"The watch schedule is going to change tonight," Kelly told her cousin as they sat together, drinking their fihae for lunch. Leandra had managed to calm herself down the day before and she was back to her rambunctious self.
"Oh?" she asked lightly, lifting an eyebrow to indicate a question. "You're telling me this just so I know, or is there something else that I'm missing?"
"I need to split you and Annette up," Kelly began, but her cousin cut her off quickly.
"Is there a problem with Annette and me that I'm not aware of?"
Kelly grimaced. Giving her cousin an exasperated look, she sighed, "Not everything is about you, Leandra. I have to move Tirzah and Jones."
"No!" Leandra protested louder than she probably meant to. Seeing that Jay and Steven were glancing over at her after that outburst, she lowered her volume and growled, "I am not keeping watch with Tirzah! Just because I can hold her off doesn't mean you should punish me!"
"Quit being so dramatic, Leandra, it's really annoying. I am not putting you on watch duty with Tirzah. Do you think I'm stupid or something? I'm moving Jones to keep watch with you."
Leandra thought that over for a minute and then queried, "But that would put Tirzah and Annette together, and wasn't that what you were trying to avoid in the first place?"
"They are not going to be put on watch duty together; I am going to take Annette and Ashia is moving to keep watch with Tirzah."
"Oh," Leandra said, looking surprised by that explanation. After puzzling about something, she turned to Kelly and asked, "What do you know about Annette?"
"I know that she is Tirzah's older sister and she seems to have a calming effect on her." Then, spotting the bruises that her cousin had gotten from the Rean, Kelly added a tight, "Usually."
Touching the bruises lightly, Leandra chuckled and commented, "I would be lying if I said that Tirzah's fighting spirit doesn't impress me, but that doesn't mean I would enjoy being reminded of that on a daily basis."
Leandra looked around the troop briefly, checking all of their comrades' distances from where they were sitting in comparison to the Deluvias. The examination must have passed the inspection, because a second later, Leandra leaned in closer and asked softly, "How are you doing?"
Kelly stared at her cousin. Dumbly, she repeated, "How am I doing?"
"Yes," Leandra nodded. Then she repeated, "How are you doing?"
"I don't think I understand what you are referring to," Kelly finally stammered. They had only been on the mission for three days - what was there to be causing problems, other than Leandra's and Tirzah's relationship?
Leandra sighed and rolled her eyes. Tucking some loose strands of her golden hair behind her ears, she asked again, "How are you doing with life? You know, since you are pretending to be married to someone, I feel like there are some things I am not quite getting."
The statement shouldn't have surprised Kelly as much as it did, but once Leandra said it, Kelly felt a warm blush color her cheeks. Stammering uneasily, the Lieutenant asked, "You do know that I am only pretending to be married to Alston, right?"
"Oh yes, I know that," Leandra nodded slowly, "I'm just checking to make sure that you know that you are only pretending to be married to him."
There was something off-putting in her cousin's voice during that response. Narrowing her eyes, Kelly asked tightly, "What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that I don't buy that you are pretending anything with this marriage," Leandra said bluntly. "I think that the only reason you are saying that the marriage isn't real is because you know that your dad would be pissed if he found out that you married your mom's murderer's brother."
Dumbfounded by what Leandra had just said to her, Kelly's mouth fell open and she just stared at her cousin. Is she serious? Kelly wondered. Does she honestly think that I would do that to my dad?
Anger was brewing inside her stomach and she desperately wanted to stave it off from billowing into real life. If she could not curb that reaction, then she would undoubtedly lash out at her cousin. And if that happened, then a physical fight would soon follow. Kelly and Leandra grew up together; they had fought plenty of times, and every time that their argument broke out verbally, it did not take much longer for the shouts to turn to blows. No matter how much Kelly wanted to hit her cousin the minute she uttered those words, she knew that she had to stave off this initial reaction. Besides the fact that Leandra could be very deadly, there was also the worry that if the Deluvias would fight, then that would send a horribly wrong message to the rest of the troop. Exhaling slowly, Kelly cleared her throat and said, voice steady, "I am married by word alone, Leandra. Alston said that this marriage was necessary to escape his brother's home, and I believe him."
"It doesn't look like that from where I'm sitting, Kel," Leandra brushed her off.
Leaning in so that mere inches separated their faces, Kelly growled, "Then you need to find a new seat, Leandra, because there is nothing going on between Alston and me."
"Really?" she asked. "Because the way you react to him is saying something completely different than that. You want this relationship to be real, Kel."
"You can ask Alston, Leandra-" Kelly started, but her cousin cut her off.
"Oh, I know that I could ask Alston. And I am pretty sure that he would tell me it is all a facade. And you know what, I would probably even believe him. It's you that I don't believe. I saw the way your relationship with Alston was building when we were rescuing our dads and I saw that you cared for him. But the thing I didn't see was that same level of affection towards you from him."
"Don't be ridiculous," Kelly stammered, wind completely knocked out of her lungs at those words. Do I really care if Alston was telling the truth or not? she wondered. Deciding that it did not matter, because she was only being facetious, Kelly bit her lip and added, "We are only pretending."
Judging by the non-believing look that her cousin was giving her, the words she just spoke did little to weigh in her favor. Leandra's verbal response was prevented by Perry calling the troop back to line. Glancing over at her cousin before she stood up, Leandra said, "You're lucky today; do not assume that we are done discussing this."
Standing up as well, Kelly nodded and grunted, "Noted."
As the troop fell back into line and resumed hiking, Kelly's mind began to wander over what Leandra had just said. She honestly didn't believe that Kelly knew that her marriage was a farce. Why was that? Could it be because deep down, Kelly herself didn't want to believe that the marriage was completely fraudulent? Was it truly because a small part of her wished that the band was more than symbolic?
You shouldn't trust him, Kelly.
The sudden presence of Cal's quiet, bass voice echoing in her mind nearly caused her to drop to the ground. Though she knew that her friend was dead, the voice in her head was the same that Cal's had been. Cal and Alston never met, at least, not to Kelly's knowledge, but it was not hard to imagine the Healer mistrusting him. After all, he mistrusted pretty much everyone except Redding, Frank, and her.
You shouldn't trust him, Kelly, she heard Cal's voice again.
And why not? Kelly imagined herself demanding of Cal. It was not difficult to imagine the discussion between her and the Healer; it could have been happening in this very line. Cal would have stopped to pick some herbs or other plants and their troop would have proceeded to hike, just as they were doing now.
For the same reason that you shouldn't have trusted Aerlene, she could hear how cold and detached his voice would have been if they were having this conversation face to face. Considering the fact that Cal had tried multiple times to convince Kelly that their Guide was sabotaging their mission, that wasn't very hard to imagine. Still, Kelly trusted Aerlene then, and she still did now. Despite Cal's misgivings about her, Kelly couldn't help it. She just knew that Aerlene was trustworthy. She couldn't explain that understanding, but that didn't make it any less real.
Kelly knew that she never managed to convince Cal of Aerlene's loyalty. She just hoped that she would not suffer the same fate with her cousin's opinion of Alston.