Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Paula's Prompts: The Parcel

On May 29, 2019, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a lost package, a roadside stand, and a wrench.

This story was the result. I didn't hashtag it #QueerBlogWed because this story isn't really a queer blog. It's the tale which came to me, due to some visceral, frightening images which came to me at the word 'wrench'  of a woman threatening another woman with the object in question, refusing to give her something back which was hers...

A thin woman wearing a silky blouse and a tight gray skirt nearly stumbled over her own heels walking over to the roadside stand. 

Three of her would have fit into the proprietor with her grimy hands, fly away hair, and the perpetual sneer with played across her lips. She balled those hands into powerful fists and looked the She-Suit up and down. 

For all her expensive clothes, the visitor kept her shoulders hunched forward. Her darting eyes moved from the proprietor to the ground with the expression of a kicked dog.

“Excuse me.” She-Suit spoke in a soft voice. “I brought back a package earlier. A white box taped up?”

The owner of the stand didn’t answer. She continued to stare down the visitor, only she pulled a wrench out of a deep pocket. She slapped it against the palm of her callused hand in a threatening fashion. 

“I was wondering.” She-Suit shivered, gulped, and seemed to gathered enough courage to speak. Enormous dark eyes fixed themselves from her half-starved face upon the proprietor. “I think I may have left it here-“

“That’s right. You left it.” The proprietor brandished the wrench at She-Suit as if it were a knife. “That makes it mine.”

“Huh?” She-Suit gazed at her with puppy eyes, blinking at her face in bewilderment. 

Yeah, the proprietor knew what she saw. An angry swollen face, a woman who wore her unhappiness on her face, cheeks sunburned from sitting out in the stand all day, while people like She-Suit road around in their fancy cars and their fancy clothes, enjoying their air conditioners. Time to share some of the misery. 

“But that package is mine-“ She-Suit made a pathetic attempt to stand up for herself, which the owner of the stand squashed in mid-sentence.

“You can’t prove that package was yours.” The proprietor waved her wrench under She-Suit’s nose, forcing the other woman to duck rather than get hit. “Think you’re entitled, do you? Because you left that box here, you have the right to take it back? That I’m going to be nice to you because you’re a potential customer?” She swung at She-Suit again. “Hah!”

She-Suit stumbled backwards. She did her best to run away in her awkward heels, getting as far as she could from the madwoman with the wrench. 

“Guess you didn’t want the package that badly.” The proprietor grinned in the direction of her retreating back. “A pleasure doing business with you.” 

She turned to look at the parcel which was sitting behind a box of raw peaches. Why anyone would leave such a thing at a roadside stand was beyond dumb. Not to mention coming back to reclaim it? This was the middle of nowhere. She-Suit couldn’t expect the police or any of the fancy services she hid behind to help her in a place like this. 

She pulled the white box covered with tape out, ready to see what she claimed. Not bothering with a knife, she ripped at the tape holding the box closed, and took a look inside. 

Hundreds of slitted yellow eyes gazed back at her from a darkness beyond what should be inside a cardboard box. She only had time to drop the wrench and scream. 

The one her victim called She-Suit heard the screams, felt her fear wafting on the wind, and breathed in. She savored each bite of the proprietor’s flesh which her pets took. 

It wouldn’t be an easy death. It would be slow. She had, however, given her prey every chance to escape. To do the honest thing and return the box which she’d left there. No one could fault her for not following the rules. 

“Why anyone wouldn’t be suspicious of someone leaving an unattended parcel in the middle of nowhere is beyond dumb.” She smiled a bit to herself. “Thanks to stupidity, I never go hungry.” 

She straighted her back and walked back to her car, whistling. Her pets would rematerialize, along with the box inside her vehicle, once they were finished. 

They’d drive for a while and they’d find another roadstand. Of course there was always a risk they’d target an honest person, who’d give the box back. 

Hunting had its risks. Fortunately there were enough bullies in the world to guarantee she and her pets always had full stomachs.

She opened the car door, glanced at the back seat. Two more sealed boxes sat there. She didn’t just visit roadside stands. She tried to vary her hunting grounds, to ensure she had a better chance of catching prey. 

Variety was, after all, the spice of life. 

She slid into her seat and drummed her fingers upon the wheel, tasting blood and flesh in her mouth, along with dishonesty, petty hatred, and a lust for inflicting misery on others. 

Some might say these were the qualities of a mean person. She’d say they tasted just like chicken. 


Monday, July 29, 2019

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Iama the Terrible

(Quartz sits in front of a red curtain. Opposite him is a tall, lean woman in a gown of midnight and gold. Gleaming lace work of metal reaches out from her sleeves to cover the back of her hands, attached to bands of gold upon each finger. A close-fitting hood of ebon, laced with shimmering metal rings encloses her head, concealing her hair and ears. The high-cheekboned, pale face might have belonged to an empress from a far eastern land or a high-fashion model out of Erte.)

Quartz: You are Iama the Terrible, right? Shards and splinters, that scribbler has a way with names. 

Iama: I am but a figment of a woman’s imagination and a girl’s nighmares, but I am the reward waiting at the end of industry. All I touch turns to gold. I lured a princess away from her lush green lands into my golden palace until a treacherous teddy bear whispered my secrets to a little girl. I remain nothing more than a character in a book within a book, a villain in a children’s series of stories Cassat and Morisot created and illustrated. The image of Iama the Terrible was so vivid, my namesake mocked me, yet Grace has learned to fear me. She fears that one day Maia will become me.

Quartz: Right. Just why are you so terrible?

Iama: Just one kiss from me and your flesh will turn to precious metal. Just one touch and you’ll remain as another ornament within my palace walls. My kiss is a reward I offer those who give themselves completely to industry. They become part of my precious collection, the special ones, the ones I’ll treasure forever. 

Quartz: Right. You actually turn people into gold or does this talk of a reward for the industrious have some sort of symbolic meaning?

Iama: Why spoil the mystery, little dwarf, when I could let you wonder?

Quartz: Right. 

Iama: (mockingly) Right. In the stories where I first sprang into existence, my touch turned people into gold, beautiful, shining, gold. As far as Wind Me Up, One More Time and the town of Verity is concerned, I’m just a character within a story, or am I? Perhaps the threat I present has a more subtle form. 

Quartz: Pretty words. Sounds like you’re avoiding the question.

Iama: I’m a villain, little dwarf. (She smiles, but her teeth aren’t especially sharp. They’re white and beautiful.) A far more self-assured villain than your poor, guilt-stricken Oriana.

Quartz: She’s not my Oriana. 

Iama: If I had Nathalie trapped and cursed within a crystal coffin, I’d never let her go. I’d keep her forever. 

Quartz: The crystal coffin was actually my doing. Mine and my brothers, never mind! You said Grace has learned to fear you, to fear Maia will one day become you. Is there any truth to that? Any connection between Maia and yourself?

Iama: Foolish child, to mock my name, to make a jest of it. We’ll see how much she laughs as her heart turns into gold. 

Quartz: Are you talking about Maia? Or Grace?

Iama: Why should I settle for one of them when I can lure both of them into the gears, mourning for their sweet, wayward Nathalie?

Quartz: Ah, well…

Iama: Maia’s name was given to her by Cassat, her mother, one of my creators. ’Tis an anagram for my own, linking the two of us together, even if she thinks she can banish the spell it casts over her by laughing at it. She falls deeper under this spell as she allows herself to be consumed by work, by ambition. She may jest about being Iama the Terrible, but she hasn’t truly touched upon all that’s terrible until her jests die upon her lips. 

Quartz: All right, that does sound terrible. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. 

Iama: Villain I may be, yet I do not offer up spoilers lightly. 

Quartz: Right. You know you, the you that’s sitting in this chair isn’t even in the current draft of Wind Me Up, One More Time other than as the source of Maia’s nickname.

Iama: The power to whisper, wail, and torment the scribbler’s imagination doesn’t belong to you alone. I play upon her thoughts and dreams, tormenting her until my part in her tale expands. 

Quartz: All of a sudden, I almost feel sorry for the scribbler…

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On May 22, 2019, P.T. Wyant posted at as her Wednesday Words prompt a pawnshop, a hole in the wall, and a thorn.

First I had to look up what exactly a pawnshop was. I had a vague idea, but I wasn't sure.

It would have been easy to put the Navel into this story since one could consider it be a pawnshop of sorts. Another idea came to me, though, an idea involving Gabrielle before she ever became the proprietor of the Navel, back when she was a Direction at the Temple of Heavenly Directions, along with one of my most unpleasant characters to ever enter it is. :)

Gabrielle carried the thorn with ginger reverence in the palm of her hand, careful not to let it prick her. Again. 

Woodlands and fields gave way to roads, dwellings, and buildings, clustered together in a crowded jumble. There were so many she almost missed the hole in the wall. 

Yes, it was literally a hole in the wall. A black, festering hole upon the door of a dusty shop, a faded sign swinging over the front door. A rusty bronze statue of a forgotten deity gazed sadly at people from the other side of the glass, not expecting anyone to notice or remember its name. 

Gabrielle shuddered at the sensation, the sorrow. What were inanimate objects to everyone else, including her sisters at the Temple of Heavenly Directions cried out to her in voices no one else could hear, striking her with their loneliness, their neglect. What could she do with an abandoned statue in a window? What could she do for it no one else could? 

The only power she had was to listen. Too often that wasn’t enough. 

The black hole let out a wet chuckle, which raised the hairs on the back of her neck. 

She didn’t wish to do this, but it was her punishment. Her duty. 

Gabrielle lay a hand upon the hole, feeling it pull her arm along with the rest of her into the shop. 

“Welcome! The fact you were able to enter is a sign in itself that you are quite special!” An oily, fawning voice which matched an oily face, gleaming ruddy pink carried across the dark interior of a building filled with dusty shelves. “Here at Gryluxx’s Pawnshop, w’re certain to have something to suit your needs.”

“I’ve never been in a place like this before.” Such an admission felt like a weakness, but it was too obvious to hide. Gabrielle seldom ventured beyond the grounds of the Temple of Heavenly Directions. 

Not without Mireille at her side. What would Mireille do in such a situation? Stride forward with confidence and step up to the counter. She’d tell this grinning man exactly why she was here and get her business over with. 

“I found this.” Gabrielle didn’t stride forward so much as tiptoe on trembling feet. “I think I’m meant to offer this to you.” 

Gryluxx’s smiling mouth turned down, wrinkling as she approached. “Bah, you’re nothing but a child.” He looked her up and down. “Go away, little girl. This is a respectable business and I have no time for…” He stopped in the middle of his own sentence at the sight of the thorn in her hands. His bushy eyebrows shot up to his hairline and his mouth parted.

“What’s wrong?” Gabrielle glanced from the man to the thorn. She could see nothing particularly alarming about it.

“Why, nothing, nothing at all, my dear!” Gryluxx rubbed his hands together, returning to his usual fawning manner. “It’s clear you’ve come a long way to give this item to me and who am I to send you away?” He didn’t even glance at her. His beady eyes fixed themselves upon the thorn with a greed that was almost hunger.

“Is this so very valuable?” Gabrielle asked. “A friend once told me that the value in any object wasn’t always obvious.”

“Your friend sounds very wise, although alas, I fear there is little value in a thorn.” Gryluxx licked his thick lips. “Still I’d hate for you to go empty-handed after bringing me this, even bleeding all over it.” The pawnshop owner’s greedy eyes flickered back to her, taking in Gabrielle from head to toe. “It is your blood upon this thorn, isn’t it, my dear?”

“No.” Gabrielle wasn’t sure why she lied. “I found it lying in the woods.” She gazed at this strange man with shining eyes and quivering lips. “It is rather pretty, isn’t it?”

Yes, she had found it, just as she said. Only she’d pricked herself and started to bleed, only to gaze at the red liquid beading upon her palm with wonder. 

She’d never expected such a reaction as she got when she returned the Temple of Heavenly Directions.


“What have you done?” Raphaella hissed. “You’re bleeding like a human!” She held Gabrielle by the wrist, not touching her wounded skin. “I should never have let you outside the temple grounds! You’ve been contaminated, degraded!”

“There’s only one thing to do.” Micheala moved to stand behind Raphaella, her face hard and without pity. “Tie her to her bed. Leave her there to pray, to think about what she’s done. To regret it until this contagion passes from her.”


Rafaella and Michaela froze, closing their mouths at the soft, unobtrusive voice. Both Directions bowed their heads in deference, not looking up at the one who approached. 

She was half their size, only a little taller than Gabrielle, who was still growing. Her hair was paler and curlier than Gabrielle’s, while her skin was darker than anyone else at this Temple. Seldom did she speak or exert her authority, but when Urielle did, everyone paid attention. 

“Let her go for a walk. May her feet find the way to a pawnshop, the right pawnship.” Urielle allowed her lambent, yellow-green eyes to rest upon Gabrielle. “She shall offer that thorn and the blood spilt upon it to the first unsightly creature she comes upon.” 

“A pawnshop?!” Raphaella sounded torn between bewilderment and outrage. “Offer the blood of one of us to some unsightly creature in a pawnshop?”

“Hush, Raphaella. We’re not supposed to bleed. Something must be done about it.” Michaela didn’t raise her head, keeping her head downcast as she chided her sister Direction. “As Heaven wishes, so it shall be done.”

“As Heaven wishes, so it shall be done,” Raphaella echoed, although her shoulders quivered with suppressed anger.

“Well, Gabrielle?” Urielle turned to face the younger Direction, addressing her with far more gentleness. “Do you accept the consequences of your action? Are you willing to do this?”

A strange way to describe what seemed to be a punishment. Gabrielle opened her mouth, ready to ask what Urielle meant. 

The angry glitter in both Raphaella and Michaela’s eyes silenced her. “I’m more than willing to walk and see where my feet will take me.”

Michaela let out a choked, spluttering sound. Raphaella glowered at her, biting her own lip, yet stayed silent. 

“Go and discover your direction.” A tiny smile played at the corner of Urielle’s mouth. “You may learn more from this punishment than you ever will here.”


As so Gabrielle had taken a walk, only to find herself here. In this pawnshop. Facing what seemed like an unsightly creature. 

This was part of her punishment. Only Urielle’s punishments were seldom as direct as Raphaella’s or Michaela’s. They often included enigmatic lessons which ‘Brie sometimes wondered if Urielle herself understood exactly what her wayward student would learn from them. 

All ‘Brie could guess was she was supposed to learn something here. 
“Don’t try to force answers when they’re not ready to reveal themselves.” She could almost hear Mireille, her forbidden friend, the one she’d sneaked outside temple grounds to meet, speaking from her memories. “Let them come in their own time when you’re ready for them.” 

Easy for a memory to say. Right now Gabrielle was wondering if she ought to sweep up the thorn in her hand and run. Try to get out of this pawnshop without giving this man anything. 

Only she’d stab her hand again if she tried. Nor was she sure if she could leave, if this pawnshop owner was unwilling to let her go. 

“What will you give me in return for this?” She met that bright, dark gaze, trying to read whatever lay beneath the eagerness. 

“How about a shiny coin?” The man opened a hand to reveal a bright, sparkling coin. There was a symbol, a scratch upon it. A figure which was incomplete.

No, a second glance revealed that the symbol was nothing but a smudge. 

“What else would you offer in trade?” She withdrew her hands, still holding the thorn. 

“Ah, I can see you’re a girl who likes to drive a hard bargain! Well, I admire your spirit, even if all you have to offer is a thorn.” Gryluxx spread his arms. “How about this?”

He reached out from under the counter to withdraw a lacy blouse and skirt. The lace was tight and appeared to be rough. 

“Aren’t these pretty? They’d look especially pretty on you.” He leered at her. “It’s hard to part with such quality work, but the thought of such a pretty girl wearing these warms my heart, even if I’m only getting a thorn in return.” 

“No thank you.” Gabrielle shook her head, looking away from the cobweb pattern on the collar. “What else can you offer in trade?”

“Well, what else do you want?” Irritation entered Gryluxx’s tone. He snatched the blouse and skirt off the counter, hiding them away. “It’s only a thorn.”

“How about that lonely god in the window?” Gabrielle pointed in the direction of the front of the shop.

“Lonely god? Hah! That’s only a tacky copy of a more famous statue elsewhere!” The pawnshop owner chortled before he stopped himself. “Well, it is still a statue. I’m not sure if I should be giving it in return for a mere thorn.”

“All right.” Gabrielle turned to go, cupping the thorn in her palms. “Sorry for disturbing you.” 

“Only how can I deny such a charming visitor?” He rubbed his hands together. “Very well. Give me the thorn and I will give you the statue.”

Gabrielle spun slowly around on her heel, reluctant, but yes. She was going to agree to this bargain. Once more she felt the loneliness wafting from the statue. She couldn’t leave it there. 

‘Brie extended her hands towards Gryluxx, wondering if she’d have to pick up the thorn again. 

There was no need. The pawnshop owner snatched it from her hands, fondling it with almost lascivious satisfaction. 

“It was your blood upon this…Gabrielle.” Once more, he licked his lips. “I’ll be seeing you again someday. In the meantime, enjoy your worthless piece of trash.” 

Gabrielle looked away from his mocking gaze, refusing to acknowledge the hairs standing on the back of her neck. She walked away, feeling his gaze upon her, but she ignored the sensation. She focused all her attention on the placid, mournful face of the figure with several arms, holding a flower in one hand, a flame in another. 

Don’t worry. She sent the thought towards the motionless figure. I’ll find a place for you, a better place for you. In the meantime, I’ll clean you up. 

Something changed in the air around the statue. The lonely despair lifted, giving way to a hopeful prickling in the dust, in the very particles ‘Brie breathed. 

She reached out to touch her payment, to lay her hands upon it and pick it up…

…only to find reality blurring around her. She blinked, saw the woods around her, the familar woods where she often met Mireille. 

“Brie!” Think of her name, and she shall appear. Mireille walked towards her, waving a hand, bells tinkling around her bare ankles, while her loose peach skirts flowed around her legs, her hair a sparkling mass of curling bronze. “I thought I might find you here.”

Gabrielle smiled, raised a hand, only to find she still held the statue. She lifted it into the air as if it were a prize she’d just won.

The smile disappeared from Mireille’s face as she gazed upon it. 

“Where did you find that?” She spoke in a hushed whisper, staring at the statue as if it were her lost love. “How can it be here?”
“I don’t know.” Gabrielle never lied to Mireille, not if she could help it. “It was my payment in return for a thorn soaked with blood.”

“What?” Mireille turned her shocked expression from the statue to Gabrielle. “You shouldn’t have done that!”

“Perhaps not.” Gabrielle managed a weary grin. “If the trade is one that will make you happy, it was worth it.”

She had no idea what this statue was, what it meant. Not at the time. After all, it was her first time responding to a lost object. Her first time picking it up and trying to find a home for it. 

Later on, she’d start being able to sense more about items like the statue, where they came from, what their true form was, why they took the shape they did. All too often these answers were wrapped up in the people they were meant to be with. 

All she knew is she’d done something which made Mireille happy, judging from the way her eyes shone with unshed tears. There was an unexpressed joy, an undared hope in the trembling of her lower lips, the way she reached forward to run her hands over the statue.

The statue let out a silent hum, like a purring cat. It had found the person it wanted to be with. 

That hum released something in ‘Brie’s chest, something she hadn’t even realized was there, constricting her innards with pain. It felt more profound, more divine than all the times she’d been strapped to her bed, praying to the Heavens to look kindly upon her in all her smallness. 

She was too small, too unworthy to be a Heavenly Direction. Raphaella and Michaela never failed to remind her of this. 

She wasn’t too small for this, though. To unite a forgotten object with a person it wanted to be with, even if no one else recognized the object’s desire, its need. 

It made Gabrielle herself feel needed in turn. It was nice to be needed. 

She could really get used to the sensation. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompt

On May 15, 2019, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a scalded hand, new shoes, and paper.

This poem was the result...

Confetti flutters down around me
Spotlights pick out my new shoes
How easy it is to start the dance 
The sharp tap of my feet release a magical rhythm
Making me move faster and faster
It hurts to even think of slowing down
No, I cannot stop now
I stamp, I leap, I try to fly
I’m on the verge of falling
Lifting a leg, I reach down
Frightened, ready to pull of my shoe
My hand burns as it brushes the leather
I withdraw scalded flesh, tears in my eyes
Never touch these shoes in motion
The rhythm insists on playing itself out
My feet are just a means of communicating
Of allowing sound to manifest as action
In a world of unrealized sensation
I step and tap a wordless code
Sending a message across the world
To all the shiny new shoes neglected on shelves
Waiting for feet to take them into the world. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On May 8, 2019, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving an abandoned mine shaft, a cow, and a seed.

This bizarre freebie story about Paula's favorite dwarf was the result...

Quartz gazed at the empty shafts of mine. Dwarves should have been digging there. If not his own kind, he would have expected to hear the cackle of goblins, their violet, jeering songs echoing in all directions, letting everyone know this was their realm. 

Instead there was a strange, four-legged beast standing with a bowed head, uncomfortable under ground, and why should she not be? Such a creature was normally kept by humans, lowing in green fields, what were they called? Oh, yes. Cows. 

On a rock nearly laid a single seed, gleaming as brightly as a pearl. It didn’t belong down here here. 

“What is this bizarre place?” Quartz muttered, unsure if he was dreaming again or not. 

The seed twinkled with the mischievous brightness of a certain impudent kobold’s eye. 

Of course. This had something to do with Nimmie Not, but what? 

Quart let out a low growl. He marched upt to the seed and thust it into his pocket. Likely a stupid thing to do. He should have tossed it into the depths of the mountain, let it lie there forever. 

A low, undulating sound came from the throat of the cow, who shuffled where she stood. It was low, yet somehow demanding. 

“I don’t want to be here either, you know,” Quartz grumbled. Actually he was probably a lot more comfortable in a mine than she was. 

The beast gazed at him with plaintive brown eyes, speckled ears flopping in a dismall fashion about her triangular head. 

“How under earth did you ever end up here?” Quartz muttered, glancing down at her hanging udders. “Did someone lead you down here?”

“Mooo,” she mumbled in a miserable fashion, tail wishing. She took a few steps forward, hanging her head. It didn’t sound like she knew herself. 

“There, there.” He patted her head in an awkward fashion. “I’m not sure where I am either, but I’ll do my best to lead you out of here, my dear.” 

She let out another one of those forlorn moos. 

Quartz stroked her muzzle and gestured in the direction he wanted her to go. She didn’t seem to understand at first, but eventually started moving after him down a passage. 

His sight was keen underground, along with his sense of smell. He held up a finger where several passages coverged, decided to take the one going to the right. Mines and darkness were nothing unusual to a dwarf, but something about the twist and turns made his innards churn with wrongness. 

The energy flow was cracked, flawed. It reminded him of a certain crystal he’d found right before he met Nimmie Not. Power streamed in rivulets, heading off in directions that diverted from the overall flow. 

Yes, this abandoned mine shaft was like that crystal. He’d often wondered…

…if it wasn’t like Nimmie Not’s own heart. 

For a brief moment, Quartz opened his eyes within the crystal coffin…only to have them shut once more, feeling the pull of dark energies, pulling him back down into dreams. 

Outside a kobold sat on top on the coffin in a clearing in the woods. 

“Come on, you stubborn dwarf,” he murmured into the silence. “Figure it out.”

No one answered. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On May 1, 2019, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a basket of flowers, an emergency, and a rabbit.

This Wind Me Up, One More Time freebie story was the result...

No one expected Heidi to fall from the tree. 

She was so much braver than the rest of us, climbing up the slick, gray bark, in spite of her jumper. Heather and I stood by, shivering while all of the other girls watched with open mouths. Besides us forgotten sat the basket of flowers we’d been gathering before those tree branches had caught Heidi’s restless eye. She just had to scale to it

“Come down,” I whispered, trembling while a part of me urged her to go on. 

“You’ve already proven yourself, you fool.” Heather put her hands on her hips and glowered at me. “Why don’t you listen to your future wife and come down?”

“It’s because my future wives are watching, I’ve got to show them what I can do!” Heidi grinned at both of us, a sweet grin of pure mischief…

…right before she lost her balance.

If we’d been heroes or any kind of future wives, we would have caught her. All Heather and I could do was stare with the same stupid faces everyone else made while Heidi hit the ground. 

She let out a high-pitched cry of pain. 

For a moment, I dropped Theodora, my bear. An awful thing to do to one’s bear, but I was shocked. I heard her whimper in pain, echoing Heidi, or was it really Theodora?

Carrot Monster. Heidi’s stuffed rabbit could probably hear her child, maybe even feel what she felt. 

I turned back and started running back to the school.

“Where are you going?” Heather screamed after me. She dropped to her knees and seized Heidi’s hand. It appeared to be intact. “Don’t leave us!”
I glanced over my shoulder at Heidi’s pale face, sweat tearing upon her forehead, trying not to see the blood pooling beneath her. “This is an emergency! I’m getting someone!” 

An adult. I should go find an adult as well as Carrot Monster. I ran through the open doors, looking right and left.

“Grace, you know better than to run in the hallways!” Mrs. Grumple loomed out of the shadows, almost like a gargoyle in her horn-rimmed glasses and gray suit. “Whatever is the matter?” 

“Heidi fell from a tree! She’s bleeding!” I gasped, seeing the door to our classroom. It, too was open. 

“Well, take to where she is at once!” Mrs. Grumple ordered, but I could see a gray, white floppy ear lying on a desk. 

It was Carrot Monster.

*Heidi, Heidi, you’re hurting,* she sang in the sad manner of stuffed animals whom are apart from their children and cannot help them. *If only I was at your side!*

“I’ll take you to her.” I marched into the classroom and picked up the rabbit, who was already showing a tear in her side. It was tough, being Heidi’s stuffed animal. Almost as tough as it was being mine. 

“Well, I wish you would!” Mrs. Grumple crossed her arms and shoved her glasses back up the ridge of her nose. “Just what are you doing?” 

“Getting Carrot Monster.” I carried the rabbit in my arms, realizing I’d dropped Theodora in my anxiety. “She and Heidi need to be reunited.”

“Well, that’s hardly the most important matter right now, is it?” Mrs. Grumple made a shooing motion with her hand. “Your friend is hurt!”

Maybe not, but maybe Carrot Monster might be able to help. I darted out of the classrom with the rabbit and starting running towards the doors.

“Didn’t I tell you not to run in the halls?” Mrs Grumple, taller and with longer legs had no need to run. 

“Yes, but we’re hurrying, aren’t we?” I gave Carrot Monster a comforting squeeze. She might not be my stuffed animal, but I could imagine how worried Theodora would be about me if I’d fallen and we’d been separated. 

“Don’t talk back to me, child,” Mrs. Grumple scolded. “Just show me where she is.” 

I trotted out the front doors and pointed to a small crowd of children.

“Let me though,” our teacher ordered. The ranks parted, revealing Heidi laying on the ground with a bloody leg while Heather crouched beside her, holding her hand. 

“Heidi, can you stand?” Mrs Grumple didn’t crouch. She stood over the two little girls, frowning. 

“Mother, how can you ask such a thing?” Heather protested. “She’s bleeding!”

“She’s Vivian’s daughter, is what she is.” Mrs. Grumple pushed her glasses back on the bridge of her nose, giving both Heidi and Heather a stern look. “Vivian was always falling out of trees, yet getting back on her feet.” She fixed Heidi with her fierce stare. “Can you?”

This struck me as harsh. Heidi had just fallen. If I’d done this at home, both Nathalie and Maia would have made a huge fuss over me. 

School was different. Verity’s School for Girls was a much harsher place. 

Heidi released Heather’s hand and started to get up. She winced in pain, but she managed to stand. 

“Now let’s get you patched up.” Mrs Grumple offered a wrinkled hand. “In the future, try not to climb so high, so fast.”

Heidi nodded, not quite meeting our teacher’s eye. She accepted the hand. The two of them walked off together. 

“Your mama is tough,” I whispered to Heather. “Does she treat the same way when you fall?”

“Mother doesn’t allow me to fall.” Heather watched the two leave, her mother and her friend. A tiny wrinkle appeared in the center of her forehead. “Not if she can help it.”

At the time I wondered what Heather meant. How could you keep someone from falling? It seemed impossible. 

It still seems impossible. You can, however, try to remove every single thing a little girl might trip or stumble over. Even if whatever trippable object was possibly fun as well as scary. 

For Mrs. Grumple, it was always about preventing a fall rather teaching someone how to walk. At least as far as Heather was concerned.

No wonder Heather was so often jealous of the rest of her mother’s students.