Anna crossed her arms resolutely and looked defiantly at Marie. Marie ignored her glare and continued throwing dried food into a pair of brown canvas packs.
“It's for your own good, Anna. I can't keep you here knowing where you belong.”
“She's right, Anna,” said Jacques, pouring himself another rum while Marie wasn't looking. “You have to go home.” He sipped from the glass until Marie turned around, then hid it behind the bottle with an expression of mature authority on his face.
“No buts. We're going.” Marie grabbed a loaf of hard crusted bread and turned back to her packing. Jacques pulled the glass out again. “And Jacques, that's your last glass of rum. No more.” He disappointedly sipped it as he listened to their conversation.
“What about the tavern?” Anna protested, hoping to appeal to Marie's business sense.
“It's not going anywhere. We are.”
“But who'll take care of it?”
“Jacques.” She wrapped a pair of candles in thick cloth, completely ignoring Jacques as he sputtered through a mouthful of rum.
“Me? Marie, be reasonable! I can't take care of a big place like this, I'm no good at cooking, or cleaning, or...”
“You'll learn. There's no substitute for practice.”
“Let's discuss this, please, think about what you're saying!”
“Marie, do you really trust Jacques with a building full of ale?” Anna pointed out, smirking.
Jacques suddenly became a great deal more interested in the job. “I suppose I could take care of the place for a few weeks, sacrificial and all that.”
Marie stopped short in the middle of folding a blanket. “Good grief, no. No. I don't.”
“Come on, don't you trust good old Jacques?” Jacques pleaded, setting his rum down on the table.
She looked him straight in the eye. “Do I really need to answer that?”
“No,” he said, after some consideration. “No, I don't suppose you do.”
“So who will take care of the tavern?” asked Anna, self satisfaction in her voice.
Marie thought long and hard. “No one.”
“What?” Jacques and Anna said in dismayed unison.
“I said no one. We'll close the tavern while we're gone.”
“I said no buts, Anna.” She grabbed a canteen and tossed it to Anna.
“You too, Jacques? We're going, the tavern's closing. You'll survive.” She paused for a moment. “On second thought...”
“Yes?” the other two blurted expectantly.
“You're coming with us.”
Anna put her forehead in her hands while Jacques tried to talk his way out of it.
“But... It's such a trip, and... I just got back into town. Er... I need to put the finishing touches on those maps I did on my recent travels.”
“Oh, come off it. You don't have anything better to do, you never stay in town long anyway, and you told me that you finished those maps yesterday after you left.”
“But I was in such a state after hearing the news about Anna, I might have made a mistake!”
“You're not that much better now. Besides, we need a guide. There might be some free rum in it for you when we get back.”
“Oh, well, in that case,” Jacques stood and gave an elaborate bow. “Jacques Q. Redstone, expert guide and mapmaker at your service, madame.”
Anna sighed. Two against one again.
“I heard that, Anna.” Marie turned from her packing and looked Anna straight in the eyes. “Really, what reason do you have not to want to go home?”
“Well...” she stammered, looking at the floor. “Um...”
“Yes?” said Marie expectantly.
“Oh... Well, that would explain it. You're afraid he'll come looking for you while you're not here?”
“Who's Micheal?” asked Jacques confusedly.
“Yes,” said Anna in response to Marie's question. “I have to stay here, or he'll never find me...”
“So who's Micheal?”
“It's not later yet,” said Marie, not taking her eyes off Anna.
“It's kinda later...”
“I said later, I meant later. Not kinda later, later. Now be quiet.”
Jacques sulked. “Fine, madame grumpy.”
Marie ignored him and placed a hand on Anna's shoulder. “Anna, think about it. Where's he most likely to check, someplace he's never been and never heard of, namely here, or your home, where, as you tell it, you were going when you were separated?”
Anna thought about it for a moment. “He... would probably go to Red Grove.” She looked up, tears welling in her eyes. “But what if he does come here?”
“We can't live our lives waiting for what ifs, Anna. We have to do something, or we won't live at all.” She waited a moment longer for a response, then sighed, and offered another option. “We could leave something here to tell him where you've gone, just in case he does show up here.”
“Yes, I'll leave that to you. Why don't you go figure out something while I finish packing.”
She thought for a moment. “I know what to do.”
Anna watched Marie stuffing the sacks full of rations for a moment, then spoke up. “You probably shouldn't put the bread there, it'll get flattened the instant you set the pack down.”
“Really? Where should I put it then?”
“Right here.” Anna placed the bread on top of the mass in the pack. “It's easier to reach there too.”
“Well,” Marie smiled. “I suppose you know more about this than I do. Carry on, then.”
The two continued packing in silence for a few moments longer before Jacques finally piped up.
“Is it later now?”