Vision in Silver Page 66

Grace left the room. Jackson lingered, studying her.

He said she could ask. Did she have the courage to ask? It could be a trick to see if she was still tempted to do the thing she wasn’t allowed to do. The Walking Names always tried to trick her. But Jackson was a Wolf. He knew Meg.

A test, then. But this time, she wouldn’t be the only one being tested.

“Could I have a pencil and some paper?”

A thoughtful silence before Jackson said, “A black pencil or colored pencil?”

She felt her breath catch, felt a tingle in her hands. But she wasn’t brave enough to ask for both. “Whatever no one else is using.”

Another thoughtful silence. “The trading post isn’t open on Earthdays. I will see what we have here. Eat your breakfast, sweet blood.”

He left, closing the door. She turned on the lamp beside the bed. Wolves might not have trouble seeing in barely daylight, but she wanted a better look at the food before she ate any of it.

Sitting at the desk, she picked up the glass. Sniffed. Cautiously tasted. She was pretty sure it was milk, but it tasted different, more potent than anything she’d been given in the . . . in that place.

The toast was a little burned at the edges; the scrambled eggs, like the milk, didn’t taste quite like what she’d had before, but it was good and she was hungry.

After the meal, she went into the bathroom to wash her hands and brush her teeth. When she came out, Jackson stood in the doorway, holding a wooden tray. He set it on the bed, revealing six sheets of paper and a set of colored pencils. Red, green, blue, yellow, orange, brown, black, pink. From training images, she identified an eraser and a small handheld pencil sharpener.

“This is what I could find.” Jackson stepped away from the bed.

“Thank you.”

He picked up the used dishes and left.

Sitting on the bed, she examined each pencil, touched the paper.

No one burst into the room, yelling at her. No one took away the pencils and paper. No one bound her hands as punishment, leaving her dependent on the Walking Names for every personal need.

Feeling bolder, she studied the patchwork quilt. Then she picked up a pencil and filled one sheet of paper reproducing the patterns in the quilt’s material.

She stood up, stretched, got a drink of water, sharpened all the pencils.

Maybe she should do something else for a while. But . . . what? The room held nothing. Could she ask for a book? But she didn’t want to read, she wanted . . .

A howl. Distant. Another howl. Closer to this building.

They had howled last night. She closed her eyes and remembered how the sound had seemed to rise like smoke, painting ghostly shapes on the night sky.

Returning to the bed, she took a clean sheet of paper, picked up a pencil, and began to draw.

CHAPTER 32

Earthday, Maius 13

Simon, all four-footed and furry, stared at Henry. Not only was the Grizzly in human form; he was awake and bringing a request.

<But it’s Earthday.> Simon did his best to stifle a growl. <It’s supposed to be a human-free day.> His ear canted back at the sound of Meg’s laughter and Sam’s happy yips in the kitchen. <Except for Meg, but she doesn’t count as human in that way anymore.>

“You were the one who told the humans they could share in the harvest if they also shared in the work,” Henry rumbled. “The vegetable gardens have to be expanded, and they’re willing to do the work.”

<But . . .> Simon stopped. Thought. Sighed.

He was the one who had made the decision to let humans in, both to reward the ones who didn’t want to be enemies and to learn more about humans from informal interaction. Maybe the terra indigene had tried this before in the centuries since the first humans came to Thaisia. Maybe it was a mistake.

A gamble, at any rate. For everyone.

<All right, fine.>

“I will stay in human form,” Henry said. “And Vlad will be there.”

<Is Montgomery going to be there with the Lizzy?>

Henry nodded. “Pete and Eve Denby are bringing their young as well. And the police who have use of the efficiency apartment and our human employees will be here.”

<All of them?> That was a big pack of humans to mingle with Wolves, Crows, Hawks, Owls, and whoever else decided to watch the visitors.

Then Meg came out of the kitchen with Sam bouncing around her, his gray eyes fixed on the hat she held out of his reach.

Couldn’t grab the hat once she put it on because it had ribbons that she tied under her chin to keep the hat from blowing off, and she might get hurt. But if someone happened to chew off one of the ribbons, and Air was willing to cooperate a little bit, they could play catch the hat.

Not today, Simon thought with regret. Too many onlookers today, so someone would notice who deribboned the hat.

“Are we ready?” Meg asked, her eyes so happy-bright, if she had a tail, it would be wagging.

Sam arrooed. Henry opened the front door. And Simon gave Meg’s hand a quick lick as he passed her to help him remember why there was a human pack in the first place.

*   *   *

Meg closed Simon’s door, then frowned at the area under her second-floor apartment. Simon’s apartment was two stories. Her place and his shared a back hallway on the second floor and stairs that led to the outside door. From what she had gathered, since she hadn’t found anything in her apartment that matched training images she had studied, the heating system and hot-water tanks for both apartments were in a utility room on the ground floor of his apartment.

So what was under her apartment? It was boarded up, like images of abandoned buildings, only neater. And there was a door that was also boarded up where a window might be.

During the winter, she had noticed it occasionally and dismissed it because it wasn’t part of what she needed to absorb in order to live on her own and keep her job. Now . . .

The Green Complex was shaped like a U, with apartments on the two sides and the laundry, mailroom, and social room taking up the back, along with the archway that led to the garages.

Meg looked across the open area. Henry’s apartment was across from hers, and it, too, had a boarded-up space under it.

“Henry, what’s under my apartment?”

He gave her a big smile. “That’s the summer room that you and Simon share. It’s been boarded up for the winter, but now it’s time to open it up and clean it out.”

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