Written in Red Page 59

* * *

Meg wasn’t surprised when Jester showed up an hour after the ponies trotted off. She put down the stack of mail she’d been sorting and held out the treat bowl. “Have a carrot.”

Jester leaned over the bowl, sniffed, then leaned back. “I prefer meat.”

“Set a good example,” Meg growled. “Eat a carrot.”

Jester took a step back and eyed her. “You’re sounding rather Wolfish. Was there a problem with the ponies this morning?”

Meg set the bowl on the table. “Only that they didn’t get sugar lumps today, but sugar is a special treat and isn’t something they should have every day, so today the treat was carrots, and Thunder . . . thundered . . . which upset Elliot Wolfgard, who sent some stuffy Owl to remind me that the consulate dealt with human government and shouldn’t be embarrassed by the Courtyard help’s shenanigans!”

She hadn’t realized how much the reprimand had upset her. After all, she hadn’t done anything to deserve it.

No. She wasn’t upset. She was mad.

It felt good to be mad. It felt invigorating to be able to feel emotions without fearing punishment. It felt alive.

She stared at Jester.

“You gave sugar to the ponies?” he asked.

“So what? An occasional lump of sugar won’t hurt them.”

“No. Of course it won’t.” He took another step away from the table. “I’d tuck my tail between my legs, but it’s very uncomfortable growing one while wearing trousers, and I think we’d both prefer that I remain dressed.”

She picked up the bowl and held it out. “Eat a carrot instead. It won’t hurt you either.”

Sighing, he took a carrot chunk and nibbled on it. “Will there be sugar again?”

The calendar was now sitting next to the music player. She held it up and tapped the big black S. “Moonsday is sugar day.”

“Right. I’ll explain it to them.”

Her anger fizzled out. “I’m not upset with you, Jester. It’s just that I want to do a good job. I really do. But I haven’t been here a week yet, and I keep getting into trouble.”

Smiling, Jester held thumb and forefinger close together. “A little bit of trouble, which is amply compensated for by the entertainment you’ve been providing.”

“Thanks a lot.” She hesitated. She didn’t know much about anything, but she didn’t have to know much to figure out she was going to have time on her hands. “Jester? When they were caught up with their work, what did the other Liaisons do while they waited for deliveries?”

He looked around the room. “You cleared out all the old mail and packages?”

“Yes.”

He looked a little bewildered. “I don’t know, Meg. I don’t remember seeing this room so clean. Maybe . . . read books?”

“Is there something else I could do to be helpful?”

“What do you want to do?”

Good question. One that deserved some thought.

“Your suggestion about reading is a good one. I’ll start with that.” She could study anything she wanted, could read about a subject from beginning to end if she wanted. She could learn how to do things instead of having a head full of disconnected images.

“Good,” Jester said. “Fine. I’ll talk to the ponies. From now on, they’ll be happy with whatever treats you give them.”

Then he was gone, slipping out the door so fast she almost wondered if he’d been there at all.

Meg shook her head. She wasn’t sure humans could—or should—understand how the Others thought. But Jester’s suggestion was a good one, so during her lunch break she would pick up a book to study and a book to read for fun, and ponder what else she could do to earn her keep.

Then it occurred to her that if the Others had no suggestions about what she should do with her time, she could adjust her job to include whatever she wanted. Hadn’t she already done that by making deliveries?

Putting a music disc into the player, Meg filled the room with a lively tune and went back to sorting.

* * *

Hearing the crunch of tires behind him, Simon shifted over to the side of the road. But the shiny black sedan slowed to keep pace with him, and the rear window rolled down.

“Want a ride home?” Elliot asked.

Simon shook his head. “Need to walk.”

“Stop the car,” Elliot said to his driver.

Simon waited for Elliot to exchange the expensive leather shoes for practical boots and get out of the car. The sedan drove off, leaving the two Wolves walking toward the Green Complex.

“What’s wrong?” Elliot asked. “Has your Liaison caused another problem? Isn’t one a day sufficient?”

“Could have been worse,” Simon replied, a low growl under the words. “At least it was Thunder expressing an opinion. And if he hadn’t been showing off or trying to scare her or whatever it was he was trying to do, his stamping a hoof wouldn’t have done that.”

“And if it had been Twister or Earthshaker expressing an opinion around so many buildings?”

“It wasn’t.” If it had been, he would have had an unpleasant conversation with the girl at the lake, since the ponies were the Elementals’ steeds. Instead he’d had a baffling talk with Jester. The Coyote was delighted that Meg was able to pull Elliot’s tail with so little effort, but Jester was also wary of their weird-haired Liaison. She didn’t behave like other humans, so none of the Others were quite sure how to deal with her—which made her the most interesting and frustrating thing to cross their paths in quite some time.

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