The next morning Karen pushed Lydia into a chair in front of the dressing table in their room.
“Right. How do you want your hair for the meeting?” she asked.
Lydia scowled at her. “Does it matter? We’re there as backup, not to make a good impression.”
“Of course it matters!” Karen said. “They won’t know we’re there as backup so we need to look like we’re there to observe.”
“What does observing have to do with my–” Lydia broke off with a sigh. “Never mind. Just do what you think. I really don’t care.”
“Okay.” Karen began brushing her hair. “At least you’ve been combing it recently. I’ve put some fresh clothes out for you as well. Don’t worry, they are practical. We might have to fight after all.”
“I hope not,” Lydia said. “The situation is bad enough without us fighting each other.”
Karen nodded seriously. “I think that’s why our enemies are trying to turn the others against us.” She sighed heavily and put down the hairbrush. “I hope Adrian and Julie are right about doing this.”
“I think they are,” Lydia said. “At least my stomach isn’t churning in a way that would suggest it isn’t.”
“That doesn’t mean it will go well, though,” Karen said. “Just that not doing it would be worse.”
“I know,” Lydia said. “I’d be very surprised if it went well. Are you done with my hair? It looks neat enough and I want breakfast.”
“Well it doesn’t look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards any more,” Karen said. “Get dressed and let’s go down.”
Sonia was placing piles of toast and a large bowl of scrambled eggs on the table when they reached the dining room.
“I’m afraid that we’re out of bacon and fresh milk, and goodness knows when we’ll be able to get more,” she said. “Thank goodness I thought to bring some powdered milk and the school has its own chickens or we’d be down to toast and black tea.”
“And at that we’d be better off than some of the people on the news,” Matthias said. “Food still isn’t getting through to supermarkets and it’s making the rioting worse. Which is making the logistical issues worse.”
“A vicious circle.” Lydia sat down at the table and began spooning the eggs onto her plate, then stopped and buried her face in her hands. “People are going to starve if something isn’t done. Is there nothing we can do?”
“I’m thinking about it,” Matthias said. “But with the government out to get us it’s not easy.”
“I know,” Lydia said. “It’s just…”
“It’s awful, yes,” Sonia said. “It’s better in some places where communities are pulling together. The news showed one town where people moved quickly to bring all the non-perishable food from the local Tesco into a central point and are rationing it out. Apparently they even did a collection to pay for it. There’s no rioting there. Apparently some other places are doing the same thing but moved later so a lot of stuff was already looted.”
“I see.” Lydia stared at her plate for a long moment then began eating. “I still want to help. I don’t want people to starve.”
“We don’t either,” Matthias said. “So we’ll raise it if we can. Adrian and Julie’s bombshell might yet preclude that.”