Nan’s House

This was a response for YeahWrite #508:

A teapot

“Teapot with purple steam” by garrellmillhouse is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

***

“Nan’s house is magic, you’ll love it!” Gia was positively vibrating in her seat, straining against her seatbelt like she could make the car speed up and get there faster.

Brody had his doubts about this. He’d found grandparents to be a real sticking point with foster homes in the past. Old people had a distinct preference for kids who were the kids of their kids. Not so much the random one they got saddled with babysitting at the same time. Grandkids are a blessing, but other peoples’ kids were a chore, one rosy cheeked old woman had muttered to her neighbour friend when he’d slunk into the kitchen to ask for a glass of water.

“And Nan’s magic, too!” Gia added. “You’ll love her too!”

“What do I call her?” Brody asked, pitching his voice loud enough to carry towards the Bernardis in the front seats without, he hoped, being obnoxious. This home had so far been too good to be true, he’d do what he could to keep on their good side. If that meant being invisible for the summer so Nan wouldn’t complain to them about the extra work of looking after another child, he’d be the world’s most polite potted plant.

“Nan, of course,” Gia sent him a baffled look before resuming her strain towards the house they’d be living in for two months while the adult Bernardis went away. Mrs. Bernardi had to go to somewhere in Germany for research, and they’d decided to make a vacation of it.

Mr. Bernardi glanced in the rear-view mirror and met Brody’s eyes for a moment. “She’ll likely encourage you to call her Nan, but you can also call her Mrs. Costa if you prefer. Whatever makes you most comfortable.”

Brody was most suspicious of Mr. Bernardi. His eyes were so warm. He was too perceptive. He’d noticed Brody’s interest in the coffee table book about frogs and gotten him another from his office! Later, the man had offered to take Brody to the library! He had looked positively delighted when Brody slipped some books on sharks onto the checkout counter too. Brody couldn’t figure out his angle.

The car pulled off the highway and wound down back roads for another hour, and, all too soon, they were creeping down a winding tunnel of trees and hedges. Nan’s house was small and brick, with a riot of gardens all around it, a huge pond out front and a flock of wind chimes hanging from the wide porch.

Nan herself was a tall scrawny scarecrow of a woman, long white hair frizzing out of a long braid, wearing overalls, birkenstocks and a tee-shirt with a large smiley face on it.

She met Gia halfway, dashing the gangly girl up in a tight hug before pulling her back by the shoulders to do the standard grandkid once-over.

Brody hung back behind the Bernardis, clutching his backpack full of books to his chest and sidling towards the trunk to help with the bags.

He let out a yelp of surprise when he found himself swooped up in a tight hug by the old woman, who had apparently skipped the Bernardis to come and greet him first.

“Brody! I’m so excited to meet you! I’m Nan, and I’m so happy you’re here!”

Brody stood frozen in surprise as she proceeded to hold him at arms length and give him – him! – the grandkid once-over! It was madness! She didn’t even have a previous iteration to compare him to!

“I heard from Dan that you’ve got an interest in aquatic creatures, which is just wonderful, because you’ve arrived at the perfect time for tadpoles!”

She gave him a friendly slap on the back, passed him his bag from where it had fallen, and went to greet the adult Bernardis.

Gia bounded over and started unloading the trunk, her grin a match for the raspy-voiced old woman’s.

**

Brody spent the evening braced for the switch – the Bernardis had left after a hearty lunch in the back garden, which could only mean that Mrs. Costa would soon show her true colours.

So she urged him to help himself to seconds… of dessert. And then urged him to join her and Gia in a boardgame. She gave him extra marshmallows in his hot chocolate later, with a friendly wink and a comment about growing boys. She then gave Gia extra marshmallows with a comment about growing girls. Then added more to her own, with a comment about growing old.

It would happen when Gia wasn’t around, he was sure. Maybe she didn’t want to let her granddaughter know what she thought of the foster kid she was stuck babysitting. Adults were sometimes like that.

Though he was apparently definitely supposed to call her Nan.

**

Brody lay in bed as long as he could bear, hoping that Gia would prove to be more of a morning person here than she was at home. He was wondering how long he could continue only interacting with Mrs. Costa while in the presence of her granddaughter. He liked Nan-Mrs. Costa… he didn’t want to meet only-doing-my-daughter-a-favour-Mrs. Costa.

But it was nearly 8, and he was horribly bored.

He’d just slip downstairs and go explore a bit outside.

Mrs. Costa – Nan – was in the kitchen, eating toast and reading the newspaper. Not absorbed enough for him to slip past unnoticed, however.

“Lovely, a fellow early-bird! I’ve got toast, cereal, and, if you’re up for cooking yourself, there are eggs. Help yourself to whatever condiments – the cupboard by the fridge has nutella and peanut butter, jam’s in the fridge, so’s the milk and juice, butter’s on the counter.”

Brody made himself some toast with peanut butter and jam, uncomfortable in the silence. Nan pulled the comics section from the paper and placed it in front of the seat opposite her. Brody slipped into the offered seat and pulled the pages towards himself. Nan seemed content to sip her coffee and peruse the paper in silence while he ate.

“Gia wants a tea-party this afternoon,” Nan commented, staring into her coffee.

“Really?” Brody asked, surprised. Gia was thirteen – Brody was only ten, but quite sure Gia was long out of the age of tea parties.

Nan raised her eyebrow at Brodys tone – or possibly, Mrs. Costa did, he thought – and he looked away.

“You’re never too old for a tea party, kiddo- nothing makes you feel fancier, or more like a giant than tiny tiny sandwiches.”

Nan then suggested Brody join her in the garden to hunt for toads.

**

The tea party was more of a picnic. They all spent some time prepping tiny sandwiches – cucumber, pb&j, and egg salad – and chopping vegetables and fruit to go with the dips.

Once everything else was packed, they each chose a tea-cup from the many on the shelves, and packed that into the basket. Gia carried the basket, and Brody carried the blanket. Nan pulled down a small teapot and filled it with tap water.

They all trooped out to the far end of the garden, where there was a nice sun-dappled patch of grass surrounded by flower beds and trees.

Once everything was set up, their tea cups arranged on the basket-top, Nan looked at the children with a solemn expression. “And now for tea.”

“Me first!” Gia burst out, earning a reprooving look from her grandmother – not unlike the look she’d given Brody that morning. “Brody hasn’t done it before, he needs a demonstration.”

Nan nodded at that, as though Brody really did need a demonstration of cold water being poured into tea cups.

“Very well, my darling, what will you be having today?” Nan asked, holding the pot poised over Gia’s cup.

Gia scrunched up her face for a long moment in needlessly intense thought. “Raspberry Cordial.”

“Excellent choice!” Nan poured the water, giving it a bit of dramatic flare by drawing the teapot up high so the water cascaded down into the cup.

Gia smiled at Brody after taking a sip of her water. “You can ask for any kind of drink you can think of, Brody! But the raspberry cordial is really good, if you can’t think of anything.”

Brody wondered how he’d already lived with this girl for a whole month before learning she was crazy.

Nan turned to Brody. “And you, sir?”

“Um, could I please have some water?” He did his best to not roll his eyes.

Nan nodded without a comment and raised the pot, but Gia darted her hand out to cover Brody’s cup. “Brody – water’s the most boring thing – you can pick anything, really! It’s no fun if you just pick water.”

Gia looked so upset by Brody’s lack of effort to participate in the game. She was so nice, even if at times more enthusiastic than Brody was used to.

“Um, then how about… um… orange soda? Please?”

“Delightful choice!” Nan crowed, dramatically pouring the water into the tea cup. “In fact, I think I’ll have the same, since I can’t even remember the last time I had orange soda!”

She proceeded to pour her own water as dramatically as theirs, and took a sip. She smacked her lips then burped. “Oh, the bubbles do have that effect! Definitely a good choice, though.”

Brody smiled politely, resting his teacup of water on his knee. He was about to reach for a sandwich when he realized that Gia was staring at him with tense glee in her expression. And Nan was watching him rather intently too.

Apparently playing the game in full was the barrier between him and tiny sandwiches.

Brody lifted the cup and took a small sip of water to appease the others. And gasped in surprise, causing orange soda to fizz out his nose and down his chest.

Gia howled with laughter, while Nan simply smiled, eyes twinkling, and handed him a napkin. “There’s a good lad – I knew you had it in you.”

He did try the raspberry cordial, and it was really quite good.

Brody was beginning to think Gia was right – this summer would be magical.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">

Master Class – Castle, Stormed

We’re into the first full week of Nanowrimo, so while I hope to keep up doing one or two blog posts a week, chances are they’ll be bits and pieces of the story I’m working on for Nano.  Case in point, this prompt response.  If you’re doing Nano as well, feel free to add me as a friend on the boards – Lexy0387 is my username.

This week’s master class is from Dragonflight, and the challenge was to use it as the beginning or end of a story.  Click the image below to go to the prompt and read some of the other responses, or answer it yourself!

The photo below is by a flickr user named Helena.  Follow the link to see more of her stuff.

Dragon

“What are you doing here?”

Mara had been training for this moment for so long, and now that it finally had, an actual man speaking the male part was throwing her off.

“I’m… I… I’m… I live here,” She stammered.  “Hang on.  Let me start again.” She cleared her throat. “Good Sir Knight, you have rescued me.  Prithee take this – ” she snatched up a kerchief, “This token of my gratitude.”

The scruffy man gingerly plucked the kerchief from her outstretched hand, but made no move to cherish it.

“Um.  Perhaps you could also do me the favour of directing me to the treasure?”

“What treasure?”

“You know, the priceless treasure, found beyond the dark wood in a dragon-guarded castle?”

“I think that’s me.  I’m a princess, so you get the priceless treasure of true love.  And living happily ever after.  Theoretically…”  She wished he’d stop gaping at her.

“I was hoping for a golden harp or maybe a magical golden sword.”  He glanced about, as though hoping the chamber would reveal its secret stash of magical golden objects.

“What kind of knight are you?”

“No kind of knight at all – Monroe the Treasure Hunter, at your service,” he sketched a bow.  “Could we speed this up a bit?  I’d like to get out before the dragon wakes up.”

“You didn’t slay the dragon?  What’s wrong with you?!”

“I just happen to not like killing intelligent creatures unnecessarily.  I thought a princess would be less bloodthirsty.”

“Well you try living trapped alone for nine years, see how bloodthirsty you get.”  Tears built in her eyes.

“N-nine?” he stammered.

“YES, Nine!  I’ve been stuck in this stupid castle for nine years, and someone finally shows up and defeats the dragon – sort of – and he just wants some stupid gold sword, and now I’m probably going to have to wait here another nine years for a real knight to come along!”  Mara could feel the tears rolling down her cheeks and hated him for being witness to it.

Monroe was distinctly uncomfortable faced with tears. “Why don’t you just go home instead?  I’m sure your parents will understand, and I bet you’ll have loads more luck finding a husband if you’re living somewhere less isolated!”

“Leave?” she said, staring down at the gate.  She could see the dragon, collapsed across the stable yard and a crumbled section of the outer wall, snoring peacefully.  The decision was easy.  “Yes.  You’ll return me to my kingdom.”

“What? No.  I meant, you can leave, because the dragon is asleep, and go home… by yourself…which would probably lead to you getting killed by brigands,  or something.  Maybe you should just stay here.  I’m sure someone’ll come along… eventually.  If you leave now, you’ll remain cursed.”

“I’m not under a curse, my parents just wanted to find me a prince or knight to marry.  And I’m tired of waiting for him.  Take me home, and you’ll get your treasure.  My father has tons of gold,” she added.

His eyes lit up, and Mara knew she had him.  She rubbed her palms against her thighs in anticipation of the challenge.

Property Lines

This week, we’re picking up with Agata.  You can probably read this one alone, but I’d suggest reading Crush, the previous one in this series of stories, just to be clear on how things got to this point.  If you want to read the entire series, click on the Fiction Tab above, and you’ll find all the links to the story under Which Witch.  As always, let me know what you think – and how you think it ought to be improved!

I’m using the prompt from Trifecta, and from Write on Edge for this.

Trifecta’s word was

MOUTH

1a : the natural opening through which food passes into the body of an animal and which in vertebrates is typically bounded externally by the lips and internally by the pharynx and encloses the tongue, gums, and teeth   b : grimace <made a mouth>   c : an individual requiring food <had too many mouths to feed> 2a : voice, speech <finally gave mouth to her feelings>   b : mouthpiece 3: something that resembles a mouth especially in affording entrance or exit: as
This week on Write at the Merge, the picture of a crumbling castle was what I took as inspiration.
I highly recommend checking out both sites, to submit your own prompt response or to read some of the great responses other people have submitted.

Agata rolled painfully to her feet, scattering debris.  Dust swirled through the maelstrom of berserker barbarians.  Agata caught glimpses of the ogre, green-gray skin covering boulder-like muscles, eerie catseye gleaming yellow in the dimness.

The battle wasn’t going well.  She sighed, narrowed her eyes, and, with intense focus, shook out an imaginary blanket.

As the barbarians painfully clambered to their feet, dazed and confused at their sudden fall, Agata strode purposefully towards the now-frozen ogre.

“Gragh, is it?”  The creature stared down at her, dumbfounded.  “Yes, you.  Gragh?”

Its voice rumbled thunderously.  “Ya, me is Gragh.  Who you?”

“Agata.  What do you want here?”

“Gragh-”

“It wants to eat us!  Kill it!”

Agata whirled and glared them into silence.

“GRAGH CRUSH!”  The ogre snarled at the barbarians, fighting the invisible bonds.

“But why?

Gragh’s brow creased in thought.  “Gragh want…”

Agata found herself nodding encouragement to the hulking creature.

“Gragh want No Bother GRAGH!”

“You came here.

“Dey is come first to Gragh sleep place and try hurt Gragh!”

At Agata’s accusing glare, the barbarians broke into a cacophony of denials and explanations like children caught with their hands in the mouth of the cookie jar.

“It took the castle on the mount!”  A blonde-haired hulk in a skunk-fur loincloth stepped forward.

“Did he kill the owner?”

“It’s, um, been abandoned for centuries, actually.  Terrible location, no water, no trees…”

“So what does it matter where he lives?”

“It eats people.  And sheep.

Agata turned her scowl on Gragh, who shook his head in denial.  “Gragh no eat animal-things.” He curled his lip in disgust.  “Gragh vegetable-arian.  And rocks.  Rocks crunchy yum.  Fuzzy Baaas no yum.”

“Here’s the deal – you leave people alone, and” she turned to scowl at the barbarians, “people stay away from your castle.  Shake on it,” she barked, commandingly.

Agata watched and spelled every hand-shake before approaching the ogre with a proposition.

In short order they were headed off, a witch and her ogre-guide through the mountains.

A Short Trip

The Red Writing Hood prompt this week was to begin with the opening line:

“It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf…”

500 word limit.

I’m continuing from a previous response, which you can find HERE.  Go over to Write on Edge to add your link, or read the rest of the submissions.
Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf, the streets empty except for the mail coach.

“We be packed in here right tight, eyah miss?” the jovial farmer across from her gave her a gap-toothed grin.

She mustered a wan smile in return, wishing he’d chosen someone else. “Like sardines in a can.”

“You’d know more’n me on that, from the shore, eyah? Plenty fishing out that way.”

“What?” her entire body tense, she spoke more sharply than she’d intended.

“Eyah, I travel t’market at Breda regular like, hear plenty of accents.” He tapped the side of his nose, a merry glint in his eye. “I’d bet my best heifer, you’d be from somewhere about Breskens, eyah.”

Her heart fluttering like a humming bird’s wings, she plastered a pleasant smile on her face. “Nieuwesluis.”

“Eyah!” he slapped his knee in triumph. “Last I was at Breda, I heard they had a witch a while back. Dealt her the water test. You heard ‘bout that?”

She twined her fingers in her skirts, trying to hide the tremble of anger that arose at the memory. “I heard the girl drowned – doesn’t that mean she wasn’t a witch?” She paused and pulled on a mask of indifference before adding, “Though I was not there at the time.”

The farmer’s gossipy smile faded somewhat. Dead witches were entertainment, dead girls, less so. “Huh, well that’s a right shame, that is – them witches be wily devils, eyah. Where be you headed, so far from home?”

“Oberentersbach.” The man had such a rambling manner about him, she hadn’t even paused to think about the answer. All this effort to stay hidden, and she would give herself up in exchange for sleep.

The farmer frowned. “In the black forest? There are witches there! What would bring a young girl alone to such a forbidding place?”

“An apprenticeship.” Exhaustion burned her eyes.

“Better to settle down with a nice young man in a good profession.”

A strike her own people had against her.

“I read about the position in the paper, wrote to my new employer,” she lied.

“Huh” he grunted disapprovingly. “Girls writing. Not proper.”

Strike two.

“Of course,” she snapped. “We wouldn’t want women to be educated, would we? God forbid they think for themselves!”

As with the people from her village, she read it in his expression. Witch.  Good Christian girls don’t talk like that.

She regretted losing her temper, regretted the loss of a seat on the carriage.

“Sleep!” she commanded.

The old farmer’s eyes widened in surprise at the outburst before drooping closed. The coach was filled with light snoring.

When the coach rolled to a stop, the reins slack, she hopped out into the rain. She flicked her second finger sharply against the pad of her thumb. The downpour continued unabated, the drops avoiding her.

“There’d damn well better be witches in the black wood,” she muttered, slogging down the road. “After all the trouble it’s taking to get there!”