Close Enough: Part III

If Sami’s mood could have influenced the weather, there would have been a hurricane, tsunami, and an earthquake the next morning. But only a Sister could do that. Thankfully. And I was not in the mood to converse with the weather gods. Sunshine was fine with me. Sami’s sulking, however, was not. A bird had brought word this morning that the weather around the Sisterhood’s compound was not nearly so balmy and that one was riding out towards my homestead this morning.

Thankfully the bird had only seen the colors of the forest trees and stream on the bridle of the horse and coat of the rider.

Mother was not coming, not yet.

Even still a visit, an unplanned visit, usually did not go in my favor. But I would not let Sami see that as she stabbed her broom at the dust rather than sweeping and continued to mutter under her breath.

“You will have to do much better in your studies than that to curse me,” I said without looking up from kneading the dough on the counter.

She started. It was unmistakable even in peripheral vision. She, like others, assumed failing hearing was simply an inevitability with age.

“The dust has had enough. Move on to your lessons.”

“But I haven’t even had breakfast!”

“And whose fault is that?” I stopped kneading to look at her. I wished my face would stay impassive, but I knew it didn’t by Sami’s deepening scowl.

“Yours! You locked me out. I couldn’t get in all night. I still have grass in my hair!”

“And what in the name of the Sisterhood does that have to do with not eating breakfast?”

“I…assumed that would be part of my…punishment?”

I took a deep breath before replying. Dear Sisters, give me strength. “You assumed. Do not assume. It could get you killed or, in this case, almost miss breakfast. There is still some on the stove.”

Sami dropped the broom at once and practically dove for the pot still simmering on the stovetop. I resisted both the urge to scold her and to grab the broom with my flour-drenched hands. She was quiet and I could focus on finishing the bread in peace. The morning was looking up, then Silas jumped up into the open kitchen window.

“Are you expecting visitors today?” he asked as he smoothed a patch of fur on his head.

“No.”

“Then perhaps you should. There’s a rider coming up the lane. She looks like she’s eaten a chokeberry.”

And, of course, it began to rain.

Saturday Short: Close Enough, Part II

I did not see Sami for the rest of the day. Her chores were left unfinished and I found the rosebush laying in a pile of dirt on the floor of the greenhouse. Its pot shattered around it and its petals scattered like forgotten confetti. I repotted it with deliberate care as I considered and rejected various forms of torture as punishment for such ignoble behavior.

The Sisterhood was fortunate I was so loyal as to not throw Sami out without another word.

Sami was fortunate I had renounced physical violence after the last war. Other forms of violence had always been off-limits, not for my lack of skill but because my stomach could not handle the devastation my words and magic could rain down like a well-honed scythe.

Instead, I wrote a note to the current Mother of the Sisterhood and sent it by way of fox. Again, I reiterated my case on why Sami should be expelled as an apprentice and my concern over the lax standards of recruitment. It read like a letter from an old woman and I had to consider the possibility that I was one.

It did not bother me.

The rest of my time was spent preparing for the coming winter with jars filled and boiled with the harvest of the day. It was hot, delicate work and it was perfect for ignoring my problems.

“It’s a shame there is no fish for canning,” Silas said as he pushed the screened door open on his way into the kitchen.

“Fish does not agree with your stomach,” I replied without taking my eyes off the strawberry jam about to burst into a boil.

He huffed and coiled himself back to jump.

“Stay off the counter and I will get you cream.”

“Fine.” He then ignored me and began cleaning himself, which was fine with me.

He had his cream and I had my jam cooling on the counter before the sun lowered itself enough to begin calling the time evening.

There was still no sign of Sami when Silas stretched and left the kitchen to begin whatever rounds he made at night. I never asked. It would have been impolite.

I washed up and retired to my room after securing the house. I no longer trusted my memory nor the house, if I were honest, to make sure it was locked tight when the sun went down. There were portents that only the oblivious would not see. I had been called many things over the years, but that was not one of them.

I dosed my light and fell asleep to the sounds of the breeze across the meadows. I did not dream.

I awoke with a start, my hear racing as the house shuddered. Someone was trying to break in. I grabbed the crowbar I kept under my bed and was about to race downstairs when I heard the person swear.

I placed the crowbar back under my bed and climbed back under the covers. The banging and swearing continued, though the house shook it off as it came to the same realization I had. It would do Sami some good to sleep outside tonight. After all, fresh air was healthy and it would not hurt her though she might be sore in the morning from bedding down in the barn. But that was not my concern. I smiled as I closed my eyes and returned to sleep.