The two men arrived silenced and half-broken, the same morning the world froze. Their quiet stank of rout, and she hated the sound of beaten souls. But not enough to miss the hateful cry of the eagle turned sheep.
She let them into her cabin, but ignored the way their cold bones leaned towards her fire. “Why are you here?” She already knew—the leader of their madness had turned tail, leaving them to feed on lies and snow. She just needed to make sure that they knew it too.
The younger man tried to hold her gaze and failed. “We’ve no place to go,” he said. “And… we’re hungry. I don’t know these lands. And the storm… Please, ma’am, you don’t have to help me. But my grandfather… he’s unwell.”
She watched the old man. They had been neighbors since before the cancer took her mother. She didn’t know his first name. But the blue chilling his eyes was burned into her forever memory the night he paid two teenagers to set fire to her garden. She could taste the smoke, hear screams ripping out of her throat, feel heat biting into the skin of her hands. Old anger twisted her gut. But she wasn’t a heartless beast. “I don’t have much—”
“What did I tell you?” the old man said to his grandson. “This kind of people—”
She continued talking as if his spew hadn’t envenomed the air. “But I have enough to get us through winter, if we are careful.”
“Just tell me what to do,” the young man said. “I’m strong. I know how to listen.”
Lips pursed, the old man walked to stand by her fire.
She let him. But when she saw him eying her rocking chair, she said, “No. Use one of those,” she pointed at a wooden crate, “or sit on the floor.”
Linked to the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads
(Poetry and Flash Fiction with Magaly: Snow Birthed Tales).