The young woman sat sipping her tea, quietly observing the woman, Indigo, as she studied her and her sister. Indigo had white lines on her face like the young woman’s sister, but they didn’t appear to bother her as she made no effort to cover them up. The young guy, Birke, who had come with Indigo, had left to melt mirrors with Ashton, and Dara had left the kitchen shortly thereafter. When Indigo had asked their names, the young woman’s sister had burrowed deeper into her hood and kept silent. Though her sister hadn’t touched the biscuits Dara had offered, the young woman had and she thought they were delicious.
“You two helped us out a great deal when you brought those mirrors to melt,” Indigo said to the sisters. “Not to mention the Hut.” She set the tin from the Gathering Hut on the table, then took out the pieces of paper and arranged them around it. “I know this one’s yours,” said Indigo, to the young woman’s sister, holding up one of the papers covered in incomprehensible symbols. “But I'm curious, which one belongs to you?” she asked the young woman.
“I don’t know what these mean,” the young woman answered. “I’ve never seen this language before.” Then she turned to her sister. “This one’s yours?”
“But Dara said they were names and this isn’t your n-”
“Never mind,” said her sister. “They’re not important now.”
“Have you met any of these people?” said Indigo, her gaze locked on the young woman’s sister.
“If you’re trying to ask me where they are, I don’t know,” came a fierce voice from beneath the hood. “And I don’t care, either. We’re not friends, we were coworkers.”
“Seems to be the way things go in the trade,” said Indigo, with a small smile. “Even so, did you know of anyone else who was getting fed up with the work and wanted out?”
“No. Well, nobody except that new Seller who seems to have a death wish.”
“Actually, he’s far from a new recruit, he was born into the trade.”
“Then he’s a pretty slow learner.”
“Have you met him?”
“Just once, in passing at a Crafting Shop raid. Why? You looking for him?”
“He doesn’t want to be found,” said Indigo, pushing one of the papers toward the young woman’s sister, who leaned forward. “But I know this is his and I know the raid you’re talking about. Wasn’t that when I first met you?”
The young woman’s sister went red.
“Well,” said Indigo, “I refuse to call you what Sable did. When I know your real name, I’ll call you that.”
“Look, all I wanted to do was bring the mirrors and Hut supplies, and then leave.”
“And where will you go?” Indigo asked gently.
“Somewhere safe,” the young woman's sister replied, and tried to pull her already snug hood tighter.
“Well, I can't say how safe you’ll be if you go off on your own. What you learned as a Gatherer is useful beyond crafting those mirrors and that's both an advantage and a curse. Just know you’re welcome to stick around and help us if you want.”
“I'll find some pocket where Sable hasn't been. I'll lay low.”
“You could come home,” offered the young woman. “I'm sure Mom and Dad would-”
“Look,” said Indigo, “it may seem like you're the first of Sable’s people to break ranks, but you’re not. And anyway, I'm the last person to judge. Just think about it, okay? My offer from the raid still stands,” she said, her blue eyes tired, then she left.
The young woman turned to her sister. “Laurel, she se-”
“Shh! She’ll hear you!”
“Well, she seems nice, not to mention pretty tired of that Sable guy.”
“Look, you don’t know the first thing about this mess.” Laurel groaned. “That's why I was hesitant to have you visit.”
“If you didn’t want me to come, you should’ve said something!”
“And risk peace with Mom and Dad? No thanks. I thought if you could canoe and hike and whatever, it’d be fine, but then you had to go and find that stupid crate!”
“Well I wasn’t the one who started a fire!”
“I had to do something!”
“But now, after coming all this way, you won’t help her! You won’t even tell her your name!”
“My name’s none of her business! I don’t know what more they need!”
Dara entered the kitchen and got out bread and turkey.
“Would you like help?” asked the young woman.
Dara looked surprised, but gave her a warm smile. “Sure. Thank you.”
The young woman helped Dara make sandwiches, some of which they placed in a paper bag and some they put onto plates.
When they finished, Dara thanked the young woman, then went into the living room. The young woman sat down at the table with sandwiches for her and Laurel, who had a serious expression on her face.
“What? I wanted to help,” said the young woman, taking a bite of her sandwich.
“It’s not that,” said Laurel. “That Birke guy wants to go to Canby. I heard Indigo talking with Ashton while you two were busy.”
“It’s a small port town.” Laurel reluctantly began to eat her sandwich.
“Never heard of it.”
“Well, you wouldn’t have, seeing as the trade hasn’t spread anywhere near Mom and Dad’s place.”
“Oh, so it’s a mirror trade town?”
“It wasn’t always, but in the past few months it’s gotten a lot worse. I’m not surprised they’re upset he wants to go there.”
Ashton came into the kitchen, gave the sisters a weak smile, then went out the back door into the forest. Dara and Indigo stayed in the living room talking in low voices. When the sisters finished their lunch, they moved closer to the hearth and sat quietly, lost in thought.
The warmth of the fire and the young woman's lack of sleep made her drift in and out, only vaguely aware of sounds and her sister beside her.
She awoke to the sound of footsteps and the front door closing. Nearby, Dara was tidying the counter, clearly agitated.
“Indigo will be right back,” said Dara.
“What about Birke?” asked Laurel.
“So, he’s going to Canby?”
Dara gave Laurel a startled expression, but then nodded sadly. “We’re not happy, but it’s his choice,” she said. “No sense in trying to force him to do something. If Indigo hadn’t helped, he would’ve just hitchhiked again.” She sighed and sat on a chair near them.
Laurel appeared to wrestle silently with herself for a moment, then said: “I’m Laurel, and this is my sister, Sadie.”