It was about twenty minutes or so before Kellin returned, about the same time the kettle was starting to hiss, steam escaping through the whistle-hole. I took it off the tripod, set it on the ground near the fire. Kellin came back with a couple of mugs and a metal ball full of tea, which she proceeded to drop into the kettle as she settled down near me. Her clothes were dry—she’d changed them—but she went barefoot except for the five dollar flip-flops she’d gotten earlier in the summer, when she’d gone shopping with Jacqueline, Carolyn, and I. She thrust her feet nearer to the fire, wiggling her toes, then looked at me.
“Damn cold out there in that mess, I’ll tell you that.”
“I believe it,” I murmured, still hugging my knees against my chest. “Glad I’m not venturing out in it. You guys are braver than I am.”
She snorted. “We just didn’t walk nearly as far as you did yesterday, that’s all. We’ve still got the legs for it—and we might as well use them while we’ve got them, before something else happens.” She arranged the pair of mugs near the kettle. The tea was fragrant as it steeped in the pot. “What have you been seeing lately? You know me. I don’t really see anything. I usually just feel, and all I’ve really felt lately is a knowing that yesterday was an end and a beginning all at once.”
I chewed my lip a little. How to explain it? Everything had been so fragmentary so far, and not all of it made much sense. “It’s dicey, at best, I think,” I finally told her, rocking a little, forward and backward, resting my chin on my knee. “I can’t really piece all of them together cohesively. Something bad’s going to happen with Thom if he keeps denying his abilities, I know that much. Long, hard winter, I think, and it’s going to come early. We’ll be grateful for the greenhouses we’ll be able to get up and running, that’ll keep us fed.” Do I tell her about the vision of a son? Of me having a son? Or is that just…was it just a dream? I shook my head a little. “Like I said. It’s all fuzzy—nothing really makes a lot of sense if you try to piece it into some sort of coherent picture. I wish it did.”
“Isn’t that the way it always is?” She sighed. “Well. Maybe we’ll be able to piece something together from them if you keep having them—well. When you have more.”
I nodded mutely. Should I tell her about Thom? About what I keep seeing about him? I chewed my lip. I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell her about that. I was almost afraid of what she might say. “Haven’t tried to spread the cards yet,” I mumbled, pushing hair out of my face. “Afraid of what they’ll tell me. That this is all going to get us killed sooner rather than later.”
Kellin shook her head a little, pouring the tea out into the mugs, passing one to me. I took it, cradling it between both hands against my knee, as she settled back and began to speak. “I don’t think that’s what fate has planned for us, Marin. We survived for a reason. Not really certain what it is, but I know we’re still walking and talking for a reason—why we’re still breathing. If we were supposed to die anytime soon, we’d already be dead. Object lessons, at this point, I’m thinking are a thing that would be totally lost on us.” She slid her arm around my shoulders and hugged me gently, managing to find a smile somewhere. “Spread the cards or don’t spread the cards. You’re seeing things. Either way…we’re getting the insights we’re going to need.” She squeezed me gently and took a sip of her tea, sitting back for a moment and staring at the fire while I stared into my mug, stealing glances in her direction.
I sighed a little, taking a long swallow of the tea, letting it scald the back of my throat. I took a shaky breath and exhaled slowly. “I hope you’re right, Kel,” I murmured. I glanced back over my shoulder, toward where Thom was still sleeping, exhaling again and shaking my head. “Do you think they’re always right?”
She blinked at me. “What kind of question is that? You know what I think. They’ve never been wrong before, have they?”
“I’ve been wrong before,” I said quietly. “I thought the world was going to end with a nuclear attack. I was wrong.”
“But not about the world ending. Just about how.” She shook her head again. “What’s got you so worried, Marin? What are you seeing that’s making you ask these questions?”
“Nothing,” I quickly lied, taking a gulp of tea, swallowing quickly and mumbling a curse at my burnt tongue.
Kellin snorted. “You’re an awful liar about some things, Marin. What’s wrong? Thom?” She frowned as I cast a quick glance back over my shoulder again, toward our shelter. “It’s about Thom. Tell me, Marin.”
I shook my head. I can’t. What if I’m right, and it’ll kill him? But he can’t die. We’re going to have a son. What am I going to do? What’s right and what’s wrong? They can’t all be right, can they? I took another sip of tea and winced. I couldn’t even taste it, just knew that it was hot. “It’s nothing, Kellin.”
“It’s not nothing,” she hissed, glaring at the people that seemed to have started to listen in—no one we knew very well—before looking back to me. “You wouldn’t be hurting so much and starting to question yourself like this if he wasn’t involved. So tell me what’s bothering you.”
I shook my head again. The words just wouldn’t come—I couldn’t find them. I swallowed again. Kellin started at me and sighed.
“Don’t tell me, then. Bottle it. It’ll either come out, or it’ll kill you both.”
What? I blinked at her. “What did you just say?”
She shook her head. “Bottling it up is like trying to rot yourselves from inside. If you don’t let this out, if you let it fester…it’s not going to do either of you any good.”
Festering…like an open wound. Guess that’s what this is, after all. A gaping wound in our relationship. More than just a sore spot. I rubbed at my face. “…I just…keep seeing things, Kellin. Things I don’t want to see.”
“Like what, Mar?”
I swallowed hard, my voice a bare whisper. “Like Thom dying.”