Another snippet of my upcoming novel, The Girl in the Fountain. Out 7/15!
“How did you know how to do that?”
Amanda’s start tells her everything. It was instinctive. Sophie gets the sense Amanda is usually very measured, every word, every movement, cautious the way so many of the wealthy are raised to be, so many of the tourists that pass through this tiny mountain village with their soft-speech and careful hands… But for all that, for all she seems surprised every time, Amanda seems to frequently forget her measured ways here. Maybe that’s precisely why she’s stayed so long.
Finally she mutters, so lost in memory now that she doesn’t even flinch when Sophie moves the alcohol-soaked swab to the next cut… “My grandfather is a hunter.”
“Snares?” Sophie asks. Usually a fox hunt has a little more excitement involved, so she hears. She always thought it was the bloodthirsty chase the rich enjoyed.
“No,” Amanda murmurs. “But we came across creatures more than a few times that had gotten themselves caught up. Groundskeeper liked to set snares along the fences. If they weren’t dead by the time we got there, grandfather would always shoot them.”
It’s Sophie who starts back this time, but Amanda’s eyes are full of sad understanding. Her voice, when it finally comes again, sounds far heavier than the moment should warrant. The tone tells Sophie that there is more to the words than their mere syllables, what a dictionary would insist this moment means.
“I don’t like suffering,” Amanda… confesses. “I don’t like lording over someone, or something, knowing I get to choose how much they hurt, whether they live or die.” She looks almost… embarrassed when she meets Sophie’s eyes. “I can’t stand the sight of blood. I mean, I don’t faint or get sick or anything. But I can’t stand it. It’s your life trickling down the outside of you. It’s meant to be in you. It’s not meant for anyone else but you.”
Sophie can only shrug, unsure, offer, “I don’t really do too well with blood myself.” She gestures to the cotton balls already discarded in the trash, to Amanda’s still red-speckled face. “I have this irresistible urge to clean it up as quickly as possible.”
But Amanda’s laughter is sharp. She says, “My grandfather can’t stand suffering either. The difference between us,” she explains, “between a hunter, at least a good one, and a healer,” she gestures to Sophie, “is just how we think it’s best to end one’s suffering. We freed that fox today. So she could leave a bloody trail, limping back to her den. So maybe she’ll get to spend the next few months struggling to raise her kits, almost certainly lose one or two to predators, maybe succumb, if not to blood loss then to infection herself… The hunter would argue a bullet to the brain is more merciful.”
“I don’t believe that.”
Sophie shakes her head. “No one has the right to make that choice for you. If that vixen wants, she can lie down and die any time. There are plenty of things in the forest that would be happy to catch her in a moment off guard or she can just leave that paw to fester. But she ran off straight away when we set her free. That’s her choice.”
Amanda’s eyes have somehow shifted to a darker shade and she catches Sophie’s hand as she pulls back with the final cotton ball, falling with a dull thud into the trashcan.
“If you were the vixen,” she murmurs, “you’d want to be let go, bloody paw and all?”
There’s no hesitation in her answer. The hesitation comes later when Sophie realizes that Amanda explained away her knowledge of snares well enough, but the explanation itself was something strange, wasn’t it? Sophie gets the nagging sense Amanda has told her a deep, dark secret.
But what is it?