After the Siege
She carried water that day. She'd expected to be balancing buckets over her shoulders like in the schoolbooks, but they fitted her with a bubble-suit that distributed the weight over her whole body and then filled it up with a hose until she weighed nearly twice what she normally did. Other kids were in the stairwells wearing identical bubble-suits, sloshing up the steps to old peoples' flats that smelled funny. The old women and men that Valentine saw that day pinched her cheeks and then emptied out her bubble-suit into their cisterns.
It was exhausting work, and by the end of the day she had stopped making even perfunctory conversation with the other water-carriers. The old people she met at the day's end were bitter about being left alone and thirsty all day, and they snapped at her and didn't thank her at all.
She picked Trover up from the creche, and he demanded that he be carried, and she had half a mind to toss him down the stairs. But she noticed that he had a b