By 1900, the Phoenix’s main mess hall was starting to clear out, and it was easy to spot Kordieh, back in uniform and waiting near the door. In contrast, Morgan was only partly in uniform, forgoing jacket or vest for the plain turtleneck. She managed a faint smile when she joined him.
“Good evening, Margaret,” he said. “I’m really glad to see you.”
“And you.” After a beat, she added, “Once I stopped trying to talk myself out of meeting you.” Her mouth quirked briefly higher, wry.
“You would have had to bump into me sooner or later,” he said, smiling. “It’s not that big of a ship.”
“It is, biggest in the fleet.” It was weak, but a joke nonetheless. “Did you sleep well?”
“Very well indeed, thank you.”
Morgan nodded, falling silent. Small talk didn’t come naturally to her.
Apparently, it didn’t come naturally to Kordieh either. After several seconds of silence, he said, “I confess I awoke quite hungry. Shall we see if there is anything left?”
“Ie, please. I at least need to eat properly to counteract my newest medicine.”
They had already started moving toward the food line, but Kordieh paused, looking over his shoulder in concern. “I didn’t realize you were ill. Will you be all right?”
“It is an… ongoing problem.” She touched his arm to get him moving again. “The healers have had trouble finding a treatment that is effective for me.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, getting to the head of the line. “Working in Medlab is fascinating – and pleasant – but I wish I knew more of what the healers actually do. I’m still better at fixing ships than I am people.” He offered her a tray.
“You are not so bad at that either,” she murmured, accepting it.
“Thanks,” he said. “I’m still hoping to earn the right to show what I can do with the Phoenix. It’s been a little hard, having nothing but my own memory to draw on.”
“You will get there, I think.” She smiled what she hoped was encouragingly.
He returned the smile, then turned his full attention to the business of getting food and finding a table. Once settled, he looked at his plate. “Swedish meatballs … or perhaps, I should say breen. Did I hear correctly the rumor that G’fen had been sent to the galley?”
“Ie, I believe so. Though I cannot think he would be allowed to cook.” It was difficult for her to not start fuming over that incident again.
“I imagine Anla’shok Rashid keeps him fairly well in line.” Kordieh sighed between bites. “I’ve been thinking that I should try to talk to him … as long as it’s not while I’m in Medlab. I don’t know how well he’d deal with Dr. Lanconi face to face.”
“Please, do not get me started on him.”
He seemed about to say something, then closed his mouth again and went for another bite of food. “Anything else happening aboard ship that I can know about?”
“Not much, at the moment. Dunstan, I am sorry,” she added. “But it still makes me angry to think about.”
“It bothers me, too. He was my friend.”
Morgan forced herself to take a deep breath. “I wished him well when he joined us, truly I did. But I cannot say I have many friends aboard.”
“Nor I, really.”
“Thank you for your trust,” she murmured, then concentrated on her food so doesn’t have to look at for a few moments.
Kordieh puzzled over this as he ate. He just didn’t understand, but then, that was hardly new. He was beginning to realize that not only was it possible for one person to have friends who didn’t necessarily like each other, it was — at least in his case — commonplace. Whatever he did with G’fen, he would have to do on his own, and trust Margaret to understand.
Finally he said, hoping it would get her started talking again, “Chaplain Sinthann says that trust is one of those things you must hold, before it can be returned to you. He says that’s particularly true for me.”
Morgan considered her answer. “I do trust you, now, as you are. I hope that does not change.” It wasn’t a warning – she was voicing a fervent hope.
“I would never do anything to betray you, Margaret.”
“I do not mean to sound as if I think you would.” She looked him in the eyes, hoping to be understood.
He met her look with an even look of his own, and a hint of a smile. “I know.”
She started to eat again, but then pushed her plate away to fold her arms on the table. “Forgive me. I… I feel like a youth, not an adult with responsibilities.”
He grinned, reaching over to gently pat one arm. “I think we should form a club.”
An amused twinkle started to grow in her eyes. “Ie.”
Copyright (c) 2004 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.