Chapter 128: Kailani
No one's gonna say that it's easier losin'
Touch with who we need when it's lonelier on the outside
Everybody's on the food chain

Kai hadn’t been sure what she’d been expecting, but nothing was going the way it ought to except the signs at the field trip sites.

She woke up on the third day of their field trip early, eager to see Seminole Canyon, and studied her roommate. Nydia didn’t seem happy to be away – really, as far as Kai could tell, she seemed less happy about being separated from Dysmas than Kai was to be away from Conrad. Then again, it was possible she was just generally unhappy.

Nydia dragged herself out of bed, and Kailani found that at least she was no longer startled by the sight of the girl’s thin frame and pale skin. She was eating, or at least had been the past few days, but it was clear that something had taken its toll. Dysmas? Kai wondered if the doctor was aware of what was happening there.

It didn’t seem like something she could miss – but the staff had been so very unhelpful all around, so it was hard to guess. “Ready for breakfast?” she asked cheerfully.

“I suppose so,” Nydia sighed melodramatically, picking through her bag for something to wear. Kailani couldn’t help but notice that all of the girl’s clothing was simple, stark, and concealing, but all of her underwear was lacy and elegant.

Wishing she knew what to make of that, Kai picked out her own clothes – her favorite blue skirt and a shirt Conrad seemed to like that matched. “I think it’s supposed to be an omelet bar today,” she offered.

“Omelets... do eggs have iron in them? The doctor says I need more iron.” She stuck her tongue out for a moment, emphasizing her apparent distaste for that proclamation.

Well. That answered that question, at least partially. Kai dug in her memory for the appropriate text from health class. “Yes, although a whole omelet is going to be just under a quarter of what you need in terms of iron.” She looked off thoughtfully, contemplating numbers. “If you threw in a glass of orange juice, it would help your body absorb the iron. Spinach is good, whole-grain foods are good, so, say, a piece of toast?”

“Toast I can handle,” Nydia said faintly, watching her curiously. “Why are you so interested?”

She blushed. “I’m just kind of thorough? Sorry, you asked about the iron, and I remember reading about it.” Before she could shut herself up, she added, “you don’t like eating?”

“Well, I don’t want to get fatter,” the emaciated girl frowned, pulling her shirt down to conceal her visible ribs.

“Oh.” She blinked, and decided she’d ask Shahin about that. It sounded like anorexia, but... “What… what does Dysmas say about it?”

“He makes me follow the doctor’s orders. I guess I do have different nutritional needs, now.” The faintest tinge of pink on the corners of her cheeks indicated that she might be blushing, but it couldn’t overcome her paleness.

“If you’re donating blood regularly, yes, you do,” Kai answered, a bit blunter than she meant to be. “I can help you figure out the iron while we’re out here.”

“I’m not sure if I need it, though. I mean, he’s not here, so I should be back to normal. Maybe I can even lose a couple pounds while we’re away. Dysmas would be happy if I came back prettier, right?”

“It will take at least two weeks for your body to recuperate from a donation,” Kai answered her firmly. “You should stick to the diet the doctor gave you.”

“I guess so,” she sighed, sitting back on the bed now that she was dressed. “I miss him.”

“I can imagine.” Kai sat down on her own bed. Taro would pound on the door when everyone was heading down to breakfast. “I miss Conrad a lot.”

“Yeah?” Nydia pulled her knees up to her chest as she glanced over at Kai. “I can’t sleep, without him beside me.”

“Yeah.” She mirrored the other girl’s pose, pulling her knees tight to her stomach. “I never thought I’d be this dependent on someone.”

“It feels wrong, being away from him. I think this was a mistake. I shouldn’t have agreed to come.”

“Hey,” she coaxed, despite the hollow feeling in her stomach that was echoing the other girl’s words, “you’ll be okay. We’ll both be okay.”

“It’s not the same for you, though, is it? I mean... I need him. And he needs me. What’s he going to do without me for two weeks?”

She shook her head. “I’m not Kept, if that’s what you mean, no.” But if Nydia was feeling like this, what was Conrad feeling like, at home? “But I do miss him.” She smiled encouragingly. “The best we can do is try to have fun while we’re here, though. We’ll be back at Addergoole soon enough.”

“I guess... I didn’t even think, though, about what he’ll do without me.” Nydia turned back away from Kailani, burying her face in her knees. “He must be... getting it from some other girl...”

Sounds like what you were worried about, doesn’t it? a treacherous little voice whispered. She stared at the other girl helplessly.

There was a knock on the door just then.

“I don’t really feel like breakfast,” Nydia mumbled.

“Come on,” Kai insisted, standing up and holding out her hand to the other girl. “You can come back here and call home after you eat, but you need to build up your iron.” Ruthlessly, she added, “you want to be in good shape for Dysmas when you get back, don’t you?”

“I... I do,” she replied, slowly unfolding herself and taking Kai’s hand. “I guess you’re right.” A single tear glistened on her cheek.

Kai squeezed her hand, feeling horrible. “If you want,” she offered, “I’ll help you figure out how to get the most iron for the fewest calories.” It was a horrible idea, long term, but she didn’t know how to help, at all.

“I... maybe? Okay. I just... If he gets another girl while I’m gone... he’ll have to get another girl while I’m gone... Will he want me back?”

“Of course he will, Nydia. He won’t be able to find anyone nearly as bright or pretty as you.” Firmly telling herself the same thing: he’s not going to leave you. He’s not going to find someone better while you’re gone,, she led the girl to the door before Taro knocked a hole in it.

Nydia wiped her face and followed along without another word.

“What took you so long?” Taro asked as the door opened. “C’mon, it’s chow time!”

“Girl stuff,” Kai told him, straight-faced. “We were painting our nails.”

“To impress the rocks?” he laughed. “Let’s go.”

Taro, at least, seemed to be having no such difficulties. Was it because he hadn’t been with Mea as long, or because there was no Ownership involved (or, presumably, pregnancies), or just because he was a guy? Kai frowned at his back as he plowed the way to the hotel restaurant, wondering how the others were standing it.

DJ was already there with the rest of their not-cy’ree. Wren and Caity weren’t Owned or Owners - or pregnant, she thought - but Renata was Kept, she recalled. She headed towards the blonde girl, still holding on to Nydia’s hand.

“Morning,” she mumbled around her food. A huge spread covered her plate, seeming more appropriate for a hard-working farmer’s breakfast than the lithe girl. It looked surprisingly appetizing, and Kai frowned at herself. She might not be Nydia, but she didn’t want to turn into a pig, either.

“Good morning,” she managed.

“Have a seat, get yourself some food. This is pretty good.”

She looked over Renata’s spread, and hazarded a guess, considering how her own stomach was growling. “Pregnant?”

She looked confused for a moment, then glanced down at her food, and back up sheepishly. “Oh. Yeah. I’m eating for three.”

“Three?” Kai smiled at her. “Me, too.” It seemed more innocuous, thinking about it that way.

“Yeah? That’s cool. Get this craziness done with, right?”

And that was even more innocuous. She smiled warmly. “Yeah. I’m not looking forward to May and June, though.”

“Yeah, but Rafe’ll help me with everything, he says.”

She nodded. So, Rafe’s babies. “We’ll be right back, but if we don’t hurry, Taro will eat everything.”

“He probably would,” Ren giggled, before turning her attention back to her food.

Smirking, Kai led Nydia over to the buffet, where Taro was, indeed, loading his plate with food.

“You don’t think I should eat like her, do you?,” Nydia asked, vaguely horrified.

“Are you pregnant with twins?” she countered.

“No! I mean... I don’t think so? God, I hope not.”

“Then let’s just try to get a third of your iron in you,” Kai coaxed. “A nice, light, healthy breakfast?”

“Light sounds good. Okay. A healthy breakfast,” she nodded.

Kai coached the girl through something heavy on the nutrition but less calorie-dense, while setting up a plate for herself that split the difference between Nydia’s breakfast and Renata’s. While sitting down to eat, she pondered her fruit juice.

“This is really going to change everything,” she murmured. Having babies. Twins.

“I hope not,” Nydia murmured. “Being away from him…”


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