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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
In which our unnamed heroine settles into a harsh life at House Madrassa.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 969 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
[[[This second story makes sense as a "standalone", but it's much more interesting if you click on the author's name and read this tale from the beginning.]]]
The ovens, counters, and floors were liberally coated with dust and unidentifiable debris. Creatures skittered about on two, four, and eight legs – she bit back a scream with she felt something nip at her ankle.
“No lef-dovers! No!”
A scowl, topped by a bushy grey mop of hair, squatted in one corner of the kitchen. Tanned skin stretched over long, thin bones as she unfolded herself to stand. The only spots on her body with any extra weight were a sagging pair of lumpy breasts and the bloated, distended mass of her stomach, covered with a greasy apron.
“Whad? Whaddya want?”
The girl – Tweeny, she was Tweeny here, she remembered – scrunched herself as small as possible behind Recorder’s toga. He clucked his disapproval at her cowardice and gently pushed her toward the center of the room. “New one, Bella. A between girl. No training.”
Dreary faded-blue eyes searched Tweeny from the top of her stringy hair to the tip of her dirt-caked toes. Bella’s nose twitched. “Needs bath,” she sniffed.
“I am certain you can arrange that easily enough.”
Bella hefted an enormous pot of water onto the stove and nodded. “You go now, yoo-nick. I take care.”
Tweeny grabbed for Recorder’s hand. He wouldn’t leave her here... would he?
The eunuch patted her hand. “It will be fine, little one. Have faith. Do as you are told and make no trouble.”
Her wide, frightened eyes watched him go.
“Too young! Always too young. To old Bella they give too young, not know nutting about nutting.”
Tweeny kept her attention on the wash basin before her. She was supposed to be rubbing grease into the oversized cast iron pans, but her tiny hands wouldn’t hold their weight for long. Twice now she had dropped the metal on the floor with a loud clang! that threatened to pierce her eardrums.
“If you cannot hold pans, how you hold trays for between work?” Bella scolded.
Over the past year, she had learned much. How to sharpen Bella’s collection of knives and cleavers. How to slice protein bars and vegetables into exact, equal pieces. How to crack an egg with one hand. How to test if something was too salty just by the smell. She learned the names and uses of every spice, seasoning and herb stocked in the larder. She scrubbed and polished and swept and brushed, folded towels and aprons, and tried to keep herself clean – the memory of boiling water that Bella had poured over her for a “bath” on her first day still stung.
Her next lessons were to prepare her for real “between work”, like her namesake – how to balance heavy trays on her arms so that she could carry them from one hallway to the next. The trays weighed more than she did and the carrying exhausted her, but the thought of escaping from under the old hag’s thumb urged her on.
“I can do better, Bella. I promise.”
Bella snorted and returned to her cooking. “Forty-eight year I been here at stove. First I scrub, then I tween, then I cook. You do good, do better, you be here at stove in no time.” She grinned, showing off all six of her rotting teeth. “You be apprentice for old Bella, yes? Like daughter?”
They carry the first telltale signs of your mind and heart.
Smile. Beam. Sweetness. Pride. Warmth. “Like daughter.”
She would not be beaten tonight.
“You didn’t come last week,” she accused Recorder, when he ducked his bald head into the larder where she slept.
Recorder took stock of kitchen inventory on a regular basis – more regular than necessary, he admitted to himself, but he worried so about the little girl.
“My apologies, miss,” he bowed. “I was embarrassed that I had not found a suitable gift for your anniversary.”
“Anniversary. One year to the day since you first joined us at House Madrassa.” He held out a closed fist. She opened it warily, keeping an eye on his expressionless face.
It was a chain of brown beads, with a red-and-gold pendant, exactly matching her secret bracelet. She clutched her wrist protectively, out of instinct. He placed the chain around her neck and held her chin up. “I come to give, not to take, little one,” he said softly.
She reached up to feel the coolness of the pendant. Small leaves and flowers were etched into the metal.
“And I bring a gift for Bella as well. Something she asked for.” It looked like little dolls were wrapped in the paper, but closer scrutiny proved them to be a gnarled white roots. “Its name is He shou wo, little Tweeny. Mr. He’s Black Hair. A youth tonic.”
“Black hair? But these are white!”
“The legend says that on a walk, old Mr. He found two trees growing together with their vines embracing. He dug up the roots of these odd trees and ate them. Within days his gray hair had returned to black, and he was thinking about embracing someone himself.”
Tweeny giggled. “Old Bella wants to embrace someone? If I use them, will I want to embrace someone too?”
Recorder’s face grew solemn. “You must not eat these, little one. In age He shou wo may bring about youth. In youth it may bring about death. At the very least, an unpleasant case of diarrhea. Best not to even touch it.”
Tweeny gulped. Carefully she rewrapped the roots and put the package in her apron pocket. “I’ll see she gets it,” she said.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 8:17 AM
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