Henree is taking advantage of a break in the weather to replace his broken window. He's discovered that the glass he ordered has a prominent flaw, so that objects seen through it are distorted, but figures his customers won't complain.
Belle has finished the list of small errands her mother gave her, and figures she has enough time left for an errand of her own. She hurries down the snow-slicked street, eager to talk to Grandpa Henree.
Belle slows down as she approaches the saloon. She knows she's not really supposed to go in there without a grownup. She pushes back her hood and looks around. If she can find another grownup, maybe they can go into the saloon and fetch Grandpa Henree to the door.
Henree steps back to inspect his work, then looks around and sees someone he doesn't expect.
Henree: Izzabelle, what are you doing around here all by yourself?
Belle spots her grandfather at the same moment.
Belle: Grandpa Henree! I was looking for you.
Belle runs up to give her grandfather a big hug.
Henree hugs his granddaughter.
Henree: Does your mother know where you are?
Belle: She and Dad sent me to do some errands. I finished quick, so I could come here.
Henree: Belle, a saloon isn't really a proper place for a young girl to visit all alone.
Belle: I know, but... I need to talk to you. You're smart. You know everything.
Henree: Well, not everything.
Belle: You know lots. Mom always says so.
Henree smiles, remembering that Belle's mother had a somewhat different opinion of his wisdom when she was Belle's age.
Belle: You know tons more than Mom and Dad do. Besides, I can't talk to them about this.
Henree: About what, hon?
Belle: Growing up.
Henree: Growing up is never easy, that's for sure.
Belle: I... Grandpa, I'm not sure of anything any more.
Henree: You're growing up for sure, if you've figured that out.
Belle: I mean, I... I thought I knew what I'd have to do.
Henree: Nothing's changed, there.
Belle looks terrified.
Belle: You mean... but I thought... after Magit... I really thought I maybe wouldn't have to end up like Lezlee.
Belle bursts into tears.
Henree hugs her.
Henree: Belle, I hope you won't end up like Lezlee. But you've got to understand something. What happened to Magit was... Well, let me put it this way: there isn't any convenient Sime living in your parents' basement. Or any Simelover willing to let you attack him.
Belle begins shaking like a leaf.
Belle: I... I...
Henree: If the worst happens, you'll have two choices. Do what you've been taught. Or kill someone you love, horribly.
Belle is sobbing too hard to speak.
Henree hugs her close.
Henree: I wish the world was different, but it isn't. With luck... it won't be a choice you have to make.
Belle clings to her grandfather.
Belle: I... I don't know if I could make myself do what Lezlee did. The way she just... just walked up to dad and asked him to take her out to the woodshed.
Henree: She was very brave.
Belle: I'm not brave, Grandpa. I'm scared.
Henree: I expect Lezlee was plenty scared, Belle. Being brave isn't about not being scared. It's about doing what you have to, no matter what you feel.
Belle: But... but it's so much harder, now that it's me. Lezlee was big and smart and brave, and I'm not.
Henree: You're plenty smart enough to make good choices, Belle.
Belle: Auntie Virla said if enough people asked... if enough people wanted a channel in town, we could maybe someday get one.
Henree: Maybe someday. But it won't be soon. Not soon enough, anyway.
Belle: Why not?
Henree: Belle, you've grown two inches since the last time I saw you. Your future is going to be decided soon, one way or the other. Remember what happened in Hannard's Ford? It took Miz Brown several years to get a Sime Center. And they're a big town.
Belle: But Mister Gegg had a channel here. For weeks and weeks.
Henree: And then he went away.
Belle: What can we do to get him back?
Henree: He came to help Mr. Gegg. I don't think he's going to come back.
Belle: Then how about... how about what Mr. Mullins did for Ukoh? Only plan it ahead... have a good crate ready... get me to Hannard's Ford as soon as it starts to happen.
Henree shakes his head in ~~ pity ~~.
Henree: Belle, it's winter. The road is impassable.
Belle: There's the train.
Belle is grasping at straws now.
Henree: When it's running.
Belle: Maybe, if it happens at the right time of day...?
Henree: You'd have a hard time getting into town to the train station in this weather, no matter what time of day it is. And how would you get to the Sime Center at the other end? You'd run out of time.
Belle's shoulders slump as her last hope fades.
Belle: Then shoot me now, Grandpa. Shoot me and get it over with. That's better than waiting.
Belle doesn't add aloud, and better than putting that afterwards look on Dad's face again.
Belle: You're tough, Grandpa. Everyone says you're tough. You do it. Do it today.
Henree: You're feeling feverish, maybe? Arms sore?
Belle: No... not yet.
Henree: Then don't borrow trouble. Just because your sister... It doesn't mean it will happen to you.
Belle: But... Grandpa, I know. I just know. I dream about it. It's gonna happen.
Henree: Most kids your age have nightmares. Most of the time, they don't come true.
Belle bites her lip. She'd thought Grandpa, of all people, would understand.
Belle: It's more than nightmares. It's other dreams, too, just walking around with them on my wrists. Those are only scary when I wake up and know what they mean.
Henree: Your Aunt Virla had nightmares for months, when she was your age. And she didn't turn Sime, did she now?
Belle stares at her boots. She doesn't want to admit that her grandfather has failed her.
Belle: Maybe I should go talk to her instead.
Henree weighs the advisability of this. He decides that it's up to the girl's parents if they want her not to talk to her aunt.
Henree: Belle, you go talk to your aunt if you like. But just remember, if you have to make a choice... you have to make it based on what is, not what might be in the future, or what exists some other place now.
Belle nods solemnly. Hope is visibly draining away from her as she stands there.
Belle: I... I guess I'll be going, then.
Henree: You tell your parents hi from me, now, you hear?
Belle nods silently. She isn't expecting to see her parents again at all. She has the coins from under her mattress. She hopes they're enough for a train ticket to Hannard's Ford.
Henree watches his granddaughter leave, hoping against hope that she really is worrying about nothing.
Belle trudges up the street, fingering the coins in her pocket. Maybe Aunt Virla will understand. Maybe she'll let Belle stay and talk until it's time to catch the train.
Belle moves with a bit more briskness in her step, heading for her aunt's house.