Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Part Two, Chapter Thirty-Six

Oddly, Carina's confession made things a little easier. Amalia was curt with her, but not unkind, and she resumed her usual chores, spending whole days outdoors in the cold looking for projects, coming into the house red-nosed and shivering. She made soup and forced herself to eat it, and she went to bed at a decent hour, whether she could sleep or not. When she wasn't outside, she immersed herself in her books, frowning over the pages as if searching for a wisdom that had until now eluded her.

Shamed and contrite, Carina also returned to work, dragging Tasha along with her to barn, coop and paddock. In the evenings she knitted while the girl resumed her crochet projects. When Tasha asked about Will, Carina offered soothing words in a hopeful tone she by no means felt.

It was with no real sense of optimism that she greeted Tasha one afternoon as she came trotting up with the news that there was a wagon on the road. "Now honey, don’t go getting your hopes up. It could be anyone."

"It's Will."

Although she hardly dared believe it, there was something in the girl's certainty that made her heart skip a beat. "Let me see those binoculars."

"Come down to the road. That's where you can see best."

Carina threw on a poncho and hurried down the drive. Sure enough, there was someone on the road. She peered through the lenses, trying to adjust the focus. There. Yes, it was Will, with the wagon, Goneril and Regan. But where was Donovan? She handed back the binoculars, her blood pounding in her ears. "Go tell Amalia. Now." As the girl scampered off, Carina took off up the road at a run.

Will saw her and urged the jennies into a canter. The wagon bumped frightfully and he almost passed her by as they met on the road. He pulled back hard on the reins and shouted to the team. Both animals dug in their heels, wild-eyed as Carina leaped into the wagon and threw her arms around him. "Where have you been?"

Before he could answer, Amalia ran up, carrying Tasha. Will dropped the reins and grabbed the girl as she stretched out her arms to him. She sobbed against his shoulder, arms in a near-stranglehold around his neck. "It's okay, baby. I'm home. Don't tell me you doubted me."

Will scooted over on the seat so Amalia could climb up and take the reins. They pulled into the drive and halted by the kitchen door. Once they had all climbed down, they stood looking at each other awkwardly. Will put Tasha on the ground, but she flung her arms around him and held on. Amalia and Carina simply stared. There was no need to ask the question aloud.

"The town was raided by the Guard," Will finally said. "They picked him up."

* * *

They had a hundred, no, a thousand questions, but the jennies were lathered and the boy was reeling with hunger and exhaustion. For the moment, they had to be content with Will's simple answer, "I tried to get him out, but it was no use."

They put him to bed and set Tasha to feeding and nursing him. Then they went to inspect the wagon. There wasn't much underneath the tarp, just a bit of animal feed, some empty water canisters, and the empty food baskets. Even the camping equipment and tools were gone. Too stunned to parse this bit of evidence, they led the animals to the barn and unhitched the wagon. "We can't let them have too much water, too fast," Carina said. "We don't know how long they've been without."

"Colic. Yeah, I know."

They worked in gloomy silence. If they didn't comment on Will or the news he brought, maybe for a little longer it wouldn't be real. Finally they got Goneril and Regan into their stalls and began walking back to the house. Just outside the kitchen door, Carina took her sister's hand. "I'm sorry. I never wanted to hurt you or come between the two of you. I told him..."

Amalia stopped and looked at her. "I know."

* * *

They went into the house and found Will asleep, Tasha sitting vigil by his side. "I guess his news will have to keep until morning." Carina sighed.

"It'll be the same bad news, regardless."

Since Tasha wouldn't leave Will's side, they brought her some mending to keep her busy and went into the kitchen. They had left a pot of soup warming on the stove, and forced themselves to eat.

"I wonder why his papers didn't help?" Carina wondered aloud.

"If it was a full Guard unit with radio support, they could've checked the papers against data back on base."

"But why would they go to Higdon? That town's not big enough to be worth an entire unit."

"That's what we hear. It's been years since anyone from around here has been there. Maybe it's different now."

"But Alvi said..." Carina looked at Amalia, a horrible suspicion in her eyes. "You don't think...?"

Amalia sat back, blinking in surprise. "I can't imagine why."

"I can." Carina ducked her head.

"I have trouble believing Alvi could be that devious. He must've gotten his facts wrong."

"Maybe that's it," Carina said. "He misinforms the Feds. They probably misinform him, too."

They sat for a long time without saying anything. Finally Carina looked up. "So what should we do? Maybe Alvi..."

"I doubt it."

"He would do it for your sake, Amalia."

Amalia looked at her hands. "Let's be realistic. They've probably shot him by now." She got to her feet and began clearing the dishes. "Until I hear something that gives me reason to believe otherwise, that's what I'm going to assume. It's better than going around hoping for something that isn't possible. If I were you, I'd do the same."

"What, consider him dead?" The thought stung like venom. It couldn't be possible she had pushed him away, denied her opportunity for happiness, and now would never have another chance.

"It's better this way. We'll talk to Will in the morning. If he tells us anything to make us think there's hope, we'll decide what to do then. But honestly, when has any military unit not shot its deserters?"

Carina knew Amalia was thinking of her husband, but just because they had shot Alan... "Well, I'm going to wait and hear what Will has to say before I make up my mind."

"Good luck," Amalia said, and she meant it sincerely.



  1. oh dear Donavan's goose is cooked I hope they don;t shoot him for desertion. great turn in the story Ann

  2. And I second that! I think he's going to need some.

  3. I suspect this is not the way Donovan wanted to part company, but it actually makes him look better from Carina and Amalia's perspectives.

  4. Donovan was just too clever for his own good. He had it so good yet couldn't give up his vices. I suppose there is s tiny window of hope here but if Alvi has had anything to do with this the outcome it is bound to be bad. Let's hope Alvi doesn't just turn up now, the women would see through that straight away.

  5. I like the sense of sibling bonds that comes through in this chapter - both the sisters and Will and Tasha (i know not related but all but) is a different kind of love and trust but one that perhaps which is more forgiving and ever present..