The rest of the day, Aluitte helped her father birth a premature kid whose mother was an old doe who had appropriately come by the name of "Old Mother Goat". Her father did most of the dirty work as Aluitte watched silently off to the side, holding a towel and her father's coat. Old Mother Goat was strangely calm as sweat rolled down the side of her neck and as Aluitte's father deftly took the legs of the fragile little kid and helped her out of the womb. Aluitte's father cooed an old shepherd's lullaby as the wet mess squirmed and the man gently tugged.
"Quick, hand me the towel," her father said, and Aluitte scampered to her father's side. With the towel, her father wrapped the fragile thing in the linen and dried it off. Now, with the worst of it over, they left the kid to be licked clean by its mother. Aluitte watched in awe as the premature kid stuck its nose in the air and instinctively searched for food. Wiping his hands off of another clean towel, the man led Aluitte out of the barn and back to the open pastures of the dell where Jessie waited patiently for her master.
As Jessie joined them on their walk back home, Aluitte looked up to her father who had a contented smile in his eyes. "Papa?" she asked.
"Hmm?" he answered in a low rumble.
"Was I born like that?" she asked sweetly, watching her father for some sort of reaction. He showed none, and continued to smile at the horizon with an even expression. Aluitte often wondered what the world looked like way up from where he stood.
"Yes and no," he answered honestly. "You were born from your mother, like the kid was, but it was louder. You cried more. Your mom cried more. And you were born in a nice clean house, not a barn in a pile of straw. But you were little too. You were two weeks premature."
"Did my mom lick me too?"
Aluitte's father threw his head up to the sky and let out a booming laugh. "No, your mother did not lick you, but she smiled and stroked you with even more love in her heart than Old Mother Goat had." Her father's expression turned grave. "She loved you very, very much."
Aluitte's expression also lost some of its light."I know she did," she said, being all too familiar with that phrase. Aluitte and her father shared a pause of silence as they listened to the warm winds rushing down the sides of the mountains and swirling around the rolling hills of their sheep pasture. Aluitte looked up to her father once more. "Do I look like her?" she asked, suddenly extremely curious about the mother she never had.
Aluitte's father looked down at his daughter and stared into her deep brown eyes that almost seemed green in certain lights. He took a lock of her brown hair that had just recently lightened into a dirty blonde. "Yes," he answered. Aluitte waited for more, but her father let go of her hair and looked back up to the horizon.
Once night had finally closed a lid on the dell, Aluitte and her father retired to their humble little home. Father started a fire as Aluitte lit the oil lamps, and soon their little home was filled with warmth. They ate their supper in a silent complacency, each musing over their accomplishments of the day. Aluitte looked up from her soup bowl and stared at her father who bent low over his meal like a wolf would over his prey. Should she dare ask what was bothering her mind, even if it was obviously a taboo subject?
Before she could even bring herself to open her mouth, Aluitte's father seemed to catch what was on her mind. He looked up from his bowl to stare at her soft brown eyes and put down his spoon. "It's late," he said, as if only just remembering the time. "It's time for you to get some sleep."
Aluitte knew not to argue, so she ate her last mouthful and scampered up to her loft where she slept. She changed into her night clothes slowly, thinking over how she would coax the truth about her mother out of her father. Would it be like shepherding, or would it be like leading a horse out of its stable? Perhaps it would be more like waiting for a mouse to come out of its hole. The more she thought about it, the more her curiosity grew and the more she wished finding the truth would be as simple as shepherding.
Aluitte crawled into her sheets and waited, adjusting her hair so that it came down in two neat piles along her shoulders. She waited for her father to come up to tuck her into bed, watching the soft glow of the lamplight from below. She waited until her eyes felt heavy and she had to force herself to keep them open. She knew her father was still awake and would come. She knew he would walk up the stairs with heavy feet and smile at her as she pretended to be sleeping. She knew he would come and tickle her into cracking a smile. She knew he would tell her a story to get her to fall asleep...
Aluitte was already asleep when her father came up late that night to kiss her to bed. She woke up just briefly enough to feel his calloused hand rest on her head and take a lock of her hair. She smiled, but didn't open her eyes. She didn't want to embarrass him as he quietly kissed her forehead and snuck away back down the steps. Before falling back into the black pit of sleep, she thought briefly how maybe her father's thoughts were mice after all.