Sunday, December 2, 2012

Re-Read: Chapter Twenty Four- Tolerated

"It was true that I did not smell good."

Though Wanda is unsure of how many days she has spent in the caves, the state of herself and clothes, the same ones she wore during her journey through the desert, show the signs and smells of time. Recognizing her need for a bath and laundering, Jeb escorts Wanda to the bathing stream armed with clean clothes and homemade cactus soap. Much to Wanda's discomfort, they are not alone, but the others, including Melanie's cousin Sharon, ignore her presence. As soon as the bathing area is free, Wanda moves across the floor in the dark, feeling for the water's edge with her feet. Once there, she moves fully clothed into the stream. Using the rough soap, she washes her dirty clothes before cleaning the grim from herself. Leaving the cave, she rejoins Jeb and the two head towards the kitchen, where conversations cease when she enters the area. 

During her next day in the field, Wanda spends her time seeding and irrigating the same area. A new rotation of workers share the space, though, much to Wanda's discomfort, Ian was still among the field workers. Once again Wanda finds herself eating amongst the others in the kitchen, but Jamie joins her, breaking through the silence. At night, Wanda and Jamie share his room and he takes this opportunity to talk with Wanda until she begs for sleep. Their current living situation sits well with Jeb since he no longer has to task someone with keeping guard. 

During the next day of chores, Wanda finds herself in the kitchen where Jeb teaches her to knead bread dough and how to feed the fire beneath the stone oven. In the middle of the day, Jeb goes to retrieve more flour, leaving Wanda alone with the three other women working in the kitchen. Jeb's departure shocks Wanda as she wonders when they will realize that they have the opportunity to harm her. Her fears are for naught since none of the women abandon their work. 

It is not until the end of the next day of work that Wanda notices Jeb's holster was empty, a sight that brings her to a cold halt. Jeb asks her what is wrong, though his tone is far too innocent, as Ian stares at her strange behavior. It is then Wanda begins to wonder if these actions are his way to forcing her into the group and having her killed without having to commit the crime himself. 

On the forth day of eating in the kitchen nothing happens. No one falls silent or even stares as Wanda makes her way through. Next to her, Ian converses with a young girl name Paige, asking her how she is while Andy is gone on the raid. While reassuring Paige, Ian mentions Jared, something that does not go unnoticed by Wanda or Melanie. When Jeb joins the group, Ian notes that things have settled down, though he acknowledges that the same may not be said when his brother returns. 

After their meal, Jeb walks Wanda to her room, but she stops him before he departs. Though she has a difficult time finding the words, Wanda conveys she was under the impression they were friends. When Jeb says they are, she musters the courage to ask why he was trying to get her killed. Surprise crosses his face as he wonders why she has this notion. She notes the absence of his gun and leaving her alone while she made bread, but Jeb counters that these actions were sly means of getting the others to accept her situation. Wanda has one final question for Jeb: "Why are you my friend?" Considering his answer, Jeb tells her that he is a curious man and, though he had the opportunity to watch Souls, he has never had the chance to talk to one and ask his many questions. With a wink, he leaves with his parting words that he feels "super special" to have a Soul as a friend. 

Though Wanda is aware of Jeb's plan, she is still uneasy, especially when he escalates it. Jeb begins to send her on small errands, an extra roll at mealtime or a bucket of water for the field, each bringing forth a sense of fear. During one of her errands to see Doc, Ian accompanies Wanda, though she is still uneasy around him. On the way back, Wanda asks Ian why he has not killed her yet. After a moment of silence, Ian answers that if she is not putting them in danger, it seems cruel to harm her. Wanda then wonders what motives him to accompany her if it is not her death. While Jeb may believe things have calmed down, Ian is still uncertain about a few people. He also reveals that he and Doc have been keeping an eye on her.

" and Doc are trying to protect me?"

"Strange world, isn't it?"

It was a few seconds before I could answer.

"The strangest," I finally agreed. 

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