Photo by K. Mitch Hodge
Just as things were beginning to heat up between Gina and B’frona, they reached the mill. Gina would have pressed the issue of his lying about his father (she couldn’t tolerate lying from anyone, except, when absolutely necessary, herself). But at that moment, the little dragon Puff picked up the pungent aroma of fresh-ground lespin nuts. It smelled like coffee, chili peppers, and cinnamon all rolled into one.
B’frona’s house was situated directly over the old grist mill. It was five stories high, and each storey was larger than the one below it. An immense irontree had grown up through the middle of the house, its vast branches spreading out to form the supporting structure for each successive level.
Puff began hopping up the stairway carved into the tree’s twelve-foot-thick trunk. “Halt!” B’frona shouted, grabbing the little creature by the tail. The hatchling dragged him up the stairs with a series of painful thumps.
The second floor was a rustic kitchen with a central fireplace for cooking, and two alcoves supported by the irontree’s outward-extending limbs. Before B’frona could stop him, the little creature continued up the narrow stairway to the next floor.
The third floor was a living room centered around a stone chimney woven into the tree trunk. There were two bentwood chairs and a pile of blankets near the fireplace. Puff began climbing the stairs to the next floor.
“Stop, you gyaskutus!” B’frona screeched.
Why is he so upset? Gina wondered. Is he afraid Puff will awaken his crippled father? She entered the fourth floor fast on his heels. There was a large bed frame in the corner of the room, but it had no mattress, and there was no other furniture. The little dragon bounded up the final flight of stairs.
“No!” B’frona shrieked.
As Gina reached the opening to the fifth floor, B’frona tried to physically block her from entering. She affably pushed him aside. There was a single rag-filled pallet in the corner, with an oil lamp and several dozen books. Gina glanced back and forth between the stubborn boy and the spartan space.
And then she understood. As gently as she could, she asked,
“When did your father die?”
Thoughts: Grief is the heaviest weight there is, but it has one thing in common with all other burdens: it weighs less when shared.
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