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Elsabet’s Speculations for Volume Two

Berlyne should never have taken up knitting. It was all Noah’s fault. He’d told them to bring something to do. The Novalog was not large, and being confined gets boring. Boredom messes with people’s heads. He’d told several unnecessarily gruesome stories from his past to illustrate his point. So both Alvarado girls, not wanting to go mad and dive into piranha-infested rivers, had brought something to do.

At first, Berlyne wasn’t sure what she wanted to bring. Chara had suggested raiding the library; after all, they couldn’t get caught. They were leaving the country and taking the librarian with them. But Berlyne had wanted something to keep her hands busy. She knew she could bring along her carving, but she wanted something more challenging.

Then she had found it. She was rummaging around in the attic, looking for anything that might come in handy on their voyage, when she discovered a box she had never seen before. Inside, there were three skeins of wool yarn, a handful of double-pointed needles and a pattern for a pair of socks. Berlyne had no idea where the box had come from. She thought it might have belonged to her mother. However, the box solved her problem. Now she had something to do.

True, the yarn wasn’t particularly nice—it was a dingy off-white—but there was plenty of it, and if she made herself a pair of socks, she could hide them inside her boots and no one would ever see them. It was also true that she hadn’t the faintest idea of how to knit, but after all, she had taught herself how to carve. How hard could it be?

Knitting was much harder than carving, as she soon found out. She had pinched a few books on knitting techniques from the library, but now, more than two weeks into their voyage, she hadn’t even completed the heel for one sock. The yarn was constantly getting tangled, she dropped countless stitches and she lost track of what row she was on. After restarting dozens of times, her patience was wearing as thin as her fraying yarn.

Because the cramped space of the “room” she shared with Chara bothered her, she was sitting on the deck, furiously chanting “Sl 1, p11, p2tog, p1. Turn,” under her breath, when Apen sat down next to her.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

Berlyne groaned. “Apen, look at this!” She stabbed the pattern savagely with a free knitting needle. “What on earth is ‘Taking needle one, K 18 sts from heel, then pick up and knit 18 sts on right side of heel flap’ supposed to mean?”

Apen stared down at the pattern, his brow furrowed in concentration. Finally he shook his head. “Um. I’m not sure. Maybe you need to take this piece and—”

“No. No, you don’t!”

Berlyne sighed, looking down at her knitting. Suddenly the tiny stitches were too much for her. The ridiculous abbreviated words were too much for her. The rough texture of the wool and the smooth texture of the wooden needles were too much for her. She let out a howl of frustration. Everyone on deck turned to stare at her. Noah, who was at the boat’s wheel, directed a glare her way. “Berlyne,” he said, “maybe you should try something easier, like a scarf.”

Berlyne drew the needles up against her chest, the partial sock that hung from them bunching in her grip. “I don’t want a scarf,” she said, her tone dangerously calm. “I want a pair of socks!”

“Well, for the sanity of the rest of us, relax a little,” Noah snapped.

“Apen,” said Berlyne, picking up the working yarn and knitting stitch, “Tell him to back off.”

Apen shrugged and turned to Noah. “Back off.”

Noah glowered down at him with a look that Apen interpreted to mean Shut up, Pipsqueak. He turned back to Berlyne just as she stood up. With smooth, unhurried movements, she ripped the partial sock off the needles and threw it, and the needles, into the box, followed by the pattern (which she first tore into tiny shreds). She then tossed the box unceremoniously over the starboard side of the Novalog and dusted off her hands. “For my sanity, as well as the sanity of the rest of you,” she announced, “I have given up knitting. Where are my carving knives?”

She found them in a box—with an assortment of wood blocks—under her new “bed.” She was reaching for a block of linden when, in a fold of her blanket, she caught sight of an abandoned knitting needle. She picked it up, intending to snap it, but paused. She stared at it thoughtfully for a few moments, then shook her head and put the needle in her pocket.


Author’s Note: I think Berlyne would eventually use that last needle to fend off a bad-guy. Anyone who has ever got a knitting needle shoved into their ribs knows that it hurts. Berlyne may have eventually reconciled herself to knitting after realizing that the needles were such handy little weapons, and churned out dozens of hats, scarves, sashes, shawls, sweaters, jackets, hoodies—and yes, even socks.