Vision in Silver Page 49

“We took the Courtyard bus up to the Green Complex,” Merri Lee said as the women headed toward the Market Square. “Henry met us in the Market Square and told the driver that we were allowed to take the bus up to your apartment from now on.”

“I think a Hawk was driving,” Ruth added. “Or maybe it was an Owl. Anyway, just before the bus stopped at the Green Complex, I saw the big patch of overturned earth that must be the kitchen garden. And there were wooden stakes with string beyond what’s already turned, so it looks like the Others really are planning to expand it enough for all of us to have a share.”

“I hope we can all participate,” Merri Lee said. “But even if Mr. Wolfgard is only making that offer to tenants of the apartment buildings, the vegetables and fruits sold at the Market Square grocery store are always very fresh—and they cost less than in the human grocery stores.”

“What about the butcher shop?” Theral asked. “I went in to buy some meat a few days ago, but that shop seemed a little . . . strange.”

A hesitation. “Just remember to be specific about what you want,” Merri Lee finally said.

“Maybe that’s why my aunt said the beef tasted a bit odd, and why Lawrence turned pale when I said I bought the meat at the Market Square.”

“If it tasted gamy, it wasn’t beef, which isn’t always available,” Ruth said. “The grocery store is a bit hit-or-miss too. You can find a jar of spaghetti sauce and a box of pasta, but no boxes of cereal. Lots of things sold in canning jars that you’re expected to return, but not much sold in cans.”

“Canned foods taste like metal, and the terra indigene tend to eat fresh foods that are in season,” Meg said. The pins-and-needles feeling filled her cheeks, tongue, and jaw.

She stopped and studied a cluster of plants that hadn’t been in bloom a couple of days ago.

The other girls stopped too.

“How are you doing?” Merri Lee asked, eyeing Meg while Ruth took a picture of the plants.

“All right,” Meg replied. Now that they had stopped talking about food, the prickling faded. Should she mention that? Or would her friends feel uncomfortable about talking to her at all, afraid that they would trigger the need to cut?

“What kind of flower is that?” Ruth asked as Merri Lee waited, pen poised over a small notebook.

“Wildflower?” Meg offered. “I don’t recall a training image that matches it.”

“It is a herald of Summer,” said a female voice behind them. “What other name does it need?”

“Good morning, Spring,” Meg said, turning to face the Elemental. “Hello, Mist.”

“You are not working today?” Spring asked.

“I am. We all are. But we’re taking a walk first.”

“Very wise. It will rain later. Not a storm. A soft rain for all that is blooming. But some things need a small drink now.” Spring smiled at them before she and Mist cantered away.

Theral pointed to the spot where the Elemental and steed had been. “The road is wet there. Just there.”

“That’s because Mist was standing there,” Meg said.

The girls stared at her. Finally Merri Lee said, “So the ponies really are their names?”

“Yes.”

“Wow.”

Theral didn’t know the names of all the ponies and didn’t understand the significance, but Ruth and Merri Lee, who had witnessed the storm in Febros, looked a little scared.

“That explains some things,” Ruth said.

Meg didn’t remember much about the storm that struck Lakeside after she’d fallen through the ice on the creek. But she remembered being stuck in the hospital, along with Simon and Jester, because the whole city had been trapped by a record snowfall.

She also remembered waking up at some point to find Simon in Wolf form, scrunched into that hospital bed with her to keep her warm.

“Better get moving,” she said.

Crows followed them as they continued down the road. Hawks soared overhead or found a convenient observation perch. A couple of Owls, who should have been home by now, flew over their heads.

A small rabbit hopped across the road, watched by a Hawk. Would the Hawk have done more than watch if the girls hadn’t been passing his perch?

Grateful she didn’t have a new image of a bunny being killed, Meg looked at the flowers and grass and trees. Would Simon let her work in the garden? If she wore gloves and was careful to protect her skin, she could plant and weed like the other girls. Couldn’t she?

“Do ponies talk to each other?” Merri Lee asked.

Meg turned away from the flowers that had caught her attention and smiled. All the ponies except Mist were at the junction where the Courtyard’s main road met the road leading to the Pony Barn. Even Whirlpool, the newest pony, was there, although he still hadn’t quite achieved the “I’m a harmless, chubby pony” form.

Meg waved at them. “We have carrots for the treat today.”

“Is that significant?” Ruth asked when they were far enough down the road not to be overheard.

“Everyone comes for the treat on Moonsday because it’s sugar lumps,” Meg said. “But not everyone will show up for carrots.”

“Makes sense,” Merri Lee said.

“So does that,” Ruth said quietly.

A Wolf with a dark coat shot with lighter gray hairs raced toward them—big, fast, lethal. And happy. Maybe that meant the meeting had gone well? More likely, Simon was happy to be outdoors and furry, even if it was only for a few minutes.

“I didn’t bring the rope, and I’m not going to run and get all sweaty before starting work, so don’t even think about playing herd the human,” Meg said.

He laughed at her—she could tell he was laughing—and eyed the woven hat Merri Lee had brought for her to wear so her head wouldn’t get sunburned.

Meg clamped a hand on the hat, which seemed to amuse him.

Wolves could make a game out of almost anything, and playing snatch the hat could go on for weeks before they became sufficiently bored to look for something else.

Having achieved whatever he came to do, Simon turned and loped in the direction of the Market Square.

He would have stayed if she’d been walking alone.

“You could call him back, walk on ahead of us,” Merri Lee said.

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