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.

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Hearth and Home


This week’s word from Trifecta is

HOME (noun)

1 a : one’s place of residence : domicile b : house

2: the social unit formed by a family living together

3 a : a familiar or usual setting : congenial environment; also :the focus of one’s domestic attention <home is where the heart is>b : habitat

Head over to Trifecta to submit your own response or to read other peoples’ takes on the word.

This is a continuation from last week, which should hopefully at least half-answer the question that arose from the ending of the piece titled Ice Breaker.  If you’re interested in reading the whole story (so far), check it out under the Fiction tab above, the story’s title is Firefly.

The picture was taken by Miras46, whose photobucket page you can find HERE.  I really love the colours in this photograph.  It’s such a serene and lovely scene.

nature Pictures, Images and Photos

Isbritare, I name you.  The Elemental grinned, and the flames rose up.

Rachel thrashed awake with a gasp, the smell of smoke strong in her nose.  Just a dream.  She hugged herself tight, reassured at the smooth, unburned skin under her palms.

She padded barefoot to the kitchen.  It was the only part of this house that felt like home, the smell of burnt wood and baked bread lingering even when the fire was banked down to embers for the night.

The cold slate floor made her shiver.  Partly to reassure herself that the burns of her vision were impossible, she slipped a hand in amongst the embers within the banked fire, letting some of its heat slip into her.

She jumped in surprise when a hand was laid gently on her shoulder.  Her Aunt Miriam smiled down at her.

“Once, I would have considered just that enough to prove that someone had a strong touch of fire within.”

Rachel shrugged uncomfortably, stepping away from the fire.

“Tea?”

“Um… sure.”

She tucked herself into a kitchen chair as her aunt bustled quietly about the kitchen.  In a surprisingly short time, she was pulling the kettle from the stove.  Their eyes meet over the tea-pot, and Miriam blushed.

She flicked her fingers dismissively and said, “I’ve got a bit of a knack for boiling water… not much use, apart from making tea, but it serves me well enough.”

Rachel said nothing, loading her tea with sugar and milk to make it more bearable.  Miriam only squeezed a bit of lemon in hers, holding the steaming cup up to inhale deeply.  It seemed to calm her.

“Rachel… I don’t know exactly what happened at the fire last night – I mean, you were brilliant, of course, but it seemed something went not quite as you expected.” She took a deep breath, and went on.  “What I mean to say is, if you need someone to talk to, I’m always here for you.”

Ruffled

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood

This week on Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood, the challenge was this:

You have 400 words to write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece about freedom, in any way that makes sense to you.

Go HERE if you’d like to read more prompt responses, or submit your own.

The story is a continuation of the Which Witch storyline, which you can find in my Fiction Tab.

The picture is one I found on Deviantart, by Anna Earley, an art student in the USA.  I love the shadow in it, the way there’s only a hint of yellow throughout, and the lantern on the end of the broom is a great touch.  She does character drawings, as well as scenes like this one, that really look like part of a story I’d love to hear the rest of.

“Hem-hem?” Miss Chesham quieted the room immediately, dimpling sweetly at the crowd of women.  Perhaps more than the sweet old woman she appeared to be.

“Welcome, Lady Wytches of East Hammond! I would like everyone to extend a warm welcome to our guest, the Wytch Agata. She has come from, er,” she consulted a small lacy notepad, “Deutschland, where, if you’d believe it, wytches are tortured and killed! Simply barbaric!”

The Lady Wytches murmured greetings and welcomes, rustling in their elegant dresses as they turned to observe her. She waved sheepishly, feeling grubby and underdressed in her wrinkled navy dress, a crow amongst ruffled pink chicks.

Disciple Mary was formally accepted into the Lady Wytches as a full Wytch. The Wytches agreed that Yeoman Brannik was charging too much for his cabbages, he shall be spoken to. Polite applause all around.

Agata joined them in the next room for afternoon tea. She was immediately accosted by three girls near her own age, nearly bursting with excitement.

“Oh my goodness, Aggie, it must have been such an adventure, travelling all the way here!” Blue Eyes squealed.

“It’s actually–“

“Oooh, we shall be the best of friends! Come!” Curly Hair grabbed Agata’s arm, smiling toothily, and dragged her away from the table of tiny sandwiches.  Her stomach growled its displeasure.

***

Agata slipped out the side door and into the evening air, inhaling deeply as she embraced the darkness and silence.

What coven meets for afternoon tea! Wytches! Lady Wytches! She snorted. Busybodies who can’t spell or cast a spell from what I’ve seen of them.

She kept to the shadows, unwilling to risk a wytchly interruption. Three days of taffeta and lace and ruffles, everything white or coral or peach, the wytches gasping and tittering at her so-called adventures, at her ‘charming’ accent, and her mannish outspokenness.

Agata eyed a large muddy puddle. With great deliberation, she jumped, feet together, and landed in the center of the mire, mud squelching around her boots, water soaking the hem of her skirt.  She smiled, head tilted back to the moonlight.

She ducked under a prickly bush, emerging a moment later, scratched, grinning, and gripping a familiar haft.

Everything I need is here. She stared at the distant glow of the village lights for a long moment.

Agata straddled her broom in a most unladylike fashion as she flew away.

Wordless Wednesday – a small piece of happy

The stuffed camel who guards my work computer, my Hungry Hungry Caterpillar mug, and some immensely tasty bamboo shoot green tea.  Maybe I can make it through to friday after all!

What’s your small piece of happy in the midst of chaos and exhaustion?

A Series of… Events

I have an immense amount of paranoia towards dairy.  Milk, in particular… it’s the silent killer.  Yogurt tends to develop green or blue spots, a sure sign that it is no longer meant to be ingested.  Same with cheese (or it’s blue cheese, and meant to look like that… and I’m ok with that), and, while it is harder to notice on butter, I usually catch a whiff of that mouldy, unpleasant smell before I eat that piece of buttered toast.

Milk, though… it is very hard to tell, at a glance, if it is any good.  The number of times that I have gotten a half-swallow of a glass of milk down my throat before realizing that there are small lumps of milk (this is before it entirely solidifies into a chunky awful mess), or that gag-worthy sour taste… ugh.  And those tiny fragments of pre-chunky-milk catch in your teeth and rinsing your mouth out doesn’t quite cut it to fully dispel the sensation.

Before pouring milk on my cereal, I pour a bit into an empty bowl to check for the tell-tale signs of milk gone off.

And yet, this morning, I didn’t think twice about taking my spoon out of my oatmeal, stirring my milky tea, and then continuing to eat oatmeal.

Classy gal that I am, I actually spit the last gulp of tea back into the cup, in front of a co-worker, horrified at the
possibility that I had made it through an entire mug of tea without noticing that the milk had gone chunky.  Then I identified the chunks as oatmeal. Oh.  My bad.

***

On Friday, I didn’t question my parents’ decision to head up camping… on Sunday… apart from wishing that they would give a bit more of a heads-up, since fully prepping a trailer and packing it takes a fair amount of time.  Despite not being in on this adventure, I was still expected to help with gathering equipment.

I nodded as they said they were bringing Gwynn, and packed a duffel-bag of dog things, as well as writing out a list of important information and reviewing his obedience commands with them – practicing the ‘come’ command doesn’t stop just because I’m out of the picture for a week!

Saturday night, I headed out to a bonfire party, sad at the idea that Gwynn would be gone by the time I got home in the morning, but knowing that I would only become more and more freaked out at the idea of sending him up North without me.  Yes, I am ‘that’ paranoid dog owner now.  I foresee myself being more than just a helicopter-mom, when the time comes… I’ll be a TIE-Fighter mom.

Timmy?! Don't touch that! let me disinfect the playground with my sanitizing-lasers and eliminate the other children before you go on the monkey-bars! Also, you've got 17.35 minutes to play, because we've got two more music lessons and a team sport to fit in before dinner.

Woke up the next morning, promptly remembering that Gwynn’s last Obedience Training class of the summer term is this Tuesday.  Oh well, I guess I’ll be going solo.  I’d like to think I probably wouldn’t have changed the plans and kept him home, even if I had remembered the class.  After all… missing a week of camping for an hour of obedience class… that’s just not right!

***

Sunday, I realised that I hadn’t signed us up for this Monday’s Cross-fit class… luckily, their registration policy is not the same as the cancellation policy, and they’re fine with you signing up less than 12 hours before the class is set to start.

This morning, I crept silently about my business, trying to avoid waking Gwynn up in my early-early morning departure.  In an empty, dog-less house.

I nearly snuck out the side door in my usual ninja-manner before remembering this fact.

I also nearly left the house in my pyjamas.  And without a top for my office-wear outfit for after the gym.  That would have been an interesting one to explain.

… What I’m trying to say is, sometimes there’s oatmeal in your coffee and car keys in the freezer.  Just make sure you’ve changed out of your pjs before heading out the door.  Especially if it automatically locks behind you.