Meet me halfway

By Hailey Westerholdt

INTRO

The little room smelled strongly of the dried lavender that hung from a small hook right next to the old weathered wooden door. The only light source was a small, slowly fading fire feeding on the last remnants of it's nearly coal log in it's designated place thrown together from a multitude of mismatched stone. The dimness seemed to blend into the lingering lavender scent, drowning the smell of old, dry wood beneath it and creating a somewhat cozy atmosphere, but burdened with a heavy kind of feel to it.

It was an awfully small room, just big enough to fit in a table and three battered chairs, the fireplace a few cupboards and shelves along the wall and a cooking place which really wasn't much more than a kettle on a metal bar above the fire. Everything seemed to be made from the same sturdy, unruly textured brown wood, even the narrow bed in a niche close to the door into the next room. But even though the interior looked battered and old it was obvious that someone had been living here for a while and tried to make it seem a little bit more like home. The blanket on top of the small bed was a colorful patch work, there were small colored teacups sitting on the counter, and even though it seemed somewhat cramped and thrown together hastily, it was as neat and clean as could be.

The person whom this small but well lived-in hut belonged to, was named Neli. He was a young boy of 15 years, and had stumbled across his new home in a stormy night while seeking shelter from the heavy rain. Currently, he was occupying one of the three chairs, sitting close to the diminishing fire and putting the finishing touches on his knitting work. He was rather short for his age, of slim build and never managed to build up any real muscles, even though living the harsh kind of life he did now had made it necessary for him to do a lot more physical labor than he ever had before. His hair was a rather light shade of blond, he kept it long in a little messy cut that left the bangs around his face rather short but the ones falling down his back nearly all the way down to the small of his back. He had green eyes and a young looking light skinned face with soft looking lips and a certain air of naivety to him. He looked over to the fireplace, for a moment contemplating whether to feed it anew with a fresh log or go to bed, he sighed and put his needles and yarn along with the beginnings of what would be a small woolen red scarf into a basket next to the chair and stood up from his spot to make his way to the little niche in which his bed stood waiting for him. He opened the thin leather belt around his light brown blouse, unfastened the buttons and pulled it off his shoulders to lay it over a small bedside commode. He took of his brown linen pants and the thick woolen socks he had been wearing to protect him from the cold of the wooden floor and changed into his long white night gown.

Pulling his hair out of the neck of the gown he threw a wistful look to the door that led into a small corridor that was connected to another small room and an even smaller laundry.

Slowly he walked up to the door, only hesitating a moment before turning the knob as silently as he could and careful as to not make any noise. He entered the corridor and then the next room behind it. The floor boards creaked silently in protest. It was almost completely dark outside now, so his eyes took a moment to get used to the darkness inside the room. All in all, it looked the same as the first room had, except it didn't have a cooking place nor the drying herbs hanging from the ceiling, but instead two very small and much used cribs. Through the small window he could see the moon far in the distance, the branches from the tree right in front of the window swaying gently in the wind, creating odd shaped in the cold moon light.

He stood in the doorway for a moment, watching for any movement coming from the two small beds and putting the candle he brought onto a drawer. He wiped a few strands of hair away from his face over his shoulder and quietly took a few noiseless steps across the wooden floor so he was able to look into both the cribs. He could hear the soft breathing indicating that the two small occupants were in a deep sleep and would not easily wake up. He sighed softly and thought of the nights when they hadn't been sleeping through yet and he had had to come to their room at least two times a night, causing him to lose a lot of sleep in order to feed their seemingly insatiable stomachs.

It was noticeable at first glance that they two children had not inherited much from their father though and he was sometimes scared if he would later in their lives have to find out that they hadn't inherited enough from him to keep them safe. Or rather, to keep everyone else safe. Even in the dark of the room the dark red around their eyes was visible. When they were born he had thought these to be birthmarks or rashes, and he had never learned were they came from. He had, in that first night assumed that they were probably blind, because of the unnatural skin color around their eyes. Certainly, none of their exotic traits stemmed from him, but it seemed, they had not gotten them by their sire either. Both of them sported soft brown hair that mostly hid the tiny horns on their forehead that seemed to have gotten a lot bigger during the 5 months of their lives, as were the unnaturally thick and hard nails of their fingers. Their ears had been pointed right from the start, their fangs had been just a little bit to pointy and their eyes had not had the brownish blue hue that most babies have, but they had been a dark olive color with a golden yellowish tint to them that seemed to become brighter and more yellowish as they grew older. The thing that maybe had scared him most when he had first held the babies after a long and exhausting birth now lay peacefully next to his younger boy's tiny hand, a long thin tail with a soft tuft of fur the same color as the mop of hair on their heads, not unlike a lions. When he had first seen them he had cried, both for fear of being found out that he had given birth to two children so unlike normal human offspring, of desperation in the face of the years of hiding and hardship before him but also out of relieve. They at least looked overall human. He had been scared out of his mind right before the birth that he wouldn't even be able to name what he had carried in his belly for nine months.

Now, five months later, he had co me to understand that at least for now, his children were the same as any others, they needed to be fed, cleaned and cared for the same as his little siblings had back when it had been his obligation to help care for them and raise them. He reached down into the crib of his older son and gently pulled up his blanket so it covered his shoulders. He smiled, more to himself than anyone, and felt that all the hardships of the last 15 months had been worth everything.