(I’m already writing Rule One, just not done yet)
This is the linkback incentive story for today’s Giraffe Call. Let me know you linked to the call, and I’ll post another 50 words.
I’m going out for a couple hours now, but will be back to post this afternoon!
When Juniper came home crying from school for the third time, I brewed her my special sweet tea and started baking her a batch of cookies while Sage tried to get the story from her. Since they were in the breakfast nook and I was in the kitchen, I thought I could get away with a little addition to the tea. She’d been so frustrated lately, and it was hard to watch my baby girl suffer – especially knowing how that had colored the way my oldest had grown up.
I reached for the special herbs, the ones I kept in the black jars, up on the shelves only Sage and I could reach. I should have known better – the hinges on that cupboard make a distinctive lack of sound, almost an anti-sound, after a little too much no-squeak got squirted on their hinges. You could always tell when that cabinet – or the one next to it, where Sage keeps his work tools – is opened. We’ve used that to our advantage more than a couple times, when the kids were feeling either inquisitive or murderous (they’re our children; both were to be expected). Today, it served as my conscience – and not for the first time, either.
“Aud?” Sage poked his head into the kitchen as I was opening the smallest of the black jars. “Aud, that isn’t for Juniper’s tea, is it?”
“She’s so frustrated, Sage,” I countered, not really answering him. I don’t lie to him.
“Rule Two, Aud,” he counter-countered. To my exasperated sigh, all he added was “It was your rule, remember.”
“It was,” I agreed. “I assume you mean the codicil? I wasn’t putting it in your tea, after all.”
“Sweetie, the day you dose my tea is the day, well…”
“Well.” No more to say about that; Sage, at least, had a good idea of what a Pumpkin graduate could do, and I had a very very good idea of what a Black Tower alum was capable of. We did not practice our homework on each other.
Or on our children. I frowned at the tea, and put the black jar back in its place. “Her tea is ready. Is she all right?”
“As far as I can tell without really poking, she wishes her dad would butt out of her life and stop making everything such a big deal already.”
“And you’re not going to poke, not really.” I pulled the cookies out of the oven to give him a chance to look innocent. “Rule Two, Sage.”
“But she’s so frustrated, Aud…”
“And we don’t want the problems Jin had. Well, why don’t we get Jin to talk to her?”
“Sometimes, my lovely wife, you have brilliant ideas.”
“And sometimes, my handsome husband, you’re bright enough to listen. Where’s the oldest?”
“Last I saw, he was helping Jimmy Smith fix the wall.”
“The one the ogre’s kid sat on? Good for them.”
“Well, it wasn’t entirely their idea,” he admitted.
“Ah-ha. This have something to do with the mess last weekend?”
“Just a little bit,” Sage nodded. “I told them they could do some yard work, or they could pay me to hire a contractor to do it.”
“They do know you’d do it yourself, right?”
“Irrelevant to the matter,” he smirked. “But I’m sure if you go out with a plate of cookies, Jin would be glad for the excuse for a break.”
“Funny, I made some dragon cookies, too,” I mused.
“I thought those were for Jimmy’s parents?”
“I can always make another batch. Our daughter needs her brother.” I packed up the cookies and headed out to the stone wall, where Jimmy and Jin were, to my surprise, actually being very effective in their yard work. I wondered exactly how much Sage had told them it would cost if they didn’t?
“I’m here to bribe you into taking a break,” I told them, offering the cookies. “Jin, Juniper came home crying again…”
“Thanks, Mrs. S. It’s the bully again, isn’t it?” Jimmy asked, taking the cookie. “That horrid girl Miryam? I told her I’d come to school with her, but she thought that would be a bad idea.”
“I agree,” I told him solemnly. “Crisping Juniper’s problems won’t help her learn to deal with them.” Even if I did empathize with the urge. “So, tell me about Miryam?” I passed him another cookie.
“She’s been calling Juniper names, telling her that she’s funny-looking, that her clothes are stupid. Telling her that she’s making up stupid stories – that’s why I wanted to go to school with her, Mrs. S. Because Miryam’s one of those stupid humans whose never met a dragon or anything interesting.”
Stupid clothes. Funny-looking. I felt a pang of guilt; was this my fault. “There are still people out there that don’t believe in dragons?” It seemed unthinkable, but then, I knew we lived in a bit of an echo chamber.
Jimmy was polite enough not to laugh, but Jin had no such need for manners; I was his mother, after all. “Ogre turds, Mom, there are people who don’t believe in the Black Tower. They think it’s all, you know, whack jobs and conspiracy theories. One kid at school actually told me ogres had been made up by the C.I.A. to suppress homesteading in the mountains.”
I shook my head. Sometimes I was too sheltered. “So this Miryam,” I tried to get us back on topic. “She’s been… what?” I would have been more chagrined about my ignorance if Jin didn’t look as lost as I was.
“Telling Juniper she’s making stuff up. Tattling on her to the teachers.” Jimmy snorted flames. “Lying.”
“Well, no wonder she’s upset.” And she couldn’t tell me, why? “We’re going to have to do something about that. I haven’t been getting any letters home from her teachers, either.”
“Those are easy,” Jin muttered. “Your signature is pretty easy to forge, Mom.”
I shot him a look. “We’ll talk about that later. So she’s been hiding it from me.”
“Well, yeah.” That was Jimmy, surprisingly. “Don’t take it personally, Mrs. S. She doesn’t want you to think she’s messing up, is all. But that little brat keeps making things hard on her, and her teachers… stuck in the last century.”
“Seems like much of the world still is. Well, thanks for telling me, boy… Jimmy, Jin.” They politely ignored my slip. “Jin, do you think you could coax a little more of the story out of her while I call her school?”
“Sure, Mom,” he agreed. “C’mon, Jimmy.”
I watched them go, son and dragon, and wondered what I was going to do. Forging notes. Being bullied at school for things that were simple truths at home. Keeping things from their father and I. I needed to talk to Juniper’s teacher.
And Rule Two did not apply to her.
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