraid of?”

“Um…the world?” Jacques suggested, “none of us know how to do this.”

“Well, we aren’t going to learn until we get our act together. In this room. Cooperating.”

“If people were able to cooperate, we wouldn’t be here,” Zena said, “but you have a point. We should focus our energy on things other than each other.”

“You going to stick to that mantra?” Atkin asked slyly.

“If you do,” she responded coolly.

“I won’t make you shake hands,” Sheen said, “but you do need to keep your battles out of this room.”

“Let the drama happen outside. Like real politicians,” Nora added quietly.

“Exactly. Jacques? Atkin? Are we in agreement?”

“I’m in,” Jacques said quickly.

“I suppose,” Atkin said stiffly, “can we start this meeting now?”


Zena collapsed on her bed as soon as she got home. That was a pointless council meeting. We decided to come to the next meeting with problems to fix. I could have pointed out how ridiculous it was, but what would that get me? Just a fist in the face from Sheena. Who whines about trust when she pretends to have a different name. I wonder where Nora picked that up anyway? Well, no one on that council’s going to fix my problems. Let’s take on Usomian seixism, hmmm? How do you plan to deal with that, Sheena?

Neo tried to climb on the bed with her. “Zena. Hungary.”

She stood up. “Alright. I really need to get you a sitter. But you can have some bread before dinner.” He ate the bread solemnly, watching as she messed with her hair and the wrinkled blanket on the bed. “I don’t suppose you have any ideas about what the council should do,” she said rhetorically.

Predictably, he said nothing.

“Well then,” she continued, “I’ll think of some. And someone else will too. Jacques will have re-written out the census tomorrow.” She paused to rub at an imaginary headache. “I’ll play their little games.”


Nora arrived at the Council House early the next morning, counting her supporting arguments on her fingers. Cragg had helped her come up with them, and together they’d practiced, but nervous tremors still ran through her when she thought of presenting it. She figured practicing in the Council House might help.

A few times she’d considered waiting. After all, we didn’t have a school even before the draft, and things were fine. But then she would look at Petto, owner of one well-worn picture book, who spent her days quietly in the warmest corner of their house, and her resolve strengthened. It’s important. I know it is. Cragg says it is. Unknowingly, she lifted her chin. I’ll push it, and goddangit, I’ll get them to pass it. I’ll do it.

Her hopes of practicing alone were dashed when she found a young woman pacing the length of the Council House. She was clearly Usomian, but probably from a poor family, as he dress and cloak were both a dull brown. She had a round face and pretty dark eyes, but her eyebrows clenched together and her fingers were weaving themselves into her hair. She pounced on Nora as soon as she cleared the doorway. “You’re the Mashomi representative? From Traveler’s Rest?”

“Yes…” Nora said, jolted out of her own nervous musings, “but you aren’t.”

“No, no. I’m Fawn Aznaris.” She held out her hand, and Nora shook it gingerly, “I need your support.”

“To do what, exactly?”

“I want to get married. We’re seventeen, it’s legal.”

“Oh. Um…congratulations. I think you should really be talking to Zena here.”

“I don’t think that would work very well.” Fawn sat down and placed her hands on the table in front of her to keep them out of her hair. Looking everywhere but Nora’s face, she said, “my boyfriend, Timnere, he lives on the Pieshop.”

It took a minute for Nora to realize what she meant. “Oh. I see. That may be a problem.”

“You can see why I didn’t want to talk to Zena. She’s busy with other things. And our parents didn’t get along. I don’t think she would approve of a marriage between a Usomi and a Kenezai.”

Nora smiled a little at the thought of Zena and Atkin. “Yeah, I don’t think so either.”

Fawn jumped up from the chair and took Nora’s hands. “So you’ll help us?”

“I’ll help you,” Nora said without thinking and instantly regretted it. But Fawn squealed and seized her in a hug, kissing her once on the cheek in Usomian custom, and Nora couldn’t spoil her happiness. I guess a school can wait. This probably won’t take long anyway. And I guess it will be good for the community. Maybe I can dump it on Sheen.

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