“What did you expect me to do?” Hana shifted uncomfortably and Harlowe was very aware that her sister was still hurt. Perhaps now was not the right time to get into this with her, another one of her Great Big Sister Mistakes, but it was too late to back out now. They were into it, and Harlowe was going to hear it. “You were gone, Lowe. The farm is good, just like it’s always been, but there were complications, and the small allowance I got for my potential wasn’t making ends meet anymore. So, I made a deal. Specific, localized training, only on a day to day basis that allowed me to come home and do the farm books every night.” Hana shrugged, checking the bandages on her side, before looking back up at her sister. “They raised my allowance, not as much as if I was a full trainee, but more so then the basic potential allowance. It let me handle the books of the house without having to work in The Inn, and, to be perfectly honest, the fact that they trained me well enough to save your life in the last ten days, in case you forgot, means that it was more than worth it to me. Be as mad as you want, but I’m okay with my choices.”
“I just don’t understand. The Sisterhood made you sick, so sick when you were a kid. The farm has always paid for itself even if it doesn’t always turn a profit, and you only had to feed yourself and Mom. Why would you have to turn to The Sisterhood to make ends meet?”
For the first time, Hana did look just a little guilty. She looked up at her sister and it was almost like she was instantly seven years old again, the little girl who had just broken Harlowe’s favorite toy. And now, Harlowe didn’t want to hear the answer. Nothing good ever game from Hana looking guilty.
“It wasn’t—I mean, there were a couple of storms. Some buildings had to be fixed to keep the farm in working condition, and I had to hire a little bit of extra help one season because a cold snap came early and we had to get stuff in before it died in the field. And a few other complications…”
“The farm has a savings account for exactly those things. Unless every building was torn to the ground every year I was gone—what are these other complications.”
Hana sighed, winced, and stared at her hands, now folded in her lap. “Mom got sick. Like Dad.”
Harlowe sat down hard on the couch near Hana’s stretched out knees. “What? When? How bad?”
“Thirteen months into your long leave. It was nothing at first, and then it was the world ending—it really was like Dad all over again. But then she started to get better—and she only got better because I dumped a lot of money at the problem, and I mean a lot. It wasn’t what Dad had, but it would have killed her if I hadn’t brought in the best of the best. I destroyed the non-property side of our inheritance but I figured since I was saving our mother you might be able to forgive me. I am trying to build back the savings, hopefully I’ll be able to give you the same amount you would have gotten when Mom finally dies of old age. Of course I can’t make any promises, but I am trying.” Hana insisted looking back up at Harlowe eagerly now.
Harlowe waved a hand at her sister. “Hana, shut up about the money. Mom was sick? When? Why didn’t—“
“I contact you and tell you to come home?” Hana completed for her, a cruel laugh escaping her lips. The tables had turned and Harlowe was the bad guy again. “Harlowe, we didn’t know where you were. You were gone, been gone for over a year. And even if I had been able to contact you—you were in the middle of your training for the badging. If you had left, you never could have reapplied, you never could have made it to this job that you clearly love so much. If you had been given the option to come home to sit at the side of a sick bed and watch another parent die instead of going for this badging, do you honestly believe that you would? Because I don’t. I don’t think you would have come home even if I could get a message to you.” Hana rubbed a hand over her eyes. She looked more tired than a woman her age had any right to be. When she spoke again, it was gentler. “And I’m not blaming you, Harlowe, I’m really not. To be honest, I wouldn’t have come back if I were the one away. No one wants to destroy their future to watch a parent die. But it is what it is. And I did what I had to do. So—let’s move past it. Can I get some sleep now?”
“Yes. Yes, of course.” Harlowe jumped off the end of the couch, “Do you need help to get laying down?”
“No. I’m okay. Thanks for the offer though.” Hana answered distractedly, already fussing with the bedding wrapped around her.
“Yeah,” Harlowe watched as her sister readjusted the blankets around herself, carefully moving so that she didn’t reinjure herself or tear off any bandages. When Hana was finally settled, she decided to push her luck. “Hey Hana?”
“I would have come back. For you. It wouldn’t have been just my mother might be dying, but also my sister could use some help.”
“No, you wouldn’t have.” Harlowe sometimes wished that her sister would lie to her. But Hana was smiling nonetheless. “But thank you for thinking you might.”