Hello everyone! A shorter story for you all today about baby Tessa. Enjoy!
There were a lot of things to be said about the Harvest Festival, Tessa thought. It was one of two parties that the orphans got in a year, for one. There was food in abundance, and it was the good kind of food too, not their usual thin vegetable porridges and bread that was somehow stale even when it was fresh. People got adopted during the Harvest Festival—not many, but a few. They got new clothes during the Harvest Festival. People seemed to give half a damn about them, which was a nice change.
The best part about the Harvest Festival, though, was getting out of Split River.
Split River was a drab, awful little mining town. They mined for silver, and though the veins of silver were drying up, people still went into the caves to work every day. Tessa had heard adults joke that Split River’s main export these days was orphans.
Gods, how dearly she’d like to be exported.
But now it was time for the Harvest Festival, and like every year she had memory of, she was loaded up into a wagon with all the other orphans and taken out of the horrible gray streets of Split River, to the village of Larkdale.
Maybe it was because it was smaller and not so dirty. Maybe it was because the castle Whitetower was up on the hill, watching over the town, that made them keep things shipshape. Maybe it was just that it wasn’t Split River? But Tessa wished she lived in Larkdale instead.
“Hey, look.” Thin little Reevis, who was probably Tessa’s best friend if she believed in things like getting attached to people who could vanish out of her life at any moment, pointed a thin little finger out over the side of the cart.
Tessa had to twist around in her seat to see where he was pointing: a building. A moldering old inn, looked like. There were roof tiles hanging off, and windows broken. The sign, which hung from a single chain, said, “The Giggling Crane.”
“What about it?” Tessa asked.
“That wasn’t there last year,” Reevis said authoritatively.
“Look at it,” Tessa scoffed. “It’s clearly been there forever.”
“No it wasn’t,” Reevis returned, squirming in his seat. “I remember cuz last year it was a field. It had a big lumpy rock in it that looked like a walrus.”
Tessa opened her mouth to argue, but she remembered Walrus Rock too. Instead, she took a second look.
The orphanage was a squat, horrible little building made of stone. Cold in the winter, cold in the summer—just cold, generally. This building, this Giggling Crane, looked like it had been designed to fit in between buildings, though, and reached up and around rather than sitting like a frog in a mud puddle. It was shaped…friendly.
“I heard Lord Samuel might come and play with us,” Reevis said, evidently no longer impressed by ruined buildings appearing out of nowhere. “He’s our age, you know.”
Tessa rolled her eyes. “I know. I’ve seen him more times than you.”
“Do you think he’ll play with us?” Reevis said. Gods, she could see the stars in his eyes.
“Why would he play with us?”
“Because he’s our age,” Reevis repeated, as if that explained anything.
“He’s a little princeling noble boy,” Tessa griped. “He doesn’t want to play with a bunch of orphans. He’s our better.”
“What makes him better?” Reevis said, scowling.
Tessa felt like spitting, but the matron was looking this direction and would give her a lecture and probably a cuff for good measure. Instead she just said, “Born lucky.”
Reevis kicked his toe into the floor of the cart. “Now I don’t want to go. You ruined it.”
This didn’t bother Tessa very much. She’d been ruined for these kinds of festivities for the last few years. It was hard, seeing all the wealth and privilege little Lord Samuel had, and knowing that for one day’s taste of it, she was supposed to be grateful.
Then again, Reevis looked so crestfallen.
“Cheer up,” Tessa said, nudging him a little. “If he played with us, we’d have to do whatever he wanted to do anyway. We’re about to eat the best meal of our lives.”
“I guess so,” Reevis said, but he looked a little less dispirited. “I wish I was born lucky. I could live in a castle.”
“I don’t think I’d want to live in a castle,” Tessa said thoughtfully. “It’s so big. It’d take so long to clean.”
“Where do you want to live, then?” Reevis asked.
“Here, maybe,” Tessa said thoughtfully, and then threw a hand out at the Giggling Crane, which was getting smaller and smaller in the distance. “There. I want to live there.”
“It’s so old, and abandoned, though,” Reevis said, squinting at the disappearing structure.
“I could fix it up,” Tessa declared. “It could be home.”
“Home,” Reevis repeated. “Sounds nice.”
“Yeah.” Tessa watched the inn until the cart turned a corner, and it was gone.