Part 32: Interview 16 BonusBarracks 16 - Company Leader and Loquacious Cardsharp
“So, leader of the Snowbound Free Company…” Eva says as she deals a deck of cards to the people sat at her table - Alina, Fenya, Ivan and Anatoly. “How are you finding life in the barracks so far?”
“Oh, it’s been rather nice.” Alina says. “You’ve all been so welcoming. Ludmilla made me breakfast in bed the other day, just because I said I’d been feeling a bit under the weather. Plus you’re all rather fun!”
“Eh, most of us are, yeah.” Anatoly says, glancing sidelong at Fenya. “You don’t look like you have much fun, Fenya, if you don’t mind my saying.”
Fenya’s cheeks burn with embarrassment. “I… I am not here to have fun. I am playing cards because I was told I needed to make more of an effort to be social. But otherwise, I keep to myself.”
“How’s Felix doing?” asks Ivan.
“What does that matter to you?”
“Hey now, gal. Take it easy.” Anatoly says. “He’s just worried about your little bro.”
“It’s my job to worry about my brother.” Fenya says seriously. “I appreciate your interest, but I assure you, he is being well-looked after.”
The cards, having been forgotten for the time being, lie on the table. Alina glances at Eva every so often, not fully focussing on the conversation at hand.
“He’s a nervous kid.” observes Ivan. “You must worry a lot.”
Fenya lets out a long sigh, and glances up at the group.
“May I be frank?”
“‘Course you can. You’re among friends.” Eva says.
“Thank you.” replies Fenya. “I… well, my brother joined the army because my parents thought it would toughen him up. I… I joined to make sure he’d stay safe. I can understand their thought process, but I couldn’t just let him go to war on his own. I had to go with him. I know I act tough on him, but… better coming from me, his sister, who cares about him, than a commanding officer, don’t you think?”
“I can understand that.” Ivan replies, shrugging.
“You’re a good sister, Fenya, but you don’t need to be so uptight.” Anatoly says. He gestures to the other side of the barracks room, where Felix is speaking with some other soldiers - he looks nervous, but he is doing his best. “He’s growing up. You don’t need to keep an eye on him 24/7, yeah?”
“So come on, let’s enjoy a card game.” Alina says, gesturing to the hands that have been dealt.
“I suppose I should relax more. Thank you, all. Let’s… let’s have a fun evening.”
“Sounds good to me.” Anatoly replies. “Though I gotta ask, Eva, any chance you could tell us a bit more about how you ended up in the army? You never did tell us the story.”
“Ooh, yes, I’d love to know!” Alina says.
“...Oh, alright.” Eva replies, relenting. “It’s not that exciting. As I say, I gamble a hell of a lot. I was in a rough position at the end of university. On one hand, I just got my degree… but jobs were thin on the ground, and I was running out of money fast. Didn’t wanna go home, my parents weren’t too great.”
“Sorry to hear that.” Fenya murmurs.
Eva shrugs. “It’s not so bad. So, I saw a flyer advertising recruitment for the army, and it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be half-bad in that role. I’m a decent shot, and an engineering degree could go a long way in the military. But at the same time, I thought if I stayed on to do a master’s, it might help me get a better job, you know?”
“Makes sense. Both good options.” Anatoly agrees.
“Both good options - exactly.” Eva says, her eyes flashing. “So I figured, why not let my favourite pastime take care of the choice? Gamble for it.”
“No,” breathes Alina. “You bet on it?”
Eva points to her neck, where there is a length of rope that has a coin on it. She clutches the coin in her hand.
“Flipped this very coin to decide what I’d do. It landed on heads, which was military. That’s why I joined the army. And honestly? It’s been pretty good so far. Lots of chances to gamble - which is both good and bad. And I feel like I’m actually making a difference here.”
“You sure are, you were instrumental in that last battle. Those enemy rockets would have been a nightmare if you hadn’t taken care of them.” Alina says. “I’m really happy I got to meet you, Eva.”
“You too, Alina.” Eva replies, winking at her. For a moment, Alina’s brain literally cannot compute what to do about it, and she blushes furiously. “Anyway, we’re wasting time. Two in, let’s start this round strong.”
“Alright, but you’re not allowed to lose all your money gambling, I’ve decided.” Fenya says. “You’re an intelligent girl, and you could always do your masters after you finish serving in the military. So may as well save up what you can, correct?”
“I guess so.” Eva replies with a sheepish grin. “Jeez, Fenya, you’re a nice gal. Alright. I’ll try and curb my compulsive gambling, but it’s gonna be an uphill battle…”
“I am up for the challenge.” Fenya says, staring at Eva with a serious gaze. “Now then, let us make our bets.”
The group begin to play their cards, and despite the losses incurred in the previous battle - or perhaps because of those losses - they are making a concerted effort to enjoy the evenings where they don’t have to fight to survive.