Realizing she had no other choice, she slowly turned. A man, a couple of inches taller than her and with a small pack over his shoulder, stood dripping wet before her. He appeared sturdy and there was a kindness in his face and a magnetism in his eyes. Unsure of who he was or to which side he belonged, she returned his greeting,
Noticing that she had stepped back from him, he offered an introduction.
“I did not mean to startle you. My name is Leal. I have been traveling since my home was destroyed in the fighting.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” she said, the words delivered without any feeling. Ordinarily, Victoire would have been more compassionate, but caution was no longer ever too abundantly used.
“Thank you.” Apparently, he had not noted the curtness in her voice. The rain gathered in little pools on the brim of his shabby cap and ran down the side of his face. Still uncertain of why he had interrupted her evening, they stood looking at each other.
“What is it that you wanted?” she said.
“I was hoping you might direct me toward the church.” This she had not expected.
“It is on the other side of town.”
“Much obliged.” He tipped his hat to her, sending a splash of water onto his coat.
Victoire turned to walk inside and then, as though there was a second hand on her shoulder— invisible this time, she stopped. Struck by inspiration, she turned back toward him.
Are you that Leal? Are you the Leal that we’ve been watching for two years? We did think that you were in this area.
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