She asked Mom about it, because bringing it up to Dad was something she did not want to do. He expected so much of her and she still had no idea what she really wanted.
“Patty becoming a vet is nice and all,” Mom said, “but I would choose something that would be useful. Like my being a seamstress. I no longer work fully as a seamstress, but having done so before having you has certainly helped with our family, hasn’t it?”
Natie nodded. “I guess.”
“Then how about becoming a cook? You can help me more with the meals. See if you enjoy it.”
Natie did that, because spending time with Mom was fun. And while they were doing that, Mom spoke more about cooking than she did about the upcoming Cleaning. If she focused on that, really tried hard, then she was very tired by bedtime and all Dad would do was take her book from her bag and read her whichever story she asked him too.
“Dad? Patty said I’m too old for bedtime stories now.”
“Don’t be silly. You will never too old to have a story.”
Natie wondered if cooking would be anything like a bedtime story. Putting in the ingredients. Letting the fire change it. But in the end she would rather climb a tree and press flowers. That was where she was when the Cleaning commenced.
“Are you still going to be a vet when you grow up?” Natie asked Patty.
Patty nodded. “Yep! Di said I could stick around when June delivers her puppies and help out! I’m on my way!”
Natie frowned. “Wow. You’re lucky.”
“Uh huh! And Miranda said she will let me sit with her when she works. I’m well on my way!”
Patty sounded so proud, she didn’t notice that Natie didn’t have anything to contribute to the conversation. Natie didn’t feel like mentioning that she had no idea. She didn’t feel like mentioning that her father always reminded her that she was running out of time to be free before she would have to start looking. Start choosing.
That Patty already knew what she wanted made Natie jealous. This seemed increasingly more important than waiting for the Cleaning.
But none of those things really interested her, as much as she tried. She hung around the store, but only wanted to buy some candy. She fed some of the cows, but if she had to do more than hold out her hand flat and let the long tongue come out to eat the little she could hold, she would get tired. She climbed a tree, but wasn’t sure what that might relate to when it came to her future job.
“Do you think, after all of this is done, you and I could rule the world?”
Okay, there were two things about that statement. First of all, they had no idea how tempting that offer was going to be until they had heard it. The very thought was delicious. A point of preference: power. Finally, where no one else could tell them what to do, where to be, who they were.
The second aspect of that statement was the fact he had said that. The person they had expected it from the least. And they looked him over, wondering when he had become the strong willed individual who would say that by their side right now.
They looked down at their hands. They liked that idea. Liked it very much. They tried not to smile too widely. “Let’s finish weeding your dad’s garden first.”
“In ten years where do you see yourself?”
The younger boy thought about it for a moment, setting down his friend’s order in front of him. “Probably not making minimum wage?”
“Think grander than that!” He emphasized his point by stretching his arms out.
He did, because his friend asked. “Rich.”
“Yes, that is indeed grander! But from doing what?”
At that, he didn’t hesitate to answer at all. “Run a noodle cart.”
The two boys stared at each other. The older boy’s eyes widened. “Good god. That’s genius.”
Before his boss could yell at him for messing around, he quickly returned to work.
Finding game wasn’t the hard part. Not with everything becoming more aggressive. It was surviving. Taking it down. Dragging the meat back.
The wind made bows useless most of the time. Her cousin had to come up with a new method of hunting. Saoirse readied her sword. The creature looked like it had once been a bear. It’s eyes glowed black and its coat moved independently from the wind. If she took out enough of these… how many households could she feed? Keep safe?
In her mind, she kept the picture of the creag. That disapproving look down at her. And then, very occasionally, those long tresses of Toiréasa’s, spinning out in the new winds.
Oh, Saoirse would make it to that house.
Take Toiréasa from it and find a stake of land less likely to crumble out from underneath them. Saoirse smiled, a feral expression.
All she had to do was prove herself.