That evening, Beatrix was making her way back to her pitiful excuse for a shelter, when she overheard two women inside their own shelter. She wouldn’t have paused for longer than a moment, if she hadn’t heard them mention Carla’s name:
‘She’s such a dear, that Carla. My Randy and Maria’ve taken quite a shine to her, I can tell you! They follow her around all day, the little dears, and - bless her cotton socks! - she says nothing of it, even plays with them! I found them curled up with her just this afternoon, and - you’ll never guess! - she was telling them such a darling little story!’
‘I know, it’s so lovely to see them. She’s a real sweetie around the littluns! She’s made my life so much easier with all her running around - got the kids out from under my feet!’
‘I’d say. But when you try to repay her-’
‘I know! She won’t hear of it! Such a nice girl, so sweet and kind.’
The conversation moved on, and Beatrix was about to do the same, when they said something that rooted her to the spot as surely as if she’d been one of those tall redwood trees that had stood in the same place for centuries.
‘What do you think of her friend?’
‘The dark one?’
‘Not much, if I must be honest. Now I don’t want to speak ill of anyone, least of all the friend of someone so nice, but...’
‘Nor me. She seems so... cold. You never know what she’s thinking. And... She acts like she’s so much better than everyone else here - like she’s some Countess or Lady or something. Huh.’
‘Almost haughty, you might say.’
‘That’s a good word. Yes...’
‘And she hasn’t lifted a finger to help us out, not any of us, not all the time she’s been here. And then here we are, giving her shelter and food and all, and her not even deigning to speak to us!’
‘I mean, she’s a stunner, of course, and I’m sure there’s plenty that don’t look beyond that, but there’s no warmth in her. You feel if you ever needed her help, she’d walk away smiling.’
There was a pause.
‘She just seems so emotionless, that’s all. And I can’t hold that against her, if that’s her nature...’
‘No, of course not. But all the same...’
She needed to hear no more. Turning blindly away, she ran to - she knew not where. Just somewhere away from this hateful place filled with such hateful people!