If my life were a story, like the ones I used to sneak from Mother’s personal library and read when everyone else was snoring in bed, everything would have changed after Vinia’s visit. Sami would have become the model apprentice, quick to mend her ways, eager to learn everything she could, and a pleasure to have in one’s company. Alas, my life was not a story any more than Silas was a reliable companion.
The week after Vinia’s visit, Sami was better than she had been, but that was not saying much. A flock of pigeons would have been a better apprentice than she was through sheer chance. After a week, the threat of a teacher who wanted her to leave and the fear that I had hoped would make her wise had faded like water from the storm.
Her belligerence I could deal with, I held court with a talking cat so stubbornness did not trouble me as much as her lack of fear. That would get her killed.
I finished scouring the kitchen as Sami had left the counters still speckled with signs of cooking and the floors with tracks of now damp dust. At least she had the decency to be in a hurry to get to her lessons in the greenhouse. Perhaps today she would finally learn lesson three.
It was a beautiful day for working with living things. Plants always felt fresh in the morning, like people. Perhaps it would be a good day for talking, for listening, for learning.
I walked into the greenhouse and yelled before I was half-conscious of why I was yelling. Everything froze in place, even Sami. Blood rushed to my cheeks and through my ears, a roar like the ocean, and I smelled some acrid and rotting sweet. A breath of it, enough to panic.
But I would not let him win so easily.
I grabbed the candle, its flame unmoving yet burning, from Sami’s grasp. Her confusion behind her eyes did not match her languid motions, like a person in a dream. I paid her no more mind as I licked my fingers and snuffed out the flame. I pried the knife from her left hand and threw it so it stuck deep into the wooden beam by the door. Then I swept my arm across the bench and the drawings in chalk with their manic curling lines blurred like sand on the tideline.
I looked around my greenhouse for signs of taint, but saw none and whispered the words that let everything move and breathe again. The plants sighed and Sami fell forward at the bench, gulping for air.
If I were Mother, I could be gentle in my wrath and find the lesson in every moment. I am not Mother.
I swung around and grabbed Sami’s chin with one hand. “You have no idea what you have done!”
She slapped my hand away and pushed herself back from me. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I know.” I looked away towards the north and saw a dark line forming on the horizon. “And for that you may well die.”