Now, in near darkness, Alaya’s sensitive to every move Henrietta and the boy make. They have plenty of room, but, no one haven’t moved away from each other. It feels safer touching each other.
It remains quiet outside.
“How is your arm?” Henrietta whispers in Alaya ear. Reaching over, her fingers seem dry.
“Stopped bleeding, I think. Was it an arrow?”
“Yes, I saw it.” Slouching over, Henrietta pokes at the little wound. “Mostly missed. Johnny, get me a little drink. I’ma put it on her cut.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Quickly the boy kneels, reaches, and retrieves a sloshing cup from the still.
“How will you find a partner, you being the Librarian’s daughter?” Alaya feels the breath of these words on her neck. Henrietta’s speaking barely above a whisper, “Will the Vashon pick someone for you.”
Alaya’s withering expression is wasted in the dark. With Johnny leaning against them, she stops the cuss words she wants to use. But then a splash and burn touches her arm, and all vows are forgotten. “Marriage? My father talked to me about that when I was sixteen.” She grasps the fabric of Henrietta’s uniform in frustration, only the smallest of squeaks escapes.
“You know about the making of alliances through marriage?
“How will you choose?” Henrietta’s voice softens. Alaya spies Johnny’s head bouncing back and forth between their exchange.
“He said there’s been pressure to return to the old ways. But, he promised me I would be free to choose.”
“How will you choose?” Henrietta’s voice softens. Alaya spies Johnny’s head bouncing back and forth between them.
She better not be laughing at me.
Johnny’s small voice come up, “Do you have to test people?”
Alaya smiles at that, nodding. She’s thinking about how Henrietta does that. Guess that makes a good soldier. Squeezing Henrietta, she makes Johnny's question about the corporal.
“Push people so hard, they’ll break if they’re not really with you.”
“Have you tried that?”
Giving a soft laugh, Henrietta huffs
out “Yes.” Lifting Alaya’s hand, she transfers it from its grip on her uniform to Johnny’s hair. “I make it hard for people to stay close.” And another soft huff. “If they still try, then maybe they’re worthy.”
At that, Alaya can’t help but smile.
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