Ch. 21 - Changes

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Had it really been more than a week since she’d slept in her own bed? It was past time to insist Cooper take her cot back, but the raccoon-woman wouldn’t hear of it. Lacey could find another hut to sleep in, but most of the Wished were squeezed in two or three per home, and she would likely kick someone out of a bed anywhere she went. Besides, she felt comfortable with Cooper, despite the small woman’s eccentricities. She had another idea. After she washed up she would visit the camp’s supply tent.

Lacey walked back to Cooper’s hut with a bucket of water from the lake. She was starting to feel at home here. If someone hissed or snapped, it was taken in stride. Nobody would look down on her for behaving a little bat-like, now and then. And she was hunting every night, learning the skills she needed to follow her dream of becoming an explorer.

It was easy to forget Goeden. Now that she was on a later schedule, she rarely saw the day-hunters. It wasn’t as easy to forget Devan—and her obligation to him. Not until she had gotten him safely home, at least.

Home. She did miss Mama and Ella. Maybe she could see them if she brought Devan back herself. The bakery was on the edge of the village, easy to sneak into without having to cross paths with anyone else. It would be good to tell Mama she was OK, even if she couldn’t stay.

She ducked under the low entrance of Cooper’s hut. That was the one drawback living with the small woman. She might have to find a new place sooner or later anyway, if she didn’t want to spend all her days nursing bumps on her head. But for now it would do.

Lacey poured steaming water from a kettle into a basin and then cooled it off with lake water. This was Cooper’s suggestion for washing, after Lacey had balked at the idea of bathing in the frigid lake. Lacey wondered if she could convince the Wished to build a bathhouse like the one in Pine Ridge. It couldn’t be that hard.

As she unfastened her shirt she felt and odd prickling on her forearm. Lacey pulled her arm out of her sleeve to find patches of coarse dark hair had sprouted up out of nowhere. She ran her fingers over the bristles. As she did, she felt a tender ache under her armpit. She slid her fingers underneath, feeling a swollen ridge extending up from her elbow, and down her ribcage. What was happening to her?

Meemu looked up from the cot, where he had nestled into the blankets, and Lacey hastily pulled her shirt back on. Then she felt silly--he was just a cat. She waited until he had set his head back down and closed his eyes, before she crouched down in front of the polished metal mirror hanging at Cooper’s height. Her teeth had been feeling like more of a mouthful recently. She made a face, drawing her lips back. Her fangs were definitely longer, and her ears too.

She snapped her mouth shut and stood up. Her heart pounded. She was changing, becoming more bat. But so what? That didn’t matter to the Wished. They would still accept her, probably even more if she were less human.

Was it normal for the Wished to change like this? She thought about asking Cooper, but maybe it was better to wait and see. She loosened her shirt again, and turned her back to Meemu, washing under her clothes.

When she was done, she put on the short wooly cloak Cooper had given her, and pulled the hood up over her ears before going outside. Meemu wasn’t inclined to get up yet, and she was happy to leave him there. He was small, but he had a rather large opinion of himself. He wasn’t afraid of challenging bigger creatures, and Lacey did not want him running into the day-hunters.

She walked over to the Herd side of camp and popped by Keeran’s hut to get a piece of pan bread sprinkled with the seeds that Keeran loved to put on everything. It wasn’t nearly as delicious as Mama’s loaves, but Lacey was used to starting her day with bread. She tore off small chewy bits to eat as she headed to the supply tent.

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