Wilom slept in the next morning, late enough that Marc had already left for work, and when he finally emerged for breakfast, he found Cathlin sitting at a table with the morning mail, Jilli’s empty toast plate still sitting beside her.
Jilli herself was in her bedroom, entertaining herself contentedly with a sketchbook.
Wilom got a coffee and sat down.
After a moment, he realised that Cathlin hadn’t made any attempt at conversation yet. He glanced up.
No harm in a greeting.
“Morning,” he said.
Cathlin looked up. “Oh, sorry. Hello, Wilom. I thought you’d have already left for work.”
“No, not today,” Wilom said. Cathlin was too preoccupied to question further, so he wouldn’t need to think of an explanation.
Cathlin looked up at him. “Everything alright?”
Wilom cursed. “Yes, I’m fine. I’m just not awake yet.” She is stressed and troubled; do not give her any more to worry about. “You don’t look like you’re enjoying your mail.”
He squashed down the Ferryman’s Knowledge. He was too tired for this.
Cathlin let out a long breath and took another sip of coffee. “Not particularly.” She slid a small pile of the envelopes over to him. “Here. If they’re bad news, just put them aside and don’t tell me.”
Wilom opened up the first envelope and scanned the letter inside.
Space has already been let to another business. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.
We regret to inform you …
Unfortunately, we have no more stock to distribute. Should this change in the future, we will inform you immediately.
Wilom made his way through the entire pile, all form letters, all of them bad news. He quietly pushed the envelopes to the side, and went back to his coffee.
After a moment, Cathlin looked up, gave him a tired smile, and pushed aside the entire pile of envelopes and letters. She pulled her coffee closer and leaned back in her chair.
“Well, I’m glad that’s over,” she said. “I can enjoy my coffee now.”
Wilom looked up at her with a frown. “I don’t quite understand.”
Cathlin gave him a tired smile. “You’re never here of a morning, so I guess you haven’t seen it. This is sort of a morning ritual for me now. The earlier I get through all the rejection letters, the earlier I can get to the rest of my day.”
Wilom looked at the pile. “There are this many every day?”
Cathlin nodded. “Just about.”
She must have sent letters to nearly every company in the entire country. Wilom honestly wondered how many people she could possibly have left to contact at this point.
But he didn’t need the Ferryman’s Knowledge to know it would be a terrible idea to ask that question.
Jilli was about to come back in.
Cathlin looked up. “I’m done, honey,” she said. Wilom turned around, to see Jilli looking around the corner. Cathlin started piling up all the papers, and held out her hand for the ones Wilom had put aside.
He passed them over, and she dumped all of the papers in the waste basket.
Jilli carried her toy box out and emptied it onto the rug, separating all the soldiers out from the blocks and soft toys.
Wilom sighed and stood up. “I’ve got to do some more reading. Let me know if you need me for anything.”
“Will do. We’re going out later. Can you start dinner this evening?”
After his all-nighter, Wilom took the liberty of starting dinner early. Cathlin and Marc didn’t seem to mind, though. They were almost finished dinner when they were interrupted.
The first thing Wilom knew about the person at the door was that they were not coming to arrest him. Therefore, when they knocked a moment later, he was neither surprised nor particularly alarmed, though he made a bit of a show of both for the sake of appearances.
“Evening, sirs, madams,” the woman at the door — possibly a little older than Cathlin — said. “Do you have a moment to talk about the war front?”
Wilom had to stop himself from wincing at the sudden presence from Cathlin behind him. Marc’s reaction had been strong, but Cathlin’s sheer force of will drowned him out completely.
“What did you want?” Wilom cut in before her, before Cathlin could gather herself.
“I’m just here to ask if there is anyone here who would be interested in enlisting for the war effort. It’s not just the front lines — we need medics and manufacturers…”
“No, thanks,” Cathlin said coldly.
For the first time, the woman’s smile faltered, and she seemed to realise what she’d walked into.
“I think we’re all going to have to decline,” Wilom said firmly. Behind him, Marc nodded.
“Well, alright. Take a flier? It’s got contact details if you change your mind …”
At least she was courteous about it. Wilom took the flier and politely closed the door and saw her off. Out of curiosity he gave the flier a quick scan, but he’d barely got past the headings before Cathlin plucked it out of his fingers. Silently, she set it on fire in the stove, and watched it burn out in the sink.