The Proposal (part 50)

“The Counsel isn’t going to ship people from the home planet to mine for minerals, Nev,” Ayn had said. “That’s crazy.”
“Consider the source,” Nev said.

If she didn’t know any better, Ayn would think that Nev were the crazy one. But he wasn’t. He was the smartest person, besides her parents, that she knew. He was just intense. Always intense. Constantly looking for what he called the “underside” of things—the parts people didn’t want to talk about or even think about. She’d always secretly admired him for that, but had never taken his stories seriously. But now things were different. She sidled closer to Professor Chirwnoff, who was continuing with the conversation about the mines, “…levels we’ve seen. Remarkable, really. Hyarzden is making some incredible … oh, hello, Ayn,” he said, finally noticing her. He smiled at her with full, wet lips, and wiped the sweat from his forehead with a cloth handkerchief he took from a coat pocket.

“Hi,” she said, “what were you saying, about the mines?”

“Oh, nothing,” Professor Chirwnoff sputtered.

“That wasn’t about mines,” Professor Fleidkzwer said. He looked at Professor Chirwnoff. “It was about—”

“Nothing for you to worry yourself about,” Lettie said, suddenly at Ayn’s side, and steering her by the arms away from the living room.

Ayn struggled to free her arms, but the iron-haired woman dug her fingernails harder into her flesh when she did.

“What are you doing?” she hissed, once they were out of sight of the others.

“Saving you from making a very big mistake,” Lettie said, steering her to the office.

“What does that mean?” Ayn could feel bruises forming on her arms.

Lettie’s response was to walk faster.

The sound of Zoe’s whining and scratching on the door came through her bedroom door as they passed it, and headed for the closed office door at the end of the hall. “Let go of me. Where’s Dad?”

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