“And your dad made you learn all this when you were five?” Stephen’s gestured covered the hydroponics room.
Sasha shrugged. “Supposed to teach us self reliance.”
Stephen scratched his eyebrow. “Or give him more time to gamble.”
She snorted. “Either way, it worked out.”
Stephen shook his head. “Alone for five years. I can’t imagine. Where’d you get clothes?”
She peered down at her faded corduroy jacket. “He wasn’t a big man. I did his mending before he left. Not that hard to tailor.”
His gaze on her felt heavy with the pity. She studied the fish tank instead, let the burbling oxygen pump wash away silence. The tank held her finest crop of trout yet, a hard won victory after nearly losing the first crop—her only protein supply at the time.
Stephen turned to the window, surveying the forest crowding the treehouse. “Were you lonely?”
Time to kill the pity. She met his gaze with a sharp one of her own.
“Why would I be? Being my own company was the first thing I learned.”
“People aren’t reliable, Stephen. You’ll learn that someday.” She turned to the row of tomato plants, examining the leaves for blight. Growth, soil, fish crops—these she could predict and trust. She’d learned them.
The man behind her, one whose shoulders brushed her door frames and boots creaked her solid wooden floor, she couldn’t learn him.
Did she want to try?