This is the penultimate part! No artwork this week, as I’ve been prepping for some of my classes, so I’ll leave you with a rather nice photo instead!
He wandered away and I followed him. It was like he owned the place and I felt silenced. There were many things I wanted to say, but my tongue was stubbornly mute.
We arrived at my mother’s bedroom. This was not a good idea, my inner voice warned. This wasn’t where you should be going, but he flung open the door and my mother’s room was just as she left it, with the bed made and the dressing table tidied. The faint smell of the powder she always used at bathtime made me so sad, tears sprang to my eyes.
“See what I’ve done here,” the man said. He flipped open the quilt. “This mattress was terribly lumpy, so I got one of those toppers. Your ma will think she’s sleeping on a cloud from now on.”
“You shouldn’t have done that,” I said weakly.” It’s not your place.”
An evil little voice said no, it was your place to do all those things, but you never did. You were always too busy. The man is still speaking. He looks ridiculously pleased with himself.
“I tried the other beds. The spare was way too hard and that little sofa bed in the box room was so soft and saggy it would ruin your back. Now this one_” he waved a hand. “Is just right.”
I gathered my wits. All I want to do is thank him, but I could not. He was a home invader!
“Look, Mr- I don’t even know your name.”
He grinned. His teeth were white and sharp. “Scrapefoot.”
“Mr Scrapefoot. You cannot stay here.”
“But it’s empty, and I have nowhere to go.”
When he didn’t answer, I sighed impatiently. “That’s as maybe, but this is not your house, and there are charities which deal with- all that.”
“You forgot about the star.”
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake. What about the star?”
“It’s a sign of hospitality and compassion.”
“In what way?”
“Think about that family, the homeless family, who lived in the stable all those years ago.”
“Are you talking about…Bethlehem? That’s got absolutely nothing to do with this, and anyway I’m not religious or even remotely spiritual. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just a story.”
“Like a folktale?”
“Yes, if you like.”
“A bit like the ones your mother used to tell you? The Artic Fox and the Northern Lights, and what was that other one? The very old one that eventually became Goldilocks and the Three Bears. What was the name of that one again?”
My blood ran so cold, I felt like I’d been standing out in the garden for an hour or two. Had I told him about those stories? That my mother used to tell them to me by the light of the fire? I don’t think I had. They’d popped into my head, certainly, after seeing that white fox, and the animal tracks and the flames licking at the chimney. But if I hadn’t told him, how on earth did he know?”
“Have you remembered the name of the story yet?” He asked again.
“Scrapefoot,” I whispered.