”If you can’t write about other people’s lives, write about your own.”
“What if your life is upsetting?”
“Oh, especially then.”
“They said on the news that Tapa kills babies,” says Taz, over his vegetables. He doesn’t grimace when the food touches his mouth, but he does wash it down with more water than usual. “If they don’t have a credit. Then the baby dies.”
“That’s how they do things in Tapa,” says Kita. “Eat your vegetables.”
“You’re doing a good job of eating them,” I say, a little lamely. “That’s good. The healthier you are, the better you’ll be at lots of things.”
Taz looks pointedly at me. I have not answered the question he didn’t ask. He eats his vegetables.
“I do think the bread is a little dry,” says Liet, ignoring Taz entirely. She starts talking about how one goes about keeping bread from drying out. Taz kicks the legs of his chair, like he wishes he could get up but is too well-mannered to leave in the middle of dinner. “It’s especially important to be careful with your food during war, you know. When I was a girl, we all had to be very careful about what food we ate. I don’t remember if there was rationing, only that we had to be very careful. And everyone was always talking about the war. I do hope they manage to avoid any intentional mass killings this time. Every third blue was killed, you know. Even the children.”
Taz pushes away from the table and yells “I’d like to be excused” when he’s already halfway down the hallway to his room.
Liet continues talking about her childhood as she finishes his vegetables.
”What if you don’t know what to say? I mean, if you say something, it’s supposed to be meaningful or profound or interesting or something.”
”It will be. If you’re honest, it will be.”
“Are they gonna kill Ves?” asks Taz, curled up on his bed and staring at the far wall of his room. It isn’t really his room at all. Ves’s cradle is situated against the other wall, and my sleeping bag is rolled up underneath it. One bedroom in this whole apartment. You don’t make so much, shelving books or cleaning up after other people. “She won’t have a credit. It said they kill babies without credits.”
“Tapai forces aren’t going to reach this far from the border,” I say, calmly. It’s important to appear certain. I sit down on the edge of the bed and put a hand on his shoulder. He ignores me, but doesn’t pull away.
“But if they did get here somehow,” he presses.
“They haven’t promised not to kill infants. Some people near the border are concerned about it. But the areas near the Tapai border are miles and miles away. If the Tapai soldiers were marching for us, we would have advance warning, and I would take you and Ves somewhere safe.”
“That’s what mom said.”
“Then she kept her word. She sent you here, and I’ll do everything I can to keep you safe. Promise.”
“Mhmm. Forever and ever.”
He’s silent for a bit. He kicks at his comforter, balled up at the foot of the bed. “Still think we should build the statues,” he says, and I can’t help laughing. It sounds only a little hysterical.
“How do you keep saying things when you’re pretty sure nobody’s listening?”
“My dear girl, someone is always listening.”