Cassie spent the next hour reading to Bethany and puttering in what was left of her garden. Finally Doc returned and announced it was time to wrap Bethany’s foot and take her back to the clinic.

“Did Alaina find Julilla and ask about the caramel?”

“Yeah. Turned into a major parley, with those two plus Alex and David. I think Julilla is going to go with the forage team this afternoon to where you saw the caramel vendors and see what their game is.” He finished wrapping Bethany’s foot, then held out his arms so he could pick her up.

“Was Galahad at the meeting?”

Doc was walking toward the door and didn’t bother looking to see if Cassie was keeping up. “I don’t think so. They couldn’t find him this morning.”

Seeing that Doc couldn’t manage the door with the child in his arms, she opened it for him. She followed him inside and forced herself not to steal a glance down the hall in the direction of Galahad’s room. “I guess he had other chores.”

Doc looked at her over the top of Bethany’s head. “I guess.”

Cassie felt her cheeks grow warm and looked away. She helped Doc get Bethany down the stairs and settled into the clinic, then excused herself. “I haven’t seen Leila since yesterday, and since you say David is around….”

“She’s not with David.”

Cassie looked at him curiously.

“Alaina and I saw her about half an hour ago in the breakfast room. Paul had her cornered and was reading to her from the Bible.”

“Oh, God.” Cassie gave a small sigh. “But if she’s been doing even half the things I suspect, she probably needs it.”

“Well, tell her to pay close attention. I hear she’s been staying out late at night and I don’t need another Nisha, if you catch my meaning.”

“I understand.”

“Good.” He turned back to his small patient with a sigh. “I knew being a doctor would be hard work, but I never thought it would be like this.”

* * *

Cassie found Leila in the lounge, sitting at a banquette and looking bored while Paul leaned toward her, reading earnestly from a leather-bound Bible. When she saw Cassie, Leila straightened up and waved.

Cassie hurried over as Paul placed the ribbon marker and shut the book. “Too nice a morning to be indoors,” she told him. “You should’ve come out to the garden. Just because the potatoes got stolen doesn’t mean we don’t still have carrots to weed and soil to build.”

“We were discussing God’s plan for us,” Paul said.

“I’m sure God wants us to care for the growing things of his world instead of just talking,” Cassie pointed out. “Tending a garden is God’s work.”

“Well, I’m not interested in God’s work or anyone else’s,” Leila said. “Seems like we’re always having to work for someone.”

“Well,” Cassie said weakly, “That’s just life, isn’t it?”

“Render unto Caesar—” Paul began, but Leila silenced him.

“Haven’t we had enough Bible for one morning? It’s almost lunchtime and we still haven’t finished picking up the trash. I have to sweep the lobby, too.”

“I told you I’d help,” Paul said.

“But first she has to come help me with something,” Cassie told him. At his questioning look, she thought fast and said, “Girl stuff.”

Paul turned red and reached for his book. “Of course.” He scrambled to his feet.

Just before he could flee, Cassie asked, “Have you seen Galahad?” She searched her mind for an excuse. “Doc was wondering where he was.”

Paul clutched the Bible to his chest. “He was out late last night and up early this morning, saying he had an important errand to run.” He shook his head sadly. “I try to read the Good Book to him, but I don’t know how much it helps.”

As he walked away, Cassie tried to stifle the rising sense that Galahad was up to things she might not want to know about. He didn’t have a girlfriend, did he? Maybe more than one? Or was he involved in some other sort of secret dealings, perhaps with the Pharms, or worse?

“Thanks for getting rid of him,” Leila said. “If it’d been anyone but Galahad’s cousin, I’d have told him to stuff that pious religious garbage a long time ago. But Galahad is David’s friend, and—”

“That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. You sure have been hanging around David a lot, staying out late, acting like…well, you know.”

“He’s not my boyfriend. Ask him. He says it to me all the time.”

“Okay. But is he something else?”

Their eyes met and Leila looked away with a shrug and clatter of her long earrings. “I’m a grown woman. As grown as any of us can be before the Telo gets us and we die.”

“But Leila, is that smart? David used to be a Kevork.”

“Lots of people used to be Kevorks.” Leila fixed her with a defiant gaze. “Even your precious Galahad.”

Cassie grabbed the table’s edge and sat down. “That’s impossible.”

“If you say so.”

“Who told you that?”

“David. How do you think they met?”

Deep breaths. Kevorks were killers. She didn’t need this.

Leila touched Cassie’s hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” She frowned for a moment, considering. “Okay, I did mean to make you a little mad, but you really like him, don’t you?”

Cassie drew her hand away and didn’t answer.

“Galahad has changed his ways. That’s why they call him that. David said he used to be called…well, something else. But when he turned all goody on them, joining the Regents, David gave him the name Galahad. The pure knight from King Arthur, you know.”

“Yeah,” Cassie said weakly. “He’s so pure that Paul needs to read the Bible to him and no one knows where he disappears to at night.”

“I’m sure there’s a good explanation,” Leila said. Seeing that Cassie wasn’t reassured she added, “Let’s forget I said anything, okay? You wanted to lecture me about my evil ways.”

Cassie gave a little half smile. “I guess it doesn’t matter.”

“Oh, come on. If it’ll make you happy again, it’s all right. I know I’m being bad.”

“It’s not about what’s good or bad. It’s about what’s going to help us survive.”

“But what are we surviving for? The Telo will get us anyway, so why not enjoy whatever time we’ve got left?”

“Our parents taught us that’s not the right attitude.”

“And look what it got them.”

“Galahad says it, too.”

Leila grinned. “You do like him!”

“But not if—”

“Don’t be that way.” Leila stood up and tugged on her sleeve. “Come on. It’s almost lunchtime and I’ve heard it’ll be something good.”

“When did you become an optimist?” Cassie asked, getting to her feet and following her down the hall.

“When David told me what they foraged yesterday.”


1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

It's nice to see a more sympathetic side to Leila.