"Merry Christmas, hon." The waitress, Ylva thought, felt bad for her; at least, she'd been letting her sit there for hours nursing one cup of cocoa, all she had change for right now. "Here, we're gonna throw the soup out anyway, have a little."
"Thanks," she murmured, wrapping her hands around the soup. "My first Christmas present," she whispered, as the waitress left.
"Now that is worth celebrating." A tall, muscular woman thumped down onto the stool next to her. "Maybe with that chocolate silk pie?"
Ylva eyed her appraisingly as best she could without turning to stare. She looked strong, and her voice was confident; an independent woman, used to taking care of herself. Her clothes were utilitarian and matter-of-fact: a sweater over a flannel shirt, jeans and work boots. Ylva quickly cycled through reasons such a person might be being nice to her. Maybe the stranger was hitting on her? She put on a bit of a smile and nodded slightly. "I'd like that."
"You look like you could use it." She flagged down the waitress and ordered a meal and two slices of pie. "I'm Greta Broadleaf, by the way."
Broadleaf? That wasn't a typical name; was it a coincidence, or was this person more than she appeared? Could she risk using her real name?
"Ylva," she mumbled. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
"Ylva," she smiled. "I knew a Ylva once, a long time ago. It means 'she-wolf,' did you know that?"
"I did, actually." And the fact that she did also meant the coincidence was becoming less likely.
"Does it fit you better than what my father saddled me with?" she asked playfully. "Greta means 'pearl.'"
"That's kind of pretty?" Maybe, maybe she was still just being hit on. She dipped a toe in the water to find out, glancing at Greta just so as she spoke.
"It is. I've always wondered what he was thinking, seeing me, and naming me that." The big woman wasn't at all unattractive, just built on a really large scale, sort of like the Hunter who had taken her from her home, and the Mara that had kidnapped her from her next home.
"It's not that unsuitable, really," she tried, weakly, torn between the food that she could smell coming and the risk. Was this another Mara? Another Hunter?
"I'm that little sand of irritation," she agreed cheerfully. "Here's your pie, Ylva."
"Thank you," she replied earnestly, the automated force of habit coming to the fore.
They both dug into the food with gusto; Greta, Ylva noticed, ate just as eagerly, as if she, too, hadn't had a good meal in a while. When the last crumbs of pie had been tucked away, the big woman began again, this time in a softer, more serious voice.
"What brings you to Calgary, Ylva?"
"The bus," she replied frankly. How best to make her escape, now?
Greta seemed to read her intention. "Relax," she murmured. "I swear to you I mean you no harm or ill-will."
Somehow that wasn't very reassuring. Tyrell hadn't meant her ill-will either, the cretin. "Thank you, but I'll just be going, now."
"Just a few minutes?" She pushed the rest of her dinner in Ylva's direction. "Here, in public?"
Her instincts were screaming to run, to get out now while she still could, but they couldn't overpower the argument of her stomach, which insisted that pie wouldn't get her far on the road. She snatched up her fork, eyeing Greta warily.
The other woman - a Mara, she was sure of it, although less stupid that the others she'd met, so far - kept her hands in plain sight, casually resting them on the counter. "Are you running to, or from?"
That was a good question. She chewed it over, more than the food she was gulping down.
"Why do I have to be running?"
"Well, you're ill-equipped for wandering, and you're clearly not staying in one place. That leaves running."
"I guess you could kind of say both, then."
"Who from?" the woman asked sympathetically.
They were only names; how much harm could it be, really? But, what was the answer? One, at least, she was certain of.
"A man named Tyrell."
"Tyrell." Greta nodded slowly. "I know a man with that name. More heart than sense, that one. And who are you running to?"
"C..." Well, she was, wasn't she? "Caspian."
"Hrmm." Now the woman was frowning in earnest . "That sounds like a story. I'll pay for a motel for the night - no funny business - and a bus ticket if you'll tell me your tale."
"You promise?" she asked, trying not to sound as vulnerable as she felt.
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