At any rate, I have a teaser for you today! This comes at the end of Maire's first day working on the farm. She's completely exhausted and extremely frustrated. And then she's presented with real food for the first time in months and months, but, well, yeah.
She had been cursed, hadn’t she? Shaking hands with the Secrets Man had cursed her. That was the only explanation she could find for why she was now hiding in the garden, grinding dirt into her hands and knees and heaving up the contents of a perfectly good meal. She had been granted a miracle but her greedy acceptance of it meant that she would never profit from it. She would starve here, just as she would have done at home, but here, she was totally alone. This was all that she was going to get for her rash action. Stupid, that she had thought that there was any good to be had in this world. Stupid to think that it was within her grasp.
It wasn’t fair, she thought, shaking in the cold, alone and afraid and desperate for some kind of answer. It simply was not fair.
“Are you all right?”
Maire fair jumped out of her skin at the sound of a voice. She turned, slowly, and saw the boy with blue eyes staring down at her, concern written all over his face.
“I am fine,” she said, turning away and wiping her mouth with a dirt covered hand.
“No, you are not,” the boy insisted.
Maire said nothing. She was too tired, for once, to fight his insistence, too tired to argue. Maybe he would simply walk away.
“The kitchen has cleared out now,” he said.
He was not leaving. He was still talking. In fact, he was moving towards her, crouching down beside her.
Why wouldn’t he just go away?
“Everyone else is gone. So is Agnes, she’ll have gone off to bed. It’s her one and only weakness, turning in early.”
Maire heard him chuckle, but still she said nothing. The boy paused, but then he kept on talking.
“I’ve seen this before, you know,” he said, and Maire curled her shoulders further inward. She was ashamed of herself, she did not want him to talk about it. But he did. “It’s all right. This happens to folk. There have been a few like you who stumbled in here, nothing left but angry skeletons. They usually lost their first meal too. Sometimes their second and their third, even.”
Maire groaned involuntarily, ducking her head down and shutting her eyes. So this was going to continue?
“You will be all right though…” he trailed off. “I did not ask your name.”
Maire did not answer.
“My name is Caleb,” the boy continued. She could hear the hope in his voice then. It sounded like he was trying to coax a wounded animal into submission.
“Maire,” she finally muttered. “My name is Maire.”
“Maire,” he repeated, almost gleefully. She wasn’t sure whether to laugh at it or if she wanted to punch him for it. “Well, Maire, if you will follow me back to the kitchen, I’ve asked Elizabeth to make you some tea. It will make you feel better.”
Maire finally turned to look at him then. He was much closer than she had expected him to be, and she flinched backwards before daring to speak.
“Why are you helping me?”
Caleb looked surprised; his blue eyes grew even wider at her statement.
“Because you need helping,” he answered matter-of-factly.