How long had it been? Weeks? A month? A year? Martha plucked uselessly at the ropes around her. The cellar door opened. She obediently watched the floor as he walked down the stairs
"Dinner time, Ellie." he said, putting the tray down on the floor in front of her. Steam rose from the bowl on the tray, a wooden spoon sat beside the bowl.
"That's not my name." She said, quietly. Pointlessly.
"Your name is Ellie." He said in a dangerous tone. "Don't argue. Eat." He picked up the bowl and gave it to her. She looked down at the soup and took a tentative sip. She ate slowly, tasting it. Nothing? She relaxed slightly. She was never sure when or what he would put in her food. She glanced up at him watching her eat, he beamed as she scraped out the last mouthful.
Taking the spoon and empty bowl from her, he set them carefully back on the tray. "They've stopped looking for you, you know." He said casually. "They don't talk in the market or at the taverns. No one cares about my Ellie except me."
Martha said nothing. She bit her tongue between her teeth, behind her lips, as she watched him climb the stairs and close the door behind him. She waited until she heard the latch drop before she let the tears fall, hot, down her cheeks. She didn't cry out loud. He would beat her if he heard sobs. Wiping her nose with the back of her hand, she looked down at the ropes around her. He hadn't retied them. ...Maybe? She threw her weight forward, but they remained just as tight as ever. She leaned back against the rough wall, full of despair. After a while she fell asleep.
A loud crash of thunder woke her. She sat up, feeling the pain in her neck and arms from sleeping in a bad position. Lightning lit the tiny window across the room. Minutes later, thunder boomed again. She sighed. Rain. She should have known it would rain. She'd been the best one in her family at predicting the weather. Martha remembered a happier time when she'd been small. Poppa had given her a kite and the whole family had gone on a picnic. She'd been so happy, watching her kite fly high. She'd wished she could make it fly higher – higher than her sister's, higher than the clouds! – when the string had suddenly snapped and her pretty kite had flown away.
Martha sighed. The memory of her father's laugh echoing in her ears as he'd stood up to retrieve her kite from the trees at the bottom of the hill. She'd sat down on the ground in a huff as her mother left to join her father. Uncle Milton also stood up and walked over to sit next to her.
"Pushed a little too hard there, eh?" he'd asked.
Martha hadn't said anything. She pouted, angry.
Aunt Josephine looked over at them, "What do you mean Milton? She can't do anything yet. She's too young."
"Not that young." he looked down at Martha, "How old are you now, Little Bit? 11?"
"Twelve." Martha answered, sullenly. "Almost thirteen."
"You see?" Milton said, turning back to Josephine. "Besides, I think I felt her do something there." He shifted around to a better position and motioned for Martha to climb into his lap. "Lie back," he said, smoothing her wind-tangled hair, "there you are. Let me show you something." Wrapping his arms around her, she felt his magic connect with hers and then it was like they'd stepped off a cliff. Shooting upward in her mind's eye they climbed higher and higher, above the trees and above the clouds. So exciting!
"Look ahead." he asked her, his voice gentle in her ear, "Can you see the winds?"
"I can!" She'd laughed. She reached for them with her magic and he pulled her back,
"Easy, Little Bit, it's strong up here and you're not ready yet. But look up there, at the clouds, see they way they move?"
"Can you tell me if it will rain today?"
She searched for the answer. She'd looked at the high thin clouds above her, pushed by the strong winds they looked like horse tails, she looked east and then west, and suddenly the whole pattern seemed to snap into place "Tomorrow! It'll rain tomorrow!" she cried out, laughing, unable to contain her excitement.
"Good girl! I knew you could do it!" Martha opened her eyes and was back in Uncle Milton's lap. Aunt Josephine carefully laid baby Mason in her lap and applauded. "Very good Martha! I'm impressed!" Martha beamed at her aunt and uncle, then caught sight of her parents walking up the hill, her kite in hand. She jumped up and ran over to tell them what had happened.