Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.
The wood of the fence is rough beneath her hands, and with each loud crack of Haar's hammer, the nail is driven deeper into the fencepost. When the board is securely in place, Haar stands and stretches, and she lets go of the newly repaired fence, her body still vibrating.
Rolling her shoulders, she bends to lift their tools, placing them carefully into a wooden box while Haar leans over to pick up the extra wood. His knees creak with the effort.
"I'm getting too old for this," he says, his voice tired around the edges.
Jill wants to argue, but her irritation fades as she peers over at her companion and sees the streaks of grey in his hair, the lines around his eyes and mouth.
He's nearing fifty. Though it's not a new thought, it still comes as something of a shock, and for a frantic moment, she tries to remember how old she turned on her last birthday. Thirty-one? Thirty-two?
She smiles at him, the fingers of her free hand squeezing his arm. "You hold the next one, I'll hammer."
"Just don't miss."
She slaps his arm, but grins and promises not to.
"Talrega's being ceded to me." She bites at her lower lip.
"What does that entail?" asks Haar, his hand settling on her shoulder.
"Father was a general, not a marquess." And yet…everything he'd done for these people! She sighs, tilting her head back to look up at Haar. "It means I have big boots to fill."
Kneeling in the dirt, Jill tugs at a stubborn weed. When she succeeds, she shakes the soil from its roots and throws it to the side.
Immersed in her work, she's startled when hands suddenly cover her own. Her surprise is momentary; it's only Haar.
"It's almost dark," he says.
She looks over her shoulder to the west and sees that the sun is sinking. She lets him help her to her feet before she smiles, pleased.
"We got a lot done today."
"For other people." His tone is mild. "We still—"
She interrupts with a casual shrug, "I know. We can tend our garden when we get home."
"In the dark?"
"We can wake up early tomorrow. A couple of hours are all we need to catch up."
She knows his opinion already—she wakes up early enough, she works too hard. Maybe he's right.
"They're grateful for our help," she tells him gently, stifling a yawn.
"You're not so much their leader as you are one of them," he says. "They respect that."
"I prefer things this way."
He squeezes her hand. "I know." A moment later, he gives a quiet sigh. "I suppose if we eat supper and go right to bed, we'll get plenty of sleep and still be able to get up two hours early."
"Thank you," she murmurs, leaning against him as they begin to walk home.
Talrega's respect. Jill has earned it. For FE Contest at Livejournal.