Town looked different, but at the same time like home. By that point, Natie was limping, but she refused to stop walking yet. She had to keep moving, to find if her house was still there.
It was. Even from the outside, it didn’t look the same. It was the same building, Natie knew, but when Mom had said “clean” she had meant “clean”. Cleaner than anything they could have ever done.
Her mother came out of that clean house, rushing to her and gathering Natie up in her arms. Natie clung to her with the remnants of her energy. Not very much.
“Mom, it’s just a person. Just a big person. We live in a glass box and the sun has a cord attached to it.”
She rambled on like that, not certain how much Mom could understand. Not with her mouth muffled into Mom’s shoulder. After another moment, she could feel Dad’s hand smoothing down her hair, the steady influence trembling on her head.
She asked Mom about it, because bringing it up to Dad was something she did not want to do. He expected so much of her and she still had no idea what she really wanted.
“Patty becoming a vet is nice and all,” Mom said, “but I would choose something that would be useful. Like my being a seamstress. I no longer work fully as a seamstress, but having done so before having you has certainly helped with our family, hasn’t it?”
Natie nodded. “I guess.”
“Then how about becoming a cook? You can help me more with the meals. See if you enjoy it.”
Natie did that, because spending time with Mom was fun. And while they were doing that, Mom spoke more about cooking than she did about the upcoming Cleaning. If she focused on that, really tried hard, then she was very tired by bedtime and all Dad would do was take her book from her bag and read her whichever story she asked him too.
“Dad? Patty said I’m too old for bedtime stories now.”
“Don’t be silly. You will never too old to have a story.”
Natie wondered if cooking would be anything like a bedtime story. Putting in the ingredients. Letting the fire change it. But in the end she would rather climb a tree and press flowers. That was where she was when the Cleaning commenced.