But he never did

“Please find him, Fletcher. Oh please, please find him.”

​While there were many things he could have done, Fletcher know he could not disobey the Baroness. For more reason than one. Perhaps more important than the fact she had commanded it (asked it, pleaded it) was the knowledge that her son was likely at the orphanage.

There were many children to save. Fletcher rushed there with no hesitation. And while he helped them evacuate, he learnt something terrible.

He was not there. Neither were Winter and Summer. Dahlia. The boy Golden. A few other children. They had gone further toward the shore to play.

Fletcher ran.

A little too used to

“What are you looking at?”

He considered ignoring Winter, but he didn’t. Golden didn’t turn his gaze from the ceiling though. “The roof is leaking.”

Winter didn’t say anything, but he could tell her begin to search as well for what he was talking about. When she did not see anything, only then did she speak. “What makes you say that?”

“Drop of water on my head.”

Almost the moment he had finished saying that, the next drop of water came down. It splashed a few footsteps in front of them. “Housefather is going to have a fit.”

“Yep. Place was always old though. Repurposed to be an orphanage.”

Winter nodded, shoulders drooping. “I’ll go tell him.”

He considered telling her to tell the Baroness instead, but that would make it sound like he expected her to be able to fix the problem. And he didn’t, he really didn’t.
Or did he?

Slowly but surely, Golden brought down his walls.

From those who care

The housefather was a kind enough man, but with the Baroness always showing up, it was easy to forget about him. Khauhelo was the kind of man who could disappear into the background. At least, most of the time.

“Ah ah ah! When did this break?”

He fretted about the chair as though it could not be fixed or replaced. Winter felt bad for him when he got like that, but she didn’t know what to do about a chair either. “I think it has always been a little wobbly, housefather.”

Khauhelo clicked his tongue in his mouth. “Next thing that will happen is the roof will leak. Oh dear, dear, dear.”

There was no distracting him when this happened. At least, not unless something worse happened. Winter liked to prevent that. Khauhelo was a nice enough man. Only strict at the last moment. Maybe he should have been more so, especially as the children here recovered from their journeys and became a bit more rambunctious. Summer was one of those problems.

She left him with the chair for a bit longer, before returning to let him know the stars had come out. Enough of a reminder that they were all going to go to bed. That was, if they could find all of the problem children. Like Summer. Winter tried not to fret herself.

“Never you worry, Winter. She doesn’t go far. Why don’t we check for your sister just outside? Maybe she is playing with Vasuda?”

Nodding, Winter would follow Khauhelo outside.

Hand out (part two)

“Why don’t you talk?” Summer asked, blunt as ever. Winter scowled, swatting after her. But Summer had already run off to look at Dahlia.

Dahlia stared back blankly. “I talk.”

Summer gasped, like it was some big shock. Maybe it was to her, Winter barely understood it. She was certain Dahlia was closer in age to Summer than to her, but Dahlia didn’t act like Summer at all.

“Summer, stop bothering her.” Winter got to her feet, slowly walking over to Summer to be able to grab her hand. If she ran, then Summer would run. Chasing her wasn’t where she wanted to spend her energy today. She looked over at Dahlia. “The Baroness says there are apple trees behind the castle. They pick them occasionally. She wants to know if we want to try to get some before other people do. Apparently they’re ripe now.”

Dahlia shuffled in place, then looked up at her. “Apples?”

Winter held out her hand. “Apples. They’ll taste really good, I think. First ones of the season. What do you say?”

Dahlia didn’t take her hand, but when Winter took Summer to go, she noted that Dahlia followed after.

Not understanding lies, truth is easy to accept

“Your mother’s the Baroness?” Winter tried to sound unaffected by the knowledge. She didn’t know why. She simply felt as though she should keep her concern to herself. Because if she let it out, Summer could be upset.

The boy looked at her with confusion. “Yes?” He nodded a few times. “Yes, she is.”

For some reason, he didn’t strike her as the Baroness’ heir. He was obviously her son- that wasn’t what she questioned. But while that woman had the air of control and power, much like her position entailed, her son simply seemed like another child. Like he could have been any of them.

“Why do you both come here?”

He laughed a little, looking at her with even more confusion. Confusion, yet happy.

“Because you are all here. Why else?”

It came as easy to him as breathing. Winter couldn’t help but believe him.

Without a reason

“She’s the Baroness of Castlehaven.”

When the children realized this, most actually comprehended what that meant. The fact she kept coming here didn’t make sense, because she was the Baroness. Glad found it suspicious. What could she want with them? She kept coming here, she kept bothering them all, she had to want something, she had to be expecting something from them.

“Why do you think she bothers with us?” asked Winter. Maybe it was to herself and he had just managed to overhear it. She wasn’t talking to him. He didn’t have to respond.

Winter’s sister wasn’t listening, she was playing with a ball. It bounced up against the wall and back towards herself. If she missed it, Winter caught it to toss it back to her.

“Does it matter?” That was the girl he didn’t know the name of. She tended to hug herself and stay in corners. She never bothered him. For a little girl, she was okay.

Winter stared at her sister. “She’s too nice.”

He hadn’t expected that from her. He glanced over, accidentally catching her gaze.

“What do you think, Golden?”

He wanted to retract, to move away, to pull his eyes out and throw them away. But there it was, a name that wasn’t Gladiolus. Something to distance himself from who he used to be.

He wished he had thought of it before. His golden eyes kept on her icy blue ones. “Never trust someone who seems altruistic.”

However, perhaps he should have kept his vocabulary closer to the level of children younger than ten years old.

Washing hair

“That won’t do at all. Did no one offer you a bath?”

Someone had, but Dahlia had made sure to avoid it. There were plenty of other children around. It was easy enough to be overlooked as long as no one saw her.

The woman made a tutting sound with her tongue, looking her over. “I refuse to see hair like this. We will fix it. Come.”

Unfortunately, unlike the adults who watched over the children normally, the woman who would come down to see them, who would come down with that boy with the longest of hair, was harder to be overlooked by. Dahlia followed the woman to the baths despite her hesitance.

The woman with the abundance of hair had her scrub herself down first before she began to work on Dahlia’s hair. Dahlia waited for the tugs, used to them. However, even as her scalp became sore, she felt as though the tugs became less and less painful. The woman was able to put her fingers through it without catching against anything. Dahlia wondered how long they had been in here.

“Much better. Where I come from, hair is a symbol of your life. Make sure to take care of it and it will show the world who you are.”

That didn’t make any sense to Dahlia. All she knew was that she hadn’t been dragged here by her hair and that it didn’t feel like a handle on her head anymore.

She felt new.

When he doesn’t know better

Dahlia hugged her legs to her chest and buried her face into her knees. She stayed like that, hoping no one would find her today. There was nowhere else to go, not that she wanted to go anywhere. She didn’t know what to do anymore.


Her fingers pressed into her arms, almost to the point where it hurt. Then she peered up in the darkness. The boy that stood before her looked like that woman who was always coming to the orphanage. The woman seemed nice, but adults were like that. Adults always seemed nice. Then you got to know them.

She swallowed. “‘lo.”

“What are you doing?”

The way he spoke made her feel like he came from an entirely different world. Like he was an adult. She didn’t like it. “Sitting.”

The boy nodded. “Oh. Okay.”

Just like that, he sat down next to her. She wanted to tell him to go, but she wouldn’t. She never did anything like that. Because that was always the opportunity others took in order to tell her what she was or wasn’t allowed to do.

For a while, all was quiet but for the sounds of the children outside of the closet. The thin light that came into their crevasse lit upon the string wrapped around his fingers. It was made of rainbows. He held out his fingers and the string attached to them.

“Pinch the x’s.”

She couldn’t stop herself. She reached out to play with the string.

Keeping Warm

Winter watched the woman and her gorgeous hair, long curling strands well kept, at a contrast to her rough palms and occasionally chapped lips. When the rest of her was made for work, this woman kept her hair perfect.

“Winter. Are you and Summer keeping warm?”

“Yes’m.” She nodded, watching the woman set down the bundle of something she had brought with her.

“Well, I hope these will help with that. Simply being cold outside shouldn’t keep you in all the time.”

She brought out two coats. Winter’s was a little big, but the woman said she was certain it would last longer that way. The two of them helped Summer put hers on, as she didn’t want to wait. Then she wanted to run around in it.

Winter went to chase after her, but stopped to look back at this woman, this woman who had changed everything. “Thank you.”

Nemissa smiled.

Hiding Spaces

He could have left. He should have left. There was no reason to stay here. If he stayed here, he might fall prey to whatever it was that they might be doing here.

But Gladiolus was tired and nothing actually seemed to be here. He didn’t recognize any of the children as having come from where he had. None of them knew who he was. They wouldn’t ask anything of him. With that in mind, he decided staying for a little bit would be all right. Just long enough to recover. Until someone who thought they knew who he was would come across him.

Time passed. It went from days to weeks and no one had outed him. No one had claimed him to be a monster. He watched them as they continued to mill about him, the other children, unsuspecting, trusting. They didn’t understand how they had gotten here, they had no idea.

He would hide and watch. He would hide and wait.

He tried to hide, only to find a much younger girl already hiding. He knew her name, he’d heard it. He couldn’t remember it.

She looked at him, but her wariness wasn’t like his. There was no anger. She scooted aside.

He hid beside her, because maybe she’d be quiet. If not… well, he could move. Maybe.