There was nothing she could do but cry, but if there was anything Salma couldn’t let herself do it was cry. Even now that she didn’t care if the cottage had her where she wouldn’t be able to hide her tears. Her vision remained blurry, the waterworks were there. She left the suitcase at the front door, wandering back over to the armchair. She nearly tripped over the book that had hit her earlier. Absently, she picked it up, setting it in her lap as she sat down.
Salma sat there for some time until the tears finally spilled down her cheeks. Her shoulders didn’t move, sinking into the back of the armchair, more comfortable than it had any right to be. She was tired, that was it. She had slept poorly, after all. And there was the hunger gnawing at her again – those granola bars hadn’t lasted long. Pulling her feet up into the chair with her, Salma nearly drifted off.
The cottage couldn’t hold her here forever. Her plan was simple. The cottage would eventually drop its guard and all she had to do was run for the door. The moment she could get the front door open, she would slide her luggage into the doorway to keep it from shutting. Then she could get out. She’d pull her things out after her. She was willing to leave the rest of her things behind forever as collateral. It didn’t matter.
I am hungry.
What a thought for Kiara to have, as the realization that she couldn’t solve this dawned upon her. Last week she could have dealt with such a small thought easily. Now, it was no longer a small thought. People went hungry all the time, but that had seemed so different from anything that could happen to her.
Until it had happened to her.
“I haven’t seen you in weeks.” Mikhos sounded concerned, but he’d always sounded concerned.
Kiara swallowed. “I… um…” She looked down at the papers in her hands. She never understood how this had worked, but she’d gotten used to it, when she didn’t think about it. Mikhos ate paper. Or stories. She didn’t think he ate blank papers. She hadn’t thought too much about it. Which was why she’d spent hours filling up these pages, hoping it would be enough.
Mikhos looked at what she held. “Are those for me?”
She bit her lower lip. “I’ll sell them to you. They’re one of a kind.”
She hated saying it. She hated how it sounded. Mikhos was staring at her. Kiara could have run away.
“Come on in.”
She followed him in, hoping this would work out.
It wasn’t that she hadn’t already eaten. Leondra shouldn’t have been hungry yet. As she focused through her sights at her target, her stomach began to tell her that she was hungry again.
The doe was so alive right now. Feasting without worry. No alarm showing on any part of her form. Leondra was ready to pull the trigger when she noticed other movement.
A fawn. This wasn’t the season. For the fawn to be that young… the doe must have delivered late.
Leondra’s stomach protested, but she lowered her gun. Time to find another target.