After awhile, the doctor came into the room with Marisa close behind. I submitted to being examined while the doctor asked the same set of questions he had asked the day before. When he was done he got a funny look on his face and said he was wondering if he could work out an “arrangement” with me.
“I was thinking you probably don’t have much money, and I recently lost a horse. . .”
“Flecha isn't for sale.”
“I was thinking more like a rental arrangement until you’re able to leave.”
“She’s not for rent, either, and I’m almost well.”
“My recommendation is that you not leave town for at least a week,” he cautioned. “They’re predicting more bad weather and you’re highly prone to relapse right now. You might not be so lucky if you get sick farther down the road.”
As much as I hated to admit it, what he said made sense. Unless I was going to give him and Marisa all my money and valuables, I was probably better off staying and working for a little while. Besides, I was tired after standing in the window petting Flecha for a few minutes. There was no way I was up for traveling, no matter how much I might want to leave. But rent Flecha out as if she were a hack?
“What would Flecha be doing?” I asked.
“Strictly a riding animal,” the doctor assured me. “No carts or anything like that.”
“Would anyone besides you be riding her?”
“I live alone. It would just be me.”
I thought I noticed a funny look flit across Marisa’s face when the doctor mentioned living alone. It suddenly occurred to me that she seemed to stand rather close to him at times, looking way more interested in what he was saying than any of his words merited.
“Do you need to think about it?” he asked. “I’ll waive all my usual fees, and bill you only for your medicine. I would assume the entire cost of caring for Flecha.”
“How much riding do you usually do? Could I see her every day?”
We haggled for a bit, but finally came to an agreement. I insisted on being allowed to go to the front porch when the doctor left, and was reasonably satisfied with what I saw of his riding skills. Since Flecha seemed healthy and in good spirits, I felt a little easier in my mind as I went back in the house and let Marisa tuck me into bed.
I was thoroughly exhausted by this point, and hungry, too. I was glad when Marisa set a bowl of soup in front of me. This time there was also a bit of bread— my first solid food since becoming sick.
I dozed after I ate and awoke a couple hours later to find Marisa sitting by the bedside, doing some mending. “Can I help with that?” I asked.
She protested at first, but I insisted until she gave me a sock to darn. We worked without speaking at first but the silence seemed strained. Finally she said, “You told me some pretty crazy things while you had a fever.”
I held my breath and waited.
“You gave me a letter, asking me to mail it. You wouldn’t tell me where to send it, and it made no sense anyway. . .”
“I’m glad you didn’t send it.”
“If your people are who I think they are, they’re not far from here. Would you like—”
We looked at each other for a long moment, but she turned away first. “Well,” she said, “I just thought I’d offer. It sounded like you have a lot of issues to work through.”
“I was delirious. I’m sure whatever I said was just a bunch of crazy fairy tales from my dreams.”
Marisa’s eyebrows flickered like she didn’t believe me, but she kept her head down, fixing a hem with neat, even stitches. “I think your people might be in danger. John heard. . .”
I set down my darning. “Who is John?”
Marisa blushed. “Dr. Ruston. He hears a lot of things on his rounds. He says there’s some kind of plot brewing in Cobre, and I think your friends might be mixed up in it.”
“Who do you think my friends are?”
“Aren’t you Bella Diana, the one in the song?”
“Why would you think that? Diana is a common enough name. Besides, those songs are lies.”
“So you’re not at all curious what might be happening in Cobre?”
“I’m sure my friends, whoever you think they are, can handle it.” I picked up my darning again, but my hands were trembling. “Anyway, I thought you were a federal.”
“I am. Or rather, I was. That’s why I support Unitas. They believe in free elections and so do I.”
I laid the mending down again. My hands were shaking too badly and I couldn’t concentrate. “I think I’m tired.”
Marisa stood up. “Okay. It’s time for your medicine, anyway.”
She gave me some pills and made me a cup of tea—a sour tea this time, with rose hips and something else that I couldn’t place. Something in what she gave me calmed my nerves and made me sleepy and when I woke up, the cat I remembered from my dreams was curled at my feet making a funny snoring sound.
Marisa said no more about Cobre and Unitas. We had dinner and did the mending, chatting about inconsequential things and drifting often into silence. I finally dozed off over a hole in a sock, and Marisa took the darning from my hands.
She made me another hot drink and as she tucked me in, she surprised me with a quick kiss on the forehead. “Please think about what I said today. Whatever has passed between you and your friends, I know you don’t want them in danger.”
She dimmed the light and went away, leaving me no longer sleepy and with a lot of thinking to do.
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