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Before dawn, Agra went to the creek to get fresh water. She carried her spear and a canteen. The air was chilly and stars still shone in the sky to the west. She felt at peace when she came out by herself. She could be alone with her thoughts and watch nature unfold at its own pace. She dipped the canteen into the fresh water, filling it. She dipped the cup into the water and drank some. It was so cold and refreshing.
She set the spear and the canteen down on the grass and waded into the creek. The chill of the water on her limbs bit her and made her shiver, but her skin welcomed the cleansing of the water.
Across the creek a little further down, a red fox lapped the surface of the water with its tongue. She watched it silently, without moving. The creature had seen her but kept drinking. After a moment, it stopped and sat on its hind legs and continued to watch her curiously. She kept quiet and still, entranced by the eeriness of the encounter.
As though it too understood, the fox dipped its head down and up again, then turned unhurriedly and walked delicately between brushes until it disappeared.
Agra felt a pain in her leg, where the scar from the bite of the fox had mangled her skin and injured her underneath. She waded out of the creek and retrieved her spear and the canteen.
On the way back, she noticed she had a slight limp. The pain was there, dull, like a piece of fabric too stretched and ready to break inside her leg.
In every other aspect, she felt full of life and energy, back to her old self. She felt like running, and the first few steps were hesitant, but then she sprinted, only to stop immediately. Her leg hurt more than she could manage, and she limped back to camp, cursing her bad luck and wondering how she could be a hunter if she could not run.
Trion was up and out when she returned to the cabin.
“How are you? Are you limping?”
“I feel fine. I am limping, yes. My leg hurts when I walk, and I cannot really run.”
Agra turned her leg to show the calf to Trion. “Beneath the scar, I feel things didn’t heal right.”
Trion kneeled in front of her and took her leg in his hands. He pressed a little with his palm and pushed into the flesh with his index and middle fingers, feeling the muscles.
“There is something hard underneath here,” Trion said.
“That’s where it hurts.”
Trion pressed his hands up to her right knee, feeling the muscles below. “Any pain here?”
“It’s a little sore, but no.”
His hands continued to her thigh. “And here, does it hurt?”
“It feels good,” Agra said.
Trion smiled and stood up. “Okay.”
Agra smiled back at him and, for an instant, they stared into each other’s eyes.
Vaega called out from the cabin: “Did you bring back water?”
Agra took two steps while still lost in Trion’s eyes, then focused her stare on the ground in front of her feet. “I brought water, yes.”
Trion stood still, then turned to go work on the new cabin without saying another word.
After Vaega drank she asked Agra: “If you cannot go hunt, what will you do?”
“I can still carry things around, clean, and maybe do research.”
“You want to learn how to cook once the stove is built?”
“Would you teach me? But, I don’t think I would be good at it,” Agra answered.
“I learned how to hunt, so maybe you can learn how to butcher and cook animals, and when the potatoes and corn are ready, I will teach you that too.”
Agra sat on her bed. “I will try to learn. Thank you.”
Vaega sat next to her and looked into her eyes. For a moment, Agra felt like the fox on the bank, being stared at by some strange creature.
Vaega lifted her right hand and brought it to Agra’s cheek. She rested it there, feeling the soft skin under her fingertips. Agra didn’t move. She considered the stare. She imagined she was the fox, waiting in silence.
Vaega tilted her body imperceptibly toward Agra, who in that moment pulled back as the fox had done, delicately moving her body away from Vaega’s, whose hand hung in the air alone before Vaega lowered it slowly back to her lap.
Agra stood up. “I will go gather.”
“Agra.” Vaega’s voice was softer than before.
At the door, Agra paused and turned.
“Please don’t be upset with me.”
Agra smiled with the left corner of her mouth. “I am not upset with you.”
As a fox, Agra left the cabin.
Next chapter: Wild Weeds
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