Chapter 11: Laundered
LATE that day, after working a shift in the aquaponic gardens, Abby took me through their workout routine. I just about keeled over dead when we finished, but my confidence grew a little when she mentioned that I’d taken it better than most do their first time. She said everyone in Winter’s Edge worked out to bleed off building aggression. Otherwise, their powers could lash out unexpectedly. I’d discovered that and started working out a few year ago, so I knew it worked, to a degree. It seems the reason it hadn’t fully worked for me is because I wasn’t working out nearly hard enough or frequently enough.
Even though Abby didn’t have powers, her demeanor seemed to change after the workout, as if she’d worked through the issue with Kat by expending energy. She was back to normal again by the time we retired to the private quarters.
I stood only a few inches from her, in front of both of our doors, and my nerves were starting to get to me. “Thanks for showing me around.”
“Sure.” Her smile seemed genuine, like it wasn’t a burden but an actual joy for her. Did she just like showing people around the Old City or did she like showing me, specifically, around the Old City?
“Did you tell Joseph about the English inscription?”
“Yeah. He didn’t know what to make of it. He’s still in the Old City looking at it. He hasn’t spent much time researching lately, but I think that’s about to change. I still can’t believe you saw that.”
“I can’t believe it’s in English,” I said. “That’s just creepy.”
She snickered. “Yeah, it is.” The smile she settled into was more brilliant than most, as if she were admiring me in some strange way. It was probably just my imagination…or my hormones.
But surely there was no way she was interested in me. And if I were being honest, I couldn’t be interested in her. How could I when I’d be exiled one day for checking on my parents?
That brought the test back to mind and how it had ended with me shooting her. I felt bad now.
“Hey,” I said, looking at my feet. “Sorry about shooting you after the test.”
When I looked up, she grinned. “It’s okay. Those tests are awful. I’m lucky that’s all you did to me after tricking you into that.”
“Well, I still feel bad about it, especially now that I know you better.”
She put her hand on my arm sending tingles of electricity through it, almost like she had powers, but that’s not what it was at all. It was the effect she had on me. The effect that kept me wanting to stay instead of go check on my parents.
“Really, it’s okay. Look.” She pulled the collar of her shirt down so show the top of her sternum where a small bruise darkened her skin. “See? They’ll be gone in no time.” She smiled, trying to make me feel better.
It didn’t help. Seeing the bruise just made me feel that much worse, but at least she didn’t seem upset about it.
“Besides, if you bruised easier, I’d have given you tons of bruises by now in training class.” She laughed.
“Okay, fine. I’ll give you that one.”
Her eyes lit up suddenly. “Oh, almost forgot.” She slipped into her quarters.
I waited patiently while she bolted up the stairs to her desk. She stared into her mirror, adjusting her hair for a moment, checking her makeup. She glanced at me for second, but I think I managed to turn away just in time to hide the fact that I was watching her. Was she checking her hair and makeup for my sake, or was that just something girls did when in proximity of a mirror? She picked up something from atop the desk, then headed back down the stairs.
“Here you go.” She handed me her thick Old City journal. Its leather cover had two Hebrew symbols on it—aleph and bet.
“Thanks.” I took it and began thumbing through it. “I’ll get it back to you soon.”
“No rush,” she said. “Keep it as long as you like.” Abby glanced down for a quick second, a bashful look in her eyes, then back up at me.
That was new. I didn’t think she had a bashful bone in her body, and I didn’t know what that look meant, either.
“Goodnight,” she said.
We both turned to our doors, reaching for the knobs. I glanced back at her, memorizing the lines of her face, her wavy blonde hair, her smile. She was truly gorgeous in every sense of the word.
Her smile deepened as she returned my glance, then disappeared into her quarters.
The next morning, as I exited the showers, Abby ambushed me, shoving a laundry basket full of clothes into my stomach. I must’ve turned twenty shades of red when I saw her frilly black panties sitting right on top.
“Time to make good on your bet,” she said, a huge grin stretching across her face. She walked to a nearby wash basin to grab a bucket and washboard which she stacked on top of the pile of clothes. “Now get to it!”
I lowered the laundry basket so I could see over the bucket. “Wait, you guys are loaded, and you don’t even have washing machines? This is a prank…right?”
Abby shook her head. “Nope. The electric motors in washing machines drive the Watchers crazy.”
I frowned. “Seriously?”
“Great.” My shoulders sank. So that’s why she’d wagered laundry.
After an awkward moment of silence, Abby raised an eyebrow. “Well, the laundry’s not gonna do itself.”
I put on a half smile tainted by a sullen look. “Yeah, yeah.” I sighed, then headed for the wash basin against the wall.
“Oh! Don’t forget the detergent,” she said.
I turned around just in time to duck out of the way of a flying box of death labeled DETERGENT. “Whoa!” slipped out as I dodged the projectile soapbox that nearly took my head off. The bucket toppled to the ground, sending the washboard clattering across the floor. The sound of cardboard scraping against stone filled the area as the box slid to a stop a few feet behind me. “Gee, thanks for the warning.”
I sat the laundry on the sink and collected the other things from the ground.
“Oh!” Abby said again.
Instinctively, I ducked, then spun around, but nothing barreled toward my head this time.
Abby let out another giggle. “I was just gonna tell you to hang my wet clothes on the clotheslines in the room under the stairs in my quarters. The door’s unlocked. I gotta go help Mom in the gardens, but I’ll see you for training this afternoon. If you’re serious about getting trained up quicker, you can train with me every day if you want.”
I didn’t have to think about the answer to that question. “Sure.”
“All right. And I’ll see you again tonight if my laundry’s not done right.” She flashed me a devious grin.
I hoisted the bucket onto the sink and filled it with hot water as she vanished around the edge of the town square.
I was about to discover the joys of doing laundry in Winter’s Edge.