This story contains magic and references to Addergoole but no slavery, sex, or violence.
After These Walls Can Talk
Sana wasn’t sure, when they stepped into the house, if they would stay. So many shelters had been traps, so many places had been nightmares just waiting to happen. Sana had her kids to think of, before anything, and sometimes sleeping on the street was safer than sleeping in a safe house.
This house was different, though. Clean, shiny, bright hardwood floors and colorful area rugs, curtains on the windows and a full pantry in the kitchen. Guest rooms upstairs that looked like real bedrooms, not barracks. A change of clothes in the closet. Soft towels in the bathroom. Toys in the toybox.
Her kids were playing before she’d decided if they were going to stay or not, before she’d even found their hostess, whoever had invited them in. She’d heard the woman, but not seen her, so, while the kids played, she poked around a little bit.
Nothing. She met two other refugees – Clare and Tobias, just teens, cold and dirty and hungry, much like she and her kids were – but they, too, hadn’t met their hostess. Upstairs, downstairs. The house was cheerful, bright – but not lived in. No toiletries in any of the bathrooms, except in sealed boxes. No undies in a hamper. Nothing.
“Ahem.” The voice seemed to be coming from the kitchen. “Pardon me, I know it’s improper, but… welcome to my home.”
“Where are you?” Sana stepped forward, putting herself between the teenagers and the kitchen. She could still hear her kids upstairs, playing away.
“Ah. Well, it’s more of what. Please don’t freak out. I’m the house, you see.”
“You’re…?” It was Tobias, not Clare, who squeaked and backed up against a wall. Sana didn’t have the luxury of panic. She had the kids to think of.
“A dragon burnt down our house,” she informed the air. “And an ogre ruined my place of business. Are you that sort of thing?”
“A human once tried to burn down the trees in my front yard. Are you that sort of thing?” the kitchen countered.
“Ah. Ah.” Sana pondered. “Then you’re like the demon that saved my son’s life?”
“That… is closer to accurate, yes.”
“I’ve never met a demon house.” Clare’s nervous giggles seemed hollow and worried. Sana didn’t blame her.
“Well, then, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I would curtsy, but it tends to distress people inside me. I am Bethesda.”
Sana sat down hard. Dragons. Demons. And a house. “Pleased to meet you, Bethseda. Ah… are we intruding?”
“Not at all, not at all. I get lonely,” the house admitted. “I like having company – and with the world as crazy as it is right now, it’s good to have some helping hands.”
Clare giggled again, her laughs getting closer to hysteria. “Hands at all. Hands.”
“Oh, dear.” The house tch’d, and Tobias hurried to hug his friend. “Sometimes I have that effect on people.”
“I imagine so.” Sana’s kids were still giggling upstairs. “So… we can stay? Just until we get back on our feet?”
“You can stay as long as you need to, all five of you.”
“I’d say that calls for a celebration.” She smiled at the kitchen, wondering if the house could see her. “What does one give a house for a house-warming?”
Bethseda chuckled, the pictures on the wall rattling a little bit. “Friendship… and I wouldn’t say no to some weeding.”
“Friendship and weeding. I can do that.” Sana had a feeling they’d be staying for a while.
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