Chapter 50: The Old Man

The bath did wonders for her, no doubt. The hot water was a great replacement for the cold river water and, when she had the time, lukewarm cups of stream water she managed to boil over a camp fire. Alkyra ended up missing dinner, but one lost meal for the day would do her no harm. She could go another day without any food, if she dared. But there was no need to, now was there? Shelter and a healthy supply of nourishment felt like something out of a dream for her, but an actual house – no, a manor was not something she could grasp.

Often, when she slept, her dreams were sweet and abstract. Nothing distracting or mocking from her past, but the Sistren seemingly appeared into existence from another’s imagination altogether. Despite the time she had spent with her newfound sisters, Alkyra could never fully set apart the Sistren from fiction or fate. At every moment, some part of her was still quivering with shock and excitement yet to be sated.

Her favorite part of her new home was the bed.Herbed. Goodness, the blankets felt like something slipping down from the heavens and meant only for the girl. She especially thought so when she returned from her bath. She was no longer wearing the elf’s gift of a dress, but a thick nightgown that passed her knees – something else token from the closet Alkyra shared with Eru. Sleep was calling her; she could feel it in her heavy eyes and relaxed body, and with her roommate asleep already, Alkyra settled herself onto the bed and laid her scaled body down, a blanket pulled over her.

Still, the lizard suffered her fair share of average problems just as everyone else did.

Despite the fact that every inch of her person called for sleep, her mind would not allow it. Thoughts shot back and forward, all about the Sistren, the locket, and her sisters. At some point in the silence, Eru awoke and left the room, more restless than Alkyra.

But even in the loneliness and the silence, Alkyra could not find sleep. A heavy sigh left her and she sat up, setting her pillow up alongside the headboard and laid against it. Her eyes drifted across the room, looking for something to quell her loud thoughts but the room was small and there was nothing to entertain her. So, the lizard allowed her mind to wander once again, but searched for more peaceful thoughts rather than those of the curious and bothering nature.

She thought of the forest and the sky. Of birds and their sounds; of a warm summer – her favorite time of year when food was easier and weather was calmer. But again, nothing did it for her. Instead she broke a barrier of her shell of protection, and wandered into thoughts and memories she would prefer to forget. Alas, the sweetness and the value of those memories stuck to her as did the horrors of the time before.

An image came to her: A man, old and crinkled with grey hair and a kind smile. He had a name once, but she never used it. From a young age, Alkyra knew he would never be a father to her – not completely – and she knew she would never have the right to refer to him as such. He was always that “old man” who lived outside of town, on a farm spreading a few acres west and east.

The farm house was old, standing for several generations. Alkyra remembered the rickety steps that led to her one small bedroom that overlooked the farm, and the wallpaper of small, blue flowers. A bed with white sheets was in the corner and a wide window overhead; one bookcase and a closet packed to the other side of the room. She used to have a mirror perched up on the wall next to the door, but around the time she turned thirteen and came to the crushing realization that her appearance would never change, Alkyra smashed the mirror, throwing it against the door.

It was the first time she ever felt true loneliness.

But there were good times too. She thought of one memory in particular.

Alkyra was seven, and remembered how quickly the cold was reaching the farm before winter truly came. The old man stayed inside for the warmth during this particular season with no crops to attend to and only a few sheep and chickens to bother about. His children were not of age yet, but they were growing as quickly as the white on the man’s head, and often left the house to enjoy the nearby town’s joys and wonders. Something Alkyra was kept away from.

She remembered walking into the den, enjoying the silence of the house, spare for the flickering noises coming from the fireplace. Out of habit, the small scaled girl hoisted herself onto the old man’s lap without invitation and received only a smile.

That day would be the first day she ever asked of her mother with unyielding determination.

He would laugh at her every time she frowned and tugged at his arm. Finally, after some pleading on her part, he told Alkyra something of her mother.

“She had your hair,” he said, his voice quiet and easy, “But not as fiery I believe. Quiet lass, she was, but charming when she actual spoke up.”

“Was she beautiful?” the younger, less skeptical and more innocent version of Alkyra had asked.

“Beautiful?” the old man stopped to think for a brief second. “Not very much.  Pretty though, for someone with a babe. She had your eyes too, but not your temper.”

She frowned as any seven year-old would at the last comment. “I don’t have a temper!”

He chuckled again, his chest vibrating with the empowering sound. “Yes, yes if you say so my dear.”

“Was there anything else that you can remember?”

“She had a necklace. Pretty little thing too. She wore it every time I saw her.”

Her eyes went wide. “Did she leave it with you? Did she?” The child didn’t have anything of her mother’s beside the picture she painted in her mind, but the thought of a necklace instead of an image in her head…

When the old man frowned and shook his head her heart broke for the first time. But Alkyra blocked out that part before she fell into a (fortunately) dreamless sleep.

The End

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