Little did Heather know what good food and a night’s sleep could do to someone. Or something.
The next morning had barely passed when shrilling but quiet screeches woke up everyone in the house. Pipp was up and about, head sticking above the top of his box trying to get out.
More food and water were given, and Pipp “began” his day. Despite his small size, he pattered behind most everyone like a duck, not letting anyone out of sight. He was a bundle of energy, rapid thumping audible as he ran across the floor. Janus discovered that he would “chase” a ball if given, playing tag with the toy becoming a regular activity.
His curiosity got the best of him eventually when he tired of running after people. Pipp would often poke into things that he wasn’t supposed to, working out in short order that bags, barrels and jars held edible goodies. The store was no exception, which they did their best to keep him out of (and the view of the customers).
Heather took on the role of being his surrogate mother the best she could. She was mainly responsible for its food and care. After all, it was her pet! However it turned out that this was most definitely a family affair. Pipp would choose to interact with the rest of the family on his own terms. He’d often play with Janus, beg Tau’mi for food when he wasn’t fed on time, or hang around Elizabeth when Heather was out doing chores.
At night he’d sleep in his box next to the fireplace, which was eventually turned onto its side when it was clear he could escape it when he wished. This was soon replaced with a cushion, which worked out nicely.
Pipp didn’t have a care in the world to worry about. He had family and a home. That seemed to be good enough for him. Elizabeth seemed a little skeptical about this, keeping a close eye on him. Out of all the people in the house, she did a lot more talking and holding of Pipp.
Heather was quite puzzled about this, especially when about a week later from carrying logs for the fire in one afternoon, found Pipp and Elizabeth in the store.
She had just entered, seeing Pipp on the shop counter. Elizabeth was leaning against the edge, smiling to herself. As Heather got closer, she eavesdropped on the exchange.
“Boo.” Elizabeth flicked her fingers at Pipp.
Pipp gave a little squawk, mouth hanging open as her fingers danced in front of his face. She pulled her hand away, showing her other hand. A small handful of raisins were in her palm, which she closed in her fist and put her hands together in a shaking motion.
Heather just stood there silently, watching as the woman presented Pipp with both of her closed hands. Pipp sniffed, eyed each one then finally attempted to muzzle his way into her right fist. Elizabeth smiled, opening her palm to reveal the raisins. She glanced up, eyeing Heather.
“Ah, you’re back.” Elizabeth straightened her posture as Heather approached the counter.
“Yeah…is Pipp causing trouble?” Heather reached for Pipp, who was busy chomping down the raisins.
“Not at all. Just teaching him some things, that’s all.” Elizabeth let the raisins drop to the counter, going back to a ledger to where she was writing.
Teach? Heather raised an eyebrow. She scooped Pipp off the counter, who protested due to not finishing his food.
“What would you-”
The door jingled. Heather stopped in mid-sentence, freezing as her heartrate went up. She wasn’t supposed to have Pipp in the store! Heather started to walk away but it was too late; she stood frozen as a customer entered. It was someone familiar, a Mrs. McCally. The woman stared at her for a moment, face changing from amiable to shock. Her eyes went wide in a condescending manner, head leaning back before glaring at Elizabeth.
“What is that thing?” The woman said in an icy tone.
“That is an Azure Starstreak. That answer your question?” Elizabeth had recovered from her initial shock, assuming a confident stance.
“As if! I can’t believe the nerve of you allowing such a dangerous creature to reside here. It’s that misfit’s fault, no doubt. The very thought!” The woman was haughty, sneering at Heather before leaving with a slamming of the door.
Heather flinched at the noise as Elizabeth exhaled heavily, going over and locking the door.
“Come on. I believe business is done for the day. We might have company soon.” Elizabeth walked over to the door that led to their house.
She wasn’t surprised at the reaction. Elizabeth typically brushed off most insults, but it still made Heather feel rotten when people did the same. A good chunk of the town didn’t care or like her, and she had to put up with that the best she could. Being nice didn’t help any. Not like being rude helped; she just couldn’t bring herself to do so.
Heather hugged Pipp, who simply squeaked in response, oblivious to the exchange that took place.
Within a few moments there was a heavy pounding at Elizabeth’s door, right on cue. Elizabeth straightened the front of her vest, stepping towards the door and opening it.
One of the village elders was on the doorstep, Mr. Carlton. McCally was behind her, along with some old man that Heather didn’t recognize. Elizabeth wedged herself outside, attempting to push her visitors back out into the yard.
Carlton looked past Elizabeth, eyes landing on Heather. His face become enraged as he tried to push past Elizabeth, finger pointed at her.
“You! You’ll be the death of all of us!” He shouted.
“If you have something to say, say it civilly.” Elizabeth pushed him back firmly.
“This needs to be resolved right now! Drag that girl out here this minute!” Carlton tried to push his way back in again. Elizabeth blocked the door, ready to put up a fight if Carlton tried to barge in again.
“I’m not doing anything of the sort. Like I said before, if you-”
“You listen here, Miss Elizabeth!”
“That creature is not a vicious raptor that you’re thinking it is.”
“And how do you know that?” McCally had that sneer in her voice once again.
Heather cowered behind Elizabeth a bit, cringing as she could feel McCally’s eyes criticize her in every shape and form. Pipp was completely oblivious to the confrontation. craning his neck forward with his mouth open. Excited to see new people, no doubt.
“I have a bestiary. One of only three people in the village, if you remember correctly.”
“T-the bestiary?” Carlton’s tone changed a little, losing some of his steam.
Elizabeth nodded. McCalley was shocked, her jaw dropping as she turned to the town elder.
“You’re going to just let this go by because of some book!?”
“It’s THE book!” Carlton snapped at her. He looked conflicted, still looking sternly at Heather.
“You’re welcome to come see yourself.” Elizabeth motioned him to the shop door.
“Excuses. Even if the creature isn’t harmful, that pest of a girl will do something that will cause all of us to suffer. She needs to be dealt with right here and now.” McCally couldn’t have sounded more bitter even if she tried.
“And what are you suggesting?” Elizabeth’s voice picked up a sharp edge, eyes narrowing.
“Oh, simply putting her away where she won’t see the living daylight anymore. Better yet, excommunicating her from the landmass will work just as fine. Or perhaps we can do something worse and more justified…”
Heather gasped loudly at the remark, squeezing Pipp tighter. Her feet was rooted in place as Elizabeth strode towards McCally, face full of anger. Even her pet was realizing all was not well, his happy expression changing to something more akin to anxious.
“Don’t you dare.” Elizabeth”s voice was low and calculated, face only a foot away from the woman’s.
“Now now, Elizabeth,” Carlton tried to insert himself between the two women. This was somewhat successful; however this didn’t stop Elizabeth from continuing.
“If anything happens to her or Pipp, your door will be the first I’ll be knocking on. You can assure that.”
McCally merely blinked at her statement, drawing a deep breath before storming off. The crowd started to disperse, leaving Carlton the last one to leave.
“I’ll see to it that this does get resolved, Elizabeth. I’ll let this go for now, but if there are ‘incidents’ that start to occur, I’ll definitely be making a visit back. Good day.”
Cartlon made a little bow before walking down the street.
Elizabeth let out a deep sigh, her chest rising and falling a bit faster than before. She turned back to head back into the house, stopping at Heather.
She looked back at Elizabeth with a pained look on her face, looking like she would cry. For whatever reason that didn’t happen, quickly slipping back into the house without another word.
“Are you all right?” Elizabeth asked.
Heather had started to walk off to her room, pausing her tracks as Elizabeth came closer. She didn’t turn around to face her, looking to the side.
“I guess people still hate me, huh?” Her voice cracked a little as she let Pipp onto the ground. She had tried to compartmentalize her feelings, but it still stung her how coldly McCally thought she would be locked away or worse.
Elizabeth arrived at Heather’s side, pulling her close for a brief moment.
“That might be the case. But not everyone hates you now, do they? Tau’mi, Janus, I…even your little bugger loves you. We’re all here for you for whatever may happen.”
As if on cue, Pipp let out a short squawk, looking up at Heather before ambling off.
“I guess you all do.” Heather managed a smile.
“Good girl. On your way now.”
Elizabeth pecked her on the cheek with a quick kiss, mussing her hair with a tousle before heading back to the shop. Heather quickly tried to smooth her hair back into place in disbelief, scoffing a little in the sudden frustration that had followed. However as she got her appearance back to normal, Heather became less annoyed and more grateful.
She had a home at least.
That night, Heather lay in bed under the covers. The household had fallen asleep and retired. A stream of moonlight shone in the window, giving her room a soft white/blue glow. Crickets chirped outside, an occasional howl or screech.
Or we could do something more worse and justified…
Heather shivered as the sentence played in her head once again. What stopped that lady from doing something to her aside from Elizabeth’s words? Would she be safe? Was it just talk to make her scared?
She burrowed deeper into her pillow, wishing that someone would keep an eye on her. Heather honestly wished that Pipp would grow to be a bit bigger, or she could share Tau’mi’s room. Just something that wouldn’t leave her feeling that the sinister woman could do something to her all by herself.
Her mind mentally checked where everyone would be. Elizabeth in the master bedroom. Janus in the small corner room on the other end of the house. Tau’mi in the room next to him. And Pipp downstairs by the fireplace. Lastly herself, in the loft bedroom above the washroom.
However she remembered Elizabeth’s “exploits” from her voyage a year ago. The dangers she had faced, the people and situations they had encountered. And not just her, Tau’mi and Janus too. If anything, they were not the normal mother/son/servant girl household that one would typically expect.
After all, they supposedly went to the ends of the world and even somehow made it to the moon of Aquarius. They had even found the Lost Book of Secrets and discovered the oldest dragon alive.
She should be in good hands.
“I’ll be fine,” Heather told herself. “I’ll be just fine…”
She soon drifted off to sleep.