16. Reunion

Danette straightened the curtains one last time, allowing for maximum light, then glanced at the hourglass. Its weights had turned it over three times since Gig and Revya had left that morning for Astec to bring Father Valerio back with them. Danette would've liked to go with them, but Ben had her teaching the children fighting now and she hadn't wanted to miss even one morning of instruction. She clip-clopped around the small sitting room Lady Virtuous had allowed her to use for this visit, dragging the chairs closer to the window, arranging the plates of thick sandwiches and the bowl of raw hotpods. She always enjoyed seeing Father Valerio; she'd liked him the first time they'd met six years ago. She wondered if he subconsciously reminded her of her own priest father, Mosley.

There was knock on the door post, and, turning, Danette saw Father Valerio standing in the door. "Hello, dear child."

Danette clattered over. "It's great to see you again, Papa V! Your last letter was so long, I never got time to read all of it." She pulled him towards the chairs and table. "Here, sit. Are you tired? Do you want something to drink? We have currant cordial, or I could get you some crinkleberry wine."

"Cordial will do nicely - thank you." He took a deep draft. "Ah, it was a long walk indeed. The roads are not always kind to such old feet."

"You should've made them carry you," Danette rebuked him. "That's what they're there for. Speaking of which-" she looked around "-where are the others? They knew I was getting enough food for them too."

Valerio chuckled. "I expect they're still in Astec."

Danette looked at him as though he'd just spoken backwards. "What? But - you mean they didn't escort you back? They were supposed to protect you!"

"No, but they kindly hired some archers and soldiers to take care of me; they were coming up to visit the Village anyway."

"B-but - they're snubbing us?" Danette bit a hotpod in two. "I'm going to kill them when they get back. That's just rude."

"Maybe so." Valerio picked a sandwich. "But I believe a little snubbing is excusable in this instance."

"In this instance...?" Danette's anger dribbled away, replaced with wary confusion. "Just - what are you talking about?"

Valerio frowned. "You mean you didn't know? Oh! Dear me." He began to rummage through one of his pockets. "I expect that's why she asked me to give you this. I totally forgot in my pleasure at seeing you." He passed a folded scrap of paper across the table.

Wordlessly, Danette opened it.

Hi Danette-

We just got married by Fr. Valerio. Don't feel snubbed. We decided to go for it this morning on the way down, otherwise we would've invited you. We're bumming a wedding lunch off of Vitali, so we'll probably see you around dinner.

- You and You in There

PS. You in There says don't eat all the hotpods this time.

"What?" Danette wailed. "WhatwhatwhatWHAT? You - they - how could - holy cow!"

Valerio blinked quickly. "My dear, there's no need to resort to such vulgar language! Aren't you happy for them?"

Danette lowered the note and glared at the mild priest. "You - you - how could you marry them?"

He spread his hands. "I agree, I normally ask a couple to wait a week or so before I marry them, just so they can question their hearts and decide if they're making the best decision. But I thought that, given Gig and Revya's unique...history, it was unnecess-"

"I can't believe this!" Danette nearly upset the table as she leapt to her hooves. "They're - She didn't even tell me - Damn, how could they - Didn't get my permission - Didn't even make sure I was there - Totally went off without me and - They're going to gang up against me in every argument now - and - and - didn't even invite me to Vitali's-"

"There, there," Valerio said, putting his hand on her arm. "You're overwrought. You'll feel differently when you see them tonight."

Danette blinked mutely, as if seeing a vision of her reunion with her two closest friends in the entire world. "Right." She sat down. "You're right. I sure will feel different." She dragged over the bowl of hotpods. "I'll feel full."

She then ate every last hotpod.