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Sonuachara Chapter 12

Monday afternoon Zoe was filling out paperwork in the office— mandatory crap that had to be filled out periodically, and she changed foster homes so often she couldn't just check the 'No changes' box and sign it— when she heard the director talking with one of the staffers.

"You don't know where it came from?"

"No, they were just on the steps when I answered the door. What do we do about it?"

"I don't know." The director sighed. "I mean... if this stuff is accurate, we can't just leave the kids there, but we don't have room for them all."

Zoe sat up straight, and her eyes widened as the conversation continued. It seemed someone— and she had a suspicion who that someone was, or at least who was behind the someone— had dropped off a box of papers on the front steps, containing a set of background reports on more or less every set of foster parents they had, with any reasons they were unsuitable highlighted.

She couldn't bring herself to have a lot of sympathy for them, since they wouldn't have the problem if they'd done their jobs right in the beginning. And it was a good thing that the kids would be pulled out of those homes, even if it was only temporary— she didn't believe for a moment that they'd change their assesment procedures.

She did wonder, though, at the timing. It had been less than two days since she'd talked to Trina's parents. How could they have gotten all that information in so little time? Even if they didn't have to worry how much they spent on it, how'd they manage it?

She worried at the question a while, trying to come up with an answer, but finally filed it away with the other questions she had about the family. She couldn't answer it, and she wasn't willing to just ask.

She hardly got to say more than 'Hi,' to Brenna that week, as over a dozen kids were pulled out of foster homes as they verified the worst cases, and everyone there was swamped. Still, at least they were swamped for a good reason, and she also managed to overhear that the pressure Trina's parents were applying had at least stalled things in regards to Brenna's mother, something that greatly relieved her mind.

Trina continued to invite her to eat lunch with them, and she accepted on the theory that if it was novelty that was causing Trina's... aggressive friendliness, exposure was the best cure. And just because she ate with them didn't mean she had to be social.

It was kind of interesting watching the dynamics of the group, however. Or groups, as there seemed to be three main sets of people at the table.

One, centered around Trina, was friendly— a bit wary at first, but they seemed to take Trina's recommendation as proof enough that Zoe belonged there; one actually said as much.

A second group, focused around Trina's friend Julie, weren't quite hostile, but Zoe suspected that if it weren't for Trina they'd get nasty fast.

The third group seemed to be non-aligned, for lack of a better word, and were cautiously friendly, if more stand-offish than Trina's group.

Zoe wrote off the group centered around Julie as non-entities— anyone who couldn't make their own judgements wasn't worth her time— and was prepared to do the same with Trina's group. She found she couldn't quite do so, however; most of the fawning sycophantic types were in Julie's group, and she got the impression that the ones who were in Trina's group were there by choice, rather than because they needed someone to think for them.

Trina's group was also much more eclectic than Julie's group, who were the stereotypical 'beautiful people'. For the most part, Trina chose friends who were intelligent, which made her friendship with Julie even more baffling. Finally, after watching them all week, Zoe mentally relegated that friendship to the 'Trina occasionally shows really bad taste' category.

The prime example in that category was Trina's boyfriend. Zoe was not impressed in the slightest. He was, as far as she could see, a stereotypical jock. Pretty enough if you liked that sort of thing, but that was it. No brains, no sensitivity, nothing.

The odd thing was that Trina didn't seem to be impressed either.

Still. Zoe wasn't going to say anything, since it wasn't her business, even if the boyfriend annoyed her more than he should. She found herself having to consciously restrain herself from sniping at him, even when he hadn't done anything to deserve it.

Well. Other than being a jock, anyway.


Thursday morning, Trina showed up at school looking like she hadn't had any sleep again. Zoe waited to see if she'd tell her about it, but Trina hadn't said anything by the time they were in the car, so she made the first move.

"So," she said, supressing her irritation. "You gonna tell me what kept you up, or not?"

Trina blinked, then smiled. "Yeah. After work. I was working on something."

"On?"

Trina's smiled turned mysterious. "After work."

"Don't you start that," Zoe said, looking disgusted.

"Start what?" Trina asked, blinking innocently and taking a corner at much too high a speed.

"You bloody well know what I mean. Don't do it."

"I do?"

Zoe narrowed her eyes. Trina knew perfectly well what she meant, and she knew Zoe knew she knew. And she was enjoying it.

"Fine," Zoe said, narrowing her eyes and turning stiffly to stare over the door. "Don't tell me, then."

"I'll tell you. After work. It'll give you something to keep your mind off of the dirty diapers."

"Mmm."

"Trust me," Trina said. "It'll be worth it."

Zoe shrugged in irritation, and Trina reached over and patted her on the leg. "Seriously, I want to talk to you after work, and we don't really have time now."

"All right," Zoe said, relenting slightly. "But as soon as work is over...."

Trina nodded. "I promise," she said, as she pulled into their parking spot.


Luckily, Zoe was kept busy enough that she didn't have time to wonder what Trina had in store for her; in fact, it was half an hour past the time they were supposed to leave before she knew it, and the director was reluctantly shooing them out the door.

"You want to go somewhere to talk?" Trina asked, as she started the car.

"It's a nice evening," Zoe said, shrugging. "We can go down to the park."

Trina nodded and put the car in gear, driving the short distance. "I think there's a clearing back in those trees, isn't there?"

"Mm-hmm," Zoe said. "Some great need for utter secrecy?"

Trina flushed. "Not really. I just... I'd like to be out of the public eye for a while, you know? Julie's been ragging on me about spending so much time with you. I'm not about to stop, but I'd prefer not to have to put up with that bullshit tomorrow, you know?"

Zoe was sure her face didn't give anything away, unless sudden blankness counted. With studied indifference, she shrugged, then got out of the car. "It was your idea. Wouldn't bother me to stop. I like things quieter, anyway."

"I don't intend to stop," Trina said. "Unless... that is, if you don't want to be my friend anymore...."

"I didn't say that."

Relief flooded Trina's face. "Good. Then I'm not going to stop. I'd just prefer not to have to deal with Julie's bullshit tomorrow."

"That's fine," Zoe said. "It's not a big deal. Nothing that matters happens at school, anyway."

"Eh. Some stuff does," Trina said, sitting down on the ground under the trees. "Have a seat."

Zoe sat down across from her, still carefully not showing any emotion, as Trina dug around in her purse. Pulling out a small box, she gave Zoe a shy smile. "I made this for you. It's a good luck charm."

Zoe took it, feeling a bit confused, and opened the box. Inside was a small copper disk on a chain. Inlaid into the disk, in what looked like gold, was a complicated knotwork design. Small dents in the surface of the copper puzzled her for a moment before she recognized them as hammer marks, and she realized that when Trina said she'd made it, she meant the entire thing.

"It's very pretty, but why?" Zoe asked, wrinkling her forhead and running her thumb over the knotwork. "You don't have to give me things so I'll like you. I'm not like those idiots at school. And you don't have to give me anything to... to make up for wanting to be more discreet at school, either. It's never been my intention to cause you a hard time."

Trina shook her head. "I made it because... because I wanted you to have it. You've had enough bad luck in your life, it's time you had some good luck."

Zoe shook her head in return, a crooked half-smile on her face. "You know I don't think there's any such thing. But thanks, that was... really thoughtful." She slipped it on, tucking it under her collar and carefully dropping it down the neck of her shirt.

"Thanks," Trina said, smiling. "I wanted to ask... how's Brenna doing? I haven't gotten to spend much time around her this week...."

Zoe smiled, thinking about the younger girl. "Good. She's happy and excited. Even therapy was easier for her."

"The cream is helping?"

"Seems to be," Zoe said. "But I meant, well, emotionally."

"Oh, good. I can't wait for her to get to come home." Trina gave Zoe a small, shy smile. "I can't wait for you to come home, either."

Zoe smiled in spite of herself, and gave a little half-exasperated head shake. "I haven't made any promises, you know."

"I know," Trina said, still smiling. "I'm thinking positively."

Zoe laughed. "Right. Thinking positively." She rubbed her chest, feeling the outline of the small disk through her t-shirt. "You stayed up all night doing this? I mean, that's sweet as hell, but why not wait until the weekend, when you'd have time? You can't just keep skipping sleep."

Trina shrugged. "It was the right time. I'll be okay. It's not the first time I've skipped a night."

"I know," Zoe said, frowning. "If it were just once, it wouldn't be a problem."

"I don't do it that often," Trina said. "Maybe once a month at most, usually."

Zoe ran a hand through the long bit of her hair and sighed. "All right. It's your choice, anyway. But, at least for me, I'd prefer you wait so that you're not hurting or endangering yourself, okay?"

Trina smiled. "Okay. If I can, I will."

"Good enough, I guess," Zoe said.

"Good," Trina said. "Are you going home tonight, or do you need someplace to sleep?"

"Home," Zoe said. "George is going out of town for the weekend, and this is the last night he'll be home. It'd be cold to skip out."

"Okay," Trina said. "I guess I'll see you at school tomorrow."

Zoe cocked her head as something occurred to her. "You gave me the impression that what you wanted to talk about would take a while," she said, raising an eyebrow.

Trina blushed. "Well, I... I kinda figured I'd have to argue with you to get you to take the necklace. I know how stubborn you are."

Zoe flushed. "After you obviously worked that hard on it? How cold do you think I am, anyway?"

Trina raised an eyebrow. "Cold? Not at all. Stubborn, mule-headed, absolutely determined not to take anything you didn't earn, now...."

"I'm not that bad," Zoe protested. "And it's different, anyway, from something that's just... well, bought."

"Not that bad... riiiight," Trina said, giving her a skeptical look. "You outstubborned Mom, and that's almost impossible."

"Oh, stop," Zoe said. "The way you talk, I'm not even human. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be independent."

"You're human," Trina said. "A stubborn, mule-headed human, but I like you anyway."

"Well, that's good," Zoe said. "I'd hate to think you'd go through all this trouble for someone you didn't like." She frowned for a moment, as a thought struck her, but banished it immediately.

"What's wrong?" Trina asked.

"Nothing," Zoe said, shaking her head. "Just random thoughts."

"C'mon...."

"No," Zoe replied. "Nothing important, or even concrete. C'mon, I really ought to be back in time for dinner."

"If you're sure...." Trina said reluctantly.

"You know I'm always sure," Zoe said, smiling quirkily.

Trina laughed. "Yeah, I know. Okay."