Toria is packing for an overnight trip to the Ford, or perhaps a bit longer. Gegg, being his usual impulsive self, just hopped on a train without a thing to wear. She's quite sure that he's making a mess of it, as usual.
Toria is working briskly, but not over-fast; there's still quite a while until train time. Her trip is mainly to see Mik, of course, before he has to head off for Simeland.
Sanda comes out of the henhouse with a basket of eggs. She's hurrying to get all her chores done in time to clean up and catch the train to the Ford. She got up really early to milk the cow, since her father wasn't around to do it. She's very excited about Mik, and another trip to the Ford.
Bernia leans around the coop.
Bernia: Pssst! Sanda!
Bernia looks pale and ~~ scared ~~
Sanda: Hi, Bernia! Me and mom are going to the Ford on the morning train to see Mik!
Sanda examines her friend more closely.
Sanda: Are you okay?
Bernia: Yes. No. I don't know. Sanda, I'm scared.
Sanda: What's wrong?
Bernia: I've been hiding for hours, but with everybody out looking for Ukoh, well, I didn't know where else to go. Forgive me?
Sanda: But Ukoh's okay. Miz Mullins says Mr. Mullins took him to the Ford and he sent back a telegram saying everything was okay. Well, except he busted his wagon somehow. So you don't have to hide from Ukoh.
Bernia: It's not that. Sanda, I've been feeling strange all day. Queasy in my middle. And my arms are sore.
Sanda realizes why Bernia has been hiding. It's not fair. How could three Gumgeeville kids all change over in a couple of days?
Sanda: Um. You don't have red streaks on your arms do you?
Bernia unclenches her arms from across her belly and looks at them closely.
Bernia: Not yet. But they hurt. Every time I turn my wrist.
Sanda: Well, according to the booklets Mik got, even after the red streaks you've got hours to go. If you're in changeover that is. So you can come to the Ford with us and get checked out.
Sanda is happy she is the local expert on changeover.
Bernia: You're going to the Ford?
Sanda: Yeah. To see Mik. He changed over yesterday. He's a channel like everybody thought!
Bernia: He is? Just like that Sime you kissed?
Sanda compares Marvin, the mature and exotic stranger, with her turkey brother.
Sanda: Not just like, but he is a channel.
Bernia: Are... are you going to let him take selyn from you?
Sanda: Well, not until he knows what he's doing! He has to go to school to learn how to do stuff like that.
Bernia looks a bit ~~ relieved ~~. Her thoughts then return to her dilemma.
Bernia: Sanda, my mother would never let me go to Hannard's Ford to see a Sime.
Bernia starts to wring her hands, then stops with a wince.
Sanda: Well, you don't have to tell her what you're going to do there. Just say we invited you along.
Sanda doesn't think not telling all the details is the same as lying.
Bernia: I didn't finish my chores this morning -- I was too worried that my Pa might see that I was sick. She'd tell me I had to finish them first.
Bernia has momentarily lost sight of the fact that if she actually is in changeover, her parents will have a lot more to worry about than a few undone chores.
Sanda thinks Bernia has a serious moral dilemma. Is lying okay to save your own life? She thinks so, but is reluctant to recommend it.
Bernia: My folks'll be looking for me before long. And if they find me, like this... well, what else could they do?
Bernia has never been very assertive, and looks at Sanda ~~ trustingly ~~ to find a solution.
Sanda thinks hard to come up with a suitable scheme.
Sanda: Look, here's what you do. Write them a note and put it in your mailbox. Just say that you're going to the Ford with us for the day. Then meet us at the train station. I'll tell mom that you've gone home to get permission. When you show up, she'll assume you have.
Bernia: Do you think that'll work? ~~ hope ~~
Sanda: Sure. And we won't even have to lie.
Sanda hopes so.
Sanda: Do you have money for a ticket? I've got some I can loan you.
Sanda gets to keep part of her donation payments, and has enough for a one-way fare. She'll worry about the return when it comes to it. Maybe she can get an advance on her next donation.
Bernia: I don't dare go up to my room; Mother's baking today, and she'll hear me on the stairs. I'll pay you back, I promise.
Sanda: Sure, no problem.
Bernia doesn't consider, for the moment, how she'll get the money to pay Sanda back if she's in changeover.
Bernia: Thanks. I'll meet you at the station, okay?
Sanda: Yeah. Look, don't worry, it'll be okay. There's plenty of time if the tentacles aren't showing under the skin.
Bernia blanches at the mention of tentacles, but nods bravely. She enjoyed sneaking peeks at Mik's changeover literature, and shivering over it in mock horror, but it's different when it might be happening to her.
Bernia turns and runs for her own house, already composing a suitable note.
Sanda takes the basket of eggs to the house and washes them.
Toria: Sanda? Is that you? Sanda!
Sanda: Yeah, mom. I'm washing the eggs.
Toria: Good, good, but be quick. You need to change your clothes and get ready to go.
Sanda: I'm almost done.
Sanda figures she can wait a while to tell her mother about Bernia.
Toria is finished packing and is changing her own clothes.
Sanda takes the eggs to the cellar, then washes in the kitchen and runs upstairs to change. She empties her money jar into her pocket and is ready to go when her mother is.
Toria: All right then. If we go now, we won't have to hurry.
Toria takes the money for two tickets out of the pin-money jar.
Toria: Come along, Sanda.
Toria sets off for the train station.
Sanda follows her mother, bouncing moderately.
Sanda: Bernia came by while I was at the henhouse. She wants to come with us. She's going to get her mother's permission and meet us at the station.
Toria: What! Sanda, how many times must I tell you not to spring things like this on me without asking in advance.
Toria produces this reaction automatically, but on another level she's undecided.
Sanda: Well, I didn't know in advance.
Toria: And why not?
Sanda: She just asked me just before I came in the house.
Toria: So what brought on her sudden desire to see the world, Sanda?
Sanda: Well, everybody likes to go to the Ford when they can.
Sanda thinks the (relatively) cosmopolitan delights of the Ford outclass Gumgeeville by a good deal.
Toria has childhood memories of such longings.
Toria: And what about her ticket?
Sanda: I guess her mother will give her the money if she lets her come with us. Or maybe she has some saved.
Toria is merely glad Sanda hasn't so far forgotten herself as to ask Toria to pay for it, nor so reckless as to offer to pay herself.
Toria: Very well, then, she can come with us.
Bernia pops out from her hiding place behind a tool shed.
Bernia: Sanda! Here I am.
Toria: -- Mercy, child. Don't pop out at me that way like a, like a berserker.
Sanda: Hi, Bernia! I guess your mom must have given you permission!
Sanda hopes Bernia won't deny it.
Bernia still looks pale and worried, but not quite as panicky as before. She flinches a little at the word "berserker".
Bernia: I'm sorry, Miz Gegg.
Toria: Well, it's all right, Bernia. Just don't do that -- it's not safe.
Bernia: I guess people are still pretty upset about Ukoh, aren't they?
Toria: [softening] Yes, they are.
Bernia: Do you think it was wrong of him, to get Mr. Mullins to take him to Hannard's Ford?
Toria: Of course not, child. Foolish of Mr. Mullins to try, maybe, but all's well that ends better.
Bernia feels a bit better, hearing Toria giving this inadvertent endorsement of her daughter's scheme.
Sanda is waiting for an opportunity to slip the cash to Bernia without her mother noticing.
Bernia lags behind just a bit, hoping to avoid close scrutiny, and very aware that she isn't really dressed for a holiday in town.
Sanda takes the money out of her pocket and offers it to Bernia, hoping Bernia will be alert enough to grab and hide it.
Bernia takes it with a furtive nod of thanks, and slips it into a pocket.
Toria: Especially with that old broken-down wagon of his.
Toria is quite used to the idea that her daughter tunes her out after about the first sentence, but it doesn't mean she likes it much.
Sanda: I think it was heroic of him.
Bernia nods seriously.
Bernia: He could've been killed, I guess.
Toria: He certainly could have. I wouldn't want to be in any such fix myself. Even if that strange girl from Simeland was along.
Bernia gives Sanda an inquiring, "Should we tell her?" look.
Sanda rolls her eyes and shakes her head in a very firm "no".
Bernia looks ~~ dubious ~~ for a moment, then nods agreement. She may be at least partly influenced by the thought of a trip on the train, which is a form of excitement that she's only rarely been able to experience.
Bernia perks up a bit at the sight of the train platform.
Toria goes up to the ticket office.
Bernia isn't sure she agrees completely with Sanda's solution, but at least it's doing something, rather than skulking around in the bushes waiting for a hunting party to be sent out after her.
Toria: Three returns to Hannard's Ford, please.
Toria hopes Gegg got a return as well, but figures she'll deal with it when it's time to go home.
Toria: Let me have your ticket money, Bernia.
Bernia looks at Sanda a little ~~ desperately ~~
Sanda: You should let Bernia buy her own ticket, mom. She's thirteen already.
Toria: I'm just trying to save a little time here, Sanda. And I already asked Mr. Bron for the tickets.
Bernia isn't used to asserting herself with adults, but this is a crisis.
Toria turns and gives Bernia The Look, if in a slightly watered-down version.
Bernia: Please? I am thirteen.
Sanda shoots Bernia an encouraging look and nods.
Toria decides there's no point in trying to maintain standards with someone else's kid.
Toria: Oh, very well. Make that two returns, please, Mr. Bron.
Toria gets the tickets from Bron and pays him.
Bernia is ~~ relieved ~~. She waits until Toria has moved a little away from the window before giving Mr. Bron an apologetic smile.
Bernia: One way to Hannard's Ford, please.
Bernia pushes the money Sanda gave her through the window.
Bron: Sure, Bernia. You going with Toria, then?
Bernia: Yes, I am.
Bron: You got someone to stay with when you get there okay?
Bron figures Bernia's parents must know about this -- everyone knows how strict they are.
Bernia: Yes, Mr. Bron. I'll be fine.
Bron: Okay. Here's your ticket, and enjoy the ride.
Bron pushes the ticket under the grille and turns away to make the appropriate ledger entries.
Bernia snatches the ticket, and puts it in her pocket. She trots after Toria and Sanda.
Toria: Come along, children, and don't get too close to the track until the train has completely, I say completely, stopped. Understood?
Sanda: Yes, mom.
Bernia: Yes, Miz Gegg.