Thursday, January 19, 2017

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Learning to Burn, part 19

Please begin at the beginning!

The table is full and most of the other farm hands are finishing their plates when Eminghare and Ofonode arrive. Primina stands and points to one of the two places available, “You will sit there, Ofonode.”
“Yes, ma'am.” He can see quite readily that his place has more food than Eminghare's and at least more dishes than the others. His cheeks grow hot as he wonders what the others think about the favor Primina is obviously showing him.
“Have you found that you can do the work, girl? What is your name, anyway?”
“I am called Eminghare. And, yes. I can do the work.” Eminghare is sitting up straight in her chair, looking directly into Primina's face. Ofonode wonders if she is feeling challenged. He would if someone asked him such a question.
Primina's eyebrows lift. Without looking away from the girl, “How is she doing, Ofonode?”
“Very well. I have been pleasantly surprised.”
The surprise in Primina's expression seems to deepen, “Have you finished the hay, then?”
“Not yet. Yesterday we had the same amount to do and it took all day. Today, we'll probably finish soon after lunch.”
“Good. Take Eminghare to work with Boarch when you've finished with the hay.”
A surge of disappointment surges through Ofonode, “Yes, ma'am. And I'll finish the barn on my own, then?”
“Yes. I'm sure you can handle it, right?”
“I will.” Ofonode wonders if Os will be willing to help him for a little while right after lunch. He glances at Eminghare and realizes she's been staring at him. She quickly looks away, though, as he looks over at her. What was she thinking? Why was she watching me? Is she worried about work with others? Ofonode wishes he could just ask her direct questions. But he feels sure, based on their interactions thus far, that she wouldn't answer him, so he decides he won't ask. He'll wait for her to tell him what she's comfortable telling him.
“I have the napkin from breakfast, Primina. May I return it and use my lunch napkin to take some food with me. I can't eat everything right now, but it can really help to have to it along.”
“Sure. Just make sure you return it at dinner.”
“Yes, ma'am.” He packs the napkin full plaintain mosa and sinasir. He hopes Eminghare will be happy with these. The main dish was a sweet potato curry, which he ate all of because it wouldn't have transported well by napkin. The other guys at the table are looking at him with various expressions most readily interpreted as jealously. Well, I'm not going to waste it by just leaving it on the plate.
Ofonode waits outside of the dining room for Eminghare. He walks with her and they leave the house. About half-way to the barn, Ofonode hands her the napkin, “I thought you'd like to take it to your friend. I'll get to work in the barn and when you're finished, come and we'll get the rest of the hay into the loft.”
Eminghare's pale cheeks bloom with bright red spots right in the middle, “Thank you, Ofonode. That's very thoughtful and kind of you.”
“You're welcome. I hope you'll tell me about your friend sometime. But even if you don't, maybe it would be a good idea if you only disappear with food when we're able to work together. Unless, of course, you want others to know you're feeding someone out there.”
She nods her head. “Thank you for keeping my secret. I really appreciate it.”
“Sure.” Ofonode walks to the barn and Eminghare moves off into the field. As soon as he's sure she's gone, Ofonode talks to the air, “I know you're there, Os. What do you think about helping me out around here when I come back from bringing Eminghare to work with Boarch later?”
“I think you should ask me when you come back alone. Boarch might have you do something else.”
“That's true.”
The invisian can feel another question, but refuses to help the boy ask it.
“What do you think of her?”
“I think she could be dangerous. As much as she won't talk. She is a secret keeper. They can be good, but also bad. Tread carefully in your interactions with her, Ofonode.”
“Your answer is what I was expecting. I have been careful, haven't I?”
“Revealing that you knew why she wanted the food was potentially a bad move. If she is on the dark side of secret keeping. If she's on the light side, you've given her greater reason to trust you with her secrets. Just don't give her any of your private information. Because she's so untrusting, perhaps that's a good reason not to trust her.”
“You're right. She should be back any minute.”
“Who are you talking to, Ofonode?”
“My friend.”
“Do you talk to any lizard? Or just the one you travel with?”
“Well, if I knew all lizards as well as I know my friend, I might talk to all of them.”
Eminghare laughs and Ofonode wishes he could think of something else that might make her laugh more.
“If I told you I talk to some lizards, too, would that surprise you?”
“I don't know. I guess I'd have to know the lizard.”
Eminghare smiles, “I might introduce you to one tomorrow if you'd like.”
“I would like that a lot.”
She nods her head. “Maybe I should catch this time.” Eminghare says this as she begins to climb the ladder to the loft.
Ofonode grabs a bale of hay and tosses it to her as soon as she tells him she's ready. The two work together steadily. Ofonode feels sadness grow in him as the stacks of hay diminish. This isn't the kind of work that is conducive to having a conversation, so he just tosses her a new bale each time she says the word.
Eminghare joins him at the door to the barn and hands him the napkin, “Thank you, again.”
Ofonode smiles and nods. The two walk out, Eminghare walks beside him, watching him carefully so she'll know where to go. Ofonode stops suddenly, turns, and looks at her for a moment. Eminghare looks up into his face and waits.
“Would you sit next to me at dinner?”
“Uh, sure. I guess I can. I mean, if there's a place next to you, I will.”
“I'll make sure there is.” They continue walking together in silence. I wish I knew what I could ask her that would get her to open up and talk to me. It's too late for now, we're almost to the field Boarch is working. Or probably just watching.
Ofonode stops and points off to the field and a small shed sort of building, “That's where Boarch is with a few guys. Don't work too hard or they'll wonder what kind of being you are. It's better if you don't surprise them as much as you did me. Please tell me you'll work a little more like a girl while you're with them?”
“A little, maybe.”
“Good. Okay. I'll see you at dinner.”

Eminghare just nods her head while chewing lightly on her lower lip.
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