The moment the word escaped my lips I regretted it. Though I had not been completely, openly truthful about my sister, I had never out right lied to Katrina.
I began to excuse myself, reasoning that the simple act of misleading was inherent in my line of work, in our line of work. However, I realized that my thinking was incorrect and would probably result in the one thing that I didn't want to happen no matter what - the alienation of the girl I loved.
It must have been obvious that I was in the middle of mental deliberation, for Katrina tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "Is there something wrong?"
I lowered my face into my hand, rubbing my forehead and eyebrows, though not stopping or slowing our journey. Exhaling, I uttered, "Yes, there is, and it is time I talk about it." I raised my head to see that Katrina's expression had turned to worry - beyond the worry that she had had to deal with the last few weeks.
"Nothing that should further concern you," I said, trying to console her where I could. "At least nothing to worry about beyond the knowledge of it. In fact, I don't think it has anything to do with this war or the adventure we have chosen for ourselves."
Her face softened as I continued. "I have not been completely truthful with you, and it is not because I don't trust you or that I don't feel you should have known about it." I stopped, realizing that I hadn't really said anything yet.
Grabbing my shoulder again and gently squeezing, Katrina encouraged me by saying, "It's all right. Just take a minute and say it in as simple terms as you can. We can discuss it after that if you want."
She was right, of course. In almost every other aspect of my life, instructions and declarations were simple and to the point. The army thrived on such brevity. Underlying reasons were either unimportant or would cause further disorder.
This pattern was a good place to start, so I replied after a moment or so, "I have never actually met my sister."
Katrina said nothing in reply, and at first her facial expression did not alter from when she had been patiently waiting for me to say something. I raised my eyebrows, silently asking her to say something.
"I agree," she said simply. At my questioning look, she continued, "It probably has nothing to do with what we have got ourselves into." Her smile made me smile, though instinct told me not to smile at the moment.
"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked, her smile gone, her expression back to patience and longing.
Instead of responding to her question directly, I laid out a bunch of facts, practicing the art of brevity once more. "From as young as I can remember, my parents were open about the fact that I had a sister, adopted by a different family. Until last year I had had no contact with her. In the past year I have received three letters from her, and I have written her twice."
I paused to judge Katrina's reaction. After a moment, she spoke. "But, she has your last name."
"Actually, that is probably not true," I replied, and knowing what she was referring to, I added, "I don't know what the H stands for. She's never told me."
"Why was she adopted?"
"She hasn't written about that, but whatever the reason, I suspect the circumstances for her adoption were either the same as mine or very similar," I answered, not even remembering that I had never told anyone that I was adopted.
"Wait a minute!" Katrina exclaimed, bringing herself to a standstill. Nellie, who had been taking up the rear, several steps back in order to give us some privacy (I suppose), caught up and asked what was wrong.
"Did you know Jon was adopted?" Katrina asked, her expression showing mock hurt.
Not realizing Katrina's actual attitude, Nellie said, "I'm sure that he didn't mean to keep that from you. It probably just never came up."
With a wave of the hand and a smile, Katrina replied, "I was just teasing."
Katrina and I didn't have a chance to continue our conversation before we entered the last little village before the garrison, though I knew she had a ton of questions. Instead, we used the time to tell Nellie about what we had been talking about, including the incident when Katrina found the letter.
"If we can't get a horse, wouldn't it be best to move on?" Nellie suggested as we were walking through the center of the village.
"We can, of course," I said. "Time is of the essence after all, but I think the two of you will like one aspect of this village very much." I paused, allowing the suspense to build. "The towns close to the capital, including this one, have bath houses."