Chapter XLVIII

The stables were nothing more than a makeshift rooftop to keep the horses dry, but it was sturdy enough for Carla to lean against the wall and watch Gideon as he saddled her horse in a flurry of tightened reigns and straps. All the while, he gave her a quick (and rather silly) commentary, which made her laugh.

‘Thanks,’ she smiled once he was done. ‘I’ll have to remember that for next time.’

She climbed up onto her horse, Gideon doing the same beside her. All her worldly belonings (amounting to not very much at all) were slung over her horse’s back, tied down by numerous straps. She took a quick last glance around the clearing and then, with a smile to Gideon, spurred her horse forwards.

‘Goodbye!’ shouted Moll after the two retreating figures. ‘Come back soon!’

Gideon laughed. ‘I’ll come back to you, Moll, don’t you worry! You’re my girl, and don’t you forget it!’ Turning back to Carla, he noticed her slightly downcast eyes, and said suddenly: ‘Your friend not here to see you off?’

‘No. I suppose not.’

‘She is your friend, isn’t she? Not some relative?’ His tone was kind, but unmistakably curious.

‘No, she’s not a relative, although we’ve known each other for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I think we’re friends... But I don’t think we are, really. I’m not sure if Beatrix really does friends.’ She sighed. ‘Sometimes I find her very difficult, and I know her better than anyone. I feel sorry for her. She’s so wound up with being seen as an equal that she forgets that people need to like her as well as respect her. And people don’t like her for her strength - they like her for herself. Or at least, they should. But I don’t think she understands that.’

Gideon nodded, suddenly serious. ‘Some people are just like that. You’ve got to watch out, though, Carla - they make for a one-way relationship. You’ve got to know where you stand with someone, or you’re going nowhere. Don’t let her be a parasite, d’you hear me? And don’t feel sorry for her. If that’s how she wants to be, that’s her lookout. It’s not your job to make her change. It’s hers. And if she doesn’t change soon, she’ll find herself without any who count themselves her friends at all.’

The End

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