Anna slammed the stone pestle into the mortar, her eyes blinded by tears. The afternoon sun beamed through the open servery hatch and lay in patches of light across the counter and work benches. Outside, the woman standing at the shop counter shifted the weight of the listless toddler in her arms and sighed. Behind her ramshackle shops and adobe houses squatted in a jumbled heap on the ridge across the empty street.
Dipping her head, Anna swiped the unshed tears from her eyes and continued to ground the dried bitterroot into a fine powder. Why was she the one to be sent away and not Nerra? Her pretty older sister was far more interested in boys and pretty furbelows than she was in the family’s herbal business. However nimble Nerra’s fingers were with the needle and the loom, it was Anna who, even at sixteen, could recognise the different plants almost as well as Ma and knew how to prepare and mix them. She should be the one to stay.