That broke the spell, and she resumed walking, fantasising about resting her head. It was at least another hour’s walk to the shelter, and by the time she got there, she’d be lucky to get more than a few hours of sleep before Kihri would be chomping at the bit, but it was better than nothing.

Which, if she was being honest, had been the the running theme of their life for quite a while.

The safest route back into the city was to follow the highway as it curved around the industrial district. It wasn’t the shortest route, not even close, but cutting straight through the steelworks and past the factories was just asking to get robbed, murdered, raped, or all three. Instead, she walked along the bank of the slightly-elevated highway, low enough that she wasn’t easily visible to the passing cars, but high enough for their light to spill over and let her see where she was putting her feet. The last thing she needed was some ‘good samaritan’ spotting her and pulling over. Even if they were genuine, there would be questions, ones with answers that people didn’t tend to like.

No, walking was the best choice. And it wasn’t like she wasn’t good at it – apart from occasional rides on buses or trains when she could spare the fare (and a few ones where she couldn’t), she walked everywhere. Kihri sometimes joked that she’d learn to sleep while walking, like a horse. To which, of course, Zarah would reply that horses can’t do that, and then the whole thing would devolve into an argument about whether either of them had ever seen a horse in real life and whether that mattered.

The memory lifted her mood a little, but mostly it just made her feel lonely.

A horn suddenly blared out from behind her, interrupting her thoughts, and she spun around frantically, just in time to see a small car speeding towards her.

The noise of the car and the wind made it too hard to hear properly, but Zarah could recognise a few words; none of them pleasant, all of them familiar.

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