We brought the water back to the fire after Tala calmed down and wiped her eyes. I couldn’t blame her for her fear, though I wondered how long we were going to keep it quiet, who we were going to keep it a secret from. I knew that a secret in a community this small wouldn’t last long, even if I didn’t have any plans to tell anyone without her consent.
God, she was pregnant. How we were all going to handle that? It wasn’t just about her, after all, it was about all of us, about us as a community. Eight months or so, and then we’d have an infant to care for on top of all of us.
Maybe it wasn’t worth worrying about. A lot could happen in eight months.
Carolyn was sitting with little Angie by the fire, and the small girl waved to Tala and I as we brought the water. I looked around for Matt, who’d been here when we’d left. Carolyn caught me looking and grinned.
“He’s with Stasia. She said there’s eggs—finally. He got excited and had to see for himself.”
Tala sighed happily. “Finally something other than toast.”
I laughed as I set the buckets of water off to one side, to be rotated in for sterilization in whatever fashion my brother and some of the other boys had engineered two weeks ago. We’d gotten rain buckets set up, but the storms had tapered off the past few days so we hadn’t gotten to test them much. That, at least, had given J.T. and Drew time to actually get back to testing for wells with Tala’s help. We needed one of those fast, so we could stop hauling water up and down from the river and sterilizing it.
“The rest still sleeping?” I asked as I dried my hands on the seat of my jeans.
“Mostly. A few are up and moving, but most everyone’s catching a few extra minutes of sleep.”
Angie tugged on Carolyn’s sleeve. “Miss Carolyn?”
I smothered a smile as I turned around to get a few mugs for tea out of the bin we kept them in. The kettle was already on—that was either Matt or Carolyn’s doing. Cute kid. Polite, too.
“Why does Miss Marin have three eyes?”
I froze, throat closing. What the hell? I turned slowly, looking at Angie strangely. She was looking up at Carolyn, perfectly innocent. Tala had frozen, too, as she was about to sit down on the other side of Angie.
Carolyn’s eyes flicked to me before she looked back at Angie, tone carefully neutral. “What do you mean, Angie?”
“She has three eyes! Can’t you see them? Just like you have all of those fairies with the sparkly dragonfly wings and the butterfly wings around you all the time.”
I suppressed a shiver. She can already see things? Some kind of prescience, or just basic sight beyond the norm? “Where is it, Angie?” I asked quietly, curious even though I was starting to feel sick to my stomach.
She looked up at me and pointed to the center of her forehead, just above her brow-line. “Right here. It’s all silvery most of the time.” She paused for a minute, tilting her head to one side. “Mr. Thom has it, too, but he looks different.”
Shit. And this in front of Tala, who’s pretty well clueless. What the hell am I going to do, going to say? The kid’s seeing real things, I can’t tell her she’s imagining them.
“Angie?” Tala said quietly as she slowly sat down. “When you saw the shadow man you told Miss Kellin about, what did he look like? Did he look like Miss Marin’s eye, or like me?”
Her nose wrinkled a little. “He looked real, but not like you. I could see through his coat, like it was made of really dark smoke. And he was big and scary and dark and mean. It was hard to see his face because there was all this black moving around him all the time. I think he was trying to hide from us, but he wanted something from Paul. He wanted Paul to help him, but Paul said no. The man got mad, but he left.” She shifted a little uncomfortably. “I told Miss Kellin this already.”
But Kellin didn’t tell me. This ward thing must really have her spooked since she apparently forgot. I frowned.
Angie looked up at me and gasped a little. “You’re not angry at me, are you, Miss Marin?”
“No, no, I’m not angry at you, Angie.” I shook my head quickly. “Not at all. I’m just surprised, that’s all.” I tried to keep my smile gentle. “Not everyone can see things like you do, Angie.”
She drew her knees up against her chest. “Paul used to tell me that all the time. He couldn’t see them, either. Can he see them now?”
I frowned again. Good question. Kellin wasn’t back for me to ask, so all I could do was shrug. “I’m not sure, Angie. Maybe.”
“Can you see like I do?”
I shook my head. “No…most of us see a little different, but that’s okay. But maybe you shouldn’t talk about it too much. Some people might get a little scared.”
Her innocence broke my heart. Briefly, I thanked every power that was or might have been that I’d been a little older than this when I first started becoming aware that there was a world beyond normal sight. I reached out and brushed her hair back from her face. “Because some people are afraid of things they can’t see.”
“Like monsters under the bed?” She asked, eyes big and round.
I laughed, nodding. “Right. Like monsters under the bed.”
“They weren’t really monsters. Just dust bunnies,” Angie said, nodding sagely. I almost laughed again.
“Right. But you were afraid of them anyway, right?”
She paused, then nodded. “Yeah, I was. Until I knew what they were.” Understanding dawned in her eyes. “Oh! I get it.”
Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you, whoever’s out there, for making her as bright and as sharp as this. I hoped, going forward, we’d be so lucky.