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Pearson Mary E, “The kiss of deception”, public translation into English from English More about this translation.

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We proceeded forward, though I wasn’t sure either of us breathed. The soldiers were laughing with each other, their horses moving at a leisurely pace. A cart driven by another soldier lumbered behind them.

They never glanced our way, and Pauline delivered a relieved sigh after they passed. “I forgot. Dried and smoked fish. They come once a month from an eastern outpost for supplies, but mostly for fish.”

“Only once a month?” I whispered.

“I think so.”

“Then our timing is good. We won’t have to worry about them again for a while. Not that they’d know me anyway.”

Pauline took a moment to survey me and then pinched her nose. “No one would know you, except perhaps the swine back home.”

As if on cue, Otto hawed at her remark, making us both laugh, and we raced for a warm bath.

I held my breath as Pauline knocked on the small back door of the inn. It immediately swung open, but only the brief wave of a woman’s arm greeted us as she rushed away and yelled over her shoulder, “Put it over there! On the block!” She was already back at a huge stone hearth, using a wooden paddle to pull flat bread from the oven. Pauline and I didn’t move, which finally caught the woman’s attention. “I said to—”

She turned and frowned when she saw us. “Hmph. Not here with my fish, eh? A couple of mumpers, I suppose.” She motioned to a basket by the door. “Grab an apple and a biscuit and be on your way. Come back after the rush, and I’ll have some hot stew for you.” Her attention was already elsewhere, and she yelled to someone who called to her from the front room of the inn. A tall, gangly boy stumbled through a swinging door with a burlap cloth in his arms, the tail of a fish wagging out the end. “Loafhead! Where’s my cod? I’m to make stew with a crappie?” She grabbed the fish from him anyway, slapped it down on the butcher block, and with one decisive chop, whacked its head off with a cleaver. I guessed the crappie would do.

So this was Berdi. Pauline’s amita. Her auntie. Not a blood aunt, but the woman who had given Pauline’s mother work and a roof over her head when her husband had died and the bereft widow had a small infant to feed.

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