Nydia was visiting Gram DJ, so Mies was playing in the back yard with Gwenfrewi, Cyan, and Eryk. They were playing Magical Flower Girls against the Giant Tiger of Doom, with Gram DJ's cat Ademion playing the role of the Giant Tiger. Ademion made a very nice Giant Tiger, although he never managed to get quite big enough.
Eryk and Cyan were really too little to play, but Gram DJ and Mom always insisted that they include the babies, so Gwenfrewi and Mies were trying to explain, again, what the rules were, when Nydia came outside with Gram to look at the flowers. She was so pretty, skinny, like a tree, and her belly was rounded and full like the moon with her baby.
Baby bellies were beautiful. Her mom told her so, and Gram DJ told Heliotrope so all the time. Cousin Heliotrope was a secret. Mies was glad Gram thought she was old enough to share the secret with, and liked having something that Gram and she could share against Mom and the endless little sisters and brothers and Dad.
She winked at Gram now, as she abandoned her flower wand and the fight against the Giant Tiger of Doom to skip over to Nydia. She'd just learned skipping and thought it was a lot of fun, although Dora at school said it was silly.
"May I?" she asked politely, the way she'd been taught, and rubbed Nydia's belly reverently. "You're beautiful," she informed her. She told her every time, but Gram said that was okay. Ladies like to hear that. "I'm going to be beautiful like you some day, and have babies."
"I'm sure you are," Nydia smiled. She turned to Gram. "The sun…"
"Back inside with you." Gram whisked her inside. "Mies, you take care of your kin."
"I always do," she informed her Gram's departing back. She was a grown-up. She did what she was supposed to.
"Roooar," Eryk called in the background.
"Roaaaawwwr," Ademion miawled back. And then,
"Attack the inter-inter- bad guy!" Gwenfrewi shouted. They were playing without her! That wasn't fair, it was her game! Mies ran back to the attack, scooping up her flower wand on the way. There was an intruder! There was a bad guy at the gate! He was big and strong-looking and Mies didn't know him at all! Wait, wait…
"Stranger danger!" She and Gwen had just learned that a week ago from Lady Maureen, and now they were getting a change to practice it. "Stranger danger!" Gwen grabbed Eryk and Cyan's hands and hurried them towards the door, while Mies stared down the man with her flower wand between them. "Who are you?"
He laughed, looking down at her. "Aren't you adorable? You can't be DJ's, not with that nose." He reached out towards Mies, but she fended him off with her flower.
"I am not adorable. "I am a magical flower girl, and you are intruding."
The man crouched down until he was looking her in the face. He looked less scary that way, but he was still a stranger. Strangers were danger. "I used to live here, you know."
"I've heard that before," she informed him. "That doesn't mean you live here now. I live here now," she added, in case he thought she didn't know he was an intruder for real.
He was frowning now. "You're an awfully rude little girl, you know that?"
"Gram DJ says that there's no such thing as too rude when standing your ground, and my mom says the same thing. And you are here, and Gram didn't invite you in, which means I'm supposed to stand my ground. Or run away." She frowned. They'd told her both; which was right here?
"Well, if you want to run inside and tell your Gram I'm here, I'll stand here and wait until you're back."
She studied him uncertainly. "Do you promise?"
He frowned even more, his eyebrows doing that caterpillar thing. "You are a very, very rude little girl. I can't believe your Gram taught you to act like that."
"Why not?" Mies didn't like this guy. He was making her uncomfortable, making her feel like running. But if she ran, then who would stop him from getting to Gwenfrewi and the little ones? "My Gram is teaching me to be strong!"
"And she's doing a good job of it, too." That was Gram. Mies ran to her, relieved. Gram would make everything okay. "Carmichael. I didn't expect to see you back here any time soon."
"There's trouble coming, Dejah. I thought someone ought to warm you."
Gram's voice had a rare doom-tone to it when the answer came. "Mies, go inside with your kin and Nydia. Carmichael and I need to have a talk."
Copyright © 2009-2012 Lyn Thorne-Alder. All rights reserved.
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