Chapter Thirty Seven

Trish slumped as she ate her cold dinner.

You look tired,” Mapi told her. He was the only one sitting with her.

I am.” She took another bite of mush and stared angrily at the bowl. She turned to the boy. “Do you want this?” Of course he did. Mapi took the bowl eagerly.

So, what happened while I was gone?” Trish asked the silent adults. Erreth barely looked up as he answered for them. “Not much. But we want to hear about your trip.”

It was fine.”

He did look at her now. “And? Going to trust them?”

Trust takes a long time, uncle, I’m not just going to randomly trust some jict I just met.”

Watch your tongue,” Kyri said softly. Trish stood up.

You know what I think you should do,” Erreth said. His tone was even as ever.

Why don’t you just do it yourself? You’re a grown-up!”

Trish…” Hesh began. Trish took a deep breath. She knew she shouldn’t have said it. “I don’t want to do anything dumb.”

You won’t.” Erreth put down his work and focused on her.

They killed my parents.”

I know.”

Are they nice?” Shayish asked out of the blue.

Trish smiled. Shayish was about her same age. “They’re confused. They’re trying to be brave.”

So, like you.”

I never thought of it like that. “I know what I’m doing.”

Which is what?” Hesh reminded her.

I’m…”

You should join their meetings,” Erreth said. “Trish. You won’t become one of them. But they know about us now, and it can’t be avoided.”

Jacques wasn’t very surprised when Trish showed up with Zena at the council house the next morning. Sheen was, he could tell, but he had seen it coming when she left them the other day.

Trish took Nora’s old seat at the table without much sound. Jacques half-smiled at her from the head. She bit her lip. “Can I speak?”

We don’t have a lot of rules for decorum here,” Zena said dryly.

Trish didn’t laugh. “I’m not becoming part of your colony. I’m not committing to anything. I hate you forever. But what has happened can’t be undone, and I am here to listen and make sure you aren’t planning to kill us.”

You serious?” Jacques asked. It was a legitimate question. Sheen kicked him and Trish looked offended. “Of course,” she said.

I didn’t mean to insult you, but a lot of sarcasm used to fly around in here,” Jacques explained, looking pointedly at Zena.

I was only half of it,” she defended herself, “Not even. You did it too.”

I did. Jacques was always earnest,” Sheen reminded her, “and Nora, when she spoke.” That brought them uncomfortably back around to the newest absence. Having caused it, Sheen felt the need to speak to it. “Now that we’re four again, I wish we were five.”

It was an unusual thing for her to say. Jacques noted it.

You’re three and a half,” Trish pointed out.

That’s true,” Zena said, “and we should focus on the people we have here, not the people we don’t.”

Three days after Atkin’s weird speech, Cragg couldn’t get it out of his mind. He decided to talk to his cousin. Face to face, man to man. There were some things that needed to be straightened out. He left his tent boiling with intentions, planning to have it out with Atkin that day. Rouk had other plans.

Atkin’s not taking any guests right now,” he told Cragg in the courtyard.

Why not?”

He is not in the mood.”

I’m not a guest, I’m his family. Let me through.” Cragg tried to push past him. Subtly.

I’m sorry, but orders are orders.” Rouk blocked him. Equally subtly.

Yeah, but customs are customs. Family isn’t turned away, except at prayer time, and it ISN’T prayer time.”

I’m sorry Cragg, but the leader is resting.”

Hearing this creepy man say his name really pissed Cragg off. “The leader? Is that his idea or yours?”

Please do not raise your voice.” Rouk was pressing Cragg backward.

You know what, Rouk, you can take your stupid orders and you can—I’ve had it with this. I’m done playing. You don’t want to respect the traditional ways, fine. I won’t either. Maybe you’ll find that your precious following gets harder to control.”

Empty threats,” Rouk said. “Go back to your life. You have no business here.”

Cragg stormed out of the courtyard. He didn’t head to his tent. He found Kesle at the home of her friend and dragged her back to their home.

I have something I need you to do for me,” he said, “and I need you to help me plan how to get away with it.”

Kesle actually looked like she would listen. “What is it?”

I need you to get a message to the colony for me. I need to talk to Nora.”

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