"I may look young," I said gently, "but I'm not a child inside. We all grow up too fast nowadays. I've seen things..." I broke off. Where had this bitterness come from? Annette was only being friendly, talking to me when I was mostly being ignored. I should not be so angry. "I'm sorry," I said suddenly. "I didn't mean to sound rude."
"It's quite all right," she replied. "And I know it's hard. No matter how old you feel -- trust me, I've felt that way too -- you are the youngest here. And probably the most vulnerable. What has happened to your parents?"
My eyes flashed. I did not like people calling me weak, even if they did not mean to. "I am not vulnerable," I replied. "I have been living on the streets and I have survived. That is good enough for many people, non? My parents are dead. They died many years ago, or so it seems to me."
"I'm sorry!" Annette put her hand to her mouth. "Clara, do not be angry at me. I was not trying to be rude." With a soft smile, she said, "Sometimes I feel that the Blanche is a family to me, albeit a somewhat dysfunctional one."
"Dysfunctional?" Gerard turned from his conversation having overheard ours. "I would not say we are dysfunctional. We have achieved much more than the other resistance groups."
"I did not know of any family that would let young girls take important roles!" Annet replied with fire. "Clara is only fifteen, as well you know it. And you should learn not to butt into other people's talks."
I turned. "It's all right. I don't mind." Then, facing Gerard, I said, "What do you mean, we've achieved much more? None of them have failed, yet."
"No, they have not failed. But there is one group -- students, idealists ... rash young men that think only of the future and do not care whether they live or die -- who are far too bold. They will not make it through these times of blood. Mark my words, they will be the first to fall."
Later, those words frightened me, but then I was still glowing with the thought that I would finally be getting out of this city. "And we will be the last," I replied. "Our white name will become red with the blood of our enemies. We will live!"
"Quite the fighter," one of the men replied, looking at me with new respect. I ignored the glance and returned my gaze to Annette.
"If we are to travel to Versailles I will need to mend my dress," I told her. "But on the streets all possessions are stolen and I no longer have a needle and thread. Would you care to lend me one?"
"Of course," she said, her motherly tone warm. "Do you need any help?" I told her that I could manage and she smiled, handing me the implements without a second thought. So maybe this place was a family. We trusted one another.
The only thing was, was that a good thing? Would this trust me strong enough to seal bonds or were there going to be betrayals before this fight was done? The thoughts chilled me but I knew we could not afford to be careless.
I set my mind to mending the tear in my worn skirts, though my dreams were all of tomorrow, and what it would bring.