Volk glanced over his shoulder as Natir returned, picked herself a place to sit and buried her face in her hands.
He resumed managing the pot he had on the fire. “Found out what you were looking for?”
“No, not what I was looking for. But I did find out something.”
“Something like what?”
“That I’ve been living under a roof with a real bitch all along, and I was too blind to see it.” She picked a piece of metal and threw it away.
Volk filled two cups with the steaming liquid and took a seat in front of her.
“Well, that’s how it usually is,” he said.
Natir drank from the cup he gave her. The taste shocked her, and her expression soured.
“What is this?”
“It’s just lemon water.”
“It’s horrible. Who pours hot lemon down their throats?”
He shrugged. “You develop a taste for it. It’s really good for preventing the cold. Try it. Take smaller sips.”
She sipped. Both of them avoided looking at the other.
“It was Tarania,” he said after a pause. “She made the decision on Alfred’s behalf, and I was in no position to refuse.”
“How could you know?”
“Last night she looked at me, and I knew. I saw it in her eyes.”
He rested his back against the wall and toyed with his cup.
“How can women say so much to one another with their eyes alone…? It’s a mystery I will never unravel. I can look at another man all I want and all that shall be revealed is how he’s going to kick my ass for staring at him.”
A chuckle escaped her. “It’s just the looks we give. Different looks. Different hints. It’s not that hard to read, really.”
“So you say, but I’ve never met a man who said he can do it.”
“Yes, well, try to read the atmosphere, that should make it easier. It’s just looks.”
“Interesting. So, tell me,” he leaned toward her and whispered, “what look do you think you’ll read in Tarania’s eyes when she sees you back at Alfred’s hall tonight, and every other night, doing as you please?”
Natir was shocked. She took her eyes off her cup and watched him retreat off her shoulder.
“Well?” He smirked. “She is the reason you and I are in this mess, isn’t she? I say it’s only fair that we return Tarania the favor, and who’s better to play that game than another woman?”
He shrugged, “How am I supposed to know how Alfred feels about all of this? He said nothing to me, and I can’t read another man’s eyes. For all I know, this might be exactly what he is expecting me to do.”
Natir was lost for words.
“So, what do you say, Natir the Farmer?”
She smiled back. “I say, take me there. And I’ll let you know exactly what the look in her eyes say.”
A pact was reached, and they tapped their cups together.
Someone knocked at the door.
“Who is it?”
He was answered by more knocking.
“I said who is it…?” He headed to the door. “It’s a simple question. You respond with a name!”
Diva stood outside with a basket in her hands.
“Well, look who’s here. And to whom do I owe the pleasure of this visit, I wonder?”
Diva rolled her eyes. She pushed her way in and set the basket on a table.
“What’s this?” He inspected the basket.
Diva headed towards Natir and took her hand in her palms with a sweet smile, silently comforting her.
“Dried meat, dried meat—”
Natir returned her smile and put her other hand over Diva’s.
“Who puts a fish over vegetables like this? Are you stupid? What’s wrong with you?” Volk shouted.
Diva rolled her eyes and spun towards him, and almost immediately Volk pushed the basket back into her arms.
“I take it that this is Alfred’s idea of a bad joke.” He grimaced. “You take it back and tell him that Volk needs no charity from anyone.”
Diva raised an eyebrow while Natir looked past them and a moment later she buried her face in her palms with embarrassment.
The entire contents of the basket were on the table.
Volk was all but making a joke out of himself again.
“Well? What are you still standing there for, your legs turned to stone? GO! Go and make yourself a dress that doesn’t reveal your hips for once in your life, you minx. GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”
Diva’s cheeks glow red with insult, and she rushed to the door.
Volk was right behind her, still yelling, “And tell him never to try to insult me like this again or I’ll empty the next basket over your stupid head, you hear me? And for the last time, say something! I’m still your father. Have I taught you nothing? Is it too much to say hello to your own father, you ungrateful little wench?”
Natir’s eyes flung open so wide, she looked like someone had dropped a hammer on her toes.
Volk slammed the door behind Diva and turned around, only to see Natir on her feet and her face pale with shock.
Jaw dropped and turning her face between his ugly face and the door, Natir gasped, “You...what? Wait...she’s your...what?”
He raised an eyebrow.
She waved her forefinger with disbelief. “Oh, no… No, you’re messing with me… No! No that’s just, no! That’s wrong!”
Volk leaned at her face and intoned meanly, “I’m a maker. And when I make something, you bet your tits I make it right.”
He walked past her with a smug look on his face, Natir still turning her face back and forth between his back and the door.
She chased after him, “Wait! What did her mother look like?”