Welcome back! If you’re just joining the story, here is the Table of Contents.
The Plan and a Few Questions
The clean-your-own-shit rule was in evidence. The windows were grimed by handprints and prints of other things Sharna didn’t want to consider. The light stuttered through to land on muddy wooden flooring, a mattress that resembled garbage thrown in a gutter, and a chest of drawers without the drawers.
“Good grief! Is this…this is…” she couldn’t finish the thought. This was beyond horrible. “I can’t stay here.” She shook her head and refused to take another step.
Jackie sighed and turned to look at her. “I only need to talk to you. Somewhere I know there won’t be anyone listening. If you want to leave after that, you are more than welcome to go.” She swept a hand toward the door. “But I promise what I say will change your life.”
“This room has changed my life.”
“Look,” Jackie took a tentative step toward a corner. “Sit here. There’s no more dirt than there would have been in the stable or the alley.”
The reminder of the horse brought Sharna’s situation to clarity. If I leave, where would I go? To the streets where I could sell my smooth skin or pretend to do magic worthy of a Yellow? She hunched down in the offered corner and tried not to touch anything.
“What do you need to say? Is it, I’m sorry for stealing from the Mansion and thereby ruining your life?”
For answer, Jackie opened her pocket and removed a fistful of pebbles. Except, when she opened her hand, the dim light showed them to be something else entirely.
“The Stalks!” Sharna stood up fast and regretted the speed. She needed to eat.
When Sharna reached for them, Jackie pulled them away. “Hear me out.”
She could take those seeds and go back to the Mansion! She could be a hero. They’d all congratulate her on her cleverness. They might even give her Red.
“Are you listening?” Jackie snapped her fingers in front of Sharna’s eyes.
“What? No. Just give them to me. I can take them back to the Mansion.” At Jackie’s expression, she added, “Maybe they’ll give you a reward.”
“Oh, yes. A reward! An all-expenses paid trip to The Barrow. Thanks, no thanks. Listen!” She gripped Sharna’s shirt at the shoulder. “I have a better plan. It will get us both what we need.”
“A new family?” Sharna joked.
“No, but I guarantee it will make you wealthier than your brother.”
That got Sharna’s attention. She sank slowly back to a crouch. “I’m listening.”
“I tried to sell them, but no one will buy them. At first, I was upset thinking I had bright wares and a busted arm for nothing..but! What if we grew them? What if we grew them and then took what we found and sold that?”
Sharna tilted her head in confusion. “That’s a terrible plan!”
“What, why? You didn’t even give it a chance!”
She ticked off the reasons on her fingers. “First, how will you grow them?”
Jackie silently pointed at her in answer.
Sharna shook her head and kept counting. ”Second, where will you grow them? They’re not tomato plants, you know. They get so big they’re visible from miles away. Third…” She didn’t have a third, but the first two felt insurmountable.
“Third, you ruined my life.” She nodded once, satisfied with the list.
“Oh! And, you are injured.” She smiled happily up at the thief and wiggled four fingers.
“Stars and ships! No wonder your mother wanted you to go back to the Mansion.”
“Hey! You asked.” She felt a twinge of guilt. “Look, it’s not a completely bad plan. We just have to answer those questions first.”
Jackie sighed. “That means we’ll have to stay in this room longer than this conversation.”
Sharna considered the mess – the room and her life choices. “If you feed me, I’ll clean. Deal?”
Jackie widened her eyes in mock agreement. “Oh, absolutely. Deal.”
(See you next Saturday!)