Caris came back alone, leaving Dee to help Jem pack things up at the market. She stalked into the room and seized the cloth out of Bee's hands. She watched as Zed's body tensed with the shivering, then ordered everyone out of the room. Sparrow and Bee joined Tekla and Rat in the courtyard outside.
"Is Zed gonna be alright?" Tekla asked, holding one of the chickens.
Bee didn't say anything.
"Yeah, of course." Sparrow said, after a pause. "Caris will help him."
"Oh, that's good." Tekla said, and returned to stroking the chicken.
Sparrow paced the length of the courtyard, her arms folded and head bowed. Maybe Zed wouldn't have got sick if only they'd stayed at the other Outsider settlement. And maybe now Zed would be too sick to continue on. They'd been here almost a week, and he'd got worse, not better. And summer was over now, despite the few nice days, and autumn would only bring more rain and cold weather.
They heard the trundle of the cart and soon Dee and Jem appeared back from the market. Jem's face turned to a worried frown when she saw them all waiting outside. She told Dee to wait with the others and went inside.
At last Caris came and told them they could come in. "But quietly, mind. He's sleeping for now."
They filed silently through the front room into the kitchen and sat down around the table. Jem ladled out soup into bowls. They picked up their spoons and began to eat mechanically, until Caris joined them and everyone broke out into questions.
She held up her hands in protest and waited for them to quieten down. "I've given him something to help him sleep. He should be over the worst now."
"He was shivering so badly it was like he was having a fit!" Sparrow said, "It was horrible to watch."
"He did have a fit," Caris replied. "That's what happens when your temperature is too high and your body can't regulate it."
They stared at her blankly. She sighed. "He got too warm and his body didn't know what to do."
"I tried to cool him down," Bee said, "And we gave him some cold water to drink."
"But he's going to be alright now, isn't he?" Sparrow asked.
Caris looked across at Jem. "It's too early to say. We'll know more in the morning. Now eat your soup and go to bed, the lot of you."
Over the next few days, Zed slowly began to get better. Sparrow began to think about leaving. She packed and re-packed their bags several times, trying to make them as light as possible. Reluctantly, she left out the book of stories that Jem had given her. She'd already read it several times over anyway, sometimes reading aloud to the others before they went to sleep at night, if there was a stub of candle to be spared.
If Caris and Jem noticed her preparations, they said nothing. Although Jem did mention that the weather seemed to be taking a turn for the worse. Sparrow cleaned and checked over their collection of footwear and realised that something needed to be done. Zed couldn't carry on wearing sandals through autumn, and Dee's canvas shoes had holes in. She found some tape to patch the holes, but the sandal problem would need some thought.
"Where can I get boots?" she asked Caris one morning over breakfast, "Waterproof ones."
"There's a trader over by the market square that might have something..." Caris mused, "but there's no guarantee."
Breakfast over, Sparrow made her way over to where the market had been held. It was empty, apart from a group of children kicking around a ball made from a bundle of fabric. The ball ran across Sparrow's path and she kicked it back towards them before pushing open the door to the clothing trader.
Inside it was dark and musty smelling. The opening door knocked a bell that clanged loudly. Once her eyes adjusted she could make out clothes hangers dangling from the low ceiling, tables with piles of clothes and fabric, and a light coming from the far corner of the room.
"Can I help you?" The trader looked as if he clothed himself from his shop stock, wearing a jumble of colours and patterns as he lurched forward into to the main body of the shop.
"Yes, I'm looking for shoes...boots - waterproof ones." Sparrow said.
"Hm, I might have some around - check underneath the tables..." The man waved a hand vaguely towards the tables and retreated into the back of the room.
Sparrow knelt down on the dusty floor and peered into the darkness. She saw a battered cardboard box and pulled it out into the light. Inside was a jumble of different items of footwear, some tied together by their laces. She reached into the box and found one rubber boot that would fit Zed, but try as she might, she couldn't find another, despite searching through the entire box. She pushed the box back and reached for the other one. Right on top was the other rubber boot. Grabbing the pair, she scrambled to her feet and took them over to the shop owner.
She held them up. "How much for these?"
He looked up from his repair work and glanced at the boots. "Footwear is five bits."
Sparrow shoved the boots forward, "But there's a tear in the rubber!"
"Four bits then...and I'll give you a patch for them." He reached up to a wooden cabinet by his side and opened a little drawer. He took out a rubber patch and held out a hand for the torn boot. Sparrow passed it over, and he glued the patch in place. "Don't let it get wet for three hours now or the glue won't stick right."
Stepping out into the square again, Sparrow saw that the kids had stopped playing for the moment and were sitting down on the ground. They waved her over, but she shook her head and held up the bag with the boots. Caris wanted her to do some errands while she was out.
Sparrow felt easier in her mind now that she'd got Zed's footwear sorted. She didn't want to leave Caris and Jem with too many things to do once she and Tekla had gone. She felt guilty enough about leaving the others behind. It was the right thing to do though, she was sure now. Zed would have time to recover properly, and Bee seemed happier not moving around all the time. Dee would be able to play - like those kids in the square - and Em...well, she'd learn to be more Em and less Rat.