Part of an ongoing serial story
Zephan rolled his shoulders, trying to release some tension, and then rubbed his hands across his face. He didn’t know what to do now. Voices that called to him from flames! He must be crazy!
“Mom, please tell me everything you can about the house and that old woman who seems to run it. If I am to go back, I need to know who they are and what they want.” He spoke quietly, but with a firmness beyond his year
“Her name is Mrs. Stone. As far as I can tell, she is as old as the house and still going strong. She is solid as a rock, immovable in her opinions, flinty-eyed when it comes to mischief, but she has broad shoulders and a soft heart for the sorrowful. Go to her when you are in trouble, and you will receive unfailing aid,”
“But the house, Mom?”
“I don’t know, honey. All I know is that people staying there are given jobs to do, some of them pretty heroic. Like the time Lester led a herd of sheep down the mountain in a crashing thunderstorm at night. Good thing he and his dog know that mountain like the back of their hands, er, paws. I just had to learn not to feel sorry for myself, and one day to marry and have a son.” She sighed wearily. “I don’t know what else to tell you.”
“Can I trust them?” Zephan asked quietly.
“With your life, ” she said swiftly. “They saved mine, you know. I was a proud, heartless girl the day that fall blinded me, and drove the will to live out of me.” She reached out for him, and he took her hand. “Ask anyone who knew me then, and they will tell you that blindness was the best thing that ever happened to me. But I will add, no, it is the best only because of Mrs. Stone and the house.”
“Why do you say the house, Mom? Do you mean the people living in the house?” Zephan released her hand, frowning.
She smoothed her skirts, tilting her chin up a little. “No. Though they did help. It was the house.” Then she smiled. “It is alive, Zephan. It knows what you want and what you need, and when to give them both. It is like the world’s best parent, only it never speaks directly, only indirectly. And it is full of love, infinite love, for each one within it. You know, it’s funny, but there’s always room for one more. It always seems to know when someone’s coming. It’s the house that tells Mrs. Stone, you know.”
The snap of resin popping and wood burning was the only sound for a while. Both mother and son seemed far away in quiet conversation with themselves. Finally, Zephan roused himself. As he scooped up his backpack, it was apparent something had changed. He no longer looked like someone to be bullied; he had grown into a young man in an evening.