by Anna Marie Catoir
“She said thank you!”
“She said thank you?”
“You know what that means don’t you? Eeek is going to destroy their barn, he’s so hopping mad. After all the work we’ve done around here. She had to go and thank him,” Millie said. She pulled an old traveling case from under the blackberry vines. “Time to move on. You had better get a packing. Eeek’s not going to want to linger after he’s done.”
“But, where are we going to go?”
Millie stopped packing the thistles and milkweed she’d gathered and looked at her halfling child. If that girl got any taller she’d pass for a human baby and then Eeek would really holler. Millie turned back to find the thimbles Eeek had given her for their anniversary — nice wooden ones made from ash and rowan. She cradled them close for a moment before stowing them under the milkweed.
“There’s a nice farm over the bog. Haven’t been there in fifty years. Maybe there are new folks that will be needing work. Can you believe of all the cockamamie things for that human to do…”
“Yeah, that human.”
Millie looked up again; the girl had sat down hard on the boulder they’d used to lay out the laundry. She’d let copper curls fall over her eyes, but Millie knew she was crying. Damn and blast, Eeek would have them both for sure, crying over a human.
“Baby, you got to stop that and get your things. We’ll be leaving in two strikes of lightning, and…”
The girl didn’t move. From a distance horses could be heard whinnying, spooked by the sound of wood splitting and cracking. Millie scanned the field and then looked at the girl again. She reached deep into the pocket of her kudzu apron, and pulled out a ring too small for even hobgoblin fingers. She looked at it real hard and then back at the crying girl. There was more noise from the barn. This time it sounded like the first rustles of fire on dry hay. The sky darkened and lightning crashed to the ground in the distance.
“Here,” Millie said, and thrust the ring forward. “It’s only got about one good wish left in it and you’d better hurry afore Eeek gets back.”
Once the girl took it, Millie looked off towards the barn and then began pitching things willy-nilly into her travel case.
“But,” said the girl.
“No buts, you use that ring, just as I told you and be done with us. With Eeek…”
Millie slammed the case shut and cast about wildly looking in all directions at once trying not to see. The sky had grown even darker and shouts could be heard from the house. Humans were coming. Eeek would be back soon and still the girl sat there staring at the ring.
“Are you daft, girl? He’ll be here soon,” Millie whispered.
There was a crackle of something close about. It wasn’t Eeek’s lightning. This was stranger magic, finer yet familiar. She glanced over, not quiet looking at the girl as she stood — tall as a human child and growing still.
Millie smiled to herself, and nodded. The deed was done. She picked up her case with one hand, bunched her skirt in the other and hopped over the log that had been her home. Her stubby legs were strong, but slow with the weight of her meager possessions, carrying her to the bog.
“Wait,” the girl called out.
Millie knew better than to stop, but she turned anyway. A woman stood now where the girl had been. She’d gotten quite pretty, Millie thought. Fair of face, like the man in that house, but with gray stormy eyes. Those eyes would give her away if she wasn’t careful. They’d given away Millie in her day.
“I…I need to say —”
A great clash of lightning drowned out whatever the girl was going to say next and a good thing too. It sounded suspiciously like ‘Thanks’, and Millie never wanted to hear those words in her life. Especially not from her daughter.
This was originally published to my Live Journal account in 2008. I am trying to move all the posts I really love into one place, without being too repetitive.