Author Topic: Stardust and pockets  (Read 804 times)

Lirssa Sarengrave

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Stardust and pockets
« on: January 22, 2016, 09:37:37 AM »
Lily's lips puckered and pulled back, puckered and pulled back as if she were rolling out the dough of her mouth.  "Won't find cheaper any other port, Lulu."  

The office walls of Bravo Port barely kept out the hum of the docking bay's activity.  It was late evening.  Short trippers were coming back in, their cargo unloading on the backs of crew and droids.  The port's own robots and droids wound their way between ships and people, checking cargo, reporting on manifests, and keeping the hive a dance of ordered chaos.

Lirssa stood across from Lily's desk.  She had not found her coat or gloves, and all that was left to her in this cold season was the coat Crispin gave her for the holidays.  The trim cut of the brown leather had gotten compliments from other pilots.  In the comfort of her ship and the work of her day, three quarter sleeves was perfect.  The cold of planet-side winter, however, meant her arms had the comfort of her sleeves and naught else.

Plucking at the edge of one dark green sleeve, Lirssa nodded.  "I know, Lily.  I know you won't be saving it for me either.  I've thought about this.  I gotta save up, and this port is a luxury I can't afford."

"Luxury."  Lily scoffed.  "Flatterer."

"You keep a safe and orderly bay, Lily, and you don't charge me my left kidney for it."  Lirssa had a smile for the lady.  If she thought about a particularly good day in her youth, the smile could be forced to brighten her eyes.  It was a good show.  She was well practiced in keeping her feelings at bay.  Perform with a broken leg or a hacking cough enough times, living lies becomes easy.  And lately she had gotten too complacent.  Others were paying for her laziness.  "So, yeah, gonna cancel my contract?  I'd like it if I could avoid the penalty, too.  Not like you won't find someone fast enough."

Lily's dark eyes studied Lirssa. A furrow, faint as shadow, formed and left the woman's brow.  "As you say, I don't charge much.  Being without a port can't be worth the small about you'll save."

But it might, and Lirssa was going to stop trying to be something she was not.  Her own wants and desires had made her falter, and she had still failed.  There was a limit, she realized, a limit to the dreams come true.  "Don't know, but rather not risk it."

The business woman's fingers went flying over the keyboard.  Sure, she could have spoken to the machine and it would have answered, but Lirssa knew Lily was the secretive type.  Almost all of the people who worked and lived in Bravo Port were.  "Yeah, okay, Lulu.  I'll let you out of the contract with no penalty."  One finger hovered over a key.  "You sure?"

The deep breath pulled in the smell of the bay with its oils and grit.  "Yes."

With a fingertap to a key, Lily canceled the contract.  She leaned back in the chair, the long fall of black hair sweeping out behind her.  Lily was an institution in Stars End, but her face would never reveal her age.  Lirssa had once asked her how long she had owned Bravo Port, and Lily had replied seventy years without hesitation or sly winks.  The woman was not a grandmother and she was not a shrew.  Years of living and she was comfortable in the grey middle ground.  "It's done, Lirssa al Amat.  You have twenty four to get your ship out of port."  Sentiment also was not one of her failings.

"Thanks, Lily."  Lirssa patted the desk edge and nodded.  "Right.  I best go find a place to park."

Lirssa opened up the office door and the song of activity crescendo.  "What's the savings for?" Lily called to her.

Lirssa smiled back to Lily.  "Have to buy a house."
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Lirssa Sarengrave

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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2016, 04:45:12 PM »
Highclere?s Tea Settings was set in the middle of seven buildings along a quieter RhyDinian street.  Its iron fencing along the sidewalk matched its neighbors.  Round tables with their iron-worked chairs filled the small patio between fence and stone facade.  No one sat out there this afternoon.  The flower pots and boxes were equally bare of color, with delicate sheets of snow covering them.  

Inside, however, was quite different.  It was tea time.  The residents of the near neighborhood were enjoying their tea and cakes.  They sat properly, ate properly, talked properly.  The neighborhood was not large, but it drew in a specific type of resident.  Cream colored cotton dresses and hats and well pressed suits attired the spectrum of species and skin color.  It was not that you needed to be a particular breed of person, but a particular class to live in the homes on that block.

Fortunately, the businesses along there catered to anyone who could behave themselves as their culture seemed appropriate.  Lirssa once heard Mr Jolly say ?When in Rome?? so, when in Highclere?s she did her best to fit in.  That her attired did not fit in was of little matter.  She was not the only one.  In public, the residents all minded their own business with their own friends.  

Lirssa sat at the table next to the second story balcony.  Seating had long been in demand, so Mr. Highclere had built in a spiral staircase and opened half the second floor to allow five more tables for smaller parties.  Parties of one, in Lirssa?s case.

She watched the hurry of the staff and the quieter, gentler actions of the customers.  ?Need a top off, Lir??  Agnes asked, pausing by the table on her rush back downstairs.

Snapped from her thoughts, Lirssa lifted a smile. ?Still some in the pot, but thanks, Aggie.?

The girl bobbed her head, already dashing away again with her pinafore and starched dressed whirling about her.  For a moment, Lirssa wondered what Aggie?s days and nights were like.  Maybe she had a family waiting for her, all gathered in the den to tell about their day.  Had she been a quiet child?  Dutiful?  What were her hopes now?  What were her sorrows?

Lirssa sighed and poured more tea from the teapot.  One spoon of sugar to stir in the tea.  She looked to the customers once more.  Below her a couple was sitting, the steady rise and fall of their teacups and sandwiches metronomic.  Lirssa watched them more.  It was as though they were going through the motions.  Their smiles came seconds later than they should, small and weak.  Each was trying to be cheerful for the other, and neither succeeding.  

There was something troubling them.  Even in their fine fitting clothes and precise exchanges, the view of them was off, like a frame gone askew.  The man reached for the woman?s hand.  A simple comforting gesture Lirssa had seen so many times between couples.  The woman turned her face away her lips drawn down and in.  She was fighting some tears.  But her hand remained beneath his.  

Lirssa did not know why, but she was drawn to them.  It was the struggle, she thought.  The struggle to look like you?re feeling as you should, and not the way you really do.  Could be I just want to fix it, too.  Then again, maybe they deserve it?  Is there anything one deserves to have?  Is sorrow one of them?  Yes, probably so.  Hard to avoid at least.

Lirssa watched, drinking her tea, and wondering what their world was like.  Agnes came back by.  ?Aggie??

The waitress stopped and moved to take up Lirssa?s teapot.  ?Oh, no, not that.  I was just wondering, do you know that couple??  And she nodded down to the floor below.  The lady and gentlemen were standing up from their table.

?They come here once a week, but I don?t say as I know them.  Should I??

Lirssa shook her head, and stood up, leaving a tip along with her payment.  ?No, that?s alright, Aggie.  Was just wondering.  Have a good day, yeah??

?You, too!?  Aggie took up the items left behind as Lirssa made her way from the shop.  She had spent enough time sitting and letting her mind roam.  It was time to get things done and stop worrying about what she could not control.  

A house, that was it.  That was something she could control and do to help. As she turned down the street, she looked back at the clock in the modest church.  She was not late for her meeting with the banker.  Not yet.  Time to run.
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Lirssa Sarengrave

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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2016, 12:30:19 PM »
?So, as you can see, you will have to take a loan.?

?A loan.?  Lirssa repeated.  She knew the word.  It was one of those words that made her skin crawl.  

Clara Patrello was as honest as a banker could get, particularly around RhyDin.  Of course, that was like saying one type of shark was nicer than another -- until they smelled blood.  Then they all acted the same.  Lirssa felt like she was sitting in the water with her intestines hanging out.

?It is just a small loan, but you just don?t have enough capital right now.  That house is not going to be available for long.  The neighborhood is one of the best and the proximity to the clinic, the Watch station, and the other services.  You?re lucky it has stayed on the market this long.?

Lirssa ground her teeth.  She knew how great the house was.  She had already paid for the thorough inspection - three times by three different people.  It just would not do to bring children into a home only to have the home start falling apart around them.  It had six bedrooms and four bathrooms -- that alone was a great selling point.  The kitchen was large and equipped as if it were part of a dining hall.  The description called the style Georgian.  Evidently some king somewhere and sometime was important enough to have an entire style of architecture named after him.  That was a thought.  Maybe some day there would be Jewellsian or Salvadorian architecture.  Okay, that made her chuckle.  Clara?s brows rose not understanding what Lirssa was finding funny.  Let her wonder.  The entire thing was funny.

Lirssa had never bought one of the foster homes before.  High Spires had been purchased and furnished by Alain, and Mr Ephram?s job, along with sponsorships and Lirssa?s additions, kept the house maintained.  The other foster homes were those of the foster parents, opened to take in children, and Lirssa helped with expenses as she could there, too.  This was the first time she had to buy the building herself.  

And she still did not have the parents for it.  For it or High Spires.  Katie was a good woman, but she had signed up to be daytime help to Mrs June, not take over.  Two sets of parents.  Mrs June had said Lirssa would know them when she found them.  That was a great deal of faith in her often wrong as right intuition.

Well, no, she had always been right when it came to the foster parents.  It was just her own friendships she seemed to be wildly inaccurate. Another chuckle. Sometimes absurdity showed itself in the oddest times.

Like buying a house.  ?Mrs. Patrello, I do appreciate the work you?ve done.  I can?t say as I like the idea of a loan, though.  Are we sure the seller won?t go down a little in price??

Clara shook her head, blond ringlets dancing like tinsel.  ?They don?t need to.  They know there will be a buyer willing to pay the price they?ve set.  You know how some people just float in money around here, Ms. al Amat.?  

Yes, Lirssa knew.  She knew all too well how deep some people?s pockets were.  And some of them got it through the abuse of the children she was trying to help.  ?If you would go over the terms again, please.?  Then Lirssa would have to make a choice.
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Lirssa Sarengrave

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« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2016, 10:47:48 AM »
?It?s lovely.?  The voice was delicate as bone china.

Lirssa almost thought she imagined it, a little fairy voice whispering in her mind.  The rustle of fabric drew her around, and the woman stood behind her, the umbrella held upright in hand.  She did not let it rest against her shoulder where the gabardine overcoat protected the hint of a pale blue, cotton Tailor-made walking dress.  A brooch of ivory and silvery metal -- platinum perhaps? -- rested against the lace collar at her throat.  Her dark hair wound in a loose bun at the nape of her neck had a whimsical bit of millinery set askew on top.  Finely furled tips revealed a heritage of perhaps elven nature.  It was the woman from two days ago at Highclere?s.

?Yes, ma?am.?  Lirssa answered finally.  ?Do you live around here??

The woman?s smile held traces of sorrow.  ?I did.?

?Did??  Now Lirssa wondered if the neighborhood around Highclere?s hid the same sort of travesties most of the city flaunted.  Well, of course it did.  Lirssa had just hoped they were fewer.

?Mm, changes in life, of course.?  The lady did not draw closer, but she did not step away.  Like she was trapped between wanting to share more and knowing she should not with a stranger.

Lirssa did not like to ask questions. She wanted to know, of course, curiosity one of her many failings.  But she wanted people to want to tell her things, that sharing with her was a natural side effect of meeting her, not drawn out by interrogation.   No one operated that way, of course, but it would be nice for someday it to happen.

Trade.  Give and get.  Lirssa looked back to the house.  ?I had hoped to buy it.?  Maybe she just had to open a door.

The woman did not conceal her surprise.  ?You did?  What happened??

What happened.  Not enough, is what happened.  Lirssa gave a half-hearted grin of over her shoulder.  ?I did not have enough money, and I did not want to take a loan.  I don?t like the idea of it.  Owing somebody something.  Particularly since my income is less than steady.?  She had been paid well for her part in the RhyDin Night?s album.  That would not last forever, and the house was grand.  Plus she had to have enough to keep paying Katie extra, maybe hiring on a maid for High Spires, helping the other foster homes, and her own curtailed needs.  By the pyres, she was hungry.

A rustle of cloth heralded her approach, standing side by side with Lirssa and gazing on the house.  ?There are other houses.?

?Sure-in, I mean, yes, ma?am, but this one was just right.  I already have children waiting in over full homes.  I need to get another space.  One that feels like a home.?

?Children.?  The word was sheltered in pain, like a fragile glass ornament that might break if released.  

Lirssa had heard sounds like that before.  Looking over to her, she smiled.  ?I?m Lirssa, by the by.  Lirssa al Amat.?

?Sierain g?Olau.?  Her smile was stronger than her voice.  She looked over the house once more, tracing its lines with every glance.   Memorizing.  ?I lived here.?  She confessed.

?Oh.?  It was the least clever thing Lirssa could say, and still it was all she had to offer without rambling on at a clip.

The murmur of assent was coupled with a sigh.  ?I could not fill it.?  A glance to Lirssa.  ?Not the way I wanted.?

Children.  Lirssa plunged into a chasm of empty words and nothing profound to say.  ?I?m sorry.?  

Wait.  She was sorry?  This was the very ideology that irked her.  Why wasn?t she mad?  Why wasn?t she stomping her foot and chastising the woman?  

Apathy.  It scared her more than anything.  It was a friendly, restful feeling.  To just give up.  She was letting all the diversions and barricades of the past weeks drop her into the whirlpool of motion filled carelessness.  If she did not care, it would not trouble her.  She could just keep going until she stopped.  Apathy was what made her think she was doing the right thing by not eating to save up just a few more coin.  Apathy made her give up on the house and still not start eating.  It broke her friendships and ate away at her heart.

It almost had her.
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Lirssa Sarengrave

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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2016, 10:44:03 AM »
One week past making a deal with a Faerie Godmother.

"The key then."  A stumpy man, tanned features in contrast to the pearly perfection of his fanged grin, pressed the brass key to Lirssa's palm.  "Must have quite the connections."

"Hmm?"  Lirssa was drawn from her planning by the man's chatter.  Connections.  "Oh, yes, I'm pretty lucky."

He snorted and adjusted the black bowler.  "I'll say.  Had this all but signed, sealed, and delivered to another party, then swoop!"

The realtor, what was his name?  Reggie.  Yes, Reggie was an animated fellow, and yet Lirssa wondered just how close to the truth he was in the description.

There were few people that scared Lirssa, one of them was dead and the other one was her mentor's boyfriend.  The number of people who intimidated Lirssa by sheer presence was higher, and Ishmerai was one of those.  The guy could loom when he wanted to, his presence felt like a boulder threatening to crush.  She wondered if he had to do some looming to get this to work.  "Swoop indeed."

Then again?  She did not care.  Much.  The house was in possession by Kids of Summer Foundation.   "Well, it's all yours now."  Reggie echoed her thoughts.  He touched the brim of his hat, licked his teeth, and smiled again.  "All the best, Miss."  He strode away, kicking his feet out as far as his short legs would allow.

"Not all mine."  Lirssa giggled as she darted up the steps, unlocking the door with a welcoming click, and stepped inside.  "All theirs."
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2016, 05:22:19 PM »
The rumble of five pairs of feet running into the house grew louder.  ?They?re coming.?  Lirssa looked at Mrs. June in question.

?Mmhmm,? Mrs. June smiled, but did not open her eyes.  Every day she rested until the children came home from school.  She tended them through dinner and on to bed, and then slept when they did.  It was not enough.  Once plump cheeks were hollowed.  Skin, veined and pale, tight over cheekbones and jaw.  Shadows never left the corners of her eyes.  Layers of blankets mounded on her and still she seemed cold.

Lirssa stood.  ?I?ll see to them.?

A flutter of fingers poked out from beneath Mrs. June?s chin.  ?Sit down.  Katie has them.?

Sure enough, just as the thunder turned down the hall to the door, Katie?s voice carried.  ?Chores first.  Mrs. June will be up soon..?  The thunder rumbled into soft, scuffling footfalls that faded away.

Lirssa turned to sit down and found Mrs June studying her.  ?Come to visit me at last, Anna??

Anna.  Ephram and June?s daughter.  Where had she gone to?  Lirssa couldn?t remember.  Some place far away.  Lirssa smiled and nodded.  ?Sorry it took so long.?

A teary inhale shuddered Mrs June?s shoulders.  Cold, knuckle swollen fingers crept from the covers to encase one of Lirssa?s hands.  ?Oh, that?s alright.  You?re here now.?  A tear slipped from the corner of pale blue eyes.  Mrs June glanced to the window where the afternoon sun danced motes of dust in its rays.  ?It?s late though.  You shouldn?t travel in the dark.  The stars are already out.?

?You?re right.  I just,? Lirssa stopped before her voice cracked, placing her other hand around Mrs. June?s.  Her warmth would never be enough.  ?I just wanted to see you and Dad.?

?Mm,? Mrs. June nodded, drawing her hands away again, curling them beneath her chin.  Lirssa pulled up the covers once more.  ?We?ll talk in the morning,? Mrs June murmured.  ?I?ll have your dad make biscuits.  We?ll talk then.  You need rest.?  Mrs. June?s eyes closed again, her breath the shallow, slow of coming sleep.

Moments ticked by.  Lirssa leaned forward, her heart sore and unruly.  ?I found them, Mrs. June.  I found parents for High Spires.  You and Mr. Ephram can step back, just like you wanted.?  The whisper broken through a tightening throat.

?Knew you would, Lirssa.  Trust your heart.?

The bedside clock ticked too loud.  Water was running in the kitchen.  A bird called a cheerful song in harmony with the shouts and laughter of children outside.

Lirssa wept.
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« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2016, 06:50:54 PM »
The vote had decided on Summerlane.  Official documents called the Georgian styled home Knightly Manor.  The nine children that lived there called it home.

It was just at the end of lunch hour when Lirssa unlocked the front door and stepped inside, calling, ?Hello?  Anyone home??  As if she couldn?t hear the chatter of voices and clatter of dishes.

At her call, the sound changed to a low rumble of feet, both bare and in shoes, running from the dining room at the back of the house.  Children of varying ages and races filled the rug lined hallway.  Only a few greeted her with smiles and hugs.  Others, though they knew her, stayed to the side, observing cautiously.  Two more came babbling their greetings carried in the arms of Krista, the day help, and Collette Riesen, the foster mother.

Lirssa gave hugs to all who reached for her.  A touch to cheeks once sallow or bruised now filling out from weeks of consistent nutrition.  And love.

?Are you staying??

?Can we have another sleep over??

?My clothes are itchy.?

?She makes me eat spinach.?

?I?m learning to play cricket!?

?That?s a bug.?

?It?s a game!?

Questions and complaints assailed Lirssa as did little Padraig, a half-orc toddler trying to launch himself from Krista?s arms to Lirssa.  ?Ooh, whoa there,? Lirssa caught him up with a smile to Krista.  The young woman, perhaps only a few years older than Lirssa, gave a wink and returned down the hallway, no doubt to deal with the remains of lunch.

Padraig clung to Lirssa, sniffing her face and neck.  It tickled, but she knew what he was about.  He gave her a puzzled look and sniffed again.

Lirssa blushed a little knowing what was confusing him, but she reassured the orcling, ?It?s me, Paddy.  I promise.?

He gave her a grin, showing the buds of his lower tusks.  ?Story,? he declared.

Others, even the reticent, drew near with smiles of anticipation.  ?Yes,? Lirssa agreed, ?one story.  Then I need to speak with Collette.?

?About what??  Dark haired Penny spoke up around the blanket she held close to her face.

?About a new teacher for you all.?
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Penny
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2016, 10:17:26 PM »
Penny

Penny sat in the chair closest to the hallway.  Her blanket was soft and warm in her hands.  She liked the color.  It was once a brighter blue.  She could tell.  The thread along the satin edge stood out against the faded cotton.  It was her favorite blanket.  

Mr. Aric was reading a story on the other side of the room near the windows.  The windows looked over the backyard with its small garden and swing set and trees.  Penny loved trees.  They were strong and tall.  She was very good at climbing.

The other children were all on the rug listening to the story.  Some crept closer, laughing at the characters and funny voices Mr. Aric made.

Beware.  Watch out.  He?s smiling now.  That will change.  That always changes.  Get too close.  Say the wrong thing. Smack. Penny flinched at the memory.   Pain.  Don?t laugh too loud.  Crack.  Not the iron.  Not the book.

Find a corner.  Hide.  Hide.  You were bad again.  You made him mad again.  Rotten child.  Worthless child.  Kick.  Hit.  Belly hurt.  Leg hurt.  Tears.  Don?t call out.  It gets worse.  Be quiet.  Hide.  Hide.


?Penny.?  A voice.  It was soft; like the blanket.  Always soft.

Penny pulled the blanket from her head and looked around.  She saw the back of the rocking chair.  Her shoulders pressed into the corner walls.  Mara was crouched down next to her, the glint of gold in her olive eyes.

Just beyond her, Mr. Aric sat.  He did not loom.  He did not look angry.  He sat and his hands were on his knees, palm up -- open but soft.  Not looking to strike.  Not moving.  He was still.  Lirssa held those hands.

That did not matter.  That was Lirssa.  Penny shook her head at Mara.

?Go ahead, Mara.  You can hear the story from here.?  Mr. Aric said.  Mara sat down next to Penny.  Her little arm went around equally tiny shoulders of her friend.  They stayed there.  In the safety of the corner.  Mr. Aric went to sit on the rug, and kept reading the story.

Penny felt safe.  For now.
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2016, 03:26:45 PM »
Melicin

The clatter of plates made Melicin?s heart skip.  She felt the pulse loud in her ears as she ran to the kitchen calling out, ?I?ll do the utensils!?  

?Whoa, Melicin,? Mr. Tobias turned from the dish drain to crouch down before her.  Smile wrinkles crowded his eyes, though his hair was still a dark brown.  The curl of his ears was like hers, but that was where the similarities ended.  His eyes were blue, pupils round, and his skin a creamy perfection save the wrinkles around his eyes.  She had no idea how old he actually was, but he would laugh with all the children at Summerlane that he was centuries in his prime.

Her own skin had dark scales along her shoulders and spine, just barely peaking above the collar of her dress.  Yellow eyes with vertical slits and the curl of tiny horns on her head separated her from him.  ?I will do the utensils,? she said trying to catch her breath.

He gestured to the dish drain where the metal of the flatware gleamed.  ?I know.?  His voice was soft, but carried no judgment.  It was almost, if she had to say, pride.  That he remembered?

?Thank you,? she slowed her heart rate and went over to the drawer to start putting away the metal forks and spoons.  She lay them gently in their cradles so not to clink against each other.   Clink of metal.  Clink of chains.

?There?s nothing you can do, Andromeda, I don?t need two of you here, and she?s another mouth to feed without bringing in more spectators.?

?She isn?t your property,? Melicin?s mother stepped forward to the end of her own chain, the clinking of links a shrill sound in the quiet of night.  Her mother had never had to wear chains before.  This night was different.

The caravan owner, Patrick, shook his head.  ?You are and it doesn?t change the facts that I can?t feed her proper.  I let you keep her while she was feeding from you, but she?s grown now.  She can make her own way.?

?As part of a caravan like this??  Andromeda?s fists jerked at the other chains on her wrists.  ?Don?t do this, Patrick.?

Three men came from the caravan owner?s tent.  One carried a chain with a thick metal collar.  He jostled it from time to time, the rest of the links on his belt clattering with every step.  Melicin tucked herself behind her mother?s leg.  Maybe if they didn?t see her, or saw how much she wanted to stay, they would let her.

?Come on now, Millie,? Patrick sighed.  It was a determined look, but one he shared with the ground and not with her.  

?I don?t want to go,? Millie whimpered and wrapped her arms around her mother?s leg.  ?I can work.  Don?t make me go.?

Patrick turned and went into his tent.  Her mother struggled against the chains that bound her as two of the men pried Melicin free.  The clink of the collar around her neck was cold, brutal, like a blow.  

?No!? Andromeda screamed just as Melicin screamed in turn.  ?I?ll find you, Millie.  I?ll find you.?


Three years.  Three years and now in a home with other children.  Lirssa had found her and Gideon in the caravan, had gotten them free, and brought them here.  Here where there were no chains.

But the clink of metal forks stabbed at her heart.
Cirque du Soliel contortionist -- skills similar to Lirssa's

"Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against." - David Niven

Lirssa Sarengrave

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« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2016, 08:48:21 PM »
The only word Krista made out of the flood of elvish was her own name.  It did not matter that she could not understand Summerlane?s house mother, Collette.  The tone was enough.  Panic.  Krista shoved the rest of the crafting remains she had been cleaning into her apron pockets and ran to the bedroom where Collette stood, staring at the communication panel.  Her delicate fingers pressed on cheeks paler than buttermilk.  ?What is it?? Krista asked, immediately drawing her arm around Collette?s shoulders to offer comfort.
 
When she looked to the scrawl of texts, one after another after another, her arm tightened.  ?Who is Ortiz??  Krista asked.  It did not matter, she supposed.  The only people who had their communication number were Lirssa, Kids of Summer, Aric who was the children?s tutor, and the doctor.  All of whom she could see listed in the contacts at the top.
 
?He called her Lulu.? Collette whispered.
 
Lirssa only let people close to her, or knew her from her flights in space,  call her that.  It was real.  It was all bitterly real. Shaking her head was not going to change that, and still she did.  She felt her muscles tighten, rocking her head to and fro.  Collette?s arms were around her in turn.  ?What will we tell the children??
 
?The truth,? Krista forced out of a tight throat.  Her heart ached to lie.  To tell them Lirssa was just on a long break.  Maybe she was?  She wanted to believe it, too.  Wanted to stop imagining the young woman burning, hair gone, eyes gone?body charring and falling away into the dust of space.
 
Gulping down a breath through a dry throat, she repeated, ?We tell them the truth.?
 
?After bathtime,? Collette said.  ?I want to tell Tobias first.  I want them to have time to process it before Aric---? and Collette stopped short.
 
?Oh,? Krista breathed out the pain as she remembered his name among the list of contacts.  Still, she checked again and she felt Collette lean and do the same, sharp eyes picking out his number among the others.  Aric knew.  ?He won?t be coming to teach tomorrow.?
 
?Maybe,? Collette sighed, ?maybe he will need to continue.?
 
Krista disagreed.  The children did not need to be used to make a grown up feel better.
 
Collette seemed to read her thoughts.  Centuries of noticing slight human traits likely helped.  Krista had found she could not hide her feelings from the house parents.  ?Krista, the children need to see how adults handle grief, too.  Don?t you trust him to do so wisely in front of them??
 
She did not.  Collette smiled and patted Krista?s arm.  ?Bath time.?  She urged with one last shared hug.  ?I appreciate you staying late to help.?
 
?There?s the room in the attic I could take for a few days.?  Krista was already determined she would.  In fact, it made more sense for her to be here at Summerlane all the time.  Lirssa had not liked the idea of housemaid, the children not learning to do their own part of being a family.
 
But Krista loved being here.  The children, the parents, the support of the Foundation, and ? Lirssa.  The young lady did not remember, and why should she?  Krista looked so differently now, she knew.   The years had been harsh and the street unkind.  Lirssa would not remember one face among the many she had helped that night.
 
This work, though, this is  what got Krista up in the morning and helped her feel whole and right in this horrible city when she went to sleep at night.
 
So, during bathtime, she helped the children wash up, laughing and playing all the while.  Mara studied her closely.  Mara was so much like Collette.  Kai, the new child, she too watched closely.  They knew.  They could somehow feel tonight was different.  Krista still kept up the pretense that it was a night like any other, and it would be a night like more to come.
 
?Children,? Collette called as the last one pulled her nightgown over her head.  ?Tobias and I would like to meet with you all together tonight.  Stories to be told.?  Collette made it sound all so magical with the sparkle in her eyes.
 
Several of the children were quick to scamper after and into the big room that was the parents? room.  Penny?s little hand slipped into Krista?s.  She smiled down at the little girl hugging her worn blanket.  ?Hello, sunshine.  Let?s go join the others.?  Mara took her other hand and they all sat on the big bed with the others.
 
?Tonight?s story is about stardust.? Tobias began.  He had no tears in his eyes, though they shone.  His voice was as warm as ever.  It was the smile, of course.  A smile which children were so attuned to.  It was sad.  ?Some say we are made of it.  Everything is.?
 
?Even poop??  Gideon yelled his question, tossing himself sideways on the bed to give it a bounce everyone felt.  He was going for the laughs.  He got them.  That boy and poop jokes.
 
?Everything,? Collette responded, but did not let the children devolve into giggles.  ?And some say when we are gone, we return to stardust.?
 
?So no one that we love is ever truly gone.?
 
Krista felt a tremble run through Penny.  Hugging her in close, she whispered.  ?He can?t get you, sweetpea.  He?s gone.?
 
Tobias saw and nodded, but he continued, ?Special friends, well, we can look up in the sky and still see them.?
 
The children looked at the ceiling, imagining.  ?Krista,? Tobias urged, ?dig into your pockets.  I think you can help with this magic.?
 
Her pockets.  The crafts.  Glitter.  Stardust.  Krista felt around in the pocket for pinches of glitter and with the nod from Tobias, tossed it in the air above them.  With a twitch of his fingers, the glitter swirled and then settled into constellations above them.  ?The stars are where Lirssa is now.?
 
The truth.  Krista tried not to frown.  Tobias had told the truth and had not.  It let the children know and not know.  The ones who could put it together would.  The others would get there in time.
 
Lirssa was the stardust from pockets.
Cirque du Soliel contortionist -- skills similar to Lirssa's

"Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against." - David Niven