Written in Red Page 52

Those amber eyes stared at her. The frown deepened. “How were you taught things in that place where you were kept?”

She noticed he didn’t say where she had lived. At least he understood that distinction. “We were shown pictures. Sometimes drawings, sometimes photographs. We watched documentaries and training films. Sometimes scenes from movies. After we were taught to read, we were given reading assignments, or an instructor would read aloud. Or we read aloud in order to learn how to speak properly and pronounce words.” And there were things that had been done to them “for the experience,” or things they had been made to watch being done to a girl who was used-up or too deficient to earn her keep through the cutting.

Simon’s frown deepened a little more. “You took the BOW out the other day. How did you learn to drive?”

“It’s not that hard,” she muttered. Then she added defensively, “At least I didn’t slide like you just did.”

He straightened the BOW and continued down the road. “You weren’t taught to drive. Were you taught to do anything except speak prophecies?”

“You aren’t dependent on your keepers if you can do for yourself,” she replied quietly.

The sounds he was making were terrible and frightening. When he glanced at her, he stopped the sounds, but in the moment when his eyes met hers, she saw a queer red flicker in the amber.

“Where are we going?” she asked. It looked like they were headed for the Green Complex. A minute later, he pulled into a parking space across the road from the complex.

“This is guest parking or temporary parking,” Simon said as he got out of the BOW. When she joined him, he pointed to a lane that ran alongside the U-shaped building. “That leads to the garages and resident parking. The morning bus wouldn’t get you to work on time, so you need to use the Liaison’s BOW—once you learn to drive.”

“I can drive,” she protested. “At least, going forward.”

He stared at her. “You can’t back up?”

She didn’t answer.

“Right. We’ll drive to work together for a few days.”

“But . . .”

“You can’t stay in that efficiency apartment over the shops, Meg. You’re too vulnerable there. So if you’re going to stay and be our Liaison, you’re going to live here.”

“Here? But this is inside the Courtyard. Humans don’t live here.”

“You do.”

There was a finality to the way he said the words, the way he took her arm and led her across the road. She’d seen some of the Green Complex when Tess brought her here to wash her clothes.

Out of sight. Out of reach. Safe.

“Second floor,” he said, leading her to a stairway. The porch had latticework on both sides and along half the front. She guessed it would provide shade, shelter, and some privacy in the summertime. And some shelter from the snow now.

He pulled a set of keys out of his coat pocket, opened the door, and stepped aside.

She stepped on a welcome mat, toed off her boots, and placed them on a cracked boot mat. Then she looked around.

Big living room. Natural wood and earth tones. Some furniture that didn’t fill the space, but was as much as she had in the efficiency. She glanced back at Simon. He stayed near the door, an unreadable look on his face. Hesitantly, she explored.

Two bedrooms. One was empty; the other had a double bed that had been stripped and a dresser. The bathroom looked modestly clean, and the kitchen had a pleasant, airy feel and included a dining area. It also had a door that led to an interior landing and a back staircase that went down to an outer door—both of which were shared with the apartment next to hers.

“Acceptable?” he asked when she returned to the living room.

“Yes. Thank you.”

He turned his head toward the door, listening for a moment before nodding. “Some females will help you make your den human clean. I’ll drive you back to the office in time for the afternoon deliveries.”

When he opened the door, she heard Merri Lee and Jenni Crowgard talking as they came up the stairs.

“Mr. Wolfgard?” she said before he stepped out the door. “I noticed the kitchen door shares a landing. Who lives in the other apartment?”

He gave her a long look. “I do.”

Then he was gone, and Merri Lee, Jenni, Allison Owlgard, and a young woman who introduced herself as Heather Houghton were piling in with food and cleaning supplies. By the time they all piled out again to go back to their usual jobs, the only thing left for her to do was bring over her clothes and the bits and pieces she had acquired.

Simon was waiting at the bottom of the steps. As the women passed him, Jenni said, “The Meg didn’t want to ask you, but there’s no television or movie player here. Could she bring the one from the little apartment?”

Simon stared at them, then at Meg. “Anything else?”

“Meg likes books,” Merri Lee replied cheerfully. “If there’s a spare bookcase at the efficiency apartment, you could bring that too.”

“I didn’t say . . . I wasn’t asking . . .” Meg stammered.

He took her arm and led her to the BOW. The other women piled into the one parked beside his, Merri Lee in the driver’s seat, Heather beside her, and Jenni and Allison curled in the back. They took off while Simon watched them.

Shaking his head, he opened the passenger’s door and, once again, stuffed Meg inside. Getting in the driver’s side, he said, “Merri Lee doesn’t drive any better than you do.”

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