hat happened next?” The girl sitting by his feet was still more child than woman and she was child enough to ask for the end of the story with eagerness, her eyes alight with anticipation.
“Time’s up.” The man said, stroking the girl’s head with gentle affection, his broad and callused palm smoothing tendrils of unruly hair down.
The man smiled at his daughter’s exasperated tone, so universal and exclusive to all children when they thought their parents were being obtuse or cryptic, or when they acted like a parent.
“You have heard this story a hundred times before, you know what happened next. Aren’t you tired of it yet?”
“Never, I love hearing it again and again. I will never get tired of it. Please tell me what happened next!” The girl pleaded but her father was unmoved.
“Your mother would have the skin off of my tongue if you were late for the Festival.” His eyes twinkled. “I will tell you the rest tonight although there’s precious little left to tell.”
The girl flashed a radiant grin that her father had predicted would be guaranteed to break more than a few hearts in some years’ time and he was reminded again how much like her mother she was.
“Go on now, I need to finish up some work first.”
His daughter nodded and left the room, her footsteps loud and clattering as she pelted upstairs to prepare.
The next half-hour or so was spent in quiet concentration as the man worked. His job did not make him a wealthy man but it was enough to keep his family comfortable and well fed on icy winter nights. It was an honest earning and he had a good reputation as being one of the best in Voldar, so he felt no shame in it. Frequently after putting aside money for essential matters, there would be a coin or two left for him to buy a charming trinket or a knot of ribbon to surprise his wife with, for she loved pretty things, especially for their vivid colours.
As he finished up, he heard two sets of footsteps running down the stairs again, sounds of laughter and excited chatter drifting pleasantly down to him in his study.
The door opened and his wife peered in.
“It’s almost noon, Seyel and I have been ready for ages. You, on the other hand, are late, as usual.” She rolled her eyes at him expressively with the familiar mischievous teasing.
His wife was not a beautiful woman. But she had an enchanting voice, richly resonant like the best storytellers and she had a way with herbs that made her well liked as a healer of repute among their neighbors for small ills and pains, though she had an unfortunate tendency to be quick in her words sometimes, when she was annoyed.
She looked very becoming today in her new sage-green dress, her favorite shade, and it went especially well with her red hair and her blue eyes.
Blue eyes the exact color of Seyella’s sacred roses, which grew in the great temple they were going to visit today. And mostly, people would forget the thin lines of scarring around his wife’s eyes once they noticed that smoky, elusive midnight-blue color instead. He, on his part, loved every one of those scars, for they were as much a part of her as her quicksilver temperament, acerbic wit that was never cruel and her strength of will that at times awed him, even after all these years.
Even more dear to him was a thin disfigurement of healed flesh, a secret imprinted directly above her heart, the only remnant left of an old, grievous wound caused by a dagger.
His daughter peeked in just then, her head juxtaposed below her mother’s and she had inherited those same blue eyes and coppery-red hair.
“Father, are you done yet? Mother wants to visit the market first before we go to the temple.”
Fitch made some last corrections to his translations and tidied the manuscripts away. Standing up, he went towards the door to bestow a kiss on his impatient wife’s cheek and said with a chuckle, “I’m ready. We can go now.”
Story written by Dalá'Valannía