Noise, noise, noise constantly surrounded by noise. This was all Bakko’s fault. Had the incompetent fool done his job, intrusive neighbors wouldn’t have gone knocking on doors begging for dry wood to supply the lighthouse. Hadn’t Desta given one log out of her meager supply? Wasn’t that enough? No, Keyon, her closest neighbor, had seen her low fire, and even with the dim lighting, his shrewd eyes had seen the leaks in her front room.
He had returned later, kindly inviting her to stay with his horde of monsters for the duration of the storm season. After receiving a firm refusal, he had grown more insistent. She reminded him that it was his responsibility to parent his ill-behaved six children, not her. But he had said if she would not move in, he would alert the community to the condition in which she lived.
“Come,” Keyon kindly said, “we need each other.”
Only the widow’s pride could force her to bend to such extortion. She knew she was not welcome or wanted. All the children of the town thought she was a witch- and all the adults thought she was certainly as ill-tempered as one.
Desta resigned to her fate. She was no free loader- she attempted to help cook but Nala, Keyon’s wife, was such a maniac in the kitchen trying to feed the greedy monsters. It was impossible to assist at all. Desta missed her quiet, cold, dark little house.
Nia, six years old, crept into the living room one day whimpering pitifully. “What is the matter, girl?” Desta snapped, annoyed.
Nia startled, she hadn’t known Desta was there. “I cannot brush my hair. Mama says she has no time. She will cut it if she sees this.” Nia proffered the worst tangle that Desta had ever seen.
“Come here, child.” Desta commanded. She grabbed the brush, intending to mercilessly brush the tangle out as she had seen Nala do. But as the little girl stood before her chair, Desta’s old hands remembered carefully brushing the hair of her daughter. Gently she worked at the knot; memories flooding her of a different little six-year-old.
Nia turned with a smile. “Thank you.” She said timidly, “I don’t think you’re a witch.”
Desta placed her hand on Nia’s head, “And I don’t think you’re a monster.”
In that moment, the atmosphere changed. Nia, as ambassador, drew all the children to Desta. All her stagnate skills from long ago resurfaced. The children found her fascinating. With the children taken care of, Nala experienced a break from her endless stream of work. She was able to rest. Gratefully, she sat and talk with Desta.
Long ago, on the day Desta had buried her last family member, she had thought the days of smiles and laughter were behind her; she was wrong. Though she would never admit it, Keyon was right- we need each other. This loud and large family that had forcibly adopted her, returned to Desta her smile.