We play the game with skillful hands

POSTED: Tue Jan 05, 2016 5:05 pm

"What have you got there?" Her voice was sweet, angelic. The child paused its incessant gnawing and looked up, murky brown eyes clear, young. A shiver tingled through it when she smiled.
"Nothing. A bone." The child wrinkled its nose, tiny ivory needles peeking from beneath dark lips, and frowned. It felt suddenly very possessive. "It's mine. You can't have it."
But under her brilliant azure gaze, it suddenly felt embarrassed and ashamed. The woman laughed and gently flipped back her dark hair.
"Of course it is, darling," she assured it and knelt down to the child's level, offering her brindled hand for a stroke. "I wouldn't dream of taking it. Where are your parents?"
The child leaned into her palm, tilting its head back as she stroked its cheek and chin. She seemed to know precisely where all the itchy places were and by the time the question of its parents came up, it was entirely devoted to the strange mottled woman.
"Dunno. Well," it paused and then shrugged. "Mama's prolly sleeping. I ain't got papa."
"Haven't you any siblings? A brother or a sister?"
"No. Maybe."
"Maybe? Darling, haven't you any idea who your family is?" she asked him softly and the tenderness in her voice stroked him almost as warmly as her fingers did. It felt sad in that moment and it had to look away.
"I ain't got a family."
"What about your mother?"
"She don't care about me. All she does is drink." This much was at least partially true and even in its youth, the child knew it. But though its mother was married to the bottle, she had an instinctive love for her dear child -- the only one to survive a pregnancy of alcohol and drugs. It was a wonder the child functioned at all.
"My poor darling child," the woman said, slowly rolling her hand over its soft round head. "What would you say to an adventure?"
The child lifted its head, dark eyes staring inquiringly. "What kind of adventure?"
"How would you like to travel the world? Hmm? Sail aboard a ship, perhaps? Climb a mountain?"
"Could I?" The child's interest was piqued. It desperately wanted the chance at a better life, at being loved. "I wanna ride a ship!"
The woman's lips curled over the striping of her maw and she emitted a gentle laugh. "Of course, my darling. Would you like to go now?"
"Yeah!" But then hesitation. It was thinking about its mother, alone and swallowed by the darkness of alcohol. "But what about my mama?"
The woman stroked the dear child's head and rubbed its ears, her blue eyes filled with what the child mistook for love. "Why, I'll tell her where you're going, of course. And you're sure to see her again." She let out a little gasp suddenly, as though having just thought of something. The child watched her inquisitively. "Can you imagine how proud she'll be of you when you return?"
The child was entirely under the woman's spell from the moment her gentle words spilled into its heart. Eagerly, it followed the woman out of its meager, miserable life of filth, poverty, and neglect, the promise of adventure and of opportunity still ringing in its ears.

***


They traded the brat to a traveling merchant in exchange for an immaculate wolverine-fur cloak. The woman had discovered very quickly how terrible the lands were this far north, all clothed in pristine white and scoured from bitter winds. She despised the residents in this barren territory for their thick winter pelts and desperately wished for their comfort and their warmth. So it had been a stroke of luck to find the merchant, though it had always been their intention to trade the child. That he had something she desired -- required -- and was willing to take the child off their hands seemed almost to be the very will of God Himself.

A small, ironic smile played upon her lips while these memories caressed her mind and her azure eyes took in the very land they had spent so many long months searching for: Nova Scotia. They had finally arrived.

And he was so near she could almost smell him, taste him.

But before Marcella Fauks stepped onto the land of these varied territories, she tugged the warmth of her cloak around her shoulders and allowed one final thought to flicker, hover dimly, and die out again without so much as a fizzle: she had never even learned the child's name.

[WC: 773]
Marcella Fauks

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Mandi

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